Collecting Memories of Canada

When I was fourteen my family and I embarked on a two month trans-Canadian road trip, driving first to Prince Edward Island then stopping at various locations on our way back to Alberta. On that trip I tried to buy a pin from every location of significance we visited. I did this by using the money I had earned by doing jobs around the house, jobs for my grandparents, and my saved allowances. I was more or less successful in my objective by collecting about thirty pins, which I added to my larger collection.  The preparation to write this took a few days in contemplation to consider what this collection means to me (I still have it), why I did it, and what collecting means to people in general.

As we are exploring historical consciousness and message in relation to Canadian history I will focus my analysis primarily on the group of pins I collected from my trip across Canada extrapolating it to the larger issue of Canadian historical consciousness and my relationship to it.
Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia: Source Linked
Fort Louisburg Cape Breton: Source linked.

The Action of Collecting:

I feel that collecting, for me, has been a rather simple action or pastime of expression. Especially as I collected my pins in a rather robotic manor and without much critical thought about why I was collecting.  Since a young age, at the encouragement of my parents, I had collected pins from wherever we vacationed (I do not anymore). My pin collection was relatively large; fully covering a large stuffed bear making its appearance reminiscent of a pierced biker, while also covering a handkerchief affixed to my bedroom wall. I do not really remember why I decided to start my collection, but after sometime that did not really matter as finding and comparing different pins turned into more of a challenge and/ or adventure. I suspect my parents had the ulterior motive of finding something to keep me quiet and occupied while we drove.
Lobster in P.E.I: Source Linked
Scottish Heritage in Nova Scotia: Source Linked

The Pins:

All the pins in my greater collection are composed of pins from significant sights and cities. Thus my collection from this trip is composed of pins from significant sights or cities across Canada. My pins all symbolise the places we stopped at or were in, but the subject matter and imagery varies greatly into these four principal areas: First, historical monuments like the Fort at Louisburg in Cape Breton, the Clock Tower of the Halifax Citadel, the Light House at Peggy’s Cove, Chateau Frontenac in Quebec city. Second, cities or provincial crests, symbols, or coat of arms like the White Trillium flower of Ontario or Fleur de Lys of Quebec. Third, images of landscape formations like the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, or Mt. Tremblant in Quebec, or Niagara Falls in Ontario. Fourth, local mascots or characters like Bonhomme from Quebec City or the Toronto Blue Jay from the Toronto Baseball team.
Bonhomme: Quebec City and the Winter Carnival: Source Linked

After discussing the topic of collecting with some friends and family as well as reflecting upon my own thoughts with consideration of what we have studied in this class I think I have finally understood what my collection means to me.  On 
Toronto Towers: Source Linked
conscious level the pins, today, provide reassurance that I visited these places and thus are talismans from my trip that serve to trigger memories or feelings and emotions of my visits. By seeing the pins I am triggered to remember walking on the floor of the Bay of Fundy, driving across the Confederation Bridge to P.E.I, or looking down upon the skyscrapers of Toronto from the CN Tower.
Cathedral Notre Dame Montreal: Source Linked

What They Represent:

These memories continue to give me a renewed sense of awe and amazement of the places I visited reminding me that I was there helping to compose a visual memory of “my Canada”. It is in this sense that I am able to connect, to feel and to bond by the experience of visiting these places, linking them to the concept of what makes up Canada from my perspective and experience.  These memories and feelings act as prompts to the stories and history that I was exposed to of the places I visited. I am able to make some connection between the places physically and the history as presented of those places. This helps to form and focus my historical assessment, hence consciousness and memory of Canada. I think of particular connections, for example, connections between one of the many French attempts at settling Canada and the Fort at Louisburg Cape Breton, or the strong Catholic presence in Quebec society of past eras and Montreal’s Cathedral Notre Dame or St. Joseph Oratory, or the movement for Quebec sovereignty and Charles De Gaulle’s speech from Montreal’s City Hall, or Canada’s World War One effort and the Peace Tower at Parliament, or of office buildings seen from Toronto’s CN tower and Toronto as Canada’s business centre, the list goes on.
Ontario's Trillium: Source Linked

The pins activate memories of my visits that prompt my associations to the greater historical and social significance in Canadian history of the places I visited, in turn serving to shape what I think and feel about the history of Canada, its land and its people. Basically the pin collection acts as a compass. This compass organises my knowledge about Canada from before my trip with the knowledge accrued during and after my trip. This builds associations to places, events, and cultural and social manifestations that I have come to understand or associate as my historical consciousness and memory of Canada.


Fleur de Lye: Linked
By incorporating these pins, my memories and historical connections I am helping to make MY historical consciousness of Canada. This consciousness is not made of information that is solely mine, but is informed by other sources. These sources include federal and provincial official versions of history found at historical sites and monuments, academic and non-academic works, school curriculum, leisure reading, television programs, radio shows, museum exhibits, songs, cartoons, conversations with people from across Canada, re-enactments, reddit.com posts, and writing on bathroom walls, among other mediums. What marks this consciousness as mine is how all the sources and associations came together and were organised by the compass function of my pins as mentioned above. This reflects how I see (and saw) these places in the greater dialogue about Canadian history. This is a historical message and history of Canada that I have absorbed, it is not the only message, it is neither the right message nor the wrong message but it is the message that in this capacity connects me to Canada.
While discussing Remembering and Forgetting Acadie, and watching the short clips about the war of 1812 put out by the Government of Canada and Parks Canada, we touched upon the topic of history and ownership.  I understood that commemoration, memory and historical consciousness are important parts of fostering a link to feeling sympathetic towards history and a sense of worth or ownership towards it. The debate is still on if one can own history or not.  However, I do believe that one can definitely feel sympathetic towards history and this is perhaps as close as I can come to owning history.


L'hotel de ville de Montreal: Source Linked
 I have always liked learning and reading about history and far off places; often what we like or are intrigued by become incorporated into our identity; we this use to guide impressions we have about ourselves, but also to guide impressions by others of ourselves. It is in this vein that I think ultimately my pin collection is my connection to part of my Canadian identity shaped by the impressions from that trip and the associations I have made visiting some of those places again since that trip. I use this, above, identity in making choices in my daily life, when I read something, when I decide to vote, when I say something, when I think what Canada is and what I want it to be. The pin collection represents what makes me sympathetic to (as close as I will ever come to owning) my version of or a part of Canadian history and thus helps to form my Canadian identity. This identity shaped, partially, by the compass provided by my pin collection is part of how I choose to organise the aspects of Canada and the world that I have seen as being “Canadian”. However, I am cautious of calling specific actions or things “Canadian”, just as I am about attributing specific actions, traits or things to one nation or race. This is because I am sure there are similar manifestations of what happens/ happened in Canada, and what collectively we might impulsively call “Canadian” all around the world.  What I am trying to say is that in this space and narrative we call Canada, the pin collection allows me to assign a place or sentence to the inputs I saw and acknowledged from across Canada and my knowledge base that create my Canadian identity and shape my view of what I see and do not see in Canada today. This is both my historical and present consciousness of Canada. However, I am left wondering if I can say this message and historical consciousness is of greater, lesser or equal significance or value to an official publication, an academic work, a primary source or secondary source. It feels wrong to say my pin collection and my associations from it are just as significant and valuable as other works, yet it feels equally wrong to say they are not, as the collection and associations are real to me; there is no easy answer.

CN Tower/ Air Canada Place: Linked
Today I do not collect pins anymore but I cannot say I do not collect in general. I probably stopped collecting pins as the self-references I use for myself, my experiences and who I want to be evolved. Today my world is different from when I was 14, it is larger, and it is filled with different highs and different lows. I now relate and see the world around me in a different light, and the manifestation of my appreciation of that has changed. I have become more abstract, more dynamic and more multi-faceted; so has my taste in collecting.  I feel that my historical consciousness of Canada and my consciousness of the general world have evolved with time and is not a constant or static concept.

Whale Watching at Cape Breton: Source Linked
Parliament Ottawa: Source Linked

Why We Collect:

People from all walks of life collect different things for different reasons, or feel no urge to collect at all. One can say the choice of collecting a particular thing, if we make that choice at all, is about the worldly possessions we see around us, and how we see ourselves in relation to them. Ultimately, I think collecting is about feeling some sort of a material connection or a mental or emotional collection via the material to an aspect of the general world around you or to a facet or field of that world. It is how we interface with communities or concepts we feel an affinity to in person, in imagination, in literature, in image, in sound, among other forms. Equally, one has to almost make a conscious decision not to collect or accumulate collections, and that decision in itself says something about our own identities and how we connect to our greater existence. 


  1. Those broochs are really cool!It symbolizes your step all around Canada. As a really good memory, I think you must feel the connection to your experience. You mention about the collecting stuff is about to find our own identities and existence in the society. I agree with you, just like to take photo while you are travelling. The photo not only become your part of memory but also the proof of you steps.

  2. I was curious, you pointed out that you feel linked to the Canadian pins because of the the shared connection to them. Do you think with out this sort of connection to motivate you would continue your collection?