Oral History at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21


We can learn a lot about immigration
from government records and other historical documents but they don’t give
us everything we need to know. Here at the Museum an oral history is a
recorded interview that focuses on a person’s immigration experience in the
context of their overall life experience. Oral history interviews are unique they
give us insights and anecdotes and stories that simply don’t exist anywhere
else in the historical record. Very very scared it’s my first time to go out of
my country… … and no relatives here. No whatsoever. I don’t even know the face of the person that’s picking me up from the airport. The oral histories have a tremendous impact because they’re personal. You’re learning what it was like to
arrive in Vienna after the Warsaw Pact invasion you’re learning about what it
was like to leave Kampala after Idi Amin expelled all of the Ugandan Asians
you’re learning about historical events through first-person experiences. Here at the Museum oral histories are used in a number of ways. Today for example we’re at the BMO oral history gallery where we’ve identified a number of themes where people talk about their experiences and visitors to the museum are able to learn through these first-hand experiences about being in
Canada. Well I guess it comes about because of the questions that people sometimes ask you. Like the first thing that they ask is where are you from? And I was like man, why do I find it so difficult when someone says where are you from? The museum also draws upon the oral history
interviews for research purposes they’re also used
on the museum’s website and eventually the entire collection will be available
online so no matter where you are you’ll be able to access an excerpt from each
interview and a short biography of each person through the online database. It’s a real honour to be able to hear those stories and to share them and the museum is very grateful to all the people who have given this gift not just to the
museum but to the historical record and

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