The Lengths We Go: Reflections on Hair

2021, Bradley Museum
artifacts, beauty, Community, diversity, hair, hairstyles, historic house, Mississauga, museum, reflection
About This Project

Date: Thursday, June 24, 2021 – Sunday, September 5, 2021
Partner: Bradley Museum
Sponsors: Museums of Mississauga, City of Mississauga
Location: Anchorage Gallery, Bradley Museum, 1620 Orr Rd, Mississauga, ON L5J 4T2
Project Members: Priscilla Carmini, Denise Tenio, Rebecca Tunney, Jordan Vetter
Explore stories of hair in North America from the 1900s to today – what’s your hair story?

Hair affects us all; it is considered one of the most visible communicators of status, privilege, and culture, both today and throughout human history.

The Lengths We Go: Reflections on Hair explores how society, culture, and identity influence hair practices. Experience the evolution of North American hair trends from the 19th century to the present, and reflect on the different ways that hair is used to express oneself. Featuring discussions of iconic hairstyles and personal stories from the Mississauga community, this exhibition asks the question: what does hair mean to you?

To accompany the exhibit, there will be a series of virtual programming including an Opening Event featuring a Curator Talk, a Panel Discussion on Black Hair with a panel of experts, and an Open Museum event with the Mississauga Library. A Family Guide, Zine of youth hairstories, Audio Tour, and Virtual Tour of the exhibition will be available online.

We want to hear from you! Use #MiHairstory on social media to share your own hairstory with the museum. Follow along with the conversation on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.


In the early stages of exhibition development, we established a set of group values that guided our process and decisions. Fortunately, our values aligned with the museum’s interpretive vision to “offer welcoming and inclusive spaces that reflect the diversity” of the city. To carry out our values, we developed a proposal to build a participatory exhibition, along with a community engagement strategy, programming, interpretive vehicles, and engaging content that focus on visitor experiences and reflect a diversity of hair experiences.

We wanted to centre the voices of the community, asking for their “hairstory” contributions through a survey. We distributed this survey to connections in Mississauga and received 100 responses. These offered an expanded view of hair from what we could display solely from the collection, which lacked diverse representation.

The exhibition is divided into three spaces. The hallway acts as the introduction, the conclusion, and the connection between the two gallery spaces, by asking people to consider what hair is and what it means to them. Gallery 1 explores hair trends from the past century, and how these trends have been affected by changes in society and major historical events. Gallery 2 invites visitors to learn about experiences with hair from people across the city, with some stories further supported by contextualization.

After much research, design planning, writing, collections work, consultations with subject matter experts, communication with our stakeholders, and some pandemic-safe site visits, we are eager to see our ideas come to life through the objects, panels, and stories upon completion of the installation in May.

This exhibition was developed by Priscilla Carmini, Denise Tenio, Rebecca Tunney, and Jordan Vetter, in partnership with the Bradley Museum, City of Mississauga, and Master of Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto. We would like to thank Megan Wiles, Lindsay Doren, Elizabeth Underhill, and Lisa Abbott for their professional guidance and mentorship. The exhibition would not have been possible without the contributions from Mississauga community members, including the Mississauga New Youth Council. We are grateful for the expertise of Shaunasea Brown, Amelia Smith, and other future consultants in guiding our conversations. We thank all our future panelists for their participation. We would also like to thank Library and Archives Canada, Indiana State Museum, and University of California, Santa Barbara Library. Finally, we would like to thank Professor Agnieszka Chalas for all her support and guidance throughout this process.