Skip to the main content

The Collection

An old brick building that served as an immigration shed.

“Welcome Home to Canada” sign, taken at Pier 21, 1950.

Musée canadien de l'immigration du Quai 21 [DI2013.839.32]

The permanent collection is a cultural resource that allows the public to explore and engage with Canada’s immigration history and the contemporary experiences of immigrants to Canada. The focus of the collection is intangible or digital-born and digitized items, including oral histories, written stories, and digital archival materials like documents and photographs.

Group of laughing young people on the deck of the ship, they are all wearing life jackets.

Angelo and Maria Argento on board MS Vulcania, 1961.

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 [DI2016.101.2]

In 2009, the Museum began its evolution from a community museum to a national museum. The expanded national mandate led to a corresponding growth in the scope and size of the collection. The core of the collection, originally established by the Pier 21 Historical Society, focuses on Pier 21 during the period of its operation as an immigration facility, from 1928 to 1971. With the expanded mandate, the Museum now also collects items featuring the diverse experiences of immigrants, refugees, and Displaced Persons who arrived in Canada from across the globe. It is comprised of four distinct sub-collections:

Oral Histories
The oral history collection includes over 1200 audio and videotaped interviews with immigrants, immigration officers, war veterans, and Pier 21 volunteers and staff. These interviews were recorded across Canada by the Museum’s oral history team. To learn more about the oral history collection, please explore the oral history page.

A beautiful young woman wears a yellow top with a brightly coloured scarf around her neck.

Screenshot of oral history interview with Noma Sibanda, who emigrated from Zimbabwe via the United States, in 2005.

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 [12.11.10NS]

A captain of a boat stands on deck wearing a turtleneck sweater and a cap.

Photograph of Captain Jakob Suksdorf on board MV Pärnu, 1949.

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 [DI2014.273.4]

Written Stories
Since the Museum first opened in 1999, museum staff has collected and preserved written memories shared primarily by newcomers to Canada, veterans, Pier 21 staff and volunteers, and their families. Presently, this collection contains nearly 3000 stories. To learn more about the written stories, please explore our "Share" page.

The archive primarily consists of digital photographs and documents, as well as original two-dimensional photographs and documents, and a small collection of multi-media. It includes immigration paperwork, photographs, and ship memorabilia.

Old Canadian Immigration certificate with a picture of a young girl with a big bow on top of her head.

C.I. 45 certificate issued to Jennie Law, 1923.

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 [D2013.1753.1]

The Museum is also home to the Canadian Immigration Historical Society collection. Originally collected by a dedicated group of retired immigration, customs, and foreign service officers from across Canada, this collection is a rich resource for researchers.

A cute smiling bear sits at a table and holds a glass of juice in his hand. Illustration.

Menu for children from Canadian National Railway, 1946.

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 [DI2016.147.2]

The Museum houses a small collection of approximately 1500 three-dimensional artifacts, largely collected by the Pier 21 Historical Society.

Collection Policy

For more information about the collection and how it is administered, please consult the Museum’s Collection Policy.