Terry Fox, a young man with short, curly hair and an artificial right leg runs down a street. He wears shorts and a T-shirt that reads "Marathon of Hope"

“TerryFoxToronto19800712” by Jeremy Gilbert

According to a 2010 national Canadian Studies survey, 9 of 10 Canadians remember Terry Fox. For these respondents, his name is synonymous with “hero,” “courage,” “determination,” and “tenacity.” On the 35th anniversary of Terry’s Marathon of Hope, the Canadian Museum of History has launched an exhibit, “Terry Fox: Running to the Heart of Canada,” and Carleton History graduate Erin Gurski (MA History 2014) played a pivotal role in its development.

Erin describes the experience of working on the exhibit as “both more challenging and more rewarding than I could have imagined.” She explains that she “was brought on as a research assistant in charge of sifting through all photographs, video and audio materials about Terry from 1980 searching for content for the Exhibition. This role was expanded to include tracking down people Terry met along the way, writing and designing the interactive parts of the exhibition with the team and, finally, working with the curator to develop the exhibition catalogue.”

Terry touched the lives of millions through his 5,300 km run from St. John’s to Thunder Bay. His mother, Betty Fox, preserved the 50,000 letters and hundreds of thousands of cards and gifts that bear witness to her son’s heroic legacy.

In an interview on CBC’s All in a Day, Erin recounts the experience of interacting with artifacts such as the scrapbooks created by ordinary Canadians, as well as the iconic sock that Terry wore on his artificial leg. “I had read about it, and knew that it existed as an artifact, but it’s completely different when you go down to actually look at these pieces in person and you realize that this is the real sock that Terry refused to change even though there are multiple holes in it, it’s stained all over and I’m not even sure it’s in the shape of a sock anymore. It was a real indication of his courage, and his determination.”

The exhibit is complemented by a Terry Fox memory book, for which Erin is co-author with Dr. Sheldon Posen. The book is made up of the scrapbook pages curated by ordinary Canadians and images by photographers who immortalized the Marathon of Hope, along with Terry’s own words from his journal, speeches and interviews. The book is available for purchase on the Canadian Museum of History’s website.

You can read more about Erin’s experience “Exhibiting a Canadian Legend” on the Museum of Canadian History’s blog.