Getting a Sense of Community through the Community Stories Collection

Genealogy is more than just collecting names and dates. Each person on your family tree has a story to tell. Part of their story is shaped by the communities they have lived in. Canada is a huge country, the second largest in the world. But each little corner of this country is different. The experiences of a Maritime community is different than one in the Prairies, which is different yet again to someone who lives in the Canadian North. And it’s not just geography that factors in. Economy, religion, values, and ethnicity all shape a community, right down to neighbourhoods in a big city. Even workplaces have a unique identity and culture. These all shape how we look at the world today. It was no different for our ancestors. To understand the choices of your ancestor, you have to understand their community.

One great way to do that is by exploring the virtual exhibits on Community Stories, a website by Digital Museums Canada. The site showcases over 500 exhibits from different museums across the Canada.

They’ve divided the collections into both subjects:

  • Art
  • Cultures
  • Heritage
  • History
  • Indigenous
  • Industry
  • Media
  • Military
  • Nature
  • Science
  • Sports
  • Technology

And by Region

  • Atlantic
  • Northern
  • Ontario
  • Prairies
  • Quebec
  • Western

The virtual exhibits are a combination of text, audio recordings, and photographs. Each exhibit packs a lot of information. If you like what you’ve seen, they’ve provided a link to the originating Museum/Archive’s website. Here’s some samples of what you can find:

A Mother’s War (Carbonear Museum)

This exhibit features 3 diaries of Clara Mortimer Hawker. She wrote the diaries for her sons to read when they came back from World War I. They give details of how a community lived through the war years.

Atlantic Baptist Churches, Past and Present (Baptist Heritage Center, Moncton NB)

A history of the Baptist Church in Atlantic Canada. The exhibit was created for the 2005/2006 centenary of the church in the Maritimes.

Eel Fishing in the Côte-du-Sud Region (Musée de la mémoire vivante)

A great insight into the history and life of eel fishermen in the St. Lawrence.

Clay Chronicles: Stories of a Pottery Factory (Medalta Potteries Historic Site, Medicine Hat, AB)

This gives a you an idea of life working for one of Alberta’s largest pottery companies.

Fernie’s Pioneer Italian Community, 1881 – 1921 (Fernie Museum)

A history of the Italian Immigration experience in Southeast British Columbia.

Memories of ’42 – Stories of the Almonte Train Wreck (North Lanark Regional Museums)

Testimonials from the survivors of one of the worst railway accidents in Canadian history. Two trains collided in Almont, Ontario on December 27, 1942.

Towns – past and present of South Central Saskatchewan (Assiniboia and District Historical Museum)

A great exhibit highlighting the almost 60 small communities in the South Central Saskatchewan.

Don’t forget to check out Digital Museums Canada’s main website as well. There you can find other virtual exhibits that haven’t made it onto the Community Stories Collection yet.

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