About the creation of The Workers Arts and Heritage Centre
The Workers Arts & Heritage Centre is here to fulfill its mandate of preserving, honouring, and promoting the culture & history of all working people. Our Mandate points in the social justice direction, the union direction and the community activism path. We hope that future generations will follow.
WAHC’s goal is to create an activist cultural and educational experience. The contributions of working people - not only in Canada history but worldwide - are showcased in art, exhibits, and performances. Their labour has made this country a fair and vibrant place to live and work. We acknowledge the struggles of the labour movement. Without them, Canadians would not be living in a country ranked among the best in the world.
The Centre is more than a museum. It was conceived in the late 1980’s by a dynamic group of labour historians, artists, and union and community activists who gathered together to discuss the need for a place where workers’ history could be celebrated. In 1996, after intense work by a volunteer board of directors, the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre opened the doors of its permanent home, the historic Custom House in Hamilton’s north end.
The Custom House, built in 1860 to handle trade flowing through Hamilton Harbour and fanning out into Upper Canada, found itself in a period of transition after the Customs Department left in 1887. Over the years many different companies used it. The Custom House stood deserted until 1995 when WAHC was able to purchase it. Over a million and a half dollars went into the restoration of this historic building.
This magnificent edifice provides the backdrop for the pursuit of our ideals in a number of ways: through research and development; educational programs; helping union locals and community groups document their histories; and by staging cultural events. Ours are collaborative ventures.
A registered charitable organization (registration # 13844 4633 RR0001), the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre relies on the support of individuals, families, community groups, unions, and labour friendly businesses and professionals. The reality is that government funding is limited. We seek financial self-sufficiency. Please ask how you can donate and receive a charitable tax receipt. Please help celebrate, and promote, workers’ art, culture, and history. We hope you share our belief that this is important for future generations.