Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
Welcome to Pier 21: Canada’s National Museum of Immigration
Welcome to Pier 21!
Pier 21 was an active Canadian immigration port turned museum in 1999. During its years of operation as an immigration port, Pier 21 saw around one million immigrants come through to settle in Canada. Watch the video below to learn more about Pier 21’s history and why it was one of the most popular ports at the time, its various sections, and the museum’s current exhibits.
Dine in Style
The following video explores the various and quite diverse groups of travellers and their experiences on the ships during their ocean travels. While Cope and Kalantzis (2015) outline the importance of situated practise/experiencing in that learners must be set on an educational path that recognizes the importance of balancing between formal and non-formal education, their explanation could also be expanded to include the importance of learning about others’ lived experiences. By simply learning about the various travel situations and experiences different travellers and immigrants may have experienced, we also learn the importance of exploring these situations and experiences to understand better the needs new Canadians may have.
Watch the following video to learn about and see a dining hall on a ship hosting various groups of travellers.
Immigrants’ Baggage Tell Us Stories
During the tour, museum visitors stop in front of a display of immigrants’ baggage. Each piece of luggage holds a unique story of immigrating and finding home. The tour guide at Pier 21 shares four different immigration stories with her group of museumgoers, explaining what and how much we can learn from the shape and size of the luggage. In the following video, we learn that people immigrate for various reasons. Some immigrate looking for work or new business opportunities while some immigrate looking for safe refuge.
Museums offer a world of experience and knowledge to visitors. This type of knowledge can expand world views, personal perspectives, and drive forth people’s passion for working for the greater good of all. Kress states, “knowledge is seen not as the outcome of processes regulated by power and authority but of every day, entirely banal processes of meaning-making by individuals in their engagement with the world” (2010, p. 174). Kress (2010) expands on these comments and deepens the conversation to include identity formation through knowledge. Kress (2010) believes that identity is continuously changing and developing through active engagement with the world. Feeley takes the conversation around knowledge, power, and identity and writes to include literacy education as something vital for identity formation. Feeley (2012) writes about literacy and power from the “equality studies and new literacy studies perspective that defines literacy as a form of social practice with powerful potential for individual and collective change” (p.133). Museums, in their way of engaging people in various topics and essential moments in history, thus, aid in the formation of an identity that recognizes and supports global citizenship.
The Gateway: Walking where People took their First or their Last Steps in Canada
Museum visitors could feel the weight of what it was like to walk in the same space and place where those who came before them took their first or last steps in Canada at Pier 21. Connor reveals that The Gateway is the most unchanged section of the museum, giving Pier 21 visitors a true and authentic learning experience.
Warner and Myers (2010) explore the importance of space and place in teaching by exploring student engagement and the development of creativity. They advise educators “to examine what is being taught, how it is being taught, and how the development and growth of creativity should be woven into the educational fabric of teaching and learning” (Warner & Myers, 2010, p. 29). Bednarz and Kemp concur and state, “To geographers and other scholars engaged in “the spatial turn,” being able to think in, with, and through space, that is, to be spatially proficient, is increasingly valuable and generative” (2011, p. 18).
Watch the video below to see and learn all about this unique arrival and departure space.
Willkomen in Kanada: Historic Challenges of Language Barriers
Connor explains that while signs around Pier 21 included various languages, two of the most important tests travellers had to take upon their arrival in Canada were performed in English. Crowther and Tett (2012) explore power, citizenship, and confronting social, political, and economic inequalities and write, “The skills of reading and writing are important for an active and informed citizenry” (p. 118). Crowther and Tett continue, “Inequalities in powerful forms of literacy, differential access to information and the application of persuasive communication skills must be considered as part of the way that wider inequalities of power are systematically reproduced” (2012, p. 119). Thus, in terms of total and equal integration within a new society or country, language educators must keep in mind that new language learners need literacy and language to serve them beyond reading, writing, and basic communication skills. Language learners need literacy and language to aid them in their total integration within their society in order to help them achieve active citizenship.
Watch the video below to listen to Connor speak more about the challenges of language barriers new Canadians encountered and what officers at Pier 21 did to accommodate language barriers.
The Assembly Hall’s Photo taken in the 1930s
Connor leads her group of museum-goers into a room where a large 1930s photograph is displayed large and clear. Rather than launching into an explanation, Conner asks for the visitors’ emotional and thoughtful response to the photograph. Connor allows the museum visitors to emotionally and intellectually interact and develop personal meaning with the display to enhance their viewing and learning experience. When writing about visual literacy, Serafini writes, “Visual literacy is about the process of generating interpretations from the meaning potentials available when transacting with visual images and multimodal ensembles” (2014, p. 23). Serafini (2014) continues, “The meanings constructed by audiences of digital and print-based media are shaped by particular worldviews, positions, values, ideologies, and experiences” (p. 25). The following video presents the interactions and reactions museum-goers have with the photograph at The Assembly Hall at Pier 21. Watch the video and listen to how audience members engage in conversation with Connor to convey meaning-making.
Photographs from the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
Pier 21 is divided in a way whereby one side of the museum exhibits immigrants’ personal experiences, while the other side of the museum exhibits items and pieces related to immigration policies, systemic racism, citizenship, and topics of deportation. The photos shown below are taken from both sides of the museum.
Immigrants’ Stories: Upon Arriving in Canada
The following photographs display benches on which travellers settled waiting for the next steps and procedures they must go through upon their arrival in Canada. The first procedure travellers had to go through was baggage check. The baggage check is showcased through a collection of images in the second photo. The third photograph in the Upon Arriving in Canada series is of a little girl’s arrival story. Check out the third image below to learn about Angelina and the walnuts.
Immigration, Citizenship, and Deportation
The following photo series showcases various displays relating to the waves of immigration to Canada, the United Nations Immigration Convention, and deportation.
Check out the first two images to learn about immigration patters and the spikes in immigration between 1860 and 2020.