Pier Perspectives Blog

  • Journey of Wawel Treasures to Canada

    In preparation for the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21’s installation of the visiting exhibition The Odyssey of Wawel’s Treasures 1939-1961, I conducted research locally and at Library and Archives Canada to uncover the connection the treasures have to Pier 21. The exhibition shares the important story of how these cultural artifacts found their way in wartime from Poland to Canada, and later back to Poland. What follows is a quick sketch of the journey of Wawel’s treasures—a fascinating narrative of courage and care for a nation’s cultural memory. Should you be in the Halifax Seaport area, the exhibition is presented in the Museum’s lobby until June 23, free of charge.

  • Tibetan Immigration to Canada

    In 1966, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and Canadian officials began discussions about permanently resettling Tibetan refugees, who were living in India and Nepal, to Canada. In 1971-1972, a group of 228 Tibetans were brought to Canada. After initial struggles in adjusting to their new environment, the Tibetan refugees were able to provide for themselves and their community. Several years later, community organizations were established to support Tibetan cultural and linguistic traditions.

    Canada’s connection to Tibet dates back more than a century. In 1895, a Canadian Protestant missionary, Dr. Susanna Rijnhart, became only the second western woman to enter Tibet. Born in 1868 in Chatham, Ontario, Susanna Carson graduated later from Trinity College in Toronto with a medical degree. In 1894, she met Petrus Rijnhart who was on a lecturing tour across Canada, soliciting funds in order to return to Tibet and continue his missionary work. In September of that year, Carson and Rijnhart were married and soon after they departed for Tibet.

  • After Almost 60 Years Apart, a Family Finds Each Other

    We get many research requests here at the Scotiabank Family History Centre and none more challenging than looking for living relatives. Most of the records that we would use to trace people, like birth, marriage and death records, are not available due to provincially or federally legislated privacy laws. This means that we have to use other ways, which tend to be less detailed and can lead us down the wrong path or to “dead ends.” However, not every search in this case results in such a fate. The following, story is a good example of that. It all began when I came to work one day in May 2012 to discover this lovely email from a gentleman in England:

  • Top 12 Uses (and Misuses) of the Conference Call

    I had the pleasure of speaking with a few of my colleagues in Ottawa this week. With the end of a fiscal year approaching, one of the best ways to keep everyone moving is by scheduling meetings by phone. Since the Museum is outside the National Capital Region and the many happenings there, we always look for offsite ways to keep in touch with our fellow Canadian Heritage portfolio members. The other national museums have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the public sector and I am always eager to ask as many questions as I can as we continue to grow here in Halifax. In my world, the conference call has become one of the best meeting facilitation tools apart from an actual meeting facilitator! Based on this, I thought I would share my top 13 (for 2013) reasons for using a conference call.

  • Facing Deportation: The Curious Cases of Rebecca Barnett and Rebecca Grizzle

    During research for our 2013 travelling exhibition, Position As Desired – Exploring African Canadian Identity, I came across federal government records pertaining to the deportation cases of two African Canadian women. This brought forward questions of immigration, citizenship, expatriation, and heavily underlined the racial, ethnic, and gender norms of the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century. What role did identities (African Canadian, women, mentally ill, and a public charge) play in their cases?

  • A Match Made on the North Atlantic

    We hear innumerable stories about seasickness from our Museum visitors who crossed the Atlantic and first arrived at Pier 21. They all laugh about it now, but frequently add that they haven’t been on a ship since and have no interest in repeating the nauseating adventure. Although it begins with a seasick girl, this is not one of those stories.

  • Immigrant Voices: Diverse Reactions to the Transatlantic Voyage from Europe to Canada’s Shores

    Between 1928 and 1971, nearly one million immigrants arrived at Pier 21 before setting out across the country to begin their new lives in Canada. The experience of leaving Europe and crossing the Atlantic Ocean for North America garnered a multitude of diverse reactions from individuals and families who sought to resettle in Canada. Many immigrants remember their arrival as a positive encounter with Canadian immigration and customs officials, and volunteer service agencies.

  • Who is the Little Boy in this Picture?

    Almost half a million Canadian military personnel departed from Pier 21 to serve overseas during the Second World War. This image depicts one of the first arrivals of a troop ship carrying soldiers back to Canada after World War II.

    The Ile de France, laden with ecstatic soldiers, docked at Pier 21 on July 14, 1945. Flora Campbell was visiting her aunt when she heard the music on the waterfront and decided to bring her young son David down to the Pier to greet the soldiers. The boxes in her arms are cookies, which the soldiers had thrown down to the well-wishers who had come to watch their long awaited return to Canada.

  • Lawlor's Island Results

    In the previous post I mentioned how Lawlor’s Island is uniquely unknown among Halifax’s harbour islands—it’s overlooked in public discourse and seems to be absent from public memory.

    We took on a very basic survey of the island to establish what features of the quarantine island still exist. This process involved a few steps. We needed to do basic archival research to establish what the quarantine station looked like when it was operating. Just landing on a historic site and wandering around may be fun, but it’s no way to run a railroad when it comes to locating specific features. So, we had to work with Ian Cameron’s existing book on the topic, and we did some dedicated research using materials at Library and Archives Canada, too. These gave us historical maps of the island as well as building plans for all the major structures. After we finished the historical research and had a good idea of what the major features of the quarantine facility were, and where they were located on the island, we had to obtain good-quality modern maps and blend the old and new maps so that we could predict the location of features now.

  • Tips and Tricks: Band-aid Solutions for the Event Planner

    In the 2001 movie The Wedding Planner, we watch JLo with her calm professional demeanour and her bag of tricks (or belt in this case) solve multiple last minute crises seconds before the wedding ceremony is about to begin.