Calgary Herald

Sports Hall of Fame partnershi­p `a win for everybody,' CEO says


EDITOR'S NOTE: A story that appeared on A13 of Wednesday's Herald about Canada's Sports Hall of Fame at Canada Olympic Park contained incorrect informatio­n that it was closing. Canada's Sports Hall of Fame will continue to operate, partnering with the Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., for special exhibits


Cheryl Bernard calls a joint venture between Canada's Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Museum of History a win for all Canadians.

Call it teamwork at its best to ensure our sports history is accessible to all and preserved for future generation­s.

The two museums — the Hall of Fame in Calgary and the other in the greater Ottawa area — have come together on the cross-country initiative with the support of the Canadian government.

“It is a win for everybody,” said Bernard, the president and CEO of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. “The partnershi­p will help both museums to tell the story of our sports history, and the partnershi­p is going to allow both museums to continue to build the collection together.”

Physically, it means the Hall of Fame has transferre­d a portion of its collection from its Winsport location to the Museum of History.

That said, the Calgary-based Hall of Fame isn't going anywhere, continuing to see itself as a community builder — and doing that through the power of sport.

“The Canada Sports Hall of Fame will remain here in Calgary,” Bernard said. “All of our educationa­l programs will come out of here, all of our digital creation will come out of here. All of our exhibits that will be immersed into the community will be created here. We will run our organizati­on out of here. But the collection will be housed with the Canadian Museum of History.

“There will be artifacts here, because some of them we're going to continue to keep on loan here so we can continue to create displays and exhibits and use them for our educationa­l programs.”

In particular, once the Calgary facility reopens its doors after the pandemic, it will feature an Indigenous sports heroes exhibit, a possible Terry Fox exhibit and a locker-room of the annual Hall-offame class.

“We will remain fully intact in Calgary,” Bernard said. “It will not move from here. We're just in the middle of reimaginin­g how our physical footprint will look.”

Meanwhile, the relocation of its artifacts to the Museum of History helps move them into the future.

“The Museum of History — because they have so much government of Canada funding — has the improved ability to digitize and amplify the collection so Canadian sports history can be shared with more Canadians,” Bernard said. “And then we will have access to all of the collection for our future exhibits and for our education programs, but without the cost to maintain and house and digitize the 110,000-artifact collection. It's incredibly expensive to do that ourselves, and we have no government funding support. So this partnershi­p essentiall­y provides that support.

“We can't afford to digitize — it would take another 100 years to do this.”

Three years ago, Bernard came on board to help realize a vision to engage and affect more Canadians.

But the pandemic changed the way it delivered the history of sport in Canada.

Rather than reaching only the 40,000 annual visitors who came through the turnstiles of the Calgary-based museum, the story is now being told virtually so it can potentiall­y reach all 37 million Canadians.

“It's a reimaginin­g of the Hall of Fame, and it had to happen,” Bernard said. “Financiall­y — hopefully — this country will come through this pandemic, but it will take years. So I think collaborat­ions and joint-venture partnershi­ps are going to be valuable. Museums have always struggled, and I think we needed to get ahead of the game.

“For some, COVID has been so dismal, but for us, it was really where we were forced to transition,” Bernard said. “COVID has forced museums to look at unique ways to continue to be vital and support the growth and revival of communitie­s. I really think museums have to stop behaving like museums. We've always been focused on attracting audiences into a building. And now I think we're growing beyond our four walls. And that really came out of COVID.”

Bernard says the virtual move was influenced by the direction the Smithsonia­n has gone in recent years in creating digital content for worldwide consumptio­n.

“I'm very proud of what the Hall of Fame has accomplish­ed in the past 15 months with a very small but mighty team,” Bernard said. “Through all this, we've expanded our education programs and we've transition­ed them all to virtual, and now we're reaching into classrooms across the country.

“We did an incredible campaign called `We Will Be Better' — and it raised awareness about systemic racism. We did vignettes on (CFL legends) Norm Kwong and (Michael) `Pinball' Clemons and about the racism they faced. We hosted a virtual Indigenous summit in October 2020, and that inspired a vision for our Hall of Fame that connects sport and reconcilia­tion. And out of that summit came what I think is one of the most important initiative­s that our Hall has ever embarked on, and that's our Indigenous Sports Heroes Education Experience — a seven-year digital multimedia exhibit. It's a game-changer aimed to educate and inspire and heal by profiling our 14 Indigenous Hallof-famers.

“It is part of our mission to reach all Canadians, and this shutdown really pushed us toward that vision that we've been trying to reach for three years.”

It is a win for everybody.

The partnershi­p will help both museums to tell the story of our sports history.

 ?? GAVIN YOUNG ?? The Canadian Sports Hall of Fame is partnering with the Canadian Museum of History, moving some of its Winsport collection to the Ottawa-area-based facility.
GAVIN YOUNG The Canadian Sports Hall of Fame is partnering with the Canadian Museum of History, moving some of its Winsport collection to the Ottawa-area-based facility.

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