Pier Perspectives Blog
The fourth element of historical literacy identified by the Historical Thinking Project (www.historicalthinking.ca) is the analysis of causes and consequences. Sorting out causes and consequences is one of the most common sources of difficulty—and perhaps errors—in constructing histories. Causal relationships can be hard to establish properly, especially when they are rooted in an unfamiliar and complex past.
One day, a letter simply addressed to “Pier 21, Halifax, Nova Scotia,” arrived on my desk. The first line read, “I don’t know if anyone is ever going to read this.” In his letter, Bill Pineo described the experience of being a young soldier in 1940, waiting for his ship to depart from Pier 21 and to take him overseas to join the war effort. While the anxious soldiers were counting down to what might be their last glimpse of Canada, another vessel came alongside and suddenly there was music.
History is often seen by the public as the study of dates, names, places, and events. As a discipline, history is much more diverse and multilayered than many individuals realize. The discipline of history can be viewed as a complex interplay between continuity and change. Using our 2012 temporary exhibit, Shaping Canada: Exploring Our Cultural Landscapes as an example, this blog explains how identifying continuity and change is used in research to support exhibit development.
What sorts of sources do historians encounter when they research and write about history? In conducting research for a project, historians use primary and secondary sources. This blog explains what are primary sources and how they differ from secondary sources. Using our 2012 temporary exhibit, Shaping Canada: Exploring Our Cultural Landscapes as an example, we can see how primary sources are used in research to support exhibit development.
“Establish Historical Significance” is the first skill of historical literacy put forward by the Historical Thinking Project (www.historicalthinking.ca). Significance is a challenging concept: one of the things that a historian has to do is make a decision about what is and is not important in the past in relation to their studies. It seems like a bold thing to do, but it is a necessary decision for individual historians to make. The discipline of history encompasses a huge amount of material. Any past event at all, ever, about which we can find suitable evidence, could be the subject of historical inquiry. In order to limit our scope to something manageable, we have to make responsible decisions about what to include and exclude from our history. Significance is one criterion in those decisions.
In summer 2012, we offered an “historian’s tour” of our temporary exhibition, Shaping Canada:Exploring Our Cultural Landscapes. Rather than being a detailed tour of the exhibition in itself, the tour used parts of Shaping Canada as background to discuss the historical process at our museum. We took that approach for a couple of reasons.
First, we want to be as transparent as we can about our work: as a public heritage institution, we’d like members of the public to be able to come and talk with us about how we think about the past and how we relate that to specific studies and exhibitions.
I don’t know if it was love at first sight, but when a 6-year-old named Muriel met an 8-year-old named Bud, something special started. The pair, who has now been married for 61 years, recently visited the Museum. In all those years they have never exchanged material gifts; they have always done charitable work and made donations in each other’s names instead.
Newcomers often concealed their food products from Canadian customs officers for fear of losing their beloved meats, nuts, fruits, bread, and other cherished food items. Customs officers were tasked with confiscating contraband, discarding alcohol and cigarettes, if their respective duties were not paid, and sending other non-permissible items such as meats and soils for incineration, to protect Canadian agriculture from disease. This often led to interesting exchanges between customs officers and immigrants at Pier 21.
Last places seen: Warsaw, Poland and Versailles, France
Last known destination: Canada
The Scotiabank Family History Centre needs the public’s help reuniting childhood friends. Irene and Maja, Holocaust survivors from the Warsaw ghetto, were separated in France in 1947 when Irene’s family left the country and Maja’s family came to Canada.
One of the greatest things about my job as a Visitor Experience Interpreter here at the Museum is helping people imagine the experience of being an immigrant during the time that Pier 21 was open as an immigration facility. Sometimes I even do this on my own.