Our Visitors Tell Us that Snow Brings Us Together
Does any other country have fairly regular editorial cartoons about snowstorms and shovelling? That may be as defining a characteristic as Canadians’ tendency to #humblebrag about the day we skied to work in a snowstorm.
Last winter, the Canadian Museum of History presented Snow, an exhibition about the history of snow in Canada and our relationship with it. In the exhibition, we weren’t trying to make anyone love snow. Our intention was to show that snow — whether you love it or hate it — is a part of Canadian history and experience.
Near the end of the exhibition, we asked visitors, “Is snow important to you?” Our visitors responded to this question by creating thousands of notes and drawings that reflected their thoughts about snow. Visitors could read each other’s comments and, as a member of the team that created Snow, I received regular packages of comment cards that piled, a little like snowbanks, in my office.
The comments were wonderful, and they reflected the messages and experiences that we had created in the exhibition. Visitors shared personal experiences that expanded on our themes of Canadians’ adaptation to snow; our ingenuity in dealing with snow; our passion for snow sports; and our appreciation of the beauty of snow. As we had hoped, we got both “I <3 snow!” and “I hate snow!” responses, and even a very Canadian “I’m just not a fan of snow…sorry.”
Visitors told us very clearly that snow is important to their sense of Canadian identity through comments such as:
“It makes me feel Canadian.”
“Snow is important to me because the extraordinary white flakes affect every aspect of our lives and touch and inspire every facet of our culture. Snow truly makes us who we are.”
« La neige définit notre pays. Elle prouve qu’on est fort, robuste, et persévérant! J’aime la neige car elle fait partie de nous.» [Snow defines our country. It shows that we’re strong, robust and we persevere! I like snow because it is part of us.]
As I read the responses, what really surprised me was the theme that emerged of Canadians spending time together as families in the snow. Snow brings families together to play and to have fun, and it builds shared experiences and family memories. Snow is a part of Canadians’ identities as families:
“I love to have snowball fights and play outside with my mom and brother.”
« Dans ma famille, la neige est rassembleuse! » [In my family, snow brings us together!]
“Reminds me to slow down and enjoy family.”
“It is fun to spend time with my family skiing, playing, snowball making and playing games.”
The comments say it all: snow brings us together. We may grumble about coming out of hibernation to shovel after a snowstorm, but how often do those snow shovelling chores result in spontaneous gatherings between neighbours who, leaning on their shovels in the unploughed streets, use this time to catch up for the first time in months?
Here are the most popular types of comments from our visitors. Which ones best capture your experience of snow? Which ones are important to you?
A smaller version of the exhibition is now starting on a travelling exhibition tour, and I hope that other Canadians will enjoy reflecting on what snow means to us. It is currently on display at Pointe-à-Calliere, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History.