It is 2017 and Canadian Confederation turned 150.  There have been parties, books, television specials and commemorative things – tons of commemorative things!  As a historian I can look on these items as representative of a vision of Canadian identity, and recognize that not everyone invests in the celebration and the souvenir items the same values.  And certainly I am aware of the conflict of identity particularly evident in the celebrations of 150, as I feel some of it myself.  But the stuff, people, the stuff.  I am not immune to the draw of the commemorative item.

I was born in 1967, so I have always been drawn to 1967 stuff.  As I was not aware of the significance of the events in that year, so I started to collect items from ’67 a lot later on.

As you can see from the above I have a rather eclectic collection of things – two pins, a Blue Mountain mug, a souvenir brochure and a bunch of the coins taken from circulation.  Of course 1967 was also Expo ’67, and I went there with my parents, in my pram, as a very wee babe.  I don’t remember it, but it was apparently quite wonderful.  Mom and Dad saved the souvenir programme, which I still have.  And, over the years I have added things from Expo to my collection of commemorative stuff (aided and abetted by the fact that I worked at Value Village for a year).

commemorative stuff (5)So what is the attraction?  I guess it is a way to reinforce the fact that the year I was born in was special.  It was special because I was born that year, but it had that extra something – something.  And so having things which speak to that special-ness is important to me.

Fast forward to Canada 125 – and of course my twenty-fifth birthday.  That year I decided to celebrate my birthday with a party with the theme of the “Silver Anniversary” of my birth, and Canada had another party in Ottawa, and the Queen was there.  All good, in my mind.  I was becoming politically aware by this time, and so I was more realistic about what I was celebrating.  I didn’t get many items commemorating the anniversary, but I do remember that I felt I should get something, and the Canadian government actually had a way for you to order official souvenir items.  So I bought some stuff. I also had a pin which was not so official…..

A rather modest haul, but there weren’t that many items actually available in that year.  I don’t think that people were as keen to celebrate, or didn’t recognise the number as being particularly special.  And I was (and still am actually) rather cheap about things so I wasn’t go to be extravagant anyway.

It is now Canada 150 and really this year, the number of items you can purchase is almost obscene.  Really, I am a bit flummoxed by the quantity and variety of items available.  There are a lot of items that have been produced that perhaps are tacky, some which are expensive, some which are both, but then there are also the vanilla items, which I am strangely drawn to.  And those are the ones I have bought.  I have acquired a few pins and the commemorative coins put out by the Canadian mint.  I am not sure why there is a glow in the dark coin in the mint’s collection, but okay.


There is this impulse, I think for people, like myself, who collect things.  Events such as anniversaries are marker moments which we need to physically hold onto.  I have bought things that commemorate Canada 150 in order to remember the significance of the event.  I think that it is a special moment to remember and I am proud to be Canadian (To be  clear though, I am also realistic about Canada, and well aware that there are things that are not praiseworthy). It is also my 50th year.  And it is something that I am both happy and rather freaked out about at the same time.  So these things mark the passage of personal time, and of place and memory.

So I confess, I have commemorative items.  A fair number if taken altogether.  I think I have some pretty neat stuff, and there it is.  I understand not everyone is going to understand my fascination for commemorative Canadian things, and I am alright about that.  I have invested in them a personal history which stands both apart and a part of the event which they commemorate.