The permanent collection is a cultural resource that allows the public to explore and engage with Canada’s immigration history and the contemporary experiences of immigrants to Canada. The focus of the collection is intangible or digital-born and digitized items, including oral histories, written stories, and digital archival materials like documents and photographs.
In 2009, the Museum began its evolution from a community museum to a national museum. The expanded national mandate led to a corresponding growth in the scope and size of the collection. The core of the collection, originally established by the Pier 21 Historical Society, focuses on Pier 21 during the period of its operation as an immigration facility, from 1928 to 1971. With the expanded mandate, the Museum now also collects items featuring the diverse experiences of immigrants, refugees, and Displaced Persons who arrived in Canada from across the globe. It is comprised of four distinct sub-collections:
The oral history collection includes over 1200 audio and videotaped interviews with immigrants, immigration officers, war veterans, and Pier 21 volunteers and staff. These interviews were recorded across Canada by the Museum’s oral history team. To learn more about the oral history collection, please explore the oral history page.
Since the Museum first opened in 1999, museum staff has collected and preserved written memories shared primarily by newcomers to Canada, veterans, Pier 21 staff and volunteers, and their families. Presently, this collection contains nearly 3000 stories. To learn more about the written stories, please explore our "Share" page.
The archive primarily consists of digital photographs and documents, as well as original two-dimensional photographs and documents, and a small collection of multi-media. It includes immigration paperwork, photographs, and ship memorabilia.
The Museum is also home to the Canadian Immigration Historical Society collection. Originally collected by a dedicated group of retired immigration, customs, and foreign service officers from across Canada, this collection is a rich resource for researchers.
The Museum houses a small collection of approximately 1500 three-dimensional artifacts, largely collected by the Pier 21 Historical Society.
For more information about the collection and how it is administered, please consult the Museum’s Collection Policy.