There's an argument that this dockside museum is Canada's most important institution. Between 1928 and 1971, Pier 21 was the Canadian version of the USA's Ellis Island, where all prospective immigrants arrived. More than a million people passed through these redbrick halls, and it's an emotional experience to walk through the very same doorways where refugees from across the globe began new lives. A mix of audiovisual exhibits, poignant artifacts and personal testimonies make for a powerful and moving museum.
The centrepiece of the permanent collection is the main Pier 21 Story, which traces the immigrant journey from start to end and includes some evocative recreations, including replicas of a ship's cabin and dining car, the original processing hall, and a rickety rail car. As you wander around, it's the small details that are most affecting: the exhibit of children's suitcases, for example, or the Dutch kists (trunks) into which people tried to pack all their worldly belongings, large and small.
Downstairs, the Canadian Immigration Story tackles the evolution of the immigrant experience through to the present day.