Sentimental Journey

The Barbieri Family Returns to Pier 21

On July 6, 1965, photographer Ken Elliott spent a day at Pier 21. The pictures he took during his visit are a unique collection that has become a favourite of the museum staff, volunteers and visitors.

Among his photographs of newcomers in various areas of Pier 21 are several taken in the pedway that connected Pier 21 to the Immigration Annex where small baggage customs took place.

In the spring of 2012 we were able to refurbish and re-open the pedway. It was decorated with Ken Elliott’s photographs including this favourite. We all had a theory about what was in the suitcase.

The mystery was solved in July of 2015 when the Barbieri family returned to Pier 21 to see their brick on the Sobey Wall of Honour, visit the museum and most importantly, to stand in front of the picture that Ken Elliott had taken of them in that exact spot 50 years before.

Giuseppe and Maria Barbieri along with their five daughters, Annunziata (Nancy), Fortunata (Tina), Maria, Giuseppina (Pina) and Silvana had a long crossing during which almost all of them were seasick. A kind purser on their ship the Queen Anna Maria knew that their appetites would come back by the time they were on the train so he gave Giuseppe oranges and dinner rolls.

Since they had come from the ship he was allowed to keep them, but as we examined the photo with his widow and daughters one of them told us that what you see in the photograph is his Giuseppe’s nervous smile.

He may have been nervous during the immigration process, but if he was looking down that day, on the big, beautiful family that is his legacy, all he would have been is proud.

Located at the Halifax Seaport in beautiful Nova Scotia, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is Canada’s newest National Museum. Interactive and immersive exhibits use first-hand accounts to share stories of arrival and settling in Canada. The Museum is open year-round.

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