This Week in History
The History of a Museum of History
This story was initially published in 2006
On October 13, 1921, the McCord Museum of Canadian History was officially inaugurated in Montréal. The museum was named after its founder, David Ross McCord, a passionate collector who assembled one of the first and most important collections of Canadian historical artifacts.
The late 19th century was a period of historical revival, as Canadians sought to reclaim their national past. Aware of Canada’s diversity, McCord wanted to show that a unified Canada could emerge from its differences. He believed that an understanding of the past would strengthen Canada’s national identity. Sharing the imperialist views prevalent among the English elite at the time, McCord’s vision of history was influenced by the idea of a “clash of races” between the Aboriginal, French and British peoples in North America, who form the foundation of our national identity. McCord devoted most of his life to building a museum that showed the influence of each of these peoples.
The McCord museum contains more than one million objects and 4000 documentary files describing Canadian history. The collection includes ethnological and archaeological artifacts, costumes and textiles, photographic and textual archives, and art works. It documents a range of diverse fields, including those involving domestic, urban, religious, artistic, and political activities. The original collection of photographic archives from famous photographer William Notman is the museum’s most prized acquisition. It takes the viewer back to the Montréal of 1840-1935.
David Ross McCord died in 1930 after having fully realized his vision. In 1999, he was designated a national historic person for having built a public research and teaching museum dedicated to the preservation, study, diffusion, and appreciation of Canadian history.
For further information, please visit the McCord Museum Web site.
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