Category: Volunteers

Volunteer Spotlight: Valérie Lalonde

Volunteer Spotlight picture - VLIf you’ve noticed the Workers’ History Museum’s increasing French language presence over the past six months, it’s mainly due to this month’s Volunteer Spotlight. Although she has not been with the Museum for very long, Valérie Lalonde has already become essential to our work. Somehow she juggles raising two young children with helping us interpret blog posts, design exhibits, secure funding, and fulfill our mission as a bilingual institution. Enjoy meeting our translator Valérie Lalonde!

What is your name?
Valérie Lalonde, née Montpetit

Where are you from?
I was born in Loretteville, Quebec, and have been living in my current hometown, Rockland, Ontario, since I was a very young child.

What’s your primary occupation?
I’m an English-to-French translator and editor for the federal government, and a freelance translator.

How long have you been a Workers’ History Museum volunteer? Why did you join?
I joined the Workers’ History Museum (WHM) as a volunteer translator in July 2013. As the saying goes: practice makes perfect! I thus joined the Museum to gain valuable experience that adds another tool in my arsenal. By simply volunteering my time, I learn about events and people that have shaped our history, I contribute to preserving the heritage of workers, and I meet new people.

What project have you been involved in that you’re most proud of?
I haven’t been volunteering at the WHM for a long time, but within only a couple of months, I’ve had the great opportunity to work on projects that have produced tangible results, namely “The Cal Best Project” and the Museum’s first permanent exhibit. However, the project I’m most proud of would be the creation of a bilingual style guide. WHM members and I have established guidelines relating to grammar, usage and terminology, in both English and French. The style guide is to be used by anyone communicating on behalf of the Museum, and it also serves as a great tool for translators. I am grateful that the Museum saw value in creating such a document.

What’s the best thing about volunteering for the WHM?
The best thing about volunteering for the WHM is the strong spirit of partnership and collaboration that exists among all of its volunteers. It is that spirit that drives dedication and ensures the Museum’s success.

If you had a time machine and could visit any historical period, when would you choose?
I would choose to travel to the 1920s and land in my great-grandmother’s home. Becoming a mother has led me to wonder how women could raise 8, 9, even 10 children back then and keep a piece of their sanity. Being a homemaker in the 1920s had its own set of challenges, but was in no way easier than it is today. I’d like to know what she thought of motherhood, what were her ambitions and dreams, and if she would have liked to pursue a career outside of the home if she had had the choice.

Volunteer Spotlight on Bob Allen

Bob AllenThis month’s volunteer spotlight is on our dedicated WHM Secretary, who faithfully attends all our meetings and diligently records our words for posterity. Let’s hear more about this former union rep and his work with the Museum.

What is your name? My name is Bob Allen.

Where are you from? / hometown? I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, but have lived in Ottawa since 1973 when I came to work for the federal government.

What’s your primary occupation? I worked as a union representative for over thirty years before retiring two years ago.

How long have you been a WHM volunteer? Why did you join? I was elected Secretary of the Museum at the last Annual General Meeting. I put my name forward because I felt I could make a small contribution to an organization dedicated to preserving and showcasing the important achievements made by working men and women to Canadian society. Too often these are wrongly attributed to the benevolence of a socially conscious elite, the generosity of the captains of industry, or progressive government initiatives. However, we know that we enjoy paid maternity leave, shorter working hours and two-day weekends because working people recognized their importance and were prepared to struggle to achieve them.

Are you/have you been on any committees? As the Secretary of the Museum, my principal responsibilities include recording the minutes of the Board and the Annual General Meeting and booking space for Museum events. So far, I have not served on any particular committee. However, this could very well change as the Museum grows and takes on more projects.

What project have you been involved in that you’re most proud of? While I had little directly to do with its development and ultimately its success, I am very pleased to see the WHM involved in the Cal Best Project. Here is a man who greatly influenced so many people’s lives, yet lived largely in obscurity and was virtually unknown to most when he passed away some ten years ago. Thanks to the efforts of Museum volunteers, working with very limited resources, Cal’s story is once again being told and continues to inspire yet another generation of activists and citizens alike.

What’s the best thing about volunteering for the WHM? The best thing about volunteering for the WHM is that it is volunteer-driven. As such, the contributions of all are equally appreciated, no matter how small they may be.

If you could travel across Canada, how would you choose to travel and why? If I were to go across Canada again, I would do so by train as I did many years ago in 1975. At that time both national railways had cross-country trains starting in Montreal and travelling through the Ottawa Valley via Ottawa and Pembroke. I remember boarding a Canadian National train in Ottawa at 11:59 p.m. and travelling to Vancouver by coach and back for the grand total of $85, a real bargain even in those days. Of course, today that would be impossible. The tracks through the Ottawa Valley have been largely removed and VIA’s Canadian originates out of Toronto. When next I retrace my steps westward on this new route I would hope to be accompanied by someone who shares my interest in Canadian railway history!

Volunteer Spotlight: Christine Goneau


1) What is your name? Christine Goneau

2) Where are you from? I was born and raised in Orleans and have lived here my entire life.

3) What’s your primary occupation? Currently I’m a university student at l’Université du Québec en Outaouais, where my field is Museum Studies. I already have a bachelor’s degree with a specialization in arts with a major in History and a minor in Ancient History.

4) How long have you been a WHM volunteer? Why did you join? I started volunteering for the summer of 2012 and came back this summer (2013) after school to continue. I joined because I have a passion for history and realized I didn’t know much about the history of Ottawa or of its working class and considering how my family has always been strong on fighting for people’s rights and for the working class, I wanted to learn much more. The workers are always present in Canadian history but always overshadowed by one famous person. Also being a history student and now in museum studies this is what fascinates me.

5) Are you/have you been on any committees? I am on the Exhibits and Education Committee.

6) What project have you been involved in that you’re most proud of? I haven’t been on many projects yet so I have to choose the one that I have been working on since the beginning: the Britannia-on-the-Bay (and closely related to that is the history of the Ottawa Electric Railway). I have learned so much from this project and I’ve gotten the chance to interview people involved with the Ottawa Electric Railway. Hearing people’s stories is my favourite part of history, getting that opportunity with this project has been wonderful. Those stories bring life and reality to history. Also, I enjoyed learning about what people used to do at the beginning of the 20th century for fun in the region.

7) What’s the best thing about volunteering for the WHM? This goes back to why I joined in the first place, I get to learn about so many things that happened in the very city where I was born that I had never heard any of my teachers talk about before. Also, I get to hear all these amazing stories from regular people that have done extraordinary things fighting for what is right, fighting to get better working conditions. Best of all I get to have a hand in telling their story.

8) If you had a time machine and could visit any historical period, when would you choose? There is much that I would like to experience firsthand in history, but I have to say my favourite historical period to study is the 20th century, so I would have to choose that period. I have always been interested about the military strategies used during the two world wars, especially the Great War. It’s an interesting period that would be worth to see because there was a new technological revolution, a new way to make war and everyone was asked to participate. It’s around the time of the First World War that there’s a big evolution with the working class. It’s a period when everyone wants to participate, even kids are asked to participate. With the men going to war, women get all sorts of new jobs on the job market. Unlike the Second World War where you’re fighting against a new regime, during the First World War the importance to Canadians is their identity and it does take on a bigger role during the Great War. We show that we can be a strong country as well. And with our last First World War veteran dying a few years ago, there can be no more new oral history from that period. It’s also a time with no electricity in most rural areas, which is something very different from today and that I wouldn’t mind experiencing for myself — or at least learning from the people that lived it.

Volunteer Spotlight: Evert Hoogers

If you’ve ever attended any WHM events, you’ve surely met this month’s volunteer. He’s a constant presence, whether talking to visitors about the museum at Colonel By Day or graciously recording the proceedings of each Communications meetings. We hope you enjoy meeting this lifelong activist.

Name: Evert Hoogers

Where are you from? I was born in Edmonton, grew up primarily in B.C.’s Okanagan and West Kootenay area, moved to Vancouver (where I perceived the action to be) in 1963 and ended up in Ottawa, where I have remained since the late 1980s.

What is your primary occupation? Currently my primary occupation is maximizing the enjoyment of retirement. Previously, I was a postal worker and union activist, representative, and organizer with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, following a brief period in the B.C. student movement.

How long have you been a volunteer with the WHM? Why did you join? I became involved in the WHM just prior to its founding Annual General Meeting. From my perspective, it is a great fit, because it allows me to carry out and expand on work that I have passionately embraced for most of my adult life. But it is deeper than that. It has been said many times that history is written by the victors, and this has been proven in spades in the case of workers, both organized and unorganized, who are rarely honoured for having built this country (this applies as well, of course, to workers in many other countries). The WHM gives us the opportunity of working to right this distressing imbalance, even if just to a small degree. And since workers’ history isn’t emphasized in school, in books, or in the media, our work contributes to the ongoing “struggle to remember” the lives, contributions, and collective projects of workers over the years. I use the term “workers” in a broad sense covering the unemployed, the dispossessed, and the marginalized in our society.

If you could drive across Canada with anyone, who would you choose to travel with and why? Assuming I wouldn’t have access to a bus or train to transport a whole bunch of people I’d like to travel with, I’m just going to bring back two people in my time machine and bundle them into a car, all gassed up and ready to go. Those two are—Mary Harris (“Mother”) Jones and Arthur (“Slim”) Evans.

Now it’s true Mother Jones carried out her iconic organizing work primarily in the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century around child labour, in the United Mine Workers Union, and as a founder of the emergent IWW, but a number of her formative years were spent in Canada (Toronto, I believe), and no matter how tenuous the Canadian connection, I want her in that cross-Canada trip with me so we can talk about her role in the tumultuous labour events she participated in and, importantly, led as a woman in a labour movement massively dominated by men. And Slim Evans is absolutely needed in the car to help me deepen my understanding of the dynamics of organizing in my home province of B.C. during the depression years and of his perspective as a leader of the magnificent labour project known as the “On-to-Ottawa trek.”

Of course, starting the trip is the easy part. I worry the cross-Canada trip may be quite long one, since these two are likely to want to stop in every community along the way, suss out the organizing possibilities and get things moving on the ground!

Introducing Paul Harrison and the WHM Image Collection

Paul Harrison is the WHM’s photographer and image collection manager. He is equipped and available to take high-quality photographs, scan images, transparencies or documents, digitally manipulate images, and extract text from documents. He accumulates and catalogues images of WHM events taken by himself and others, which will constitute an archive of the Museum’s activities.

In addition, Paul can sometimes assist in locating historical images for projects, and acquires copies of those that other WHM members gather for projects. These are placed in a formal collection for future use by Museum members and outside researchers. If you take pictures at WHM events, or obtain historical images or documents for a project, please contact Paul and arrange for a digital copy for the Archive or Collection.

To access the collection, please contact Paul directly. In his absence, the image holdings are also stored on a hard drive in the WHM office at 251 Bank Street.

“Workers All Pitch In”: Spotlight on Artist Josée Gervais


Children who came to the WHM’s table at Colonel By Day had their choice of sixteen illustrations of workers to colour. Josée Gervais, the artist behind this popular activity, donated the drawings that include firefighters, industrial workers, postal workers, florists and teachers. Currently she is working on a webcomic, Topsy Turvy: Where a prince must become a princess to get his revenge (to start with)!

1. Tell us a little about yourself. I am Josée Gervais, I’m 25 years old with a bachelors in comic books with a minor in History. Been honestly drawing my entire life and I don’t know quite what to say here, haha.

2. How did you select the occupations for the amazing drawings you did for the WHM? I tried to go for variety and also to break some of the gender norms people say they don’t have but really do. So like, the female firefighter, the male florist, etc. Originally I was also going to do a female astronaut and a male nurse, but alas, time and such. But in the end, I just tried to give a second look at some occupations that we tend to stereotype – unfortunately, I couldn’t be very gender-bending when it came to the older occupations such as the photographer and such, but then again, they are hiding under the veil – so we don’t really know, do we?

3. What is your drawing process? I usually start out with a sketch, in this case, I was using a blue pencil to do so. Then I would ink it with micron pens and then scan it and clean it up in photoshop! I usually had a clear idea in my head on how I wanted it to look like – also reference photos are key and your greatest friend!

4. How do you see yourself as a worker? I see myself as someone who is contributing to the whole. Workers all pitch in to get the job done and I’d like to think I’m part of that.

5. Are there other projects you’re working on? Yeah! Many actually! I have my webcomic, Topsy Turvy, currently ongoing (updates every Monday), I also have my novel in the works based on my thesis comic, Ars Moriendi and I also usually have a million ideas going on in my head. I tend to have a lot of ideas and they don’t go anywhere or rather they’re put on hold – my most important project at this time has to be my webcomic, it’s my baby.

By Sanna Guerin, Chair of the Exhibits & Education Committee

Volunteer Spotlight: Sanna Guerin

This month’s Volunteer Spotlight shines on Sanna Guerin, who’s been involved with the Workers’ History Museum since its inception. Sanna’s passions are museums and history – in the picture above, she’s giving a presentation on medical care during the First World War – and she plays a key role in developing and curating the WHM’s travelling and online exhibits. Sanna is representing the WHM at Ask A Curator Day, September 18th on Twitter. Be sure to bring her your questions!

Name: Sanna Guerin

Where are you from? I grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and I’ve been in Ottawa for eleven years.

What’s your primary occupation? I work at the Canadian War Museum where I do public programming, such as school programmes, gallery activities, guided tours, and birthday parties.

How long have you been a WHM volunteer? Why did you join? I’ve been a volunteer at the WHM since 2010. I really think it’s important to have a museum that tells stories that differ from mainstream histories. We need to hear how other people lived outside the privileged class, and how they contributed to the world we live in. These are the people who created the cities we live in, and influenced the day-to-day legacy. Why do we have a weekend? How do we have an 8hr shift instead of a 14hr shift? Why is there a minimum age and wage for work? These are some of the important questions to ask, and what our museum strives to tell.

Are you/have you been on any committees? I’ve worked mainly with the exhibitions committee, as well as the board of the directors.

What project have you been involved in that you’re most proud of? The entire museum, actually. The fact that we’re a thriving, growing and vibrant organization is amazing, and I’m so happy to be a part of it. I can’t wait to see where we’ll be in five years.

What’s the best thing about volunteering for the WHM? I’ve had an opportunity to meet and work with some fascinating people, and I’m gaining experience that will look great on my c.v.

What three people, living or dead, would you invite to your dream dinner party? I’d love to have a talk over tea with Amelia Earhart, Lucille Ball, Emma Goldman, and Emmeline Pankhurst. All were determined women who pursued what they wanted to do, despite the obstacles each one faced, and are great . Lucille Ball challenged the studio system in Hollywood by eventually running and financing her own programmes; Emma Goldman was, of course, the “most dangerous woman in America” for her work; Emmeline Pankhurst was one of the leaders of the suffrage movement in Britain; and Amelia Earhart for being the first pilot who happened to be a woman. They might not all get along, but I’m sure we’d agree on a few things!

Volunteering with the WHM is a great way to get involved in the local community, and we have a number of volunteer needs covering a wide range of interests. Whether your skills are in helping with administrative tasks, doing research, working on an exhibit or acquisitions project, or fundraising, we have a place for you.

Come Join Us: WHM Volunteers at Col. By Day

Volunteers at the Workers’ History Museum had a great time at Colonel By Day on August 5, 2013!

Volunteering with the WHM is a great way to get involved in the local community, and we have a number of volunteer needs covering a wide range of interests. Whether your skills are in doing research, working on an exhibit or acquisitions project, writing articles, or helping with admin tasks or fundraising, we have a place for you.

If you think you might be interested in volunteering with the WHM, please email

Volunteer Spotlight: Wasim Baobaid

Wasim Baobaid is a freelance videographer and producer based in Ottawa. His documentary Yes, I Can, about a disabled girl who fought the provincial government for funding of her medical supplies, was screened at the Montreal International Film Festival and was used as a teaching aid by WorldKids in India. In his free time, Wasim donates his considerable talents to the Workers’ History Museum’s Video Committee. Currently he is recording interviews for the Cal Best Project, which celebrates the life and legacy of this Black union activist.

Name: Wasim Baobaid

Hometown: United Arab Emirates

How long have you been volunteering with the WHM? Since July 2012

How did you discover the WHM? I got introduced to them from my coordinator in the (documentary production) program at Algonquin College.

What do you do with the WHM? On the Video Committee, we use video production to tell the stories of ordinary people with extraordinary lives. I do video filming, directing, and editing.

What’s the best thing about volunteering with the WHM? WHM is an amazing resource to know the history of workers and the struggle they went through just to give us this ease of life.

If you had a time machine and could travel to any time period, where would you go? I prefer to live my own life and watch all the historical periods to know more of our past. It is very important to know our roots.

Volunteering with the WHM is a great way to get involved in the local community, and we have a number of volunteer needs covering a wide range of interests. Whether your skills are in helping with administrative tasks, doing research, working on an exhibit or acquisitions project, or fundraising, we have a place for you.

If you are interested in volunteering with the WHM, please email and the volunteer coordinator will contact you.


Colonel By Day 2013

The Workers’ History Museum’s was proud to take part in Colonel By Day 2013. This was our third year at this event, and our most successful yet. It was a beautiful day and lots of people were out at the Rideau Locks. At least 80 people stopped by our booth to chat about the museum.

Our Britannia Park exhibit, on its first public outing, was very well received. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson spent some time chatting with Chris Goneau, the project’s researcher. We also talked to a number of people who had been to the park as youngsters, and for whom the Britannia display brought back fond memories.

The WHM’s two videos were offered for sale, A Struggle To Remember: Fighting for Our Families and The Almonte Train Wreck: A Story of People. There was plenty of interest in both, with several older visitors remembering the difficulties they had faced before family leave was established in Canada. Hearing such stories is always such a poignant reminder of why this campaign was so important, and why it is so essential that we don’t forget the people who fought for it.

The children’s activities also drew in lots of young visitors. In addition to an easel for watercolours, children could colour in pictures of workers that one of our volunteers had designed. An Underwood typewriter from 1935 was also on display, and both adults and kids remarked on how difficult it must have been for workers to type on machines like this.

An innovation this year was to conduct video interviews of WHM volunteers during the festival. Congratulations to the Video Committee for coming up with this idea. Let’s hope these interviews encourage even more volunteers to get involved with our Workers’ History Museum.

Overall, it was a very rewarding day, and we’re looking forward to next year’s event!