The architect behind the Canadian Museum of History says the re-imagined Canadian History Hall will finally tell the whole story of the country, including the perspectives of those who lived here long before Europeans landed on its shores.

Douglas Cardinal was speaking at the unveiling of his design for the new permanent exhibit, set to open July 1, 2017.

"Starting the history of Canada with the arrival of European settlers does not tell the story at all," Cardinal said. "It's refreshing to see the story go back all the way to the Ice Age, so when you see history, aboriginal people aren't invisible anymore."

Architect Douglas Cardinal

Douglas Cardinal at the site of the new Canadian History Hall he designed for the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

Cardinal, who is of Blackfoot descent, said when the museum opened in 1989, he was disappointed with the content of the original exhibit, then called Canada Hall, because he felt it minimized the aboriginal experience, their strong culture and the many injustices they suffered.

"Once they were the majority, but they became a minority because of their terrible history. That has to change, and I think the only way that can happen is through education." 

The revamped hall will include three galleries: one that explores aboriginal culture up to the arrival of Europeans, another devoted to life in colonial Canada and a third depicting modern times.

New Canadian History Hall at Canadian Museum of History

It's empty now, but by July 1, 2017 the new Canadian History Hall will be filled with 1,800 artifacts, illustrations and interactive digital displays. (Sandra Abma/CBC)


Cardinal said he's looking forward to opening day when a new generation of young people and their families come through the doors and encounter a more complete version of their country's story.

"I think it's a huge step forward because First Nations in this hall are not invisible like they are across the country," Cardinal said.

"It's a great opportunity for conveying a message, and I want that message to be that we should live in harmony, that as human beings we have to honour and respect each other and embrace each other's differences."