His­tory Mat­ters

The sesqui­cen­ten­nial of Con­fed­er­a­tion is the per­fect time to re­con­nect with the coun­try — and each other.

Canada's History - - CONTENTS - Janet Walker is the Pres­i­dent and CEO of Canada’s His­tory So­ci­ety. by Janet Walker

Con­fed­er­a­tion’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial is the per­fect time to re­con­nect with our fel­low Cana­di­ans.

Events with ex­tended fam­ily were sem­i­nal to my 1960s child­hood. One of the re­li­able rit­u­als after a meal was the gath­er­ing of women in the kitchen to wash and dry the dishes. My sis­ters and I were al­ways wel­come to join the cau­cus and du­ti­fully took up fresh tea tow­els while wait­ing for the plates and cut­lery to emerge from the basin of suds. I never con­sid­ered the chore a hard­ship be­cause the con­ver­sa­tion that ac­com­pa­nied the clat­ter of dishes was bet­ter than any book. The top­ics var­ied — birth and death, cel­e­bra­tions and in­jus­tices, eco­nomic hard­ship or a kind­ness of­fered from an old friend. Some­times, we were told to take care with an heir­loom plat­ter or teacup, prompt­ing a rich story about its “old coun­try” ori­gin and the ge­neal­ogy of its keep­ers.

The men were do­ing the same thing in the front room. Peo­ple had con­ver­sa­tions back then, not just at fam­ily gath­er­ings but with ran­dom in­di­vid­u­als: the tai­lor, the wa­ter me­ter reader, or the fam­ily who ran the cor­ner store. All the chil­dren on my block went to the same school and played hide-and-seek to­gether. Not only did we know each other, we knew about each other, an­chor­ing the neigh­bour­hood with a greater sense of com­mu­nity.

The irony of mod­ern com­mu­ni­ca­tion is that we can be con­nected twenty-four hours a day from any two points on the globe, yet we are less con­nected at a per­sonal level than ever be­fore. New plan­ets are be­ing dis­cov­ered, but we don’t know the names of our neigh­bours. Din­ner con­ver­sa­tion, once a time to share val­ues, wis­dom, and as­pi­ra­tions, is a rare oc­ca­sion, too of­ten re­placed with fast food and a text or a tweet.

As tech­nol­ogy changes our ap­petites for sto­ry­telling, how do we keep the ledger of our lives?

The man­date of Canada’s His­tory So­ci­ety is to share the hu­man story and bring our past to life.

That’s why we help to gather the na­tional his­tory com­mu­nity to­gether: teach­ers, pop­u­lar his­to­ri­ans, schol­ars, ar­chiv­ists, cu­ra­tors, and com­mu­nity groups. It’s why fu­ture his­to­ri­ans are en­cour­aged and cel­e­brated, why we bring great writ­ers and big ques­tions to our pages, and why we have re­cently re­freshed our web­site to of­fer greater mo­bile ac­cess to his­tory.

It is also why we are invit­ing read­ers and re­searchers to ex­plore our new on­line dig­i­tal index, com­ing this June. At CanadasHis­tory. ca/Archive, they can eas­ily find past is­sues of Canada’s His­tory mag­a­zine, The Beaver, and Kayak: Canada’s His­tory Mag­a­zine for Kids.

Our his­tory can be found in Snap­shots of Canada, a new trav­el­ling ex­hibit de­vel­oped in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Cana­dian Mu­seum of His­tory, and through emerg­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive part­ner­ships with front-fac­ing his­tory or­ga­ni­za­tions in Que­bec.

But pre­serv­ing and shar­ing our his­tory shouldn’t fall only on the shoul­ders of our his­tory mak­ers. It can be­gin with each of us.

As we mark Canada’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial, com­mu­ni­cat­ing our story — and lis­ten­ing to the sto­ries of oth­ers — is one of the best gifts we can give to our coun­try, our com­mu­nity, our fam­ily, and our­selves.

Peo­ple par­tic­i­pate in a Cana­dian ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­mony dur­ing Canada Day cel­e­bra­tions in Lon­don, On­tario, in 2016.

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