Dr. Laura Sanchini

Project Lead

Dr. Laura Sanchini is the Manager of Research, History and Cultural Expression at the Canadian Museum of History. A folklorist, curator, and oral historian, she leads Shaping Canada, the Museum’s oral history initiative.

Unveiling the Shaping Canada Project


Dr. Sanchini offers insights into the Shaping Canada project, outlining its purpose and objectives.

Laura Sanchini: Shaping Canada is a multi-year project that wants to document the lived experiences of Canadians who have had an impact on our lives, our country, our society and document their life stories, document their thoughts, document their reflections on the Canada they helped create. So part of the Canadian Museum of History's mandate is to allow Canadians to better understand their history and the important people and events that have shaped our shared past. And Shaping Canada gives a voice to the people who have done exactly that, who are still living so that we can better understand their stories and also better understand their understanding of Canadian history and the work that they've done.

Documenting Life Stories: The Shaping Canada Oral . . .

1 min 14 s

Dr. Sanchini delves into the oral history field and shares her approach to conducting oral history i...

Laura Sanchini: Oral history is a field of study, but it's also a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the stories and memories of people and communities. Oral history is practiced by a very wide number of scholars and researchers in different fields, from history to folklore, from ethnomusicology to anthropology. You know, researchers who seek to better understand lived experiences, past and present. Our interviews for Shaping Canada take what we call a life history approach. So in oral history, there's two types of interviews that we normally do: one is thematic and one is life history. So a thematic approach is where an interview is focused on a specific theme. They tend to be shorter. They tend to be more precise. A life history approach is where the oral historian guides the interviewee through their entire life. So it is sort of the co-creation of an oral autobiography of the candidate's lived experiences.

The Shaping Canada Interview Process

0 min 51 s

Dr. Sanchini explains the process of selecting participants for Shaping Canada.

Laura Sanchini: We have different categories for Shaping Canada, that includes everything from civil society to philanthropy, sports to entertainment, science and government. We have a vetting process where we have an internal committee and an external committee that we propose and discuss and debate the candidates and come to a conclusion together about who we'd like to interview. We try to be as transparent as possible about our criteria, which is that the candidates have had a demonstrable impact on our society in some way and have been recognized as such.

Behind the Scenes: A Multi-Divisional . . .

1 min 3 s

Dr. Sanchini highlights the collaborative nature of the project and how conducting video interviews ...

Laura Sanchini: For Shaping Canada interviews, we filmed them, which is a different experience than what we would normally do as oral historians, which is just use a digital recorder. And so because of that, it brings in a lot of different divisions at the Museum. So as an example, right now we're filming this interview and we have, you know, it's not just myself and the interviewer. We also have a colleague from the audio-visual team, you know, a pretty large setup with multiple cameras, video cameras and lights and sound equipment. And it doesn't just stop there. After the interview is completed, we have video editors, we have transcriptionists, we have website designers that help us build the website, programmers, editing teams to help with all of the text writing. So it is a multi-divisional, multi-team project to get it from point A to point B

Stories That Resonate

0 min 40 s

Dr. Sanchini offers her personal reflections on the stories collected through Shaping Canada.

Laura Sanchini: There's been a lot of stories that I've heard, you know, both in Shaping Canada and through my other oral history work. I think for me, specifically with Shaping Canada, what I always walk away from after an interview, whether I've conducted the interview or I've just listened to it, has been how extraordinary ordinary people can be. And how, you know, one person making up their mind to make a change and be the change can have a really big ripple effect on society as a whole.