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New Canadian Museum of History exhibit honours Terry Fox

Darrell Fox holds the prosthetic leg his brother Terry wore during the Marathon of Hope.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

It's a glass jug, containing about half a gallon of the Atlantic Ocean, and 35 years later it still holds the dreams of Terry Fox.

When Mr. Fox began his now-famous Marathon of Hope to raise money for cancer research, he filled the jug with water near St. John's. He intended to dump it into the Pacific Ocean at the end of his journey, which was tragically cut short 143 days later in Thunder Bay.

For three decades, the jug has been stored in the home of his mother, Betty Fox. Now it's one of dozens of artifacts from Mr. Fox's life, gathered together for the first time, in an exhibition opening this week at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.

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"We realize the value of the collection and that it can share the story. Tangible objects can speak," said Darrell Fox, Terry's younger brother.

The jug – one of two Terry attempted to fill, the other lost to the waves – was one of many personal items found carefully hidden away in Mrs. Fox's home after she died in 2011.

"Mom was incredibly wise, because she knew right from the get-go that this collection needed to be protected," Darrell said.

He said the other items that surprised him were Terry's diaries written in the months leading up to the Marathon of Hope.

"I didn't realize to what extent Terry trained before the race started," Darrell said. "When you look at the training diary, you see entries where he runs 10 miles at 9 o'clock in the morning, comes back, he might have a little rest of half an hour, then he goes out, runs 10 more miles."

Basically, he said, his brother ran the equivalent of more than one Marathon of Hope before the official journey began.

"It shows his commitment and that it wasn't only during the summer of 1980 when we saw him, when Canadians saw him, but he was doing that much before then."

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The exhibition also features two of Terry's prosthetic legs, the camper van that he, Darrell and friend Doug Alward ate and slept in, plus other personal items that Terry wore or used on the journey.

Among the collection is a database containing the scans of some 60,000 cards and letters that supporters sent to Terry during his run, which visitors can search through.

Mark O'Neill, the president and CEO of the Canadian Museum of History Corporation, said the Terry Fox exhibition is a significant step toward the new mandate the federal government gave the institution when it changed its name from the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

"When the mandate changed in 2012, one of the things we were asked to do was to bring in more historical themes and more Canadian historical personalities," Mr. O'Neill said.

He said the idea for the exhibition came three years ago when he had a chance meeting with Darrell Fox at a reception in Ottawa.

"The Fox family, as you can imagine, is very, very concerned about Terry's legacy. … I think the result is a wonderful and intimate look at Terry Fox and why he is so important to Canadians and people around the world."

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The Terry Fox Foundation continues to raise money for cancer research in his name.

The exhibition runs until Jan. 24, 2016.

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About the Author
Assistant editor, Ottawa

Chris Hannay is assistant editor in The Globe's Ottawa bureau and author of the daily Politics newsletter. Previously, he was The Globe and Mail's digital politics editor, community editor for news and sports (working with social media and digital engagement) and a homepage editor. More

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