September 8, 2023

The Role of Museums in the Age of Truth and Reconciliation

The Role of Museums in the Age of Truth and Reconciliation

By Amelia Fay, Curator of Anthropology & HBC Museum Collection

With Orange Shirt Day (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation) on the horizon, folks might be thinking about their role in Truth and Reconciliation. Many Indigenous leaders have argued the need to understand the truth before reconciliation, and this is where museums can step in and play an important role.

Although museums carry a lot of colonial baggage, my colleagues and I at the Manitoba Museum (past and present) have been  working hard to make our museum a safe space to learn about history. Not only do we have some great exhibits and programs to help visitors engage with difficult histories, we also have a lot of resources available on both our website and YouTube channel that you can view from home.

Not sure where to begin? Below are a few topics that I think are a great starting place, no matter where you are in your reconciliation learning journey.

  • The colonial process in Canada started long before Confederation, so I encourage visitors to reconsider the history of the fur trade, including the early beginnings of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Watch the following video to learn more about the Hudson’s Bay Company Royal Charter.

  • What does the phrase ‘We Are All Treaty People’ mean? Visit our friends at the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba’s Agowiidiwinan Centre at the Forks and then come check out the numerous Treaty exhibits throughout the Museum Galleries.
  • Take time to learn more about Residential Schools in Manitoba, visit the schoolhouse exhibit in the Prairies Gallery and  use the digital kiosks embedded in the desks. You can also see the same information on our website when you visit

For many non-Indigenous readers, learning more about these topics might bring up a lot of feelings and make you uncomfortable, and that’s okay. The important thing is to not dismiss information that challenges what you knew about Canadian history, but instead sit with the discomfort and think about why you might feel this way. Part of our shared journey towards reconciliation involves hard work like this, but it’s important work that we all must undertake.

A child engaging with a digital exhibit that is embedded in a wooden school desk. An adult leans over the desk from the side, resting their hands on the edge of the desk. Behind them, another child and an adult engage with a kiosk at a second desk.

The digital kiosk in our Prairies Gallery Schoolhouse exhibit provides opportunities for learning and reflection about the truth of residential schools. Image © Manitoba Museum/Ian McCausland

During Orange Shirt Days at the Manitoba Museum, two individuals reading orange sticky notes arranged on a teal wall under headings reading, "I feel / I learned / I will".

The Orange Shirt Day Reflection Wall encourages you to share
your thoughts and make a commitment to reconciliation. Image © Manitoba Museum

A recreation of a Hudson's Bay Company trading post in the Manitoba Museum HBC Museum Collection Gallery.

Visit the HBC Gallery to learn about the history of the Fur Trade and the
relationships between Indigenous Peoples and Euro-Canadian fur traders. Image © Manitoba Museum

Join us for a time of learning, reflection, and response at Orange Shirt Days @ the Manitoba Museum. Three days of free admission to all areas September 30 to October 2. No tickets required.

Dr. Amelia Fay

Dr. Amelia Fay

Curator of Anthropology & the HBC Museum Collection

Amelia Fay is Curator of Anthropology and the HBC Museum Collection at the Manitoba Museum. She received her BA in Anthropology from the University of Manitoba (2004), an MA in Archaeology…
Meet Dr. Amelia Fay