VIEW-2604 | Interior Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montreal, QC, 1893 (?)

Interior Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montreal, QC, 1893 (?)
Wm. Notman & Son
Probably 1893, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
25 x 20 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , building (531) , Photograph (77678)
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The Redpath Museum was built on the campus of McGill University in 1882 thanks to a substantial donation from Peter Redpath, president of the Redpath Sugar Company. The museum had an important collection of natural science specimens, of which the initial nucleus was assembled by geologist Sir William Dawson, the principal of the university and the most important Canadian scientist of the 19th century. In addition to the galleries where the various collections and an impressive giant sloth skeleton were displayed, the museum had storage areas, laboratories and a large auditorium.

The people of the Victorian Era had a passion for the natural sciences. Whether it was botany, ornithology, conchology (the study of shells), zoology or archeology, whether specimens were collected in Canada or in far-off lands, men and women, amateur and professional scientists alike, all were avid collectors. They were also convinced of the scientific and educational importance of museums. That is why the Redpath Museum provided support for university teaching and research. But private associations and many more modest educational institutions also created small museums for their members or their students.

Source: Virtual Exhibition Urban Life through Two Lenses

Keys to History

The democratization of access to leisure was accompanied by a general broadening of cultural life. Previously the domain of select individuals, that is, the bourgeoisie, cultural events had taken place in private homes or in one of the very few concert halls found in some cities. The transformations of the late 19th century were accompanied by calls, from reformers and other groups, for cultural activities aimed at the general public, thought to be useful in disseminating knowledge and raising moral standards. Thus, as cities were creating parks, they were also building public libraries and museums as well as organizing concerts and other cultural activities in various public spaces.

  • What

    The main room of the Redpath Museum was designed to accommodate a large variety of natural history specimens.

  • Where

    McGill University is still home to the Redpath Museum, the first of its kind in Canada.

  • When

    Established between 1880 and 1882, the museum was intended to make students and the public aware of the importance of the environment, at a time when material progress was unparalleled.

  • Who

    The museum was created using funds from a major bequest by Montreal businessman Peter Redpath (1821-1894) and the rich natural history collection of John William Dawson (1820-1899), at the time, principal of McGill University.