From barrier-breaking soccer player Charmaine Hooper to the inspiring story of Paralympian Brent Lakatos, the Order of Sports Collection contains more than 100,000 artifacts showcasing Canadian legends and iconic moments.
Right now, however, only 10 items are being displayed at the Canadian Museum of History, which has acquired the collection.
“No additional material will be added” to the 10 on public display, Stéphanie Verner, the museum’s senior media relations officer, told Capital Current in an email. “Like all of the museum’s collections, the Order of Sports collection will be shared in many other ways: travelling exhibitions, loans to other museums across Canada, online content, etc.”
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame has collected items since 1955. The collection was moved in October from Calgary to the national history museum in Gatineau after the Hall moved from a physical presence to become a virtual museum. Both museums will now contribute to the artifacts and research on the collection.
“This reimagining to a digital museum will allow [The Hall of Fame], Canada’s only national museum of sport, to be relevant for another 68 years,” CEO Cheryl Bernard and Bob Rooney, chair of the Hall’s board of governors, wrote in a letter emailed to Capital Current.
Located in a hallway near the history museum’s front entrance, the display, called Canada’s Got Game, is intended to represent diversity in Canadian sport. It’s divided into three groups: What makes a winner; sport is not neutral and making a play.
The museum’s assistant curator for sports history, Chloé Ouellet-Riendeau, said the first section is intended to go beyond the story of the athletes and explore wins, failures, struggles and comeback stories. The “sport is not neutral” section, for example, highlights the conflicts and controversies that arise when sports and politics intersect. The last section showcases athletes challenging norms and expectations and breaking barriers.
“[Some] of these are lesser-known stories that are really fun,” Ouellet-Riendeau said. “We’re trying to go beyond the typical wins and statistics of what is known in sports and go behind the scenes, the stories of these athletes.”
The 10 artifacts include the uniform of freestyle skiing icon Jean-Luc Brassard; the No. 10 jersey of Charmaine Hooper, one of the first women’s soccer professionals and the skates of Olympic hockey champion Jerome Iginla.
Each artificat is also accompanied by an adjective representing the athlete. Brassard, known for his high-powered performances and style, is given “vision,” while Hooper’s adjective is “drive.”
The museum officially only acquired the items in October, but it has been collecting and researching the artifacts since 2020, according to Ouellet-Riendeau.
Ouellet-Riendeau said cataloguing each artifact needs to be registered, photographed and researched before it’s posted online for public access. Verner confirmed the collection will eventually be available online.
“We are the guardians of this collection,” Ouellet-Riendeau said. “It takes a lot of space, it takes a lot of resources to make sure these artifacts are well-kept for us and future generations.”
She added that the process of cataloguing the memorabilia would take five years to complete. This includes verifying and documenting each item, including items from 1955 when the documenting process differed from today.
The Hall of Fame has put its 46,000 square foot space in Calgary up for sale. The Hall says the ownership transfer to the Canadian Museum of History helps it focus on “off-site exhibits, digital content, multi-platform storytelling and educational programming.” It is unclear if the Hall of Fame received monetary compensation for the collection. Ruth Cowan, Stakeholder Engagement/Executive Assistant for the Hall of Fame, did not provide details to Capital Current.
Minister of Canadian Heritage Pascale St-Onge was enthusiastic about the collection’s move t Gatineau.
“Canadian museums are the guardians of our past and mirrors that reflect our shared identity,” said St-Onge in a press release. “The Government of Canada is proud of the work of the Museum of History in preserving and celebrating our heritage. The acquisition of the Order of Sport Collection will enhance visitor experience with important artifacts of our country’s rich sporting history.”