Thursday, January 19, 2017

Grand Hall

The Grand Hall (which for whatever reason I tend to occasionally write as Great Hall) is a marvelous space in the Canadian Museum of History, with huge windows overlooking the Ottawa River. Totem poles of the Pacific Northwest coast can be found here, along with six distinct house recreations from First Nations homes along the coast.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

First Nations

A note to members of City Daily Photo: the theme day for the first of February is Loving Life.

Off the Grand Hall at the Museum of History are several galleries and spaces dedicated to First Nations exhibits. This includes an area that has the layout of an archaeological dig, with artifacts strategically placed. Two canoes, one much larger than the other, can be found at the entrance; the Hall and one of its totem poles can be glimpsed in the background of the first shot.

Behind the wall of the Grand Hall, there are a series of rooms displaying First Nations artifacts, primarily from West Coast tribes. 

Within the Grand Hall itself, the plaster version of Bill Reid's Spirit Of Haida Gwaii sits. It's a sculpture I always enjoy looking at. A glimpse of Alex Janvier's Morning Star can be seen in the background of the first shot.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Morning Star

If I had to pick a favourite work of art in the National Capital Region, it would be Morning Star by Alex Janvier, the massive mural that is beneath the dome at the Canadian Museum of History. The artist, of Dene Suline and Saulteaux descent, is a Canadian First Nations artist who painted this mural in 1993, with the assistance of one of his sons. It's three levels up as the museum is designed, but seven stories up by convention. Morning Star is an abstract, colourful work that incorporates his cultural background and use of circles, symbols, and representation. Mr. Janvier is still painting today from his home near Cold Lake, Alberta, where a gallery in his name exhibits his work, and at present, he is the subject of a major retrospective at the National Gallery of Canada. This mural is there in part, as a visual projection of filmed images, since it's obviously not possible to move the painting itself over there. I will be showing you some of his works from there in a few days. Check out the Museum link for some more details about the work.

Coming out of the Museum's temporary exhibits, I looked up at Morning Star, and decided to use the staircase and the windows to frame shots of the art. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Horse Power

While the two previous special exhibits at the Canadian Museum of History wrapped up in early January, there's a third one that is ongoing until early next year. Horse Power has been done in collaboration with the Musees de la Civilization in Quebec City, showing horse drawn sleighs and carriages of the 19th century.

Visible from this exhibit is an adjacent balcony that I think must be used with school groups as a sort of jumping off point for tours. That's how it feels to me, anyway, and I believe it's accessible from an area of the Museum referred to as the Canadian Children's Museum. Yes, I have been in there on two different occasions. And for the record, both times I ended up coming out with splitting headaches. 

Children are loud.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lust For Gold

Among the comments yesterday, Red made mention of the Canadian writer Pierre Berton's two books on the Klondike gold rush, which took place in Canada but also had dramatic effects on the history of Alaska. I've read both books and highly recommend them. I also recommend a book titled Alaska: Saga Of A Bold Land, by the author Walter Borneman, a look at the history of that state. For a quick overview of Canadian rushes, including the major ones in British Columbia, check this link.

This was one of the larger artifacts in the exhibit on gold rushes at the Museum, a large wagon of the period.

This collection of guns and rifles would have been typical for the era. Prospectors would have used them to defend their claims, and what had been the common practice in California or Australia carried over into the British Columbia rushes- and later into the Klondike: always keep your weapon close. 

Women were a relative rarity in gold fields through the North American west (aside from prostitutes who ended up taking a good portion of whatever prospectors were digging up). This period clothing caught my eye.

This display case dealt with those distracting things that could take a prospector's mind off the reality that his dreams of gold riches weren't quite as he expected: alcohol, tobacco, or gambling, all of which made their presence known in gold rushes both in America and in Canada.

Faro was actually more popular through the 19th century West than poker, and this is a faro game and case counter. I'd heard the word in many a Western movie, but those films don't really show you the game itself. Your bet went on one of thirteen cards painted on the board; the dealer would draw two cards. The first card paid the house, the second paid the players. The counter would show how many cards were left in the deck, and players could also bet with the house.

This contraption might help a gambler cheat at cards, holding a high card concealed beneath the sleeve of a jacket on a device that could be fastened to the arm. Assuming of course that it wasn't discovered in advance, in which case you'd be in a spot of trouble.

Coming out of the exhibit was an interactive scale- you could see what your weight might be worth in gold. I'm apparently worth over 4 million dollars.... if I was made of solid gold. This display nearby featured gold in some current uses, such as Olympic medals, Emmys, or gold plated records for high selling albums- in this case, for Bryan Adams.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

El Dorado Trail

Another special exhibit that was on at the Canadian Museum of History dealt with gold rushes- both in general in the Americas (with mention of Australian rushes), as well as one in particular- the gold rush in British Columbia in the latter half of the 19th century. It included art, equipment, common items on display from a number of different collections, as well as context for the lust for gold down through centuries, particularly the ever elusive myth Europeans had for the Americas: the mysterious city of gold, El Dorado. The same patterns came each time with gold discoveries: feverish races to the scene, violence, and the oppression of indigenous peoples.

This gold bar greeted the visitor at the entrance, along with display panels and a golden mask.

Overhead, these period signs caught my eye, advertising passage to the gold fields of California during their gold rush years. Generally speaking, the prospectors who made money were those actually living in California in 1848, the year gold was first found. Those who came in the months-long overland journeys or by sea in 1849 and the following years often found little more than failed expectations among far too many other prospectors. The tools in the display case were typical of prospectors in gold rushes through the 19th century.

This painting is called Miners In The Sierra, by artist Norton Bush, an oil painting from 1869, depicting miners dwarfed by the scale of the land in California.

This painting, The Lone Prospector, is an oil painting by Albertus Browere, dating to 1853.

I have more from this exhibit tomorrow, but this display case figures into where the exhibit moved from gold rushes in general to the gold rushes that took place in the province of British Columbia in the latter half of the 19th century.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Meeting Waterloo

Place du Chatelet And Its Fountain is an 1810 oil painting by Etienne Bouhot. It predates Napoleon's fall after Waterloo and his final years on St. Helena.

After Napoleon met his end in exile, his body was eventually repatriated to France. These items are models for aspects of his funerary arrangements.

The exhibit also included relics- a lock of hair, wax impressions from his sword, and a death mask in bronze.

The legacy of Napoleon was a complicated one in France in the decades after his death: how do you pay tribute to him? Or do you pay tribute to him? The exhibit examined his own plans for Paris, some of which never came to fruition, as well as those commemorations of his time. This miniature version of the 1865 statue of Josephine, backed by an engraving of the real statue done in 1867, reflects the efforts of Napoleon III to honour both Napoleon and Josephine; interestingly, he was her maternal grandson, while also a nephew of his namesake- that gets a bit complicated.

This is Apotheosis Of Napoleon I, Copy Of The Sketch For The Ceiling Of The Napoleon III Salon At Paris City Hall, dating to around 1870. It was done as a copy of the original, which was destroyed in 1871 by fire during the time of the Paris Commune.

I finish this series with a model of the Vendome Column on the right, and on the left, Figure Of Victory Held By The Statue Of Napoleon On The Vendome Column, an 1808 bronze by the artist Antoine-Denis Chaudet. It was first used to be held by the statue of Napoleon in full Roman regalia, which was melted down on orders by Louis XVIII in 1814. The bronze survived, and was incorporated into a new column honouring Napoleon under Napoleon III. That column was destroyed during the Paris Commune, and yet Figure Of Victory survived again.

All in all, this exhibit on the man and his impact on Paris was enlightening and fascinating. The city and the country was changed forever because of him, and we can't imagine what France would be like today had there never been a Napoleon Bonaparte. 

Tomorrow I'll start showing you another special exhibit that was going on here at the Museum.