Introducing LAC’s guest curator blog series and our upcoming exhibition!

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Over the next year, keep your eyes open for a new and exciting series of blog articles, promoting Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) upcoming exhibition, Canada: Who Do We Think We Are?, developed in recognition of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. The exhibition opens on June 5, 2017, while the year-long blog series starts in January 2017.

Reading the blogs

Through this series, you will hear from staff who helped develop the exhibition, including anecdotes about their work at LAC. The series also includes articles by scholars, experts and ordinary Canadians, who all depend upon LAC’s collection, from across Canada—and even the other side of the globe!

In each article, a different “guest curator” will examine one item from the exhibition. We have come up with four questions, which we have had each of our guest curators answer. The questions give the curators a chance to tell us a bit about themselves, to provide extra information about their item and, finally, to virtually add an item or two to the exhibition.

The guest curator blog series will be published every month, between January and December 2017. Be sure to stay tuned all year, in order to find out who our guest curators are and what they chose.

Visiting the exhibition

And be sure to visit the physical exhibition in downtown Ottawa where you can see these, and many other Canadian treasures, in person. Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? will be on display free of charge at 395 Wellington Street between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018.

The exhibition explores different ideas of Canada, and being Canadian, over time.

Some of these ideas will be familiar today, and rather comfortable to us all—something like old, worn-down slippers. The idea of Canada as a “northern” nation, for example, goes right back to the colony’s earliest days. Others may simply seem old fashioned, like a 1944 image of the “typical” Canadian family. And still others may seem wrong, or even shocking, to modern eyes. These include certain past attitudes towards immigration, for example, and the country’s First Nations peoples.

Engraved map of New France. The land mass with trees, mountains and rivers is bordered by the ocean, which depicts ships and sea life. A compass, seal and sun are also included. A scene of First Nations people is set above a band of plant life surrounding the legend.

Carte geographique de la Nouvelle Franse faictte par le sieur de Champlain, 1613 [Geographical map of New France by Samuel de Champlain, 1613]. Samuel de Champlain’s beautiful illustration advertises the land’s wealth to investors (MIKAN 3919638 or AMICUS 4700723)

A print advertisement showing stereotypical symbols of Canada: totem pole, moose, bear, beaver, deer, RCMP officer "Mountie," fisher, woman and baby of the First Nations, etc.

Canada Unlimited, ca. 1947. This historical travel poster defines Canada through a series of often questionable cultural stereotypes (MIKAN 3007692)

A black-and-white photograph of a family group, including a woman, man and three children in a living room.

Typical Canadian family, 1944. The Canadian government kept a bank of official images, available to domestic and foreign journalists (MIKAN 4295786)

A colour reproduction of the handwritten first page of the Selkirk treaty.

The Selkirk Treaty, July 18, 1817. Lord Selkirk’s vision for the future excluded the land’s First Nations and Métis peoples (MIKAN 3972577)

Understanding LAC’s role

A secondary theme of the exhibition is the unique and enduring role of LAC itself as the official “memory” or “mirror” of our country. It seemed especially important to showcase and celebrate this essential function of a national library and archives during the 150th anniversary year.

LAC’s vast collection represents as complete a record as it is possible to find of Canada’s past. The exhibition deliberately draws together diverse items, selected by specialists from across LAC’s collecting areas, in order to illustrate the point. There is heraldry, as well as music recordings; stamps and oil paintings, as well as census documents. Books and published materials are displayed side by side with unpublished manuscripts. And, of course, we find records by private citizens as well as those of the Government of Canada.

The exhibition caption, for each of these items, includes a separate “Did you know?” section. This part of the text relates directly to LAC’s history, to LAC’s collections, or to work being done at LAC. It is designed to remind the viewer of LAC’s important role in preserving Canada’s national story.

The importance of LAC’s role will also be reinforced through the guest curator blog articles. Some contributors work at LAC and helped develop the exhibition, while other contributors depend on LAC’s collection. We hope you enjoy the blog series and also visit the exhibition that inspired it.

Photograph of a booth covered in photos with a computer on the side. A brown-haired woman staffing the booth is finding a photo for a couple visiting the booth. Another booth can be seen in the background.

View of the Library and Archives Canada booth at the Truth and Reconciliation national event in Edmonton, Alberta. © Sarah Hurford. (Note: This photograph is not from LAC’s collection. It is used with the permission of Sarah Hurford.)

2 thoughts on “Introducing LAC’s guest curator blog series and our upcoming exhibition!

  1. Is it LAC’s role to editorialise as well. The travel poster comment about the stereotypes being questionable is the one I am referring to. They were the stereotypes of the day so collecting and displaying them is correct it is for the audience to make comment and debate in my opinion.

    I look forward to the blog. Thank you.

    • Thank you for your comment.
      The exhibition compares past views and ideas of Canada with ideas/views that are most widely held today. Texts are intended to underline these differences in thinking between Canadians past/present, not as editorial comments by LAC.

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