Western University HistoryWestern Social Science

Michelle A. Hamilton

- Associate Professor
- Director, M.A. Public History Program

PhD, University of Western Ontario, 2004
Telephone: 519-661-2111 ext. 84973
Email: mhamilt3@uwo.ca
Office: Lawson Hall 1223
Office Hours: TBA

Research Interests

Professor Hamilton is a Public Historian whose research focuses on historical and contemporary issues surrounding museums and heritage, social memory and commemoration, the history of anthropology, cultural identity and issues of representation and repatriation, usually in regards to First Nations peoples in Canada.

Major Research Projects

As a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Guelph (2005-08), I began researching the enumeration of First Nations and Métis people in Canada, particularly the links between census-taking, race, and the regulation of Aboriginal communities by the Department of Indian Affairs. This SSHRC-funded research is ongoing and forms a part of the 1871 and 1891 Census of Canada projects at the University of Guelph.

I am also part of the Franz Boas Papers Documentary Editing Project which aims to recontextualize the Canadian fieldwork of this noted anthropologist and to intellectually repatriate knowledge to First Nations communities represented in that fieldwork. I am particularly interested in Boas' museological and collecting practices. The team is funded by a SSHRC Partnership Grant, by the American Philosophical Society which holds the Boas papers, and the University of Nebraska Press which will publish the approximate 25 volumes.

I am also a member of the Canada 150-funded Lost Stories Project which aims to discover little known Canadian stories and document them through oral history, place-based public art, and documentary video.

Select Publications


Dr. Oronhyatekha: Security, Justice, and Equality (2016) With K. Jamieson. Dr. Oronhyatekha: Security, Justice, and Equality. Toronto: Dundurn Press.
Franz Boas as Public Intellectual: Theory, Ethnography, Activism (2015) Franz Boas as Public Intellectual:  Theory, Ethnography, Activism. Eds. R. Darnell, M. Hamilton, R. Hancock, J. Smith. Lincoln:  University of Nebraska Press.
Collections and Objections: Aboriginal Material Culture in Southern Ontario (2010) Collections and Objections: Aboriginal Material Culture in Southern Ontario. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Book Chapters

(2015) "'An expansive archive…not a diminished one':  The Franz Boas Documentary Edition Project." Franz Boas as Public Intellectual:  Theory, Ethnography, Activism. Eds. R. Darnell, M. Hamilton, R. Hancock, J. Smith. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

(2015) With K. Inwood. "The aboriginal and mixed-race population in Canada, 1871–1901." Mariage et Métissage dans les Sociétés Coloniales. Bern: Peter Lang, 207-24.

(2011) With K. Inwood. “The Aboriginal Population and the 1891 Census of Canada,” Indigenous Peoples and Demography: The Complex Relation Between Identity and Statistics. Ed. P. Axelsson and P. Sköld. New York: Berghahn Books.

(2008) “Borders Within: First Nations and Anthropology in Victorian Ontario.” Lines Drawn Upon the Water: The First Nations Experience in the Great Lakes Borderlands. Ed. K.S. Hele. Aboriginal Studies Series. Kitchener: Wilfrid Laurier Press, 191-204.

Journal Articles

(2008) Anyone not on the list might as well be dead:’ First Nations and Enumeration in Canada, 1851-1901," Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 19: 57-79.

(2007) With R. Woods. “‘A Wealth of Historical Interest:’ The Medical Artifact Collection at the University of Western Ontario,” The Public Historian 29, 1: 77-91.

Awards and Distinctions

2013-20 SSHRC Partnership Grant for the Franz Boas Papers Documentary Editing Project

2013 SSHRC Connection Grant for the Annual Meeting of the National Council of Public History/International Federation for Public History

2012 Finalist, the Speaker's (Ontario Legislature) Book Award for Collections and Objections

2012 Community Service Learning Grant, UWO

2011 Clio (Ontario) Prize Winner for Collections and Objections from the Canadian Historical Association

2011 Chalmers Award Winner for Collections and Objections from the Champlain Society

2011-16 SSHRC Standard Research Grant, for Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian Census research project

Public History Experience

Since 1993 I have worked at various museums across Canada, including the Museum of Ontario Archaeology (London), the Aylmer and District Museum, the Woodland Cultural Centre (Six Nations of the Grand River) and the Glenbow Museum (Calgary), in curatorial, interpretative, and collections management capacities. Between 2008-11, I sat on the Material Culture Committee of Museum London and on the Board of the Directors of the London Heritage Council (2013-16).  Between 2010-13, I sat on the Board of Directors of the National Council on Public History, co-chaired its 2013 Annual Conference Program Committee, and chaired its Professional Development Committee (2010-15). I have also acted as a consultant or contract researcher for organizations such as the JP Metras Museum at Western, the Ontario Heritage Trust, the C.A.V. Barker Museum of Canadian Veterinary History at the University of Guelph, and Know History Historical Services.  With Prof. Shelley McKellar, I currently manage the Medical Artifact Collection at Western. I am also a member of the Academic Sub-Committee for the Museum of Ontario Archaeology and the Fanshawe Pioneer Village Planning Committee.