Waterloo Region Museum now open

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For many Wilfrid Laurier University students, a trip to the Waterloo Region Museum might not be forefront in their minds when planning their weekend. However, the museum recently unveiled their newest exhibit – “What Makes Us Who We Are?” – and it is definitely worth checking out.

What Makes Us Who We Are” traces the human history of Waterloo Region from approximately 12,000 years ago, from European settlement at the start of the 1800s, to the manufacturing heydays of the 1900s and the high tech sector boom of recent years.

Bear in mind this museum, and therefore exhibit, has a distinct focus on the Waterloo region. Laurier obviously has a plethora of students from all over Canada – not just the Waterloo Region – so does this mean we should be less inclined to visit? Absolutely not.

“What Makes Us Who We Are?” gives perspective on the city that Laurier students are quick to embrace during the time we spend here while in school – and quite commonly some time here after that.

Tom Reitz, Waterloo Region Museum curator, touched upon this while explaining the feeling one can achieve from a visit. “Whether you’ve lived here for ten generations or if you’ve just moved here, [“What Makes Us Who We Are?”] makes you proud as to why you call this place home,” said Reitz in an interview with The Cord.

A good deal of interesting information is presented in this exhibit, including an extensive look at the immigration and settlement of the Waterloo Region, and information regarding the origins behind the name Conestoga. It is interesting how this exhibit is telling a story, from all angles, of how contemporary life came to be in the Waterloo Region.

In the immigration section of the exhibit, a story was outlined about a young man named Jagdat Vincent Toolsie of Guyana. Toolsie arrived in Canada in 1954 to attend university at Waterloo College (later to be Wilfrid Laurier University), majoring in English literature. Pictures showed Toolsie to be the only non-white student at the school, which is astounding, considering this was only 57 years ago.

Reitz explained that as something he termed “an ah-ha moment.” “It’s when people can say ‘I didn’t know that. I had no idea that existed here or started here!’ That’s an ah-ha moment.” Reitz ensured there would be multiple ah-ha moments for those viewing the exhibit during the three years he took to compile it.

While this exhibit did provide lots of interesting history and information about the Waterloo Region, it was lacking in its interactivity. There was not much that offered museum-goer participation and sometimes it reminded me of the kind of museum I had dreaded to step foot in while in middle school.

That aside, if you live in the Waterloo Region – whether it is permanently or temporary – this exhibit is definitely worth checking out. Ah-ha moments await you (did you know that First Nations have been in Waterloo for over 500 generations?) – and there’s your first.


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