Temporary Exhibitions

Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Times:
Italian Canadian Experiences During World War II

On June 10, 1940, Italy declared war on Great Britain and her allies; in reaction, the Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King declared as “enemy aliens” an estimated 31,000 Italian Canadians considered a threat to the safety of Canada.

These individuals were fingerprinted, photographed, and ordered to report monthly to the RCMP and local authorities. Those considered most dangerous, around 600, were sent to three internment camps in Alberta, Ontario, and New Brunswick for a period of up to five years. Though lives were disrupted and reputations damaged, not one internee would be officially charged with a crime in a court of law.

Drawing from a series of oral histories collected between 2010 and 2012, Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Times: Italian Canadian Experiences During World War II conveys the personal stories of a cross-section of Italian Canadians, including internees and their families, neighbours, and fellow community members, and helps demonstrate the varied and far-reaching effects of that period of time.

The exhibit will be open to the public on November 23 until March 12, 2017.

For more information on the Columbus Centre project that inspired the exhibit see here: http://www.italiancanadianww2.ca/

The project was funded by:

Logo of columbus centre
Logo of CIC


Safe Haven:
Canada and the 1956 Hungarian Refugees

November 1, 2016 to February 1, 2017


Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
D2014.10.1

Safe Haven commemorates the 60th Anniversary of the resettlement in Canada of approximately 38,000 Hungarian refugees, who fled the Soviet invasion of their homeland in 1956. Many Hungarian individuals and families entered Canada through Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The exhibit briefly explores the events that led Hungarians to leave their country and the role of the Canadian government, community organizations, and individual sponsors in helping them begin new lives in Canada. The exhibit features archival images and a piece of artwork from the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21’s collection.

Safe Haven will be on display in the Hall of Tribute.


Past Temporary Exhibitions

Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland
November 23, 2015 to November 13, 2016


Original painting by Ken Marschall © 1996.

Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland is a dramatic exhibition that takes visitors to the heart of the one of the greatest maritime disasters in Canada’s history. Artifacts from this once-splendid ocean liner, historical documents and witness accounts help bring to life stories of loss and rescue, despair and bravery. As well, learn the storied history of the Empress of Ireland including the role it played in immigration and development of Canada.

Considered one of the finest ships in the Canadian Pacific Railway fleet, the Empress of Ireland carried tens of thousands of passengers between Canada and Great Britain in the early years of the 20th century. But in the early morning of May 29, 1914, on the fog-bound St. Lawrence River, the Empress was hit broadside by a coal ship, the Storstad. The ocean liner went down in less than 15 minutes. More than a thousand people lost their lives.

Visit our Empress of Ireland video gallery where Dan Conlin, Curator, Ron Marsh and others share details of the Empress of Ireland exhibition. →

An exhibition created by the Canadian Museum of History and co-presented by the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.


Journey to Canada:
Ukrainian Immigration Experiences 1891-1900

July 20 to October 30, 2016


John Woodruff, Library and Archives Canada, C-005611 [1896]

Journey to Canada commemorates the 125th Anniversary of Ukrainians in Canada. Many Ukrainian people who immigrated to Canada came through Halifax. The exhibit explores the events that led Ukrainians to leave their homes in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and their first experiences in Western Canada. Journey to Canada is produced by the Kule Folklore Centre at the University of Alberta and has been brought to Halifax with assistance from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.


Canada’s Self Portrait
Contemporary Art Exhibit
July 1 to 11, 2016

Winner of the 2016 Applied Arts Conceptual Illustration award, Canada’s Self Portrait is a participatory art project about who we are and what we stand for as Canadians. For three weeks during the summer of 2014, artist Aquil Virani and cofounder Rebecca Jones took a coast-to-coast trip from St. John’s through Halifax all the way to Victoria, asking members of the Canadian public to fill out a one-page worksheet that included an opportunity to sketch what it means to be Canadian. With over 800 submissions from across the country, these doodles were re-drawn and integrated into a single “truly Canadian’’ artwork.

Canada’s Self Portrait is on display from July 1 to July 11 in the Hall of Tribute. Come meet Aquil and Rebecca and participate in their newest collaborative project, My Canada, by writing about what your Canada looks like.


woman and daughter skating

January 16 to March 20, 2016

Discover the immigration stories behind some of Canada’s pioneering figure skaters, coaches and builders. Many Canadian figure skaters, as well as coaches and builders of the sport, came to Canada as immigrants. Some for reasons linked directly to skating while others came to join their family or escape conditions in their country.

Perfect Landings explores the relationship between immigration and figure skating in Canada through a series of biographies. Visitors will find stories such as the story of John Knebli, a talented craftsman who arrived at Pier 21 in 1930 and Ellen Burka’s story, a Holocaust survivor who came to Canada in 1951 and went on to train some of the country’s best-known skaters, including Toller Cranston. In Canada, the sport has been profoundly influenced by the skills and talents of immigrants.

Perfect Landings will be on display in the Hall of Tribute from January 16 to March 20, 2016. The exhibit is presented in partnership with Skate Canada.

Attended the 2016 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships ? Show your event ticket stub to receive 15% Museum admission.

red and black skate Canada logo

Peace – The Exhibition

Come explore Peace – The Exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21! Presented from May 5 to June 7, 2015, you will experience peace through a diversity of viewpoints: peace activists demonstrating to prevent war, soldiers fighting to end war and immigrants coming to Canada to escape war and its aftermath. Don’t miss the rare iconic peace objects featured in the exhibition such as an American immigrant’s draft card from the Vietnam War and an original record of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s "Give Peace a Chance" recorded in Montreal.

Peace – The Exhibition, a travelling exhibition developed by the Canadian War Museum and adapted by the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, vividly illustrates the rich diversity of Canadians’ choices and actions for peace, and how these actions have helped shape Canada’s history.

Visitors will experience the personal stories of Canadians as combatants, activists, diplomats, humanitarians and more. They’ll encounter stories and perspectives that may be unfamiliar. They’ll learn about major historical events, as well as the stories of individuals and families caught up in them. And ultimately, they’ll discover that Canadians facing the same event or issue have often made very different choices for peace.

The issues of peace, violence and war have been central to the history of immigration to Canada. Many immigrants have come to Canada to escape violence caused by war and conflict or to avoid forced military service.

The exhibition’s themes — Negotiate, Organize and Intervene — are represented by major historical episodes including: Treaty 7, Canada-U.S. border disputes, Canada and the First World War, Canada and Vietnam, the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, and Post-war reconstruction in Europe.


Pop Up Exhibition
To Canada: Farewell and Welcome – Cuxhaven and Halifax
March 5 to May 2

aerial view of German port

Come explore the story of emigration from the port of Cuxhaven, Germany to Pier 21. You will also discover the personal stories of several German immigrants who settled in Canada.

An exhibition and project of the Hapag-Halle Booster Club of Cuxhaven, To Canada: Farewell and Welcome – Cuxhaven and Halifax is presented in the Museum lobby across from the Scotiabank Family History Centre.


Migrating Landscapes

Who we are is shaped by where we live. Where we live is shaped by who we are. This is the essence of the Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Migrating Landscapes. Visit us from May 30 to November 11, 2013 to experience how migrations, and the simultaneous process of settling and being unsettled is expressed through the built environment that surrounds us.

Migrating Landscapes showcases a series of model ‘dwellings’ by young architects and designers, inspired by their personal experiences of immigration and migration. These ‘dwellings’—from model skyscrapers to cabins—are nestled in an impressive, abstract wooden landscape made of 28,680 feet of lumber. The architectural models are brought to life by accompanying videos that draw on the artists’ cultural memories.

Curated by Winnipeg-based 5468796 Architecture and Jae-Sung Chon, Migrating Landscapes was Canada’s 2012 entry to the prestigious 13th International Architecture Exhibition–la Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy.


Position As Desired / Exploring African Canadian Identity: Photographs from the Wedge Collection

Dawit L. Petros, Sign, 2001, Digital print. © Dawit L. Petros and Dr Kenneth Montague / The Wedge Collection
Dawit L. Petros, Sign, 2001, Digital print. © Dawit L. Petros and Dr Kenneth Montague / The Wedge Collection

What does it mean to be African Canadian? Explore the topic of Black identity in Canada in the context of immigration and multiculturalism through Position As Desired / Exploring African Canadian Identity: Photographs from the Wedge Collection. The exhibition was featured from January 22 to March 30, 2013 in the Ralph and Rose Chiodo Harbourside Gallery at the Museum.

Position As Desired presented photographic works from the Wedge Collection, ranging from rare vintage portraits of the first African immigrants to Canada, to contemporary works by four emerging artists that document the experiences of African Canadians. The exhibition also featured a local component, incorporating works produced by African Nova Scotian artists that express personal interpretations of African Canadian identities.

To learn more about the exhibition’s themes and the inclusion of artworks by African Nova Scotians click here.


Shaping Canada: Exploring Our Cultural Landscapes
June 8 to November 18, 2012


Sikh Motorcycle Club - Photo by Naomi Harris

Are you a part of a cultural landscape? The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 invited visitors to find out by exploring the temporary exhibition Shaping Canada: Exploring Our Cultural Landscapes. Visitors discovered the ways groups and individuals maintain and produce their cultural identities in Canada.

The exhibition featured contemporary portrait photography by Naomi Harris, archival images, oral histories, artifacts and visitors’ participation. It highlighted Canada’s cultural landscapes through seven case studies around key ideas like family, faith, food, recreation and neighbourhood. The result showed aspects of how people create, maintain and experience cultural landscapes across Canada.


Museum Notice

On May 5, 2015, the Museum reopened to the public. We are pleased to announce that the Wheel of Conscience monument is now on display on the ground floor.

Commemorating the St. Louis Voyage

The Honourable Jason Kenny, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and Daniel Libeskind, architect, unveil the Wheel of Conscience on January 20, 2011.
The Honourable Jason Kenny, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and Daniel Libeskind, architect, unveil the Wheel of Conscience on January 20, 2011. © SteveKaiserPhotography.ca

The Wheel of Conscience monument is on display in Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21’s Rudolph P. Bratty Hall. The Wheel of Conscience monument was developed through a partnership between the Canadian Jewish Congress and Citizenship and Immigration Canada to commemorate the story of the St. Louis. The monument was designed by world renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, who was born in Poland and is the son of Holocaust survivors. In his artist statement, Libeskind describes the wheel as driven by gears which are symbolic of both the gears of a ship and the “gears” of government. The words hatred, racism and xenophobia are represented on three gears smallest to largest. These gears combined, move the largest and most prominent gear of antisemitism. The rotating gears fracture and reassemble the image of the ship at set intervals. The gears represent the vicious circle that brought tragedy to so many lives and dishonor to Canada. Entrance to Rudolph P. Bratty Hall is included in Museum admission.


Community Presents Program

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21’s Community Presents program encourages cultural groups to create their own exhibitions and tell their own stories, while celebrating themes related to immigration, cultural diversity, cultural heritage and identity.