Broadening the Historical Narrative with the Ontario Heritage Trust
Ontario Heritage Trust
Consumer & Lifestyle
The Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT) has a mandate to conserve, interpret, and share the province’s heritage. It aims to ensure that stories are respectful, accurate, authentic, and representative.
Two updates to existing sites created the need to educate Ontarians about the changes, and how they aimed to be more inclusive towards representing Ontario’s people.
The updates were:
- Renaming the Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site to the Josiah Henson Museum of African-Canadian History.
- Revising inaccurate plaque information at Shingwauk Hall (a former residential school).
The most meaningful way to celebrate and honour our diversity of perspectives and cultures is to ensure community and dialogue are at the heart of inclusion initiatives.
The communications and education program rooted everything in community and cultural relevance—including the media, the storytellers, the message and the timing.
We engaged outlets with a strong history of community support to help tell and amplify these stories (including Black and Indigenous-focused publications).
We ensured community spokespeople had a voice to provide authentic representation and perspectives.
Timing and message
The renamed Josiah Henson’s Museum was unveiled on Emancipation Day. The message focused on the harmful connotations that “Uncle Tom” carried for the Black community and how renaming better reflected Henson’s historic significance.
The Shingwauk Hall plaque unveiling took place on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The message highlighted the inaccuracies in the previous plaque and focused on collaboration with residential school survivors to ensure the updated plaque reflected the complexity of the site’s heritage.
Hundreds of media stories surrounding these events amplified and reinforced the important reasons behind OHT’s changes. Spokespeople from Black and Indigenous communities stood centre stage and led the conversation. Authentic representation helped to reclaim the narrative and inspire further discussions about Ontario’s history and its path forward.
Josiah Henson Museum
Broad syndication led to 300+ stories, generating 25M impressions with 91 per cent of coverage featuring messaging from a community spokesperson who said: “We’re not changing history. We’re just telling it and keeping it in context.”
Shingwauk Hall Story syndication generated nearly 3M impressions with half of the coverage featuring a community spokesperson explaining the importance of the change and the impact of having it translated into two Indigenous languages.