History of the Museum

What is workers’ history?

Workers’ history examines social changes surrounding working culture, working people, and the workplace in all sectors of the economy. It includes union and non-union workers in the public and private sectors, as well as both paid and unpaid work carried out in the home, office, factory, or other workplace.

What is the Workers’ History Museum?

The Workers’ History Museum (WHM) is a not-for-profit corporation based in the National Capital Region. Founded in January 2011, the museum is dedicated to the development and preservation of workers’ history and heritage in the National Capital Region and Ottawa Valley. Our goal is to present, promote, interpret, and preserve workers’ history, heritage, and culture.

The Workers’ History Museum:

  • Presents and promotes workers’ history, heritage, and culture.
  • Collects and preserves materials documenting contemporary labour issues in the city of Ottawa for the benefit of future generations.
  • Develops exhibits on workers’ history.
  • Promotes and hosts events related to workers’ history.
  • Conducts walking tours on labour and workers’ history in the city of Ottawa.
  • Develops oral history projects and documentaries and provide training workshops to institutions and community groups.
  • Provides speakers on local history.
  • Develops educational programming and materials for schools, labour bodies, and community groups.

Our history

The Workers’ History Museum was developed by a group of like-minded individuals who had been working together for several years to create a museum dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of working people in the Ottawa area. Until the founding of the museum, they had worked on their own and in partnership with heritage organizations, labour bodies, educational institutions and various levels of government on projects that would lead towards this goal.

The group steadily gained experience and expertise and recruited new members along the way. In late 2010, the Workers’ History Museum was incorporated as a corporation without share capital; on January 10, 2011, the WHM held its first Annual General Meeting, adopting its by-laws and mandate and electing its officers and board members. By 2012, the museum had gained charitable status through the Canada Revenue Agency.

The WHM operates under an Executive and a Board of Directors containing six members-at-large and four institutional members. The majority of the museum’s activities are carried out by volunteers led by three committees: Exhibits & Education, Communications and Fundraising & Membership. These committees have developed travelling exhibits, produced documentaries, launched an oral history project, presented at labour and history conferences, organized numerous community storytelling events and fundraisers related to workers history, and ventured into the world of social media and digital humanities.