Canadian Museum of History acquires artifacts from the “Canadian Caper”

January 17, 2017


For immediate release

Gatineau, Quebec, January 17, 2017 — In 1980, with the help of the Canadian government and of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the Canadian embassy in Tehran smuggled six American diplomats out of Revolution-era Iran. The so-called “Canadian Caper” — and the Canadian diplomats who risked their lives to get American embassy workers to safety — became sensational front-page news around the world. The Canadian Museum of History is proud to announce the recent acquisition of unique, and even startling, materials related to this historic episode.

The film reels, audio recordings, transcripts and photographs come from Canadian television producer Les Harris. His meticulous research includes rare interviews with the escapees and their Canadian helpers — conducted shortly after the Canadian Caper — as well as the only known photographs of the Americans while in hiding at Canadian embassy workers’ homes. Almost 2.5 million viewers saw Harris’ 1981 documentary, Escape from Iran: The Inside Story, when it first aired on CBC. Altogether, Harris created two documentaries and one made-for-TV feature film about the event, using the research materials and footage that are now part of the Museum’s national collection.

“Collecting contemporary Canadian history is an essential part of the Museum’s mandate for the present and into the future,” said Jean-Marc Blais, Director General of the Canadian Museum of History. “The Les Harris Collection will be made available to researchers and academics who want to study Canada’s role on the international scene in recent years, particularly at a time when our country took a substantial risk to make a real difference.”

Canadians may be familiar with the story from the 2012 Oscar®-winning film, Argo, which was based partly on the actual events revealed in Les Harris’ work. The Canadian Caper earned the Order of Canada for Ken Taylor, Canada’s ambassador to Iran at the time. Taylor was the mastermind behind the escape. He passed away in 2015.

The Museum is proud to be the keeper of these documents, not only to preserve them, but also to make them available to future generations. With the acquisition of the Les Harris Collection, the Museum of History has considerably enhanced its material on this seminal event, allowing it to tell an even more comprehensive story of Canada and its role on the world stage.

The Canadian Museum of History operates the Canadian Museum of History, the Canadian War Museum and the Virtual Museum of New France. Together, these Museums function as centres for research and public information on the history of Canada. Their principal role is to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the events, experiences, people and objects that have shaped Canada’s history and identity. Work of the Canadian History Museum is made possible in part through financial support of the Government of Canada.

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