I came across the Virtual Museum of Canada, ‘the largest source of online content and experiences shared by large and small Canadian museums and heritage organizations,’ and spent some time browsing their different exhibits. There’s a huge amount of online content from all across Canada and many different histories. A lot of them are outdated HTML and Flash-based websites but there’s a few new ones as well.
Here are a few of the ones that I thought were most interesting (and, to some extent, best designed; because that influences what I like on the internet). I encourage you to explore some virtual exhibits and learn something you didn’t know about Canadian history. I didn’t know, for example, that Canada interned Jewish refugees in work camps during the Second World War. There’s always more to learn.
Land of the Thundering Snow
“Join us as we probe the history of snow avalanches and their impact on people and nature in Canada. Through historic records, photographs, recordings and artifacts, we will explore stories of both technical success and tearful sorrow. Avalanche experts will share their experiences revealing nature’s secrets hidden within the stillness of the snowpack and the fury of a snowslide. You will go behind the front lines of avalanche safety and find an army of professionals working for everyone who lives, works, travels, or seeks leisure in avalanche country.”
Living Tradition: The Kwakwaka'wakw Potlatch on the Northwest Coast
“The U’mista Cultural Centre is one of the longest-operating and most successful First Nations cultural facilities in BC, founded in 1980 as a ground-breaking project to house potlatch artifacts which had been seized by government during an earlier period of cultural repression. The return of the potlatch artifacts not only provided U’mista’s name (“the return of something important”), and sparked a general trend toward repatriation of First Nations’ cultural artifacts, it caused the creation of a physical facility and human resources infrastructure which have been successfully operated for over three decades.
“This virtual tour of the Potlatch Gallery at U’mista Cultural Centre comprises 6 different panoramic scenes, with links to high-resolution 360 images for each 3-dimensional object in the collection.”
Enemy Aliens: The Internment of Jewish Refugees in Canada, 1940-1943
“Through testimony and artefacts, this exhibit illustrates a little-known chapter of Canadian history—the story of Canada and the interned refugees. The remarkable postwar contributions of these men highlight the lost potential of the fragment of European Jewry that Canada might have saved. Their journey—from fascist Europe to refuge in England, imprisonment by Britain and Canada and eventual release—is a bittersweet tale of survival during the Holocaust.”
“Expedition Arctic follows the travels of four Canadian Museum of Nature scientists—Jennifer Doubt, Dr. David Gray, Paul Hamilton and Kieran Shepherd—on the 2012 Students on Ice Arctic Youth Expedition across Nunavut and western Greenland. They conducted research and educated youth about the floral, faunal and paleontological richness and history of the Arctic region.”
Narrative Threads: Crafting the Canadian Quilt
“Narrative Threads takes its inspiration from a quintessential Canadian handicraft, the story quilt. Made from scraps of many fabrics, some brand new and some long worn, a story quilt combines carefully crafted panels into a larger multi-generational narrative. What makes this particular quilt “great” is not its size, but the fact that Canadians of any age, background, and skill level, can craft their own panel. No story is too small, or too different, to be Canadian.
“Narrative Threads is not about defining what it means to be a Canadian. Instead it is a space for Canadians from all walks of life to share what is important to them—their traditions, their stories, and personal histories. Working together, our aim is to make a virtual quilt every bit as messy, complex, and wonderful as the country we call home.”