Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall at the Canadian Museum of Civilization
WHAT IS IT?
Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall is the newest large permanent exhibition developed by the Museum of Civilization to complete its architectural landmark building on the shores of the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec.
The unique project fills Level 4 of the Museum and overlooks the popular Canada Hall. While the Canada Hall, with its real buildings and re-created communities, offers you a tactile tour of 1,000 years of Canadian history, Face to Face gives you a chance to meet some of the people who helped shape both the communities and Canadian history itself.
Face to Face represents a whole new concept: a collection of mini-exhibitions arranged thematically, rather than in the traditional chronological manner. There is no set beginning or end with two entrances and exits, you are free to trace whatever route you choose as you 'meet and mingle' with the famous, not-so-famous and infamous men and women whose lives helped shape Canadian history.
The individual biographical displays use storytelling, first-person narratives, photographs, audio and video recordings, written texts and fascinating artifacts. The result is a collection of well-rounded sketches that highlight the lives, careers and contributions of uniquely influential Canadians, and reveal their private and public selves in a historical context.
The personalities on display will change periodically, based on the Museum's research and visitor suggestions. The rotation will keep the exhibition fresh and, more importantly, introduce visitors to as many noteworthy Canadians as possible.
SELECTING THE PERSONALITIES
There is no shortage of interesting characters populating Canada’s past, so the biggest challenge in developing Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall was selecting just a few of them to represent the breadth and depth of Canadian history and society.
The Museum’s exhibition team began by applying strict criteria to guide the process and limit the number of potential candidates. To begin with, each personality had to have been deceased for at least a few years.
Secondly, each had to be unique to Canadian history, and had to have had a significant impact — in scope and duration — on Canada and its inhabitants, whether during his or her own lifetime or after death. Further, that influence had to be felt across Canada or internationally.
Next, each personality had to fit well in one of Face to Face’s thematic groupings (We Built, We Governed, We Fought, We Founded and We Inspired) and could be cross-referenced to other characters on display.
Finally, the Museum had to have sufficient historical, ethnographic and archaeological sources documenting the person and their impact, in order to ensure that each biographical display had enough visual appeal and intellectual substance. Unfortunately, this last criterion, which is necessary to maintain high museological standards, eliminated a number of fascinating individuals whose contributions to society had not been properly recognized during their lifetimes, or for whom supporting materials are unavailable to the Museum.
Nevertheless, the team went to great lengths to include as wide a range of personalities as possible. It chose individuals from different historical eras and geographical areas. It chose men and women representing various cultures, linguistic groups, religious affiliations, fields of interest and social trends. And because Face to Face is about influential people, and not just nice people, they chose saints as well as sinners.
The good news is that women and minorities have over time taken on more prominent roles in society, and their accomplishments are much better appreciated today. Through further research and collecting, the Museum’s dedicated staff will be able to establish more balance as they update the exhibition with new personalities in the future.
Any selection process is unavoidably subjective to some degree, and Face to Face: Canadian Personalities Hall is no different. So while the exhibition team will continue to strive for an interesting and worthy cast of characters, not everyone will agree with the results. That’s why visitors are encouraged to have a say by submitting their own suggestions.
HAVE YOUR SAY
History is dynamic — it changes as the years go by, and it’s constantly being rewritten. Since Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall is about history, it too will change with time as the Canadian Museum of Civilization rotates the personalities in the exhibition.
Of course, it’s impossible to include every historical figure. That’s why the public is invited to help decide which fascinating personalities from the past should be presented in the future.
Submit the names of people you think deserve to be included in Face to Face.
Should your great aunt who invented the original Nanaimo bar be honoured? Maybe, but she does have to meet certain criteria.