The Diefenbaker Building is temporariy closed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, we encourage you to view our online exhibits to learn more about Canada’s history from the comfort of your home.

Current Exhibits

Fostering a Vision for Canada: The Diefenbaker Legacy

Fostering a Vision for Canada presents the life of the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker from his childhood through to the end of his tenure as the thirteenth Prime Minister of Canada. This exhibit illuminates the character and legacy of Mr. Diefenbaker, explains his achievements and challenges while in office from 1957-1963 and highlights his close connections with the University of Saskatchewan. It charts his dedication to human rights and equality throughout his career as a lawyer and his struggle to be elected into public office. Further, the exhibit features a number of notable artifacts, including personal belongings, campaign memorabilia, and gifts received throughout his political career.

The gallery also features two replica rooms that capture Canadian political life as it was during the latter 1950s and early 1960s. The Prime Minister’s Office depicts the East Block Office as it appeared during Diefenbaker’s tenure as Prime Minister. It features original and reproduction furniture, as well as personal items belonging to Diefenbaker. The Privy Council Chamber illustrates the cabinet meeting room, featuring replications of Confederation era furniture and original signed photographs of the first twelve Canadian Prime Ministers. The replica rooms were recently retrofitted with iPads, containing speech excerpts, room descriptions and a broad selection of historical photographs adding an interactive component for visitors.


 

Replica Rooms: Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council Chamber

The Diefenbaker Canada Centre's gallery also features two replica rooms that capture Canadian political life as it was during the latter 1950s and early 1960s. The Prime Minister’s Office depicts the East Block Office as it appeared during Diefenbaker’s tenure as Prime Minister. It features original and reproduction furniture, as well as personal items belonging to Diefenbaker. The Privy Council Chamber illustrates the cabinet meeting room, featuring replications of Confederation era furniture and original signed photographs of the first twelve Canadian Prime Ministers. The replica rooms were recently retrofitted with iPads, containing speech excerpts, room descriptions and a broad selection of historical photographs adding an interactive component for visitors.

Replica of Prime Minister's Office Replica of Privy Council Chamber

Upcoming Exhibits

Cipher-Decipher - POSTPONED

(This exhibit has now been postponed to Summer 2021)

Pssst…want to know a secret? One way to safely share secret information is through encryption—which means converting your message into something only the intended recipient can understand. For as long as we’ve had secret information, individuals and organizations have encrypted and analyzed encrypted communications. One way people encrypt their secrets is through ciphers that replace the original message with other letters, numbers, words, or symbols. From schoolyard gossip to military plans, ciphers keep secrets out of the wrong hands.

This interactive exhibition from Ingenium: Canada’s Museum of Science and Innovationdeveloped in partnership with the Communications Security Establishment, explores the past and present of communications cryptology—what it is, how it works, and how it affects our lives. See an authentic Enigma cipher machine, or try your hand at logic puzzles and games to see if you have what it takes to work in the field of cryptology!

Exhibit is displayed in both English and French.

St. Louis: Ship of Fate - POSTPONED

(Originally scheduled for May - September 2020, this exhibit has now been postponed.)

Due to our closure, we have decided to postpone the display of the St. Louis: Ship of Fate exhibit. Thank you to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic for accommodating us during this time. We plan to host this exhibit in the future when everyone can visit the Diefenbaker Canada Centre.

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This moving and thought-provoking exhibit from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, developed in cooperation with the Atlantic Jewish Council and the Canadian Maritime Heritage Foundation, provides a glimpse into a dark moment in Canadian history, when a helping hand was denied. Through first hand testimonials, gripping photography and interactive features, this exhibit strives to create a broader awareness for a tragic story of war and national policy.

On May 13, 1939, the MS St. Louis of the Hamburg-America Line, set sail for Havana, Cuba, with 937 Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution among the passengers. Although they had all purchased legal visas, the Cuban government reversed its position due to the influence of the German government and, when the ship arrived in Havana, she was refused permission to berth. Confusion and panic spread aboard ship as many of the passengers knew what would likely happen to them should they have to return to Germany.

Captain Gustav Schroder made for Florida but despite the efforts of members of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s cabinet, the United States chose not to get involved, citing existing immigration guidelines pertaining to entry visas. In Canada, petitions were sent to Prime Minister MacKenzie King but once again, the quiet anti-Semitism of the era meant that the refugees were turned away.

British and European officials came to an agreement and, on June 17, 1939, the ship finally docked at Antwerp, Belgium. England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands took in the refugees but, as World War II raged on, the refugees found themselves in peril once again. In all, 254 of the ship’s Jewish passengers perished in concentration camps during the war.

Ultimately, this is also a story of quiet heroism, from the passengers who survived and the German captain who did what he could to help the refugees aboard his ship.

Exhibit is displayed in both English and French.


 

Past Exhibits

Fakes & Forgeries: Yesterday and Today

Urn in the shape of a seated male. Royal Ontario Museum, HM 1430

Can you tell the true object from the fake? This interactive exhibition presents 115 real and fake objects that run the gamut from historical specimens and cultural artifacts to household items and designer name brands. Visitors of all ages are invited to guess which objects are real and which are clever fakes. Learn how to tell authentic pieces from sly forgeries and discover the fascinating lengths forgers will take to hoodwink the unwary.

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

This exhibit provides hints on how to tell the real from the fraudulent and provides the visitor with a chance to guess an authentic artifact or specimen from an almost identical forgery. Fakes and Forgeries features items from the Royal Ontario Museum’s collection, spanning the Museum’s dual mandate of Natural History and World Cultures.

Displays include modern knock-offs ranging from black market DVDs, to designer brand clothing and accessories, to counterfeit computer software, to counterfeiting currency and an array of counterfeit bank notes.

This exciting project has been made possible thanks to the exhibition’s Presenting Sponsor Microsoft Canada, Education Partner the Bank of Canada and in part through a contribution from the Museums Assistance Program, Department of Canadian Heritage.

Royal Ontario Museum  Government of Canada

Presenting Sponsor | Microsoft
Educational Partner | Bank of Canada
Contributors | Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network, Kestenberg Siegal Lipkus LLP
Government Partner | Canadian Heritage 
Funded by | Government of Canada


 

China Through Saskatchewan Eyes: Evelyn Potter’s 1971 Journey

China Through Saskatchewan Eyes: Evelyn Potter and the 1971 Delegation

China Through Saskatchewan Eyes: Evelyn Potter’s 1971 Journey featured a sampling of more than 1,150 photographs taken by Evelyn Potter in 1971, when she travelled to China as a member of a historically significant delegation. Co-curated by Evelyn Potter, Dr. Liang Zhao (PhD), a professor from Sichuan University (China), and Dr. Keith Thor Carlson (PhD), a University of Saskatchewan history professor, the exhibit’s evocative pictures of city, farm, school, family and factory life provide an intimate view of Chinese society at the mid-way point of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

In 1971, following the opening of formal diplomatic relations, the first Canadian delegation (led by University of British Columbia faculty) travelled to China to promote cultural exchange and understanding. However, a mere month before, the trip had almost been cancelled when the Chinese government discovered that there were no farmers in the group. The Chinese demanded that a “peasant” representative be included, and the delegation’s organizers turned to Evelyn Potter, the first women’s president of the recently created National Farmers’ Union (NFU). Potter agreed to join the delegation, and her participation was significant in motivating a series of subsequent Canada/China farmer-peasant exchanges organized through the NFU and the Canadian co-operative movement.

This exhibit offered glimpses into Potter's experiences and perspectives, as revealed in the images captured through her camera lens. Further, these pictures serve to remind us of the on-going importance of Canada’s farm communities and agricultural sector in opening and shaping modern relations with the People’s Republic of China.

While the photos in the exhibit are of China, in many ways the story is about Potter, a Saskatchewan farmer who had only been partially aware of the significant role she was playing in building awareness and understanding between the politically divided East and West.

Funded by:

  • Keith Thor Carlson, Research Chair in Indigenous and Community Engaged History, University of Saskatchewan
  • The College of Arts & Science, University of Saskatchewan
  • The Confucius Institute at the University of Saskatchewan
  • “From the Ground Up”: Buddhism and East Asian Religions (FROGBEAR), Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

 

Grand Theft Terra Firma

The Great Land Sale, Sandra Shields and David Campion, 2016 (detail)

An exhibit of artwork created by David Campion and Sandra Shields. Produced and circulated by The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford. Curated by Laura Schneider.

Grand Theft Terra Firma is an unflinching redress of Canada’s colonial narrative. By combining contemporary popular culture with historical source material, artists David Campion and Sandra Shields disrupt the celebratory mythology of nation building and invite us to critically evaluate our own continued and complicated relationship to colonial practices. As the title suggests, the exhibition appropriates the language of digital gaming to reframe the settlement of Canada as a complex heist. Specifically, the title refers to Grand Theft Auto, a series of popular video games considered highly controversial, in part because they require players to commit violent and immoral acts to achieve gaming success. Borrowing from this, the exhibition unfolds as a strategy guide to an imaginary video game based on historical events occurring within S’ólh Téméxw, now more commonly known as British Columbia's Fraser Valley.

The artists’ use of gaming, satire, and humour provides entry points into difficult knowledge. These strategies encourage us to consider how history can become mythologized in its telling. The exhibition thus supports discussions around emergent notions of personal awareness and responsibility in the process of decolonization, and emphasizes the potential for art to promote critical discourse in divided societies.

The Diefenbaker Canada Centre would also like to recognize and thank the University of Saskatchewan's departments of History and Indigenous Studies for their financial and in-kind support of the exhibit. 

The Reach Gallery Museum