November 21, 2010

Lord Elgin’s rocks on display in the Canadian Museum of Civilization

Posted at 9:55 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

This story reads almost like a peculiar parody of the Parthenon Marbles… The Eighth Earl of Elgin (son of the Seventh Earl who removed the sculptures from the Parthenon) was at one time governor of Canada (when he wasn’t ransacking the Summer Palace in Beijing). During his time there, rocks got thrown at him during a riot, that he later brought back to his family home in Scotland as a souvenir of the experience. A few years ago, the Elgin family then decided to return Elgin’s rocks(as they became known), so that they could go on display in Canada as they were a part of Canada’s history.

One wonders, if Elgin had not faced financial insolvency & been forced to sell the Parthenon Sculptures, would his family have taken a more enlightened approach to the British Museum & returned the sculptures to Greece already?

Edmonton Journal

History museum offers new narrative of Confederation
By Randy Boswell, Postmedia News October 28, 2010

Canada’s main history museum has unveiled a new exhibit casting the country’s Confederation story in a fresh light emphasizing the tensions that threatened to pull British North America apart in the years leading up to 1867’s unification project.

It’s a rewriting of the narrative of the country’s birth, says Canadian Museum of Civilization president Victor Rabinovitch, that doesn’t follow “the usual line about how peaceful everything was up here.”

Among the highlighted events are the 1837 rebellions in the present-day Quebec and Ontario. A scene is recreated from Montgomery Tavern in the future Toronto, where rebels under the leadership of William Lyon Mackenzie — grandfather of 20th-century Liberal prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King — plotted their uprising against the British government-appointed oligarchs who ran Upper Canada at the time.

Visitors to the tavern scene “find themselves amidst the conspiring rebels,” the museum states, just moments before they embark on their ill-fated attack — “armed with muskets, pitchforks and staves” — aimed at overthrowing the colony’s ruling elite.

The new display is a linchpin component of the museum’s Canada Hall, a circuitous tour through the country’s past that Rabinovitch describes as “the most visited history installation in all of Canada.”

More than 500,000 people visit the museum’s Canada Hall every year.

The new exhibit also recounts the post-rebellion unrest that led to the burning of the colonial legislature in Quebec in 1849.

Among the artifacts on display are two chunks of stone — sometimes jokingly referred to as “Lord Elgin’s rocks” — that were hurled at the then-governor general during the rioting that accompanied the burning of Parliament.

The attack followed a controversial decision by lawmakers to compensate Quebec rebels who suffered hardships following the 1837 uprising.

The rocks were recently returned to Canada by descendants of Lord Elgin, who had kept the projectiles as souvenirs of his turbulent tenure in Canada.

A second exhibit unveiled Thursday at the museum — located in Gatineau, Que., across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill — recreates a real-life schoolhouse from 1940s north-central Alberta, where a pioneering community of immigrant African-Americans carved out a new life in the Canadian wilderness.

Among those in attendance for the unveiling was Peggy Brown, a 77-year-old retired public servant from Calgary, who attended Toles School from grades 1 to 9.

“It’s emotional,” she said. “It brings back many memories. It’s a wonderful experience and a wonderful exhibit.”

Brown still had some of the books she learned from as a child, and those were donated to the museum to enhance the display.

Located about 80 kilometres east of Athabasca, the school was a central part of a community that had come to Canada to escape the discrimination against blacks that prevailed in the U.S. long after the abolition of slavery.

“They weren’t slaves, but they weren’t free either,” Brown said of her grandfather’s generation. “So anyplace would be better than being in the States, where you were a nobody.

“They heard about Athabasca,” she added. “Lord only knows how.”

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