Skip to the main content

Special Exhibition

The World of Yousuf Karsh: A Private Essence
March 12 to October 16, 2022
Ralph and Rose Chiodo Gallery

Credit: Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002), Portia White, 1946, gelatin silver print, 25.3 x 20.5 cm. MMFA, gift of Estrellita Karsh in memory of Yousuf Karsh. © Estate of Yousuf Karsh

Witness the famed photographer’s iconic work and learn about his origins as an Armenian refugee to Canada in 1924. This special exhibition features over 100 portraits of major figures of the 20th century.

Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002) was one of the greatest portraitists of his time. He captured revealing and defining images of the world’s most influential figures, among them Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Helen Keller and Mohammed Ali, along with iconic Canadians Karen Kain, Marshall McLuhan, and famed African Nova Scotian concert singer Portia White. The portraits are mostly large format images and many are rare prints which Karsh himself developed.

An exhibition organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Curated by Dr. Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Senior Curator Emeritus– Collections and Curator of Old Masters, MMFA.

The Halifax exhibition is supported by Fred and Elizabeth Fountain.

Temporary Exhibits

A Canadian Dream:
The Passengers of the SS Maasdam July 6, 1968

April 21, 2022 to August 21, 2022
Mirella and Lino Saputo Hall

A family of four are seated together in the bottom bunk of a bed in a ship cabin.

Photo courtesy of the Tasseron family.

Five Dutch families aboard the SS Maasdam, each with different fates. Why did one family leave Canada and the others stay? This multimedia exhibition of “then & now” photographs and video project created by one of the Maasdam’s passengers aims to understand their life-changing decisions, and the search for home.

A Canadian Dream was created by Iris Tasseron in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

Commemorating the St. Louis Voyage

The Honourable Jason Kenny, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and Daniel Libeskind, architect, unveil the Wheel of Conscience.
The Honourable Jason Kenny, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and Daniel Libeskind, architect, unveil the Wheel of Conscience on January 20, 2011.©

The Wheel of Conscience monument is on display by the main entrance of the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. The Wheel of Conscience monument was developed through a partnership between the Canadian Jewish Congress and Citizenship and Immigration Canada to commemorate the story of the St. Louis. The monument was designed by world renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, who was born in Poland and is the son of Holocaust survivors. In his artist statement, Libeskind describes the wheel as driven by gears which are symbolic of both the gears of a ship and the “gears” of government. The words hatred, racism and xenophobia are represented on three gears smallest to largest. These gears combined, move the largest and most prominent gear of antisemitism. The rotating gears fracture and reassemble the image of the ship at set intervals. The gears represent the vicious circle that brought tragedy to so many lives and dishonor to Canada.

Past Temporary Exhibitions

Jamaican Nova Scotian Connections:
From the Maroons to the Present Day

February 5 – November 1, 2020
Mirella and Lino Saputo Hall

The green, yellow and black flag of Jamaica.

A Community Presents Exhibit by the Jamaican Cultural Association of Nova Scotia explores the growth and contributions of the oldest Jamaican community in Canada, from the migration of the Maroons in the 18th century until the present day.

Family Bonds & Belonging
March 9 - November 3, 2019
Ralph and Rose Chiodo Gallery

Antique passport with black and white family photo of a dark-haired woman and three young girls. Passport text is in Italian.

Passport issued to Fausta Ugolini and her daughters, October 27 1950.

[DI2013.1812.1] Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

What is family, anyway? Can you pick your family or is it determined by biology? Is family the people you share holidays with? Or, is it more of a feeling?

Family Bonds and Belonging honours and interprets the many ideas of family. Through four themes --belonging, growth and change, gatherings and generations -- the exhibition celebrates Canadian identity by exploring families and family history, linking past to present and province to nation.

Connect with stories from early and contemporary families. Explore the traditions of those who came as immigrants and those who have always been here. Reminisce about your own family’s uniqueness and explore the joy and complexities of bonds and belonging.

Family: It’s NOT all relative.

Royal BC Museum home page

This exhibition was originally produced by the Royal BC Museum and has been adapted by the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

Presented by

Scotiabank home page

1968: Canada and the Prague Spring Refugees
August 20, 2018 to January 3, 2019
Mirella and Lino Saputo Hall

People marching down a street, one person waves a flag, a tank in the background appears to be on fire.

This pop-up exhibit commemorates the 50th anniversary of the resettlement in Canada of approximately 12,000 refugees from Czechoslovakia, who fled the Warsaw Pact invasion of their homeland in 1968. Considered by Canadian officials as ‘good material,’ many of the refugees were young, well educated, and skilled professionals who could make an immediate contribution to Canada’s economy and society. This exhibit briefly explores the events that led Czechs and Slovaks to leave their country and the role of the Canadian government and community organizations in helping them begin new lives in Canada.

Refuge Canada
March 10 to November 11, 2018
Ralph and Rose Chiodo Gallery

Black & white image of Latvian Displaced Person Ausma Levalds, her mother, Karline, and sister, Rasma. They are holding books and an officer stands behind them.

Credit: 1949, Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. [D2013.1912.24]

Refugees face fear, shattered lives and often dangerous voyages in search of refuge. Canada has provided that refuge for many. However, over the course of the twentieth century, Canada has had mixed record in welcoming refugees, reacting generously to some while overlooking others. Refuge Canada provides the context for Canada’s place in the global refugee crisis and brings to light the challenges faced by refugees in Canada. The exhibition also shares stories of success and contributions made by people who came to Canada as refugees.

Supported by The Ralph and Rose Chiodo Family Foundation.

Now travelling across Canada. Host the exhibition

SS Atlantic: Immigrant Ship Disaster
March 30 to June 20, 2018
Mirella and Lino Saputo Hall

Black and white line drawing of a ship with four masts

On April 1, 1873, the White Star ocean liner SS Atlantic sank at Lower Prospect near Halifax with nearly 1,000 people aboard, most of them Irish, English, Scandinavian and German immigrants. The wreck was a precursor to the White Star Line's loss of SS Titanic in 1912 and was Canada's worst shipwreck until the sinking of the SS Empress of Ireland in 1914 . Explore this immigrant tragedy with a display of rare artifacts from the wreck presented by the the SS Atlantic Heritage Society as part of the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21's "Community Presents" program.

Francophone Immigration in Canada
January 10 - January 31
Mirella and Lino Saputo Hall

A group of young girls in uniform pose for a school picture in front of glass paneled doors

“Les Tabliers,” grade 3 students at Saint-Gérard school in Ottawa in 1943

Francophone Immigration in Canada explores and celebrates francophone newcomers and the vitality of the communities that welcome them. From past to present day, the exhibit includes historical timelines, images and testimonies, as well as an opportunity for visitors to share their own francophone immigration story. This bilingual exhibit was curated by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in partnership with La Féderation de Communautés Francophones et Acadiennes du Canada to mark Canada 150.

Canada: Day 1
March 18 to November 13, 2017
Ralph and Rose Chiodo Gallery

A man is standing in front of world map and pointing to it and explaining it to a young lady and little girl.

To celebrate Canada’s 150th, our curators and exhibition teams have created a very special version of this travelling exhibit that is larger, features eight distinctive artworks and compelling objects such as a Syrian Welcome kit, a Head tax certificate, moving War Bride correspondence and more.

Canada: Day 1 is our Canada 150 project, supported by RBC Foundation, that brings to life 150 years of immigrants’ “Day 1” experiences. This exhibition will be on display in the Ralph and Rose Chiodo Gallery from March 18 to November 13, 2017 and is included with Museum admission.

Journey of a Lifetime
September 13 to September 25, 2017
Rudolph P. Bratty Hall

Many Colonist Car passengers crowd around a stationary train.

Journey of a Lifetime tells the story of the courageous and hopeful immigrants who arrived through Eastern ports and crossed Canada by Colonist Car. Created by Heritage Park and presented by the BMO Financial Group, Journey of a Lifetime is a National tour that includes not only a fascinating exhibit, but also a live-action play.

Logo of BMO
Logo of Heritage Park

Legacies 150
June 21 to September 14, 2017
Mirella and Lino Saputo Hall

Two beautiful women wearing dresses are sitting on a beautiful couch covered with lion print. One woman is happy while the other looks thoughtful.

Legacies 150 is a series of 13 interactive photo essays. Produced by the National Film Board of Canada, these first person perspectives on the themes of legacy and inheritance were created for the 150th anniversary of confederation. Two essays examining Canada’s immigration experiences will be featured, while all 13 will be accessible using onsite kiosks. The exhibit will be on display in the Mirella and Lino Saputo Hall from June 21 to September 14, 2017 and is included with Museum admission.


Mosaic: Identity and Community Connection
A Community Presents exhibition by the
Immigrant Migrant Women’s Association of Halifax
March 8 until May 3, 2017

A wall  of beautiful individual artwork.

This exhibition, which opens on International Women’s Day, celebrates and explores identity from immigrant and migrant women’s perspectives.

Using art as a tool for community building, the project sought to create an opportunity for immigrant and migrant women to collaborate. The goal was to create an art exhibit that would enhance the participants' identity, sense of place, belonging and community connection.

The project features 11 works of art by women from nine different countries of origin. The multi-media sculptural collaboration offers a window into the individual journeys shared by immigrant and migrant women. The project was led by mixed media artist Miro Davis and anthropologist Maria José Yax-Fraser.

The exhibition will be open to the public in the Mirella and Lino Saputo Hall from March 8, 2017 to May 3, 2017 and is included in regular Museum admission.

The project is supported by the Halifax Regional Municipality; the Province of Nova Scotia through the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage; Support4Culture, a designated lottery program of the Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation; and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Logo of IMWAH
Logo of AGNS
Logo of HRM
Logo of NS
Logo of Support4

Community Presents:
The No. 2 Construction Battalion

February 16, 2017 to May 1, 2017

Old piece of torn paper, it is about No. 2 Construction Battalion for Colored Men of Canada.

Esther Clark Wright Archives at Acadia University

Community Presents: The No. 2 Construction Battalion is a temporary exhibit created by the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia. This small exhibit commemorates the overseas departure of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, the first and last all-Black Canadian Army unit. On March 25, 1917, the battalion’s 600 men sailed from Halifax Harbour and arrived in France in May. The unit was an achievement for the African-Canadian community which had been denied opportunities to enlist. The battalion served mainly with the Canadian Forestry Corps in logging and construction work until the end of the war and returned to Canada in 1919. The exhibit will be open to the public in the Mirella and Lino Saputo Hall from February 16, 2017 to May 1, 2017.

Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Times:
Italian Canadian Experiences During World War II

November 23 until March 12, 2017

On June 10, 1940, Italy declared war on Great Britain and her allies; in reaction, the Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King declared as “enemy aliens” an estimated 31,000 Italian Canadians considered a threat to the safety of Canada.

These individuals were fingerprinted, photographed, and ordered to report monthly to the RCMP and local authorities. Those considered most dangerous, around 600, were sent to three internment camps in Alberta, Ontario, and New Brunswick for a period of up to five years. Though lives were disrupted and reputations damaged, not one internee would be officially charged with a crime in a court of law.

Drawing from a series of oral histories collected between 2010 and 2012, Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Times: Italian Canadian Experiences During World War II conveys the personal stories of a cross-section of Italian Canadians, including internees and their families, neighbours, and fellow community members, and helps demonstrate the varied and far-reaching effects of that period of time.

The exhibit will be open to the public on November 23 until March 12, 2017.

For more information on the Columbus Centre project that inspired the exhibit see here:

The project was funded by:

Logo of columbus centre
Logo of CIC

Safe Haven:
Canada and the 1956 Hungarian Refugees

November 1, 2016 to February 2, 2017

Old black & white image of three kids sitting with luggage bags, they are holding each other and look very happy.

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Safe Haven commemorates the 60th Anniversary of the resettlement in Canada of approximately 38,000 Hungarian refugees, who fled the Soviet invasion of their homeland in 1956. Many Hungarian individuals and families entered Canada through Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The exhibit briefly explores the events that led Hungarians to leave their country and the role of the Canadian government, community organizations, and individual sponsors in helping them begin new lives in Canada. The exhibit features archival images and a piece of artwork from the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21’s collection.

Safe Haven will be on display in the Mirella and Lino Saputo Hall.

Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland
November 23, 2015 to November 13, 2016

Painting of a sunken ship, the water is very murky.

Original painting by Ken Marschall © 1996.

Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland is a dramatic exhibition that takes visitors to the heart of the one of the greatest maritime disasters in Canada’s history. Artifacts from this once-splendid ocean liner, historical documents and witness accounts help bring to life stories of loss and rescue, despair and bravery. As well, learn the storied history of the Empress of Ireland including the role it played in immigration and development of Canada.

Considered one of the finest ships in the Canadian Pacific Railway fleet, the Empress of Ireland carried tens of thousands of passengers between Canada and Great Britain in the early years of the 20th century. But in the early morning of May 29, 1914, on the fog-bound St. Lawrence River, the Empress was hit broadside by a coal ship, the Storstad. The ocean liner went down in less than 15 minutes. More than a thousand people lost their lives.

Visit our Empress of Ireland video gallery where Dan Conlin, Curator, Ron Marsh and others share details of the Empress of Ireland exhibition. →

An exhibition created by the Canadian Museum of History and co-presented by the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

Journey to Canada:
Ukrainian Immigration Experiences 1891-1900

July 20 to October 30, 2016

Old black & White photo of beautifully-dressed Ukrainian immigrants with luggage bags and they wait for something.

John Woodruff, Library and Archives Canada, C-005611 [1896]

Journey to Canada commemorates the 125th Anniversary of Ukrainians in Canada. Many Ukrainian people who immigrated to Canada came through Halifax. The exhibit explores the events that led Ukrainians to leave their homes in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and their first experiences in Western Canada. Journey to Canada is produced by the Kule Folklore Centre at the University of Alberta and has been brought to Halifax with assistance from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

Canada’s Self Portrait
Contemporary Art Exhibit
July 1 to 11, 2016

A young man and woman wearing red tee shirts are happy as they look at lots of papers spread out on a table. The other side shows artwork on the wall.

Winner of the 2016 Applied Arts Conceptual Illustration award, Canada’s Self Portrait is a participatory art project about who we are and what we stand for as Canadians. For three weeks during the summer of 2014, artist Aquil Virani and cofounder Rebecca Jones took a coast-to-coast trip from St. John’s through Halifax all the way to Victoria, asking members of the Canadian public to fill out a one-page worksheet that included an opportunity to sketch what it means to be Canadian. With over 800 submissions from across the country, these doodles were re-drawn and integrated into a single “truly Canadian’’ artwork.

Canada’s Self Portrait is on display from July 1 to July 11 in the Mirella and Lino Saputo Hall. Come meet Aquil and Rebecca and participate in their newest collaborative project, My Canada, by writing about what your Canada looks like.

Black and white photo of young woman and small girl doing figure skating.

January 16 to March 20, 2016

Discover the immigration stories behind some of Canada’s pioneering figure skaters, coaches and builders. Many Canadian figure skaters, as well as coaches and builders of the sport, came to Canada as immigrants. Some for reasons linked directly to skating while others came to join their family or escape conditions in their country.

Perfect Landings explores the relationship between immigration and figure skating in Canada through a series of biographies. Visitors will find stories such as the story of John Knebli, a talented craftsman who arrived at Pier 21 in 1930 and Ellen Burka’s story, a Holocaust survivor who came to Canada in 1951 and went on to train some of the country’s best-known skaters, including Toller Cranston. In Canada, the sport has been profoundly influenced by the skills and talents of immigrants.

Black and white photo of young woman and small girl doing figure skating.

Peace – The Exhibition

Two fingers are held up in the form of a “V”, in front of a blue background.

Come explore Peace – The Exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21! Presented from May 5 to June 7, 2015, you will experience peace through a diversity of viewpoints: peace activists demonstrating to prevent war, soldiers fighting to end war and immigrants coming to Canada to escape war and its aftermath. Don’t miss the rare iconic peace objects featured in the exhibition such as an American immigrant’s draft card from the Vietnam War and an original record of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s "Give Peace a Chance" recorded in Montreal.

Peace – The Exhibition, a travelling exhibition developed by the Canadian War Museum and adapted by the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, vividly illustrates the rich diversity of Canadians’ choices and actions for peace, and how these actions have helped shape Canada’s history.

Visitors will experience the personal stories of Canadians as combatants, activists, diplomats, humanitarians and more. They’ll encounter stories and perspectives that may be unfamiliar. They’ll learn about major historical events, as well as the stories of individuals and families caught up in them. And ultimately, they’ll discover that Canadians facing the same event or issue have often made very different choices for peace.

The issues of peace, violence and war have been central to the history of immigration to Canada. Many immigrants have come to Canada to escape violence caused by war and conflict or to avoid forced military service.

The exhibition’s themes — Negotiate, Organize and Intervene — are represented by major historical episodes including: Treaty 7, Canada-U.S. border disputes, Canada and the First World War, Canada and Vietnam, the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, and Post-war reconstruction in Europe.

Pop Up Exhibition
To Canada: Farewell and Welcome – Cuxhaven and Halifax
March 5 to May 2

A large exhibition area, showing 12 pop-up banners with lots of text and photos.

Come explore the story of emigration from the port of Cuxhaven, Germany to Pier 21. You will also discover the personal stories of several German immigrants who settled in Canada.

An exhibition and project of the Hapag-Halle Booster Club of Cuxhaven, To Canada: Farewell and Welcome – Cuxhaven and Halifax is presented in the Museum lobby across from the Scotiabank Family History Centre.

Migrating Landscapes

Lots of pieces of wood forming what is called a “minaret”.

Who we are is shaped by where we live. Where we live is shaped by who we are. This is the essence of the Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Migrating Landscapes. Visit us from May 30 to November 11, 2013 to experience how migrations, and the simultaneous process of settling and being unsettled is expressed through the built environment that surrounds us.

Migrating Landscapes showcases a series of model ‘dwellings’ by young architects and designers, inspired by their personal experiences of immigration and migration. These ‘dwellings’—from model skyscrapers to cabins—are nestled in an impressive, abstract wooden landscape made of 28,680 feet of lumber. The architectural models are brought to life by accompanying videos that draw on the artists’ cultural memories.

Curated by Winnipeg-based 5468796 Architecture and Jae-Sung Chon, Migrating Landscapes was Canada’s 2012 entry to the prestigious 13th International Architecture Exhibition–la Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy.

Position As Desired / Exploring African Canadian Identity: Photographs from the Wedge Collection

A young black boy is wearing a black jacket with a fur-lined hood, his face unsmiling.
Dawit L. Petros, Sign, 2001, Digital print. © Dawit L. Petros and Dr Kenneth Montague / The Wedge Collection

What does it mean to be African Canadian? Explore the topic of Black identity in Canada in the context of immigration and multiculturalism through Position As Desired / Exploring African Canadian Identity: Photographs from the Wedge Collection. The exhibition was featured from January 22 to March 30, 2013 in the Ralph and Rose Chiodo Harbourside Gallery at the Museum.

Position As Desired presented photographic works from the Wedge Collection, ranging from rare vintage portraits of the first African immigrants to Canada, to contemporary works by four emerging artists that document the experiences of African Canadians. The exhibition also featured a local component, incorporating works produced by African Nova Scotian artists that express personal interpretations of African Canadian identities.

Shaping Canada: Exploring Our Cultural Landscapes
June 8 to November 18, 2012

Well-dressed Sikh men wearing turbans of different colors and they are standing next to motor cycles.
Sikh Motorcycle Club - Photo by Naomi Harris

Are you a part of a cultural landscape? The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 invited visitors to find out by exploring the temporary exhibition Shaping Canada: Exploring Our Cultural Landscapes. Visitors discovered the ways groups and individuals maintain and produce their cultural identities in Canada.

The exhibition featured contemporary portrait photography by Naomi Harris, archival images, oral histories, artifacts and visitors’ participation. It highlighted Canada’s cultural landscapes through seven case studies around key ideas like family, faith, food, recreation and neighbourhood. The result showed aspects of how people create, maintain and experience cultural landscapes across Canada.

Community Presents Program

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21’s Community Presents program encourages cultural groups to create their own exhibitions and tell their own stories, while celebrating themes related to immigration, cultural diversity, cultural heritage and identity.