Exhibit at Mount Royal University shares painful history of Canada’s residential schools

A travelling exhibit woven with remnants of Canada’s past is now on display at Mount Royal University.

The Witness Blanket exhibit features a 12-metre-long piece of art comprised of more than 800 items collected from sites and survivors of residential schools across Canada.

John Fischer, the director of the Iniskim Centre at MRU, said he’s happy to have the piece find a home in Calgary for the next six weeks.

“It represents the pain, the heartache, the loneliness and the strain that residential schools brought to Indigenous people and the country.

“Alberta was the home of the greatest number of residential schools in Canada, so I felt that Alberta needed more time with the witness blanket.”

LISTEN: The Witness Blanket exhibit opens at Mount Royal University

The piece was made possible by artist Carey Newman, who travelled across the country to collect these artifacts.

Fischer said the woven blanket is comprised of these reclaimed items to create a cultural structure that tells the story of Canada’s past.

“There was no love and there was no care. Students didn’t have their birthdays recognized. Christmases and Easter were very barren and static,” Fischer said.

“I really have a connection to the idea that this is a quilted blanket, something that’s so beautiful made out of something that was so cold and sterile and ugly.”

The original blanket is under conservation at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

The touring exhibit currently at MRU is a true-to-scale replica of the initial artwork, augmented with interpretive panels and digital interactive features.

The exhibit opened in the Riddel Library and Learning Centre at MRU on March 9 and will be on display until April 30.

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