Caring about the Past: Engaging with Historical Empathy

The 2024 Canada’s History Forum
Hosted by Canada’s History Society Posted March 7, 2024

Register today!

Online Event
Thursday, April 25, 2024
6pm – 9pm Eastern
Free to attend, but pre-registration is required.

Why did the people in the past think and behave the way they did? How did people feel when faced with adversity, injustice, or other struggles? Can we ever really know?

Building historical empathy and attempting to understand the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of people in the past is a challenging and worthwhile endeavour. Historical empathy encourages us to consider context and evidence, practice taking a historical perspective, and can shed light on the experiences of traditionally marginalized people. It can also help build empathy in the present, promoting a greater understanding of other peoples’ experiences and creating caring, engaged citizens.

This event brings together educators, historians, museum professionals, and researchers to explore innovative ways of engaging with history that promote empathy, understanding, and a deeper connection to the past.


  • Sara Karn (McMaster University) will provide a framework for historical empathy.
  • Anna Pearson (teacher and PhD candidate, York University) will discuss experiential learning through battlefield study tours.
  • Mélissa St-Pierre (Huron-Wendat Museum) will discuss how the Huron-Wendat Museum encourages empathy through its mission and vision. 
  • Geneviève de Muys (Musée de la civilization) will discuss how the Musée de la civilization established their new permanent exhibition to include the words of people who are often under-represented in this type of exhibition.
  • Graham Lowes (Canadian Museum of Human Rights) will introduce participants to the Witness Blanket and discuss how to incorporate a trauma-informed approach in bringing voices of residential school survivors to the classroom.
  • Greg Miyanaga (grade 2/3 teacher, Coquitlam School District) will discuss teaching about Japanese internment through hands-on, minds-on, and hearts-on learning.
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Know a teacher who made a difference?

Nominate them today for the Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Teaching!


But please note: the nomination is just a first step; once nominated, nominees usually finish the application themselves and require a reasonable amount of time to respond to questions and collect supporting documents.


The deadline for this year’s award is April 10.

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