Museums and historic sites in Canada are public places of representation and social encounters where Canadians present, express, and confirm cultural identities and community belonging. Narratives of identity in these heritage institutions are under pressure to change to reflect Canadian society as it diversifies. This essay examines a particular case where African Canadians joined a collaborative process with the federal agency Parks Canada and the Ontario Black History Society to create one of Parks Canada's first exhibitions on Black history, presented in 2002-2005. The research project studied the exhibit's circuit of communication, the debates around the production of the historical narrative, the exhibition itself as a cultural text, and the varied reception of the exhibition by visitors. The study found complex negotiation of narratives of Canada behind the scenes, but a mainstreaming effect inherent within the exhibit design and a lack of new or transformative understandings by most viewers. The analysis suggests a lack of bridging between the processes of production and reception due to the limitations of the exhibit form itself.
|Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'etudes canadiennes
|Published - 2011