Queen’s Refuge: Refugees and the University


This exhibition examines stories of forced migration in the history of Queen’s University and within the Queen’s community. It reflects the diverse trajectories of those who sought refuge. Some found sanctuary at Queen’s and Kingston became their new home. Others found safety at the University for only a short time, migrating elsewhere when the opportunity was available. In addition to examples of shelter, relief, and solidarity, the exhibition presents instances of reluctance, prejudice, antisemitism, and racism.

Queen’s Refuge: Refugees and the University tells its story through the lens of individual biographies: one person, associated with one refugee-related phenomenon, is further represented by one object. These are stories that go beyond campus and have always been closely linked to the broader Kingston community. It is a story that is still highly relevant today.

Following the opening question “What’s in a suitcase?”, the exhibition presents perspectives from and on refugees by focusing on four aspects of the refugee experience: Directions, Transit, Relief, and Arrival. The exhibition closes with the question, “What’s a refuge?”, which we encourage visitors to reflect upon.

This exhibition was prepared by Queen’s University undergraduate students, an archivist, a librarian, and a historian, and has been in preparation since 2019. It represents the interests of these individuals while at the same time reflecting notable silences in collections, the archival record, research, representations, and even common knowledge.

This exhibition was curated by Swen Steinberg, Brendan Edwards, Heather Home, Megan Zelle, Nicholas KingHill and Aerin Leavitt. The exhibition team would like to thank everyone who made this possible, especially those who shared their stories, or shared a family member’s story.

Visiting our exhibition in person? Click here to view a digital version of our brochure.

Exhibition team

Aerin Leavitt (student), Brendan Edwards (librarian), Heather Home (archivist), Megan Zelle (student), Nicholas Kinghill (student), Swen Steinberg (historian, project head)