Ottawa Magazine

A History Hall for all


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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