In the Nation’s Capital: Residential School Exhibit

June 7, 2009

DSC04120I was recently in Ottawa for the annual Canadian Communication Association’s (CCA) Conference where I presented a short paper entitled: Before Truth: Contextualizing History, Memory and Nation in the Age of Truth and Reconciliation. In the paper, I briefly explored the international context of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) and drew comparisons between the fledgling Canadian Commission and the completed South African TRC. Given the challenges the Canadian Commission has faced in its first year, one of my main arguments in the paper was to highlight the need for multiple, local approaches to reconciliation.

While in Ottawa, I had the pleasure of visiting the National Archives where they are currently showing an exhibit entitled “‘We were so far away…’ The Inuit Experience of Residential Schools.” The small exhibit focuses on the recollections of eight Inuit students who attended various residential schools. Organized by the Legacy of Hope Foundation, the exhibit includes photographs, video, sound, and large-scale posters in English, French and Inuktitut. 

The exhibit displays old photos provided by the students through a slide projector. Connected to a motion sensor, the slides automatically start to change as one steps towards the exhibit. The soft clicking of the changing slides creates a rhythmic melody for the images. Largely in black and white, the photographs projected onto the white walls of the exhibition space are beautiful in their ability to capture the everyday experiences at the schools. The images of students at their desks, in uniform, in some cases smiling into the camera both conceal and reveal the difficult experiences of the students, which are elaborated in the surrounding posters. The exhibit is on at the National Archives in Ottawa until September 7th, 2009.

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2 Responses to “In the Nation’s Capital: Residential School Exhibit”


  1. […] example, I posted a few weeks ago on an exhibit at the National Archives in Ottawa, which focuses specifically on the Inuit experiences at the schools.  The exhibit included […]


  2. […] Conference #2: Canadian Communication Association, Ottawa. […]


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