Good Works of the Historica Foundation

Posted by Daniel on Nov 9, 2009

In September the Dominion Institute merged with the Historica Foundation to form the Historica Dominion Institute. These two, now one, Ontario-based foundations are/were dedicated to the promotion of the study of Canadian history.

The Dominion Institute is best known for its tedious Canada Day polls showing that Canadians don't know enough about their own past. (Tedious because a poll asking who John A. Macdonald was is not the best way to determine the extent of public knowledge about anything; and tedious also because they've been conducting the same poll year after year for what feels like an eternity, with the same predictable results.)

The National Post on the weekend had a piece on the merger ( which I think was unfair to the folks at Historica who were portrayed as being not as dynamic and headline-attracting as their brethren at the DI.

While the DI does some useful work with veterans, I think that Historica has done far more for promoting history studies in the country. For one thing, Historica has sponsored the annual Heritage Fairs where school kids put together displays on historical topics. Projects are judged at a day-long celebration of Canadian history and local winners move on to provincial and national show-downs. I attended the last two fairs in North Vancouver and was impressed at the amount of work and ingenuity shown by the participants. (I believe that Historica is no longer going to be involved with the fairs but that they may survive under different sponsorship; I hope so.)

Historica is also the curator of the Canadian Encyclopedia online and its website links to a variety of other sites that explore different historical subjects. (I was a contributor to one on the history of voting.) The foundation has also done a lot of work providing history teachers with curriculum support.

In other words, while the DI moaned about a "history deficit", Historica was doing a lot to redress it. I hope a combined foundation will be in an even stronger position to continue the work that Historica has pioneered.