Canada in the frame : copyright, collections and the image of Canada, 1895–1924
Hatfield, Philip J.
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Galleries, libraries, archives and museums, largely public spaces with a range of foci and organisational structures, have one structural thing in common: they all tend to hold large amounts of material that is ‘hidden’. Whether it is seldom displayed in public, loosely catalogued, unwieldy for use or out of sight for various other reasons, this material is rarely used by researchers and even less frequently seen by the public. To be clear, such material is not ‘lost’; it rather inhabits a twilight zone of use, known of by curators and some researchers, but requiring work to bring it out of the shaded fringe of the institution. HS85/10 (and a variety of storage locations loosely linked to this reference) is the shelfmark of one such collection currently held at the British Library. Collected between 1895 and 1924, the photographs held here offer a unique view of late nineteenth-century and early twentiethcentury Canada. Gathered from across a growing, federated nation using copyright deposit as a mechanism of accumulation, this collection provides a grass-roots, open and somewhat untidy view of Canada, its people and the practice of photography between these years. Names familiar to Canadians with a vague sense of photographic history, such as Notman, are found here. So are the names which those readers with a deeper knowledge might recognise: the Byron Harmons and Charles Ayletts of Canada’s early twentieth-century photographic history. The value of the collection, however, lies in its wide spectrum of Canadian photography. Canada in the Frame looks at this collection, infrequently used and far from its place of origin, and asks two questions: What does it show us of Canada and its photographic history? What peculiar view do these photographs, viewed from the old ‘Heart of Empire’, give of a former part of the British Empire in a post-colonial age?
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