A His­tory Hall for all

Ottawa Magazine - - THIS CITY -

Don’t look for the term “New World” in the new His­tory Hall. The Amer­i­cas may have been new to Christo­pher Colum­bus but not to the thou­sands of Abo­rig­i­nals al­ready there.

That’s just one ex­am­ple of how the for­mer Canada Hall has been re­tooled to be­come the Cana­dian His­tory Hall through con­sul­ta­tions with out­side ad­vi­sors, in­clud­ing Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple and aca­demics.

The word “Iro­quois” will re­main, in fine print, but get used to see­ing Hau­denosaunee in bold type. That’s their tra­di­tional name.

A women’s com­mit­tee of ad­vi­sors en­sured the mu­seum “gen­ders his­tory”, i.e. presents his­tory from both fe­male and male per­spec­tives. That means the story of New France is par­tially told by Les Filles du Roi, the women sent from France to marry early colo­nial men. Like­wise, the his­tory of world wars is told by sol­diers and their wives back home.

Char­lotte Gray is the Ot­tawa au­thor of pop­u­lar his­tory books and was one of the mu­seum’s out­side ad­vi­sors. Gray knows her his­tory but even she learned a few things: The very British city of Vic­to­ria was one-third Chi­nese in the 19th cen­tury and there is another story to be told about the fur trade, from the Abo­rig­i­nal per­spec­tive.

Gray ap­proached the con­sul­ta­tions ask­ing two ques­tions: “Whose lives mat­ter?” and “Whose sto­ries do we tell?” Such an ap­proach tweaked de­ci­sions made by mu­seum man­agers. But above all, says Gray, she wanted the mu­seum to be en­ter­tain­ing and in­for­ma­tive. “It is a Satur­day af­ter­noon out­ing, not a grad­u­ate school sem­i­nar.” — Paul Ges­sell

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