With the anniversary of Agnes Macphail’s birthday coming up this Saturday (she was born on March 24th, 1890) we thought we would share some of our work from the Multicultural Community Capacity Grant project we’ve been working on.

Our MCC project is designed to highlight and elevate the stories of Ontarians we don’t hear enough about. We decided to focus on women’s history, and the histories of black and Japanese Ontarians. 


We chose to write about Agnes Macphail, a Grey County native and a fiercely passionate political activist. We host the Agnes Macphail Digital Collection, a collaboration between the Grey Highlands Public Library and several local newspapers, archives, and museums, and through their efforts we have access to a wide variety of Agnes’s thoughts, work, and legacy.

We’ve compiled some of the best bits into one page of our women’s history exhibit, with photographs, newspaper advertisements and clippings, and quotes from her supporters and critics. You can view it here.

While the rest of the exhibits are still in development, we’re happy to share some of what we’ve learned so far. We’re also working on improving the underlying code and layout behind VITA’s exhibits module so that it’s easier to work with and more responsive on every browser, new and old.

Once these exhibits are done, we want to encourage users and researchers across Ontario to help us add to the story. VITA members can enable the contribution module and allow anyone to upload files with accompanying descriptions and an open Creative Commons license, and allow accept text-based testimonials. Contributions of multicultural stories and communities from across the province will allow us to fill in these crucial gaps in the historical record.

For example, we’re learning that many Japanese Ontarians have some connection to internment camps created during World War II to keep people of Japanese descent away from the Pacific coast. While British Columbia still has the highest Japanese-Canadian population, Ontario has the second highest, and it’s largely due to forced resettlement in northern Ontario work camps, and to families moving by choice to Ontario after the war was over.

We want to hear more about the Japanese-Ontarian story: did internment touch your family history? Were your ancestors Issei who chose Ontario before or after the war, instead of displaced by the federal government? Are you an Issei yourself, and what can you tell us about your perspective on Canadian culture and daily life? We’re not an archives, historical society, or museum, so we can’t collect your story directly – but we can connect you to an organization that fits, whether regional or religious or with some other relevance. Let us know if you’re an organization that would be interested in collaborating with us on this in the future.

We’re excited to hear your thoughts – when the exhibits are finished, we’ll post again inviting feedback and use. For now, get in touch at help@vitatoolkit.ca if you have any requests or comments about the exhibits module from a VITA user’s perspective, or about our multicultural history project in particular.

Produced with the support of the Government of Ontario.