The Canadian Committee on Public History awarded its 5th annual Public History Prize Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association in Ottawa. The winning project emerged from a curatorial partnership between the Museum of Vancouver, Museum of Anthropology, University of Waterloo, and Musqueam Nation. The collaboration culminated with the creation of c̓əsnaʔәm: the city before the city, a multi-site exhibition project.
This multi-disciplinary, community-based Indigenous research project resulted in a series of three museum exhibitions (all currently on display) at the Museum of Vancouver (2015-2020), Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia (2015-2016), and Musqueam Cultural Education Resource Centre (2015-2016).
c̓əsnaʔәm: the city before the city examines the history of Vancouver from the point of view of the Musqueam First Nation. It brings a critical history of city building, colonialism and dispossession, museum collecting practices, and Indigenous activism to public audiences. The project also engages many varied groups in discussions about conflicting and complex interpretations of Indigenous history and heritage sites as well as current debates about heritage and development in the city.
As Musqueam cultural advisor Larry Grant explains, “c̓əsnaʔәm: the city before the city aims at ‘righting history’ by creating a space for Musqueam to share their knowledge, culture and history and to highlight the community’s role in shaping the City of Vancouver.”
“We are thrilled that the committee has recognized this project as an example of innovative scholarship and public engagement,” says Susan Roy, historian at the University of Waterloo and MOV guest curator.
The award recognizes work that achieves high standards of original research, scholarship, and presentation; brings an innovative public history contribution to its audience; and serves as a model for future work, advancing the field of public history in Canada.
Upon accepting the award in Ottawa, Roy shared, “The c̓əsnaʔәm exhibition team is honoured to receive this acknowledgement that recognizes the importance of developing highly collaborative curatorial practices to reflect and promote new understanding of aboriginal history in Canada.”
For more information about the c̓əsnaʔәm: the city before the city exhibitions, please visit:
More information about past Public History Prize winners can be viewed here: