Wednesday, 7 December 2016




There's been a lot of buzz lately about the future of Old City Hall. Despite my obvious bias as a Museum Studies student, turning the building into a museum solely dedicated to Toronto history would be a great way for museum professionals to address repatriation issues. Many museums and other cultural institutions in the city are already taking steps to better represent Toronto's diversity, but the specific issue of repatriation is one that continues to be a challenge, partly because it is difficult for many reasons to change a permanent exhibition that has a history of its own.

That being said, we need to not only better represent our visible minorities, but address how their history has been whitewashed, denied, and rewritten. This is much easier said than done, and in my opinion, it is easier still when building a new exhibition from the ground up. A Toronto museum would be a wonderful opportunity for innovation. We could create a place that from its very inception represented ALL of Toronto, in all its controversial and storied glory.

I recently discovered an old Musings entry from 2014 that deals with this very issue. Blair Newby wrote in our African Canadian History column about how Toronto's first cab company was started by an African Canadian named Thornton Blackburn. It's a great blog entry because it chronicles how Dr. Karolyn Smardz Frost spent 18 years researching Blackburn and his wife Lucie's story after discovering his identity almost by accident. Without her passion and hard work, the Blackburns might never have been named Persons of National Significance.

Thornton and Lucie Blackburn’s Person of National Significance Plaque.
There are so many significant contributions to our city that go unrecognized or buried for generations, and needlessly so. A Toronto museum could be a major way we can rectify this problem, because every culture has a distinct voice, we just need to find new avenues of expression. Old City Hall is like a blank canvas. Toronto could use its past to create something new, beautiful, and honest. Even if it never becomes a museum, Old City Hall should be a safe space for everyone to have their voices heard. 

Let's get to it, Toronto!

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