History-making In The Museum: Toward Nurturing Public Historical Practice

by Trina Cooper-Bolam

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In accordance with recent changes to the Museums Act through Bill C-49, the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC), soon to be the Canadian Museum of History, has initiated a process to change its Canada Hall to better “present the national history of Canada and its people” (CMC 2013). In order to inform a discussion of how Canadians’ knowledge of history can be enhanced in the museum setting, the questions: “how do museum visitors optimally learn about and use history?”, and “how can this knowledge be used to design interaction models to best support the historical practice of visitors in the exhibition space?” must be answered. This paper demonstrates that in placing emphasis on visitor experience, and acknowledging visitor motivations and historical practice as a larger process that occurs both within and without the exhibition space, museums, like CMC, can consider interaction models that engage with visitors in ways that are meaningful to them and that inform and advance their historical practice, thereby closing the discursive gap between how the history and heritage profession understands and represents history and how visitors interpret and use it in their daily lives.


Canada; Museum; Exhibition; HistoryBIOGRAPHY

Trina Cooper-Bolam is a graduate student in the Canadian Studies program at Carleton University. Her current research focuses on the intersection of curatorial work and pedagogy in designing exhibitions that explore shared histories of colonization and conflict.

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