The "Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History" project provides engaging, high-quality materials to schools and universities for the teaching of historical methods and Canadian History. It is also used in a wide variety of other courses including law, language, literature, aboriginal issues and many others. The project, based at the University of Victoria, the Université de Sherbrooke and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, has created a series of instructional websites based on the premise that students can be drawn into Canadian history and archival research through the enticement of solving historical cold crimes. All the material is provided free as a public service.
This project was initiated in 1997 with the launching of the "Who Killed William Robinson?" website which introduced the format. A virtual archives was assembled to include all the key documents available on or surrounding the death of William Robinson in 1868 on Salt Spring Island, B.C. from the relevant collections. Each of the documents was transcribed and assembled thematically on an engaging website. Teachers' guides were prepared to assist implementation in the classroom and students were invited to "solve" this old crime.
The project builds on the new "document-centred inquiry" and "active learning" pedagogical thinking. The beauty of this format is that students have to make their research strategy and critical-thinking skills apparent as they defend their theory on who killed William Robinson. More on the educational philosophy behind the project is available from the Teachers section on this site.
In 2003 we were funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage to create two new mystery archives: "We Do Not Know His Name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War" and "Aurore: The Mystery of the Martyred Child". Since then we have received additional funding to create: "Torture and the Truth: Angélique and the Burning of Montreal", "Heaven and Hell on Earth: The Massacre of the 'Black' Donnellys", "Explosion on the Kettle Valley Line: The Death of Peter Verigin", “Where is Vinland?”, “Jerome: The Mystery Man of Baie-St. Marie", “Who Discovered Klondike Gold?”, “The Redpath Mansion Mystery”, “Death on a Painted Lake: The Tom Thomson Tagedy”, and “Death of a Diplomat: Herbert Norman and the Cold War”.
Each site focuses on a different theme: slavery, aboriginal issues, disease, vigilante rule, terrorism, religious dissent, early settlement, care of the handicapped, and family violence are only a few. The mysteries are drawn from all the regions and the full range of eras in Canadian history and include the major multi-cultural groups. Each site is fully bilingual.
In addition to the main mystery sites there are 30 smaller MysteryQuests which are one or two class assignments for students aged 11-18.
The project has won several awards detailed on the Reviews tab. Over 1,500 teachers' guides have been requested, and last the mysteries in the sites have had over 200,000 unique visitors from 42 countries.
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