Unprecedented exhibition on personalities goes Face to Face with history

October 25, 2007

Unprecedented exhibition on personalities goes Face to Face with history

Gatineau, October 25, 2007 — The Canadian Museum of Civilization is putting a fresh face on the past with a new permanent exhibition that officially opens on Friday, October 26. Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall, the first biography-based exhibition of national scope in Canada, provides a compelling look at the country’s history through the life stories of 27 women and men who helped shape our country.

Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall is a new approach to museum exhibitions. It tells our national story through the words and actions of extraordinary people who made this country what it is,” says Dr. Victor Rabinovitch, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation.

The exhibition combines photographs, first-hand accounts, archival documents, artifacts and other elements to create intimate portraits of people who have left an indelible mark on Canada. They include people from many social classes, backgrounds, regions and areas of accomplishment, such as explorer Samuel de Champlain, political leaders like Sir John A. Macdonald and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Group of Seven artist Arthur Lismer, and the assassinated visionary, D’Arcy McGee.

In keeping with the exhibition’s thematic approach, the personalities are grouped in five broad categories: We Built, We Governed, We Fought, We Founded and We Inspired.

“Canada’s achievements are rooted in the courage, strength and convictions of its people. The personalities in Face to Face come from all walks of life, and demonstrate a wide range of ambitions and values,” Dr. Rabinovitch says. “Author Gabrielle Roy was born into poverty, while Pierre Trudeau was born into privilege. Parks Canada founder James Harkin fought to preserve Canada’s landscape, while Inuit photographer Peter Pitseolak sought to understand his culture. Credit union pioneer Alphonse Desjardins promoted financial independence, while Nellie McClung promoted women’s independence.”

Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall will evolve over time, as new personalities are introduced to the exhibition. Visitors are invited to make their own suggestions when they visit the exhibition, or as they browse the website at http://www.historymuseum.ca/facetoface. . The website also provides educators with classroom resources for grades 6 to 12.

“We want Face to Face to touch Canadians on a personal level, so we’re giving them a say in the people we present in the future,” says Dr. Xavier Gélinas, the exhibition’s lead curator. “It’s impossible to include every influential person, therefore we want Canadians to participate in the exhibition’s evolution. We hope to stimulate discussion and debate about our country’s history.”

Some personalities will stimulate more debate than others, because the curatorial team did not shy away from personalities who stirred up controversy, including Pierre Bourgault, the leader of a Quebec separatist party, Newfoundland politician Joey Smallwood and Montréal author Mordecai Richler.

“We want to show well-rounded individuals who had vices as well as virtues,” says Dr. Gélinas, the Museum’s Curator of Canadian Political History. “We are not trying to glorify or vilify anyone. Our goal is to present these people as realistically and accurately as possible within the context of their time and place