Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Last Vantages Inside The Museum

Picking up where I left off yesterday, here are more of the display cases featuring First Nations creativity.

This colourful ceremonial attire is displayed prominently. Amanda Laroque, a Mi'kmaq woman from Quebec, has worn attire like this for formal powwow ceremonies, including at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. This particular one of hers now resides here.

Other thematic areas are examined before things wrap up. That includes the perpetual Quebec question, with the occasional referendum on sovereignty (a movement that now seems past its day, as Quebec sovereignists are getting older and dying while there is no new blood coming into the movement from young people). In 1995 the sovereigntists came as close as they ever got in a narrow referendum with both sides urgently vying for the result they wanted. The displays about that period include two puppets depicting two key figures on opposing sides of the dispute. The first is the Parti Quebecois premier at the time, Jacques Parizeau, who infamously blasted "money and ethnic votes" for the defeat in a speech on referendum night, a night in which he was almost certainly completely hammered.

The other puppet depicts our Prime Minister at the time, Jean Chretien, who managed to rally enough support to stave off the separatist movement in the referendum.

"Keep calm, there are Francophones outside Quebec" is the wry remark on this recent t-shirt which does speak truth. Francophone communities can be found in each province and territory.

Contemporary issues are examined here, particularly in terms of race and religion, such as the question of whether or not a Sikh could wear a turban as a Mountie, or the story of Viola Desmond, an African-Canadian woman whose quiet defiance of a movie theatre's segregation rules preceded Rosa Parks by a decade. Her image is to be on new currency this year.

These Mounties on a display screen caught my eye.

Here we have a view looking out over the rooftop of St. Onuphrius, the church I showed you the other day.

Departing from the permanent galleries, I stopped first to take in this plaster cast. Chief Of The Undersea World is by the Haida artist Bill Reid, and resides one level above the main entrance. The bronze version of this one is at the Vancouver Aquarium.

I finish this tour of the Museum, as well as this Canada Day series, with one more view of the Grand Hall from above.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Walking Across Canada

The third section of the Canadian History Hall is set on the upper level of this space, and picks up with the First World War. The way up to it is a long circling ramp that takes you around the main entrance space, with a physical map of Canada laid out on the floor. In the first case, you're looking at it as if from a southerly perspective. In the second, it's seen from the east, not typically how you see it in maps, but the familiar shape of Hudson Bay helps get you oriented.

Here we have a series of displays on the First World War. The timeline carries on from here.

The Irish artist William Orpin painted this portrait of our wartime Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, in 1919 after what was supposed to be the war to end all wars had ended.

The Canadian politician Tommy Douglas is profiled here in the museum; one of his signature hats accompanies the displays. Douglas was a giant of politics in Canada, federally and provincially, from 1935 until 1979, a democratic socialist who introduced socialized health care during his time as Saskatchewan premier, a concept adopted by the federal government later. Today's New Democratic Party, federally and provincially, is his legacy, and he was the first leader of the federal party.

1967 was the nation's centennial, and it is covered here with several items and displays. One of those is this dress. It was the centennial project of Marjorie Gehl, the daughter of a Canadian diplomat stationed in the United States. She sewed this evening dress, adorned with the fabric maple leaves, to be worn at various functions her family attended. Today it is here.

1967 also marked the World Fair coming to Canada in the form of Expo 67 in Montreal. The event is featured here with multiple photographs.

Close by, these display cases were about sports and cultural icons.

One of the display cases holds the cap and gloves of the late Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould.

The other includes a 1964 Kentucky Derby trophy, among other items, for the legendary race horse Northern Dancer, a Canadian horse who also won the Preakness that year, and the Queen's Plate race here in Canada. He went on to sire many a horse afterwards.

This stained glass window is a copy of one that's been installed on Parliament Hill in recent years. Giniigaaniimenaaning (Looking Ahead) is the title for this window by the Metis artist Christi Belcourt, meant to recognize the survivors of residential schools and their families, part of the ongoing process of reconciliation between First Nations and Canada as a whole. 

As the story of the First Nations has been woven into the story of the country in the reorganization of the permanent galleries, something seen in how things are exhibited, so too is the case as this area starts to come towards its conclusion with a number of thematic displays. I leave off for today with these examples of First Nation artworks. We'll pick up here tomorrow for the conclusion to this extended series.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Forging The Nation

This is a bust of James Bruce, the 8th Earl of Elgin, otherwise known as Lord Elgin. He was Canada's Governor General during the years of 1847-54 when strong efforts were underway by the colonial legislatures for responsible government. Noted for his grace under pressure, his achievements in the post included the Reciprocity Treaty with the United States and the ending of the old seignurial system that had been part of life in Quebec. It was his father, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl, who happened to be the high society miscreant who made off with the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon.

The Grand Coalition is how these three portraits are labeled. In 1864 John A. Macdonald, George Brown, and George-Etienne Cartier joined forces in working for a common confederation of the British North American colonies. All three men would be Fathers of Confederation. Macdonald would be the country's first prime minister.

Another Father of Confederation was Macdonald's friend Thomas D'Arcy McGee, whose portrait hangs nearby. An Irish nationalist in his youth who came around to seeing the value of the British system after coming to the new world, McGee was a renowned writer and speaker whose life was cut short by an assassin's bullet in 1868. The revolver used in the killing is displayed here.

The Charlottetown Conference of 1864 brought together representatives from each of the colonies and laid out the groundwork for Confederation. The Fathers of Confederation stood together at one point for the photographer, who captured this iconic portrait of the group. This photograph is in pretty much every overview book of Canadian history.

This dress dates to the late 1800s, thought to belong to the daughter of Chief Crowfoot of the Siksika, a First Nations people in southern Alberta. 

These items are Haida works, made by a Haida artist whose English name was Charles Edenshaw. A chief of his people as well as an artist in the late 19th century, Edenshaw's work as seen here, in a hat and a totem pole, was part of the effort that allowed his culture to survive in the face of assimilation.

St. Onuphrius Church is a centrepiece here in the museum, a small consecrated Ukranian Catholic church that was erected in 1915 at Smoky Lake, Alberta, northeast of Edmonton. It was common in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries for Ukranian immigrants to build new lives out on the Prairies, among other parts of the country, a legacy that still thrives today. The church was dismantled and re-built here in the museum in 1996, and is still usable for religious services today; have a look at the museum's account of its current status here.  It was part of the permanent galleries before the large scale changes, and has remained in place. You can walk around the entire building and look in through the back windows at the space behind the screens that normally only a priest would have seen.

Schooling in the West during the late 19th and early 20th century is examined here in this section.

With the dawn of the 20th century, the suffrage movement became influential across the country. Items of the time- this cross and banner, as well as the woman's suffrage flag- are displayed.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

New Perspectives

This portion of the museum shifts, showing how New France took hold in North America, with items displayed from the era.

It was of course a very religious time, reflected in these Virgin Mary and baby Jesus statuettes of the era, circa the 1700s.

Of course the French weren't the only Europeans with interests in North America. There were of course the English colonies along the eastern seaboard, and north of New France, the Hudson's Bay Company set up operations in the vast drainage basin of the mighty bay that the company is named for. Several more contemporary items of the company, still active today, are in this display case.

Conflict between the French and English was inevitable- they'd been at each other's throats already for hundreds of years in Europe. The Seven Years War, also known as the French and Indian War, erupted in the middle of the 18th century. Its roots on the continent started in 1754 with the Battle of Jumonville Glen in Pennsylvania, where a young Virginia militia commander by the name of George Washington triggered a global dispute in a fight with French troops in the area. The precise circumstances of what happened are still murky today. Weapons of the era are on display. Apparently Lex Luthor (or is it Jean-Luc Picard?) got into the museum wearing a Canada shirt.

Two portraits are found here, showing the opposing commanders killed at the climactic Battle of Quebec in 1759. Artist J.C.S. Schaak painted this portrait of the British commander James Wolfe At Quebec, in 1766. 

An unknown artist in the 1800s painted this portrait, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, depicting the French commander. The Battle of Quebec, also known as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, would mark the beginning of the end of New France, with France ceding almost all of its territories in North America in the Treaty of Paris in 1763, ending a war that had spanned the globe.

The first of the gallery sections in here ends with the Seven Years War, and so the second starts off with its aftermath. Britain established control in North America following the end of the Seven Years War, though would quickly run into trouble with its eastern seaboard colonies, who rather resented interference in their own affairs and taxation on things like tea (ungrateful colonials, look at what it's gotten you now). Regardless, the British retained holdings in Canada as the 19th century dawned. Relations with First Nations people were part of that era, both in positive and negative ways. These items of clothing were made by Huron-Wendake artisans; the vest, made for a British aristocrat, combines European styling and Huron-Wendake formal details.

Other items of the area are prominently displayed.

This dates back to the mid-19th century and caught my eye. It's a bag made by an Anishinaabe artist, depicting a water panther called Mishibizhiw.

A sled of that period is prominently on display.

This is a crest for the Molson's Bank. Aside from the family being known for its brewing, it established a banking network at mid-century.

Another legacy of the 19th century is the formation of the Geological Survey of Canada, founded in 1842 and having William Logan as its first director. Logan oversaw extensive research across the country during his tenure. The organization is still the country's oldest scientific agency. This portrait of Logan himself is part of the collection here in the museum, and dates to 1869.