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Lithuanian Canadian History Presented in the Homeland

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In September of this year the exhibition „Community and Heritage“, created by the Lithuanian Museum-Archives of Canada, was shown in Kaunas at the President Valdas Adamkus Museum-Library and at the National Martynas Mažvydas Library in Vilnius. The exhibition is a richly illustrated chronicle showing documents and photos from the history of the Lithuanian Canadian Community in Canada, its activities in the areas of culture, education and sports, and the efforts made to maintain Lithuanian traditions and language for new generations. The stands also show lobbying and support efforts by Lithuanian Canadians in the movement to reinstate Lithuania’s independence.

The LMAC exhibition “Community and Heritage” at the National Martynas Mažvydas Library in Vilnius

The first exhibition by the Lithuanian Museum-Archives of Canada about the Lithuanian Community opened in 2018, the year of the World Lithuanian Community, celebrated in Vilnius City Hall Square. Another exhibition “Sharing our Stories“, produced together with other Baltic nations, is currently being shown in Estonia (Tallinn, Tartu and elsewhere) and in New York. Yet another presentation, dedicated to Rev. P. Ažubalis and the anniversary of the first Lithuanian parish in Toronto, called “Never Let Down your Wings“ was being shown this summer in Biržai, Lithuania, and Punsk, Poland.

As the Lithuanian Museum-Archives of Canada reaches its 30th anniversary, these exhibitions beautifully exemplify the work of the LMAC as the keeper of Lithuanian heritage in Canada. Thirty years ago, on September 24, 1989, it opened its doors with its first small exhibition. The Museum‘s founders – the Lithuanian Canadian Community Executive and the Cultural Affairs Committee – clearly stated its goals: to assemble the artifacts and history of the Lithuanian diaspora in Canada. The Museum-Archives is an institution meant not solely for Toronto, but for all of Canada. The facility was specifically built for the LMAC at Anapilis, in Mississauga (2185 Stavebank Rd.). It contains fonds and collections of a multitude of community leaders and organizations, all available for research. The library has over 5,000 books and publications by or about Lithuanians in Canada. There is a collection of paintings, textiles, folk art as well as ephemera from many events, with audio and video recordings. In recent years, exhibitions were organized on various themes, however the most meaningful are those portraying the experience of Lithuanians in the diaspora and testimonials that are important not only for Lithuanian history, but the history of multiculturalism in Canada as well.

The province of Ontario has funded an interesting long-term project pertaining to the experience of Baltic immigrants during World War II. With the help of Baltic Germans and other Balts, including youth, the impressive exhibition called “Sharing Our Stories“ was created to portray the life of older, post-war immigrants. At first only visuals were used: recorded stories, memories, photos and news articles. Currently the exhibition is being expanded to include the voices of the story-tellers. The emotional impact is even greater now, especially because some of the storytellers are no longer with us.

At first the exhibition was shown in Baltic communities in Canada. At this time it is travelling through Estonia, where it has been seen by over 12,000 visitors. Later it will be taken to Latvia and finally, Lithuania.

A small LMAC exhibition on Lithuanian folk instruments was displayed this year for the first time at the Ontario Legislature. Visitors inspecting the instruments were able to hear examples of the music they produce by means of smart phones, which also showed videos of how they are played at concerts in Canada and Lithuania. This relatively small exhibition was viewed by thousands of Canadians and tourists. It can be seen on the LMAC website https://www.lithuanianheritage.ca, and is a wonderful teaching tool for Lithuanian schools in the diaspora.

The LMAC works with the Archives of Ontario Association, the Central Archives of Lithuania, Balzekas Museum in Chicago, the Lithuanian Research Institute in Chicago, and the Museum  “ALKA“ in Putnam, Connecticut.

A new area of interest at the LMAC is a Lithuanian Documentary Film Club. The first films shown about Vaižgantas  “Lituanie mano meile“ (Lithuania My Love) and others were a success.

You can learn all about the LMAC on the bilingual website https://www.lithuanianheritage.ca. There is information about various exhibitions, genealogy and other topics. The KLMA Facebook page provides updates on activities and events. Vistors to the website, from Canada, USA, Lithuania, The next exhibition, “Reflections”, will commemorate the 70th anniversary of Canada’s only Lithuanian newspaper Tėviškės žiburiai (The Lights of Homeland), and tell the story of its editors and publishers, as well as shows how the publication has changed in modern times.

The past three decades have been difficult for this institution, supported by various organizations and individual contributors. The burden of work has fallen on the shoulders of one person, the director, Danguolė Juozapavičius-Breen. She has been a creative and dedicated curator, who works with only a few volunteers. Thanks to them, the LMAC has been able to survive and flourish.

Lithuanian Museum-Archives of Canada administrator Danguolė Juozapavičiūtė-Breen

PHOTOS: The LMAC exhibition “Community and Heritage” at President Valdas Adamkus Museum-Library in Kaunas; fragments of the “Sharing our Stories” exhibition”

LMAC Director Danguolė Juozapavičius-Breen with visiting archivists from the Vilnius Central Archives at Anapilis, Mississauga

Posters from previous exhibitions

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