LGBTQ+ stories to be included in Canadian Museum of History

Collab exhibition with the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives to come in 2017


Queer issues will now form an official part of Canada’s historical discourse.

The Canadian Museum of History announced a formal collaboration with the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA) to include queer history, issues, and content in a signature Canadian exhibition set to open July 1, 2017. A formal Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Canadian Museum of History president, Mark O’Neill, and CLGA president Robert Windrum at the CLGA offices on Isabella June 18 to coincide with the start of WorldPride.

Canada’s version of the iconic Smithsonian, located across the river from Parliament Hill, is home to the most comprehensive collection of our history.

But as O’Neill points out, the Hall is now outdated and in need of serious revision. It does not cover a range of developments that have affected and changed the course of modern Canada, including gay rights, women’s issues or the debate over Quebec separation and Canada’s Charter of Rights.

As O’Neill says “almost half a century of our history is missing.”

Perhaps most egregious is that Canada’s story in the current hall begins not with our First Peoples, but the arrival of the Europeans, which is why the museum is reaching out to organizations across the country to ensure the new Hall is more inclusive and Canada’s history told from multiple perspectives.

These perspectives will now include the struggle for gay rights, equality issues, discrimination, human rights protection, the emergence of strong dyke and trans communities and the same-sex marriage debate, and will be told in a collaborative and insightful manner.

Canadians are adamant that “we include voices not traditionally heard in the telling of our national story,” says O’Neill.

Windrum says the CLGA “is very excited to begin a collaboration,” noting that “for over 40 years the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives has collected, preserved, and shared LGBTQ+ stories and we look forward to helping share these stories.”

As the trusted guardian of Canada’s LGBTQ+ history, Windrum points out that the Lesbian and Gay Archives is in a unique position to interpret the struggle of queer Canadians, though its broad range of multi-media archival materials, including historical records, documents, publications, personal papers, memoirs, audio-visual material, posters, artwork, and photographs.

The exhibition “will explore Canadian history through the experiences and perspectives of those who have lived it,” says O’Neill.

The museum’s curatorial staff is still working on the contents: what stories the exhibition will tell and how all the pieces will fit together. The particulars have yet to be worked out.

But says O’Neill: “If you believe history museums should only be about dead, white, straight men, you’ll be sorely disappointed.”

Mark Maloney is a local history writer and author of the soon-to-be released The History of the Mayors of Toronto.

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