The late Roger I. Simon’s (2006) statement, “there is no futurity (no break from the endless repetition of a violent past) without memories that are not your own but nevertheless claim you to a responsible memorial kinship and the corresponding thought such a problematic inheritance evokes” (203), implicates us not only in the politics of recognition but also in an economy of memory. Regarding inheritance and implicatedness as co-constitutive and museums as important media of recursive enactment of transitive pedagogy, Simon asks “how museums might initiate a reconsideration of the force of history in social life” (2006, 187). A pedagogy theorized by Simon for over a decade, the Terrible Gift, enacts gift exchange in the form of bequest and inheritance in the context of exhibition. In my lecture, I argue that put into practice, the Terrible Gift has the potential to become a formidable method of praxiological museology. Occupying a lesser-claimed space between Anthony Shelton’s critical and operational museologies, praxiological museology explores transdisciplinary alignments to deconstruct the exhibited knowledge that it constructs. In Canada, museums have been called upon by a recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission to reckon with the difficult histories and legacies of the Indian residential school system. Found by the Commission to have constituted cultural genocide, for over 150 years the system confined Indigenous children to church-run boarding schools where they experienced every form of abuse, with enduring consequences.
This lecture investigates the productivity of Simon’s pedagogy of ‘The Terrible Gift’ through a series of investigations and interventions, planned and underway, at the site of the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste-Marie, Ontario.
Simon, Roger I. "The terrible gift: Museums and the possibility of hope without consolation." Museum management and curatorship 21.3 (2006): 187-204.
Trina Cooper-Bolamis a doctoral candidate in Cultural Mediations at Carleton University. Previously, Cooper-Bolam held senior positions at the Aboriginal Healing and Legacy of Hope Foundations–organizations working to transform the legacy of Indian residential schools. Her Master of Arts thesis, "Healing Heritage: New Approaches to Commemorating Canada’s Indian Residential School System" (2014), contributed to Volume 5, The Legacy, of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report (2015); Her 2018 publication, "On the Call for a Residential Schools National Monument" in the Journal of Canadian Studies, vol 52.1, stimulated dialogue within the Department of Canadian Heritage on socially-engaged processes of monument creation and led to her current consultative role on the Residential Schools National Monument project. Equally an academic researcher and an active exhibition curator and designer, Cooper-Bolam is the recipient of academic and professional awards including the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship and the Ontario Historical Society’s 2018 Indigenous History Award.