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New Tom Thomson Book

May 30, 2016

Cover of book about Tom Thomson

Historian Gregory Klages was the research director for our popular history mystery Death on a Painted Lake: The Tom Thomson Tragedy. We’re excited to tell you his new book, The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson, was published by Dundurn in May 2016. This new publication is a wonderful resource for teachers and students interested in the mysterious death of the now-famous artist, and experienced outdoorsman, who paddled away on a fishing trip in 1917 and never returned. What happened to Tom Thomson? The new book is a great read, and a useful companion for the mystery website created by Klages and the Mystery Team. Klages obtained a Ph.D. from York University, and currently teaches in the History Department at the University of Guelph (Guelph-Humber campus). He is a nationally-recognized expert on the Tom Thomson mystery.

Conference Presentation

Nov 14, 2015

New Orleans english poster

Merna Forster, Executive Director of the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History project, presented a workshop at an international conference in New Orleans. The session “True Detective Classrooms: Investigating the Lost Franklin Expedition” was given at the annual conference of the National Council for the Social Studies.

New Franklin Mystery Website

May 25, 2015

How could one of the most advanced scientific missions of the 19th century fail so badly? The doomed 1845 Franklin expedition was the equivalent in its time of sending humans to the moon. What happened to the expedition has puzzled historians and the public ever since and last September’s discovery of the nearly intact hull of one of Franklin’s two ships adds new questions to the mystery. Now schoolchildren and sleuths of every age are invited to help crack this case—one of the coldest cases of all.

On June 4 in Ottawa, on the 170th anniversary of the first full day at sea of the British mission to find the Northwest Passage, the University of Victoria officially launched “The Franklin Mystery: Life and Death in the Arctic,” the 13th website in the award-winning Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History, a national teaching project used in over 50 countries and by nearly 2,500 students every day.


UVic history professor and project co-director Dr. John Lutz says last fall’s discovery of HMS Erebus “solves one mystery but opens up many more. Why did the crew abandon the ship, or did they? What happened to the other ship, HMS Terror, and its crew? How could both crews with three year’s provisions not survive when the local Inuit could live off the land? Was cannibalism, a part of the Inuit oral testimony, really the unfortunate finale for these men? This is an ongoing detective story, which is what the Great Unsolved Mysteries is all about.”

A project based in the Department of History at UVic and involving a team of historians, archaeologists, educators and other specialists across the country, the ‘whodunit’ approach of Great Unsolved Mysteries breathes new life into old stories of intrigue. History sleuths work with primary historical documents and high-quality interactive teaching materials of, on average, 100,000 words per mystery; crime scene reconstructions, as well as activities and historical interpretations by experts; and a webquest-style portal which offers short but powerful lessons for middle and high school students to encourage critical thinking about history. The national bilingual project is designed for students from junior high to university but is also used by younger students, history buffs and mystery lovers alike. The Franklin Mystery will be available in English and French, with an additional instructional package available in Inuktitut.

“This project is experiential learning at its best,” adds Lutz. “We literally put the magnifying glass into the hands of students, using these 13 websites to help make Canadian history exciting, real and totally engaging. History is too important to be boring, and these mysteries are too intriguing to be left to historians alone.”

The Great Unsolved Mysteries is guided by three co-directors: Dr. Ruth Sandwell at the University of Toronto, who helped establish the project; Dr. Peter Gossage of Concordia University; and Lutz, also a co-originator. Research director for the new mystery site is historian Lyle Dick, a former president of the Canadian Historical Association.

The primary partners with UVic in the Franklin Mystery are the Government of Nunavut Department of Education, Parks Canada, the Library and Archives of Canada and Concordia University. The 13th mystery project was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council through the Partnership Development Grants as part of the series of 13 mysteries.

Minister of Education Paul Quassa
The Honourable Paul Quassa, Minister of Education for Nunavut

See full University of Victoria Media Release