Curating Black Canadian History & Culture Workshop

Dawit L. Petros: Sign
A. Barnes: Sigmund Samuel
Source: Position as Desired: Exploring African Canadian Identity: Photographs from the Wedge Collection (K. Montague, 2010)

October 26 and 27,  2012

CEREV is hosting the 2-day workshop Curating Black Canadian History and Culture on October 26th and 27th, organized by affiliate Dr. Shelley Ruth Butler. The workshop will bring CEREV affiliates together with an invited group of expert curators and interdisciplinary educators. Friday afternoon’s round table session, “Taking Stock: Curating Black Canadian History and Culture” will feature twelve presenters who will catalyze a discussion by offering thoughts (and audiovisual material) on key curatorial moments and problems. Saturday’s session, “Curatorial Dreaming at the Royal Ontario Museum,” will focus on a curatorial project proposed by Butler for her forthcoming volume (with co-editor Erica Lehrer), Curatorial Dreams: Critics Imagine Exhibitions.

Workshop participants will respond to Butler’s draft chapter “To and Fro: Belonging at the Royal Ontario Museum.” To and Fro is a guided museum experiment for diverse high-schoolers envisioned for the Canadian and African Galleries of the ROM in Toronto. It responds to the legacy of the museum’s “Into the Heart of Africa” controversy (1990), which Butler dissects in her unique museum ethnography Contested Representations.

To and Fro asks: (1) Can reflexive museology offer students insights on belonging and exclusion in establishment museums? (2) Can museums be safe places for young Canadians to explore experiences of race and difference? (3) Can the curatorial collective support respectful dialogue and transparency? (4) How can museums foster awareness of the absence of difficult knowledge – e.g. the existence of slavery and racism – in Canada?

Due to space constraints, this workshop is not open to the general public. For further information, please contact Amber Berson (

Read the report on the workshop, and see video documentation here.

Presenters at the Curating Black History and Culture Workshop included:

Jenny Burman (McGill University), Irvine Carvery (Africville Genealogy Society), Afua Cooper (Dalhousie University), Warren Crichlow (York University), Ken Donovan, Dr. Silvia Forni (Royal Ontario Museum), Arlene Ghemacher (Royal Ontario Museum), Shannon Prince (Buxton National Historic Site & Museum), Charmaine A. Nelson (McGill University), Rinaldo Walcott (University of Toronto), Dorothy W. Williams (Black Community Resource Centre).

Participants included: 

Dr. Jennifer Carter (Université du Québec à Montréal), Julie Crooks (University of London), Dominique Fontaine (aPOSteRIORI), Kenneth Montague (Wedge Curatorial Projects), Dr. Monica Eileen Patterson (Concordia University), Cheryl Thompson (McGill University), Erica Lehrer (Concordia University).

Center for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence