Past Exhibits

An exhibition is a physical experience. Our goal is to create an experience that involves looking, listening, reading, touching, doing, making, watching, thinking, and responding. The Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum regularly mounts feature exhibits for short periods of time. This is a selection of past exhibits curated and created by the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum.

A Place for Opera 

opera displaySeptember 1, 2013 to September 1, 2015
Christie Theatre

This exhibit, located in the Christie Theatre, looks at local opera houses - which were not just for opera performances. Opera houses were first constructed as venues for traditional theatre and they were also used by acrobats and hypnotists, for concerts and vaudeville performances, and later as movie theatres.

Beer! The Exhibit 

beer exhibitJune 19, 2015 to January 3, 2016
Feature Gallery

This exhibit allowed visitors to discover the history of brewing, and the selling and consuming of beer in Canada, with a focus on more than 175 years of brewing tradition in Waterloo Region. 

Waterloo Region has a long history of brewing - and drinking beer! Beer has been a staple of daily life worldwide for thousands of years, and is the drink of choice for many Canadians. 

Whether brewed by a large company, or one of the numerous craft breweries that have opened in Waterloo Region, or even in the home, there is a beer for everyone.

This exhibit explained how beer is made, the impact Prohibition had on the brewing industry, and the evolution of craft breweries.

From public houses to bars, Temperance societies to drinking responsibly - this exhibit explored the cultural and social influences of beer.

Canada and Germany: Partners from Immigration to Innovation

May 25 to September 3, 2018

exhibit photo

The Canada and Germany: Partners from Immigration to Innovation exhibit presents historical events over the centuries, inspiring stories of German immigrants, and innovative bilateral research projects and partnerships. This exhibit was curated by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Canada for the purpose of celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canada, as well as the long and positive relationship between the two countries. A unique local display in the exhibit is an interactive Lunar Rover, produced for the Canadian Space Agency and NASA by Ontario Drive & Gear Limited of New Hamburg, Ontario.

Honouring the contributions of German immigrants and their descendants, the Goethe-Institut has created the German Traces in Canada app allowing users to discover Canada from a new perspective. The multimedia app is available for use on Smartphones and tablets. The app allows users to explore listed sites and take a virtual tour tracing early European settlement as well as present day migration trends across Canada. The free app is available for download at Google Play and itunes

Canada and GermanyThe Canada and Germany: Partners from Immigration to Innovation exhibit honours the German-Canadian friendship, from a rich history of immigration to cultural collaborations and innovations. Engaging stories are told through three sections.

Section One: Canada: A Nation of Immigrants – The German Contribution

  • More than three million Canadians report their ethnic origin as German or of German ancestry. The exhibit looks at six major waves of immigration from Germany to Canada.
  • In the late 1700s, many German-speaking Mennonites immigrated to Canada because they were persecuted in Europe for their beliefs and values. Today more than 20 different Mennonite groups exist in Ontario alone.
  • The story of the Hessians outlines how, during the American Revolution, Britain contracted various German states to provide 30,000 auxiliary troops, with 2,400 remaining in Canada after the conflict.
  • Canada and GermanyIn the 1800s, many German immigrants settled in Southern Ontario, and by 1870 Waterloo region was known as Canada’s German Capital. By the 1900s, most of the population in the Waterloo region were made up of descendants of German immigrants.
  • The peak of German immigration to Canada took place in the 50s and 60s, with more than 300,000 Germans entering Canada by way of Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Section Two: From Enemies to Friends

  • Anti-German sentiment reached record heights in Canada during the First World War. Learn the engaging story of how and why the city of Berlin, in Ontario, changed its name to Kitchener in 1916.
  • Read the story of a prisoner of war Kurt Gunzel, held in captivity during World War II.
  • Selected artworks created by German prisoners in captivity in Canada during World War II are represented.
  • Find out about the birth of German Unification that took place in Ottawa in 1990.

Section Three: The Inuit of Labrador and the Germans

  • In 1771, German-speaking missionaries from the Moravian Church arrived in Labrador to establish a settlement among the nomadic population of Inuit. Over time what emerged was a cultural hybrid rooted in Inuit ways of life, but influenced by indigenized European practices.
  • Find out about the little-known story of Abraham Ulrikab and eight Inuit who travelled to Europe in 1880 to introduce Inuit culture to Germany.
City On Edge

City On EdgeJune 24, 2016 to January 8, 2017
Feature Gallery

The City On Edge exhibit tells the story of how and why the city of Berlin changed its name to Kitchener on September 1, 1916, and was on exhibit in 2016, the 100th anniversary of the name change.

This exhibit received Honourable Mention at the 2017 Ontario Museum Association Annual Conference that celebrated the extraordinary accomplishments of museums and museum professionals across Ontario. 

City On Edge showed how a city was pushed to the edge during the First World War - to the point of changing its name from Berlin to Kitchener through a controversial and high tension referendum. Berlin, Ontario - and much of surrounding Waterloo County - was the centre of German culture in Canada in the early 1900s. From the start of the First World War in 1914, residents of the city were questioned for their loyalty to King, country and the allied war effort in Europe. 

City On Edge  was created and produced by the Waterloo Region Museum, with the assistance and support of many organizations and individuals, including:

City of Cambridge Archives
City of Waterloo Museum
Guelph Civic Museum
Kitchener Public Library
Mennonite Archives of Ontario
Museum London
University of Waterloo Library - Special Collections
Waterloo Centre for German Studies
Waterloo Historical Society
Waterloo Public Library
Wellington County Museum and Archives

And many private collectors and donors. 

City On Edge TALKS Lecture Series:
Berlin to Kitchener and the First World War
Took place Friday, November 11 at 2 p.m.
Speaker: Geoff Hayes, University of Waterloo

Live Theatre Performance Online:
At The Crossroads was performed live in the Waterloo Region Museum's Grand Foyer for six performances in June 2016. The play was written, directed and produced by local playwright Stephen W. Young and combines a fictitious who-done-it storyline with the 1916 Berlin to Kitchener name change as a backdrop. 

Watch a performance that took place at Waterloo Region Museum through the link above.

Support for At The Crossroads was generously provided by the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund; City of Kitchener; and the Waterloo Regional Heritage Foundation.   


ckco-tv photoNovember 12, 2011 to September 1, 2013
Christie Theatre

On March 1, 1954, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record headline read: "TV Station Goes on Air Here Tonight." The station was assigned the call letters CKCO, which stood for Canada, Kitchener, Central Ontario.  Television technology was so new when CKCO began broadcasting that there were only two stations available to watch locally, and few families even had a TV.

CKCO was founded by Carl A. Pollock, president of local manufacturer Electrohome, in partnership with Kitchener-Waterloo Broadcasting Company, and the US based Famous Players Corporation.

Residents of Southwestern Ontario fondly remember locally produced CKCO shows such as Silver Bar RanchPolka Time with Walter Ostanek, Bowling for Dollars and ProvinceWide.

For many museum visitors, one of the highlights of this exhibit was the "magic mirror" from Romper RoomRomper Room, a franchised educational program, was produced exclusively by CKCO for broadcast across Canada. Generations of children learned, sang and danced along with Miss Wanda, Miss Grace, Miss Betty (Betty Thomson, 1972-1975), Miss Diane (Diane Ippersiel, 1975-1978) or the longest-serving Romper Room teacher in North America - Miss Fran (Fran Pappert, 1978-1992).

Other local children's programs such as Big Al's Ranch PartyOopsy the ClownBig Top Talent, and Camp Cariboo figure prominently in the childhood memories of those who grew up in Waterloo Region and Southwestern Ontario.

Drive-ins Under the Stars 

drive-in exhibitSeptember 1, 2013 to September 1, 2015
Christie Theatre

Local residents can reminisce about the smell of buttered popcorn, mixed with the crackle of a window speaker, and the sight of animated dancing hot dogs - to entice you to visit the drive-in theatre's snack bar - at this exhibit in the Christie Theatre. All this as pyjama-clad children ran from the drive-in movie theatre's playground, through a maze of parked cars, to pile into the family sedan. This was the experience at drive-in movie theatres across North America, beginning in the 1930s, and in Waterloo Region beginning in the 1940s.

Going Places: Past Present Future

ION Train in ExhibitJanuary 28, 2019 to January 5, 2020

Going Places: Past Present Future, a major regional exhibit mounted in celebration of the ION launch, showcases how the people of Waterloo Region have been actively ‘on the move’ by water, road, rail, and air. Featuring immersive experiences and artifacts that will surprise and delight, the exhibition transports visitors through time and into the future.

As the Region has evolved, local modes of transportation have adapted and modernized to meet people’s needs. From canoes to hybrid cars, the Going Places exhibition explores the changes in travel experienced within the Region.

Citizens are affected by transit every day, whether they realize it or not. The evolution of transportation systems in Waterloo Region is closely linked to the growth of the Region itself. Transportation systems – 

guests at Going Places

roads, railways, and public transit – were as important to local residents in the early 1800s as they are today.

This exhibition has been created by the Region of Waterloo Museums’ exhibits team with the assistance of numerous partners and local contributors. Special thanks to all the organizations that helped us create Going Places: Past Present Future.

Region of Waterloo

  • Archives Department
  • Grand River Transit
  • ION - Rapid Transit
  • Region of Waterloo International Airport
  • Transportation Division

person looking at exhibitPartners and Contributors

  • Cambridge Corporate Archives and Records Centre
  • Canadian Automotive Museum
  • Canadian Canoe Museum
  • City of Waterloo Museum
  • Dou Tech Movement Inc.
  • Fashion History Museum
  • Heffner Toyota
  • Kitchener Public Library
  • Marcel Labelle
  • University of Waterloo Library, Special Collections & Archives
  • University of Waterloo, Waterloop Team
  • Waterloo Public Library
  • Waterloo Historical Society
  • Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society
Hmong: Refugees from Southeast Asia 

Hmong exhibitNovember 12, 2011 to September 1, 2013
Community Highlight Exhibit

This community highlight exhibit in the main gallery of the Waterloo Region Museum focused on Hmong refugees from Southeast Asia who have settled in Waterloo Region.

The Hmong are an Asian ethnic group that have historically lived in the mountainous regions of Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and China.  They are a distinct society with their own language and social customs which differ from other people in Asia.

The Lao People's Democratic Republic or Laos is located in Southeast Asia, between the countries of Vietnam and Thailand. It has a population of approximately 6 million people and is one of the world's few Communist countries.

During the Vietnam War, the Hmong in Laos helped the US military block supply routes into North Vietnam. When civil war erupted between the Royal Laotian government and the Communist group Pathet Lao in 1975, the Hmong supported the government forces.  The government was overthrown and Pathet Lao took control of the country.

In retaliation for supporting the former government, Pathet Lao began to single out the Hmong, especially those who had been involved in the military. During this time, Hmong people were arrested for "re-education" or were killed. As a result, approximately 200,000 Hmong fled Laos and went into exile in refugee camps in Thailand in the mid 1970s.

Hmong refugees first began immigrating to Canada in 1979.  The Mennonite Central Committee was involved in relief work in the Thai refugee camps and in sponsorships to Canada. Many local Waterloo Region Mennonite churches provided sponsorship and support once the Hmong settled locally.

Approximately 500 Hmong settled in the Waterloo Region in the early to mid 1980s. Together they formed a network of support and friendship, which include a local Hmong Association and a Hmong heritage language school for their children.

Museum Mysteries 

museum mysteries exhibitMay 31, 2014 to January 4, 2015
Feature Gallery

Museum Mysteries invited families to step into the extraordinary world of mysterious and unique objects from the Waterloo Region Museum collection. 

The Waterloo Region Museum presented its own Wunderkammer or Cabinet of Curiosity - as we assembled some of the more unusual objects in the museum's collection for your enjoyment and wonderment. Learn about Victorians and the odd things they collected. 

Many of the objects on exhibit related to Waterloo Region - they were used here, made here or collected here.  Other objects, some connected to famous people and events in world history, have been collected by the museum since the Waterloo Historical Society first began collecting in 1912.

In this National Public Radio story, first aired in 2009, reporter Bob Mondello explores the history of museums and the "really cool stuff" that we collectively have preserved and exhibited through time.     

The Waterloo Region Museum threw open the doors to the storage rooms and selected some "really cool stuff" for this exhibit. Visitors could decide for themselves ... is every story true or not!?

The recommended age for this exhibit was 8 years of age and up.

Ocean Bound! 

Ocean Bound exhibitJanuary 30 to May 10, 2015
Feature Gallery

Ocean Bound! explored the science of watersheds, aquatic animals and oceans. Embarking on a journey through watersheds to see how everyone's actions on land affect our oceans. 

Ocean Bound! invited visitors to learn about watersheds and the ocean, and the aquatic animals and ecosystems depend on them.

The exhibit showcased local water connections, created in partnership with the Grand River Conservation Authority, Region of Waterloo Water Services, the Waterloo Wellington Children's Groundwater Festival, and the University of Waterloo Earth Science Museum.

These interactive displays offered a great platform to show and educate young people on the impact of water management, to better influence future generations' behaviours and actions. 


SaengerfestNovember 12, 2011 to September 1, 2013
Christie Theatre

In the 1800s more than five million Germans immigrated to North America. While most settled in the United States many came to Waterloo Region bringing their cultural traditions with them.

One such tradition was the celebration of German choral music called the Saengerfest, or singer's festival. These music festivals would last two or three days, and included parades, theatre, picnics, fireworks, grand balls, and of course, concerts.

Between 1871 and 1911 Berlin and Waterloo hosted at least nine Saengerfests and local choirs participated in others hosted by cities across Ontario and the northern United States. During these festivals thousands of visitors would flock to the site of the Saengerfest to take part in the amusements, ease homesickness and celebrate life in their adopted country.

Street Style 

street style exhibitMay 31, 2014 to January 4, 2015
Feature Gallery

Waterloo Region Museum partnered with the Fashion History Museum to present Street Style, an exhibit that explored the connections between the design of women's fashion and architecture over two centuries.

While clothing and shelter are two of humanity's most basic needs they also have been elevated to art forms. Fashion and architectural design often share sources of inspiration as they follow similar paths of production, from conceptual drawings to beautiful and functional creations.

Museum guests were intrigued at the connections made between the construction of buildings and the fabrication of clothing, with objects drawn from both museums' collections, many never before on public exhibition.

Street Style charted the relationship between fashion and architecture in Waterloo County, as it became one of Canada's largest and most important industrial centres in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

 The recommended age for this exhibit was 11 years of age and up.

Street Style was part of Building Waterloo Region - a festival of architectural design excellence that takes place at art galleries and museums across Waterloo Region in 2014.

Funding for Street Style was provided by the Government of Ontario.

Torn From Home: My Life as a Refugee

torn from home exhibitJune 1, 2013 to September 2, 2013
Feature Gallery

Torn From Home: My Life as a Refugee gave the community an opportunity to gain a firsthand look into the harsh realities faced by refugee children and their families. The exhibit had two components - an exhibit and re-creation of a refugee camp on loan from the Lied Discovery Children's Museum in Las Vegas, accompanied by content developed by the Waterloo Region Museum.

The Waterloo Region Museum explored the history of offering refuge in Waterloo Region and several individual stories by and about refugees who came to the area from the 1800s through the late 1900s.

Waterloo Region is home to a diverse population, including newcomers from a wide variety of countries and experiences. The region supports a higher population of refugees than the Canadian average with approximately 22% of all immigrants settling here being refugees during the time period when Torn From Home was on exhibit.

Many individuals and organizations in Waterloo Region offer support and assistance to refugees adjusting to life in Canada. These agencies and their work was also featured in the exhibit. By showing respect and generosity, Waterloo Region has become a place of refuge for these people.

Trailblazing - Women in Canada since 1867

Trailblazing exhibit imageSeptember 22, 2017 to January 7, 2018

Feature Gallery

This exhibit is available for rental to other museums. 
Email James Jensen, Supervisor of Collections and Exhibits for more information.

What has it meant to be a woman in Canada throughout its 150 year history? This nationally travelling exhibit, created and toured by the Waterloo Region Museum, explores how women have transformed Canadian politics, work, and everyday life. Trailblazinghighlights the experiences of women - mothers, sisters, daughters, partners, and friends - from all walks of Canadian life.

The Trailblazing - Women in Canada since 1867 exhibit was funded in part by the Government of Canada.

Project Partners: Waterloo Region Museum, Department of Canadian Heritage / Museums Assistance Program.

The exhibit was created with assistance from the Advisory Committee of:

Dr. Gail Cuthbert Brandt
Dr. Kristina Llewellyn
Dr. Marlene Epp
Nancy Birss
Tammy Webster
Dr. Wendy Mitchinson

Trailblazing explores 150 years of women's issues in Canada through the themes of Work, Education, Body, Politics, and Violence Against Women. Each thematic area includes historic and contemporary narratives, multi-media presentations, artifacts, and in some cases, hands-on interactives. Learn about the challenges faced by women both historically and today, and discover achievements from across the country.

Highlighted throughout the exhibit are Canadian women who have been "trailblazers" in bringing about social and political change. Come learn about the accomplishments of hundreds of remarkable women. From Hide Hyodo Shimizu (a teacher who organized a school system in British Columbia's Japanese internment camps during the Second World War) to Shelia Watt-Cloutier (Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2007), their stories will inspire.

The audio-visual bus in Trailblazing was inspired by Cora, the Women's Liberation Bookmobile, which toured Ontario in 1974. Named after prominent Canadian suffragist, E. Cora Hind, the purpose of the bus was to spread literature about women's issues to areas that did not have access to those resources. Our bus will be used as a theatre in the exhibit, showing a video featuring female led protests across the country and through time.

The exhibit includes a hands-on hockey game that features famous Canadian female players from a variety of time periods. From Lady Stanley, who played in the first recorded female hockey game in 1889, to Manon Rhéaume, the first woman to play in an NHL game, Trailblazing also explores the history of women's hockey in Canada. Come see items worn by Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser, on loan to us from the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

One of many stories told in Trailblazing, the Fleck workers' strike occurred in 1978. Women workers at the Fleck Manufacturing plant had endured horrible working conditions and sexual harassment. This strike set a precedent and challenged the labour movement to address the needs of women workers.

Between 1892 and 1969, it was illegal in Canada to advertise, sell, or distribute contraceptives. In 1936, social worker Dorothea Palmer was arrested and charged for distributing birth control information. Her trial captured the nation's attention, and sparked debate about a woman's right to contraception. Come learn more in Trailblazing.

The exhibit also examines work that still needs to be done in the 21st century with respect to women's rights, different experiences based on race, class and ethnicity, and the experiences of the 'everyday' woman.

Trailblazing: Women in Canada since 1867 is created and produced by the Waterloo Region Museum with the assistance and support of private collectors and individuals, and many organizations, including:

Alberta Aviation Museum Archives
Amnesty International Canada
Archives of Manitoba
Archives of Ontario
Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives
Canadian Medical Hall of Fame
Canadian Mining Hall of Fame
Canadian Press
Canadian Ski Museum and Hall of Fame|
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Canadian War Museum
Castle Kilbride National Historic Site
City of Cambridge Archives
City of Toronto Archives
City of Vancouver Archives
Dawson City Museum
Department of Canadian Heritage/Museums Assistance Program
Federated Women's Institutes of Canada
Getty Images
Glenbow Archives
Glenbow Museum
Government of Alberta
Hockey Hall of Fame
House of Commons Collection, Ottawa 
Kitchener Public Library
Law Society of Upper Canada
Legislative Library of New Brunswick
Library and Archives Canada
McCord Museum
McGill University Archives
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Mount Allison University|
Museum of Healthcare at Kingston
National Archives of Quebec in Chicoutimi, Société historique du Saguenay
Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council
Nikkei National Museum
NWT Archives
Ontario Black History Society
Provincial Archives of Alberta
Queen's University Archives
Rise Up! Feminist Archives
Royal BC Museum and Archives
Saskatchewan Archives
SFU Library Digital Collections/Simon Fraser University
The Rooms Provincial Archives Division
United Farmers Historical Society
University of Saskatchewan
University of Saskatchewan Library, University Archives and Special Collections
University of Ottawa Archives and Special Collections
University of Toronto Archives
Veterans Affairs Canada
Wilfrid Laurier University Archives and Special Collections
Yukon Archives

 Unconventional Thinking: Innovation in Waterloo Region 

November 12, 2011 to January 6, 2013
Feature Gallery

Unconventional Thinking: Innovation in Waterloo Region was the first major feature exhibit curated by the Waterloo Region Museum. The opening of Unconventional Thinking coincided with the official opening of the Waterloo Region Museum in November 2011.

The exhibt explored the process of innovation - how an invention gets to market or sometimes fails to get beyond the drawing board - and the many stories of innovation in Waterloo Region.Visitors discovered what makes Waterloo Region a hotbed of innovation. As a community, people living and working in Waterloo Region have developed and embraced innovative ideas including solutions to old problems, high-tech electronics or social programs.

It is this culture of creativity and invention that sets Waterloo Region apart as a centre of innovation in Ontario. From the LeRoy - the first Canadian production automobile, agricultural innovations, to our connection to the Lee-Enfield Rifle, blue box recycling and, of course, the BlackBerry, Waterloo Region has a rich story of innovation that continues to this day.