Sunday, 18 December 2011

Canada150 update

The Canada Aviation and Space Museum was the venue last Monday, 12 November, for a consultation session with about 25 representatives of various organizations in the heritage community. I was invited as a blogger; I'd better earn my invitation!

This Canada 150 project invites Canadians to share their family and community histories. The project will officially launch on 1 July 2012 giving five years to achieve its ambitions targets.

The MC for the event was Paul Jones, well known to Ontario genealogists, a Board member of Canada's History, a national charity devoted to public history. 

We were welcomed by Denise Amyot, President and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation. She announced that starting in 2014, in the 150 weeks leading up to the 150th anniversary, the Museums Corporation will be placing online a select group of 150 objects, one a week, and invite Canadians to tell their stories related to them. She also remarked that the Science and Technology Museum was established in 1967 as a Centennial initiative, commented they are still in temporary location, and mused that it would be a good 150th anniversary initiative for the museum to be installed in a permanent location.

In the mid-1990s Harry van Bommel, project founder, had a vision of celebrating Canada's sesquescentennial through stories Canadians told about themselves, their families, communities and organizations of which they are part. 

On 1 July 2017 he envisions the Canada 150 collection of 1.5 million stories, short and long, presented to the Governor General on our behalf as our gift to Canada. Replicating the enthusiasm of 1967, as well as the Olympics, it would be an inclusive project, the largest nation-building historical exercise in our history. 

Memorable beyond 2017 it would constitute an accessible and easily searchable collection so that the children of today, in 30 or 50 years, will be able to see what they wrote about themselves and their communities. People would be able to type in any search term and perhaps find an item of relevance to them, likely written by someone else who shared an experience such as attending the same school.

Harry van Bommel sees the bulk of the material being photographs with a story attached that people can upload to a common website. It would also include digital versions of family collections such as scrapbooks, photograph albums, films and videos, and more conventional digitized family histories. Material need not be newly created as long as it was available in the digital collection.

Canadians are ready to celebrate. A 2010 poll of 1000 Canadian found that 49% of respondents thought it very important to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday, 32% thought it was somewhat important, 37% were very interested in participating, 42% somewhat interested.

This project to date is completely volunteer, there is no budget. There is the beginning of a database of people who want to write their stories, and who want to help. People from all kinds of communities have expressed interest and the start of a contact list which needs to grow further. There's a website at www.canada150.ca, a blog, a Facebook page, and a very nice logo courtesy of Canada's History society. It's also at www.canada150.com, .org and .net

Accompanying the vision are a draft business plan, rough budgets, and an examination of lessons to be drawn from the 1867 Centennial and the Vancouver Olympics which were presented in some detail at the meeting.

Before moving into small group discussion Paul Calandra, MP and Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage encouraged the initiative while presenting his thoughts on the coming 150th birthday celebrations. He spoke about the need for planning well in advance, a mistake with the 125th anniversary, and enthusiastically about making the celebration even more successful than the Centennial. The House of Commons committee on Canadian Heritage is holding hearings on celebrating the sesquescentennial and is due to report before summer 2012.

Group discussions were on the topics
  • How to get organizations involved in Canada 150 using their current resources
  • How to expand the board and tap into other communities
  • Finances
The results of those discussions are input to the project board.

This project is grassroots, not a government initiative. That's just as it was in 1967 as expressed in this TED video.


I admire the initiative Harry has shown. No small thinking there.

I'm hoping that Library and Archives Canada will find it a worthwhile contribution to the event to offer to archive and continue to make available the 1.5 million items contributed. A major part of LAC's lexicon these days is "trusted digital repository." Maintaining the project archive would be no small contribution.

One can see the result when continuity of availability, such as provided by a major national memory institution, is not part of the plan with the 1986 BBC Domesday Project. Produced in a proprietary videodisc format it became unreadable when the BBC computer went the way of the dodo. It has been made available again, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/domesday , thanks to a substantial recovery effort and provides snapshots of community life at the time.

1 comment:

Helen Warner said...

This is such a worthwhile endeavour, and I wish you all much success. Sorry I wasn't able to attend.

No one could accuse Harry of thinking small. Gathering 1.5 million stories will be an invaluable asset to the history of Canada.

Helen Warner