Alternative Histories of Work and Labour: The Workers History Museum

Active History is proud to present a video each week from New Directions in Active History. The conference took place at Huron University College on October 2-4, 2015 and brought together scholars, students, professionals and community members to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to active history.

In this week’s video we hear from David Dean, a Professor of History at Carleton University, as he discusses alternative histories of work and labour in the national capital region. He primarily discusses the Workers’ History Museum in Ottawa, and how it focuses on some of the lost stories of unionized and non-unionized workers. Nicknamed “The Museum without Walls”, Dean discusses how they manage to function as a museum without a physical location. Much of their work is articulated through a powerful website, in which they display exhibits and research, as well as hosting historical walking tours through Ottawa. Dean also discusses the museum’s travelling exhibits, of which they have three or four that they are able to bring to schools, universities, heritage fairs, labour conferences, and many other events. Through this museum and their work, one of the goals is to increase public knowledge of labour unions and their history, attempting to battle the negative stereotypes surrounding the idea of unions. The most recent project in which the museum is engaged their Bank Street Project, which is developed around the historical stories related to work and business along Bank Street in Ottawa.

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