The Ward: Representations and Realities, 1890-1950

2016, Campbell House Museum, History, Temporary Exhibit
archival photos, black interest, Chinese interest, costume, diaspora, gentrification, immigration, Italian interest, Jewish interest, Myseum, neighbourhood, poster, poverty, promotional materials, The Ward, urbanism
About This Project

Date: March 16 – April 23, 2016

Partner: Campbell House Museum

Venue: Campbell House Museum – map

Project Members: Daniel Panneton, Marisa Strom, and Paul Bishop


How immigrant communities perceive and represent themselves often contrasts starkly with how their host society views them. Between 1890 and 1950, Toronto’s Ward neighbourhood held vibrant Jewish, Italian, Chinese and other ethnic communities. As these groups established their presence in Toronto, their contributions to the city were often overshadowed in the public eye by the neighbourhood’s poverty and squalor.


The exhibition explores these themes through the kaleidoscope of experiences that came to characterize the Ward. Through an examination of changing perceptions of who and what made up the Ward, a portrait emerges of a city continually redefined by waves of immigration and integration.


The exhibition includes rare photographs, oral history interviews with former residents of the Ward, and artifacts belonging to individuals and community groups that made their home in the neighbourhood.


Following the exhibition opening on March 16, a panel discussion, entitled “Remembering the Ward: Immigration Questions Past and Present,” was held at City Hall, featuring local historians and Toronto Star journalists. A week later, the exhibition team, along with Andrew Hunter from the AGO and author Arlene Chan, sat on a panel discussion entitled Multiple Perspectives on the Ward. The panel attracted a sell-out crowd, and substantially increased the profile of our exhibition.


The exhibition attracted a wide spectrum of audiences but was largely geared toward adults. Employing evocative photography, the exhibition is highly accessible for all, regardless of the level of knowledge or interest on the topic.


The exhibition will run for five weeks, at Campbell House Museum. Being located at what was once the southwest corner of the Ward, the museum is an ideal venue.


The exhibition would not have been possible without the generous financial support of Myseum of Toronto (whose Intersections Festival the exhibition is a part of) and the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. Content and artifacts were sourced from the City of Toronto Archives, United Church Archives, Ontario Jewish Archives, Toronto Reference Library, the City Artifact Repository, the Workers Canada United Council and Beth Tzedec Synagogue.


The exhibition relied on a strong social media presence, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. The project also benefitted from Myseum of Toronto’s widespread marketing of the Intersections festival, particularly on public transit.


The exhibition has attracted a large number of visitors. The Ward has generated a great deal of public interest recently; the exhibition certainly benefited from that. The additional programming drew in substantial crowds and sparked increased discussion around some of the more contemporary themes of integration, immigration, and inclusion.