Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Three Exhibitions to See

A big thank you to Christopher Moore for drawing attention to this blog!  I hope that no one will expect me to keep up the pace that I've been able to maintain in the past week, but for the time being I'm still riding the burst of initial euphoric energy.

In this next blog entry, then, I'd like to draw readers' attention to a few happenings of interest in the museum world.

I suspect that the name Francis Back will already be familiar to many of you.  I would venture to say that he is Canada's most distinguished historical illustrator.  During a career that has spanned over thirty years and counting, he has created illustrations for historical publications, museums and national parks, much of which has focussed on Early Canadian history, and more particularly on the history of New France.  Back, besides being a skilled illustrator, has played a key role in advancing our understanding of the costumes and material culture of the period.  Since May and until October 7th, the Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum, in Old Montreal, is hosting the first-ever exhibition devoted to his fine work: "Drawing French America".

Next is "Fine Arts in New France" at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.  This exhibition proposes a "rereading" of art during the French Regime, from painting, drawing, and engraving, to gold and silversmithing, to sculpture, furniture, textiles and decorative arts.  I was somewhat annoyed, after seeing the French title of this exhibition, "Les arts en Nouvelle-France", to discover that it in fact addresses visual arts alone.  This is a legitimate and coherent focus, to be sure, but when an exhibition on les arts writ large is announced, one is liable to get the impression that music, dance, theatre, and poetry will get their share of curatorial attention.  It's not the case here.  That said, the exhibition does look wonderful, and I am greatly looking forward to putting my hands on a copy of the accompanying book Les arts en Nouvelle-France, by UQAM professor and guest curator Laurier Lacroix.  This exhibition is on display until April 28th, 2013.

Lastly, the Fort William Henry Museum unveiled a couple of weeks ago a new permanent exhibit dealing with underwater archaeology and an updated one on how people died at the fort.  This, we are told, marks the start of an effort to update all the museum's exhibits over the next couple years.  Those of you who are familiar with Fort William Henry -- or as I sometimes think of it, Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point State Historic Site's deadbeat cousin -- have a sense of how overdue this update is.  Many of the exhibits here have not been revisted in decades, and one gets the impression that the site is animated by much good intentions but rather little museological professionalism.  I'm thinking of the "Dungeon" in particular.  Blergh.  So this is clearly a step in the right direction.  The Fort is open May through October 23rd.


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