The Pier 21 Memories of Migration: Transforming Immigration Shed into Immigrant Museum

By Ashley Clarkson.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper will demonstrate how the ‘museum of memories,’ as Pier 21 is often called, refers not only to the memories rooted in the permanent exhibit, but also to those that permeate the site itself. This research examines the relationship between the Pier 21 museum and those who immigrated to Canada through the Pier 21 site. It will be shown how the vibrant community of immigrants that formed at the historic site have had a central role in the Pier 21 Society and the operation of the museum ever since – serving as volunteers, staff, board members, and oral history interviewees. The visible presence of immigrants has enhanced the in-situ experience of visitors to the museum, who hear first-hand accounts of what it was like to arrive at Pier 21. Pier 21 has, in many ways, harnessed the affective power of both the physical site and the source community whose stories animate the exhibition through their active presence and participation will be examined. Pier 21 also continues to have a sustained relationship with new immigrants to Canada in order to connect the past and present. In 2009, the museum gained national status and is now attempting to balance the story of Pier 21 while also fulfilling their mandate to represent all of Canadian immigration history.

Keywords: Visitors, Communication, Represenation

The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 8, Issue 3, September 2015, pp.15-25. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 654.810KB).

Ashley Clarkson

Graduate Student, History Department, Concordia University, Saint-Eustache, Quebec, Canada


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