The Workers Arts and Heritage Centre in Hamilton Ontario is a unique museum and art gallery that sheds light on the often hidden history of working people.
Hamilton, a.k.a Steel City, is known as a working class town, so it's the perfect setting for a quirky little museum and gallery devoted to labour.
Housed in a 19th century former Custom House, the building alone is a worth a visit.
Although it's small in size, the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre does pack in a lot of historical information. The displays include photographs, text and memorabilia related to the labour movement (membership cards, strike buttons and posters, banners, etc).
One permanent display, Gateway to the Workers City, approaches the history of Hamilton from the working person's perspective -- the development of industry, immigration, the creation of unions (including the famous 1946 Stelco strike), and, on a more personal level, the recreational life of workers at Hamilton bay.
There's also Punching the Clock which is about factory work.
This work of art, entitled Monument to Workers Injued and Killed on the Job, by Paul Cvetich (1989), is actually a model of the final piece that hangs in downtown Hamilton in front of City Hall.
I love this display on office workers, with all the vintage office equipment.
Tucked into a corner of the main floor is a small display on the building itself, which has a very colourful past. Completed in 1860, it began as a Customs House and has been used over the years for many different things: a school, a homeless shelter, a YWCA, a factory, a martial arts school. It opened as a museum in 1996. It's said to be haunted and Haunted Hamilton offers ghost tours of it on occasion.
The museum rents its space out for events, including weddings.
They have a small gift shop selling books, plus some free pamphlets and booklets with information about walking tours.
For details about hours and temporary exhibits, see the Workers Arts and Heritage home page at http://www.wahc-museum.ca
Wellington County Museum - This building is a former poorhouse. Part of the exhibits tell the story of its former residents and the way the issues of homeless and poverty were handled in the past.
Distillery District Toronto - This former Victorian industrial area is now a cultural/entertainment neighbourhood. You can still see remnants of 19th century workplaces here along with some of the preserved tools and photos of the workers.