On yet another museum visit, Chris and I checked out the current temporary exhibit at the Canadian Museum of History, “Notman, Visionary Photographer.” This exhibit is the first retrospective entirely devoted to exploring the work of William Notman, a photographer originally from Scotland, who immigrated to Canada and over the course of the late 19th century founded a chain of studios under the name Wm. Notman & Son.
Recently Chris and I ventured to the Canadian Museum of History to catch the temporary exhibit, “Medieval Europe: Power and Splendour” before it closed. In a past undergraduate life I actually was a bit of a medievalist, so I was pretty interested to check out this exhibit.
On my visit to Toronto, I was probably the most excited to go to the Royal Ontario Museum. All I had ever heard about it told me that it would be huge and hugely overwhelming – I wasn’t disappointed in this regard.
I explored every exhibit in every room on every floor, all in one day. It took me about four hours, and at the end of my visit I realized that trying to see the entire ROM in one day was a mistake – there’s just way to much to try and take in. If you have never been, I would definitely suggest taking it a floor, or maybe two, at a time, to really get the full experience without completely exhausting yourself. I think for myself, I plan to focus on special exhibits and my favourite galleries in future visits.
It should be no secret at this point that I basically live and breathe museums and want to know everything about how they work while working in and for and about them. This is how this story began. I decided to start using my free time to go to Library and Archives Canada to collect everything I possibly could that pertained in someway to Canada’s national museums. Collecting broadly and without a particular focus, I was open to whatever stories presented themselves to me and caught my attention. One of the first files that I collected was titled simply, “Specimens of wood bison for Victoria Memorial Museum.”
Kenneth Peacock made his first trip to Newfoundland in 1951. In total from the period of 1951 to 1960, he made six trips to the island during the summer months to travel and collect his recordings. In these trips, Peacock collected music exclusively in the outports of Newfoundland. These were the rural, more isolated communities, which were sustained primarily on the fishing industry. Like Barbeau, Peacock believed that authentically traditional music could only be found in the most rural areas; growing urban centres such as St. John’s had been influenced too much by modernity, especially communication technologies and thus modern culture itself.
To understand the contributions made by Kenneth Peacock, we have to first appreciate the institutional context in which he did so much of his work. His fieldwork in Newfoundland would not have been possible were it not for the earlier interests and initiatives of Marius Barbeau. When he met Peacock, Barbeau was the head of the Folklore and Anthropology Department at the National Museum of Canada. Barbeau formally retired from the Museum in 1949, before Peacock began his fieldwork, however Barbeau continued his work and relationship with both Peacock and the Museum throughout his official retirement until his death in 1969 (1).
Almost a year ago to the day, I completed my Master of Arts Degree in Public History. As part of this degree, I wrote a Major Research Essay, and now that I’ve had enough distance from it to look back on my research without cringing *too* much, I think it only makes sense to start rewriting it for this space. I am a public historian after all!