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New Third Floor Gallery at the McCord
An Intimate Encounter with Canadian History

Montreal, March 21, 2002 The McCord Museum is pleased to announce the inauguration of a new Third Floor Gallery. This gallery presents some exceptional works from the Museum's collection, many for the first time since their acquisition. Dedicated to paintings, prints, drawings, archival documents and photographs as well as small objects, this welcoming 1,400 square-foot space provides an intimate setting in which to view some of the McCord's treasures.  

The gallery's inaugural exhibition offers a rare glimpse of the public and private events that have shaped our contemporary perspectives. McCord executive director and exhibition curator Dr. Victoria Dickenson dug deep into the Museum's reserves to find the delicate specimens presented in Fragile Witness. Treasures of national significance, such as James Wolfe's journal from 1759 and Louis Riel's last will and testament are displayed alongside more personal souvenirs, like the needlework designs of Anne Ross McCord. Slips of crumbling paper, these historical fragments are often the only surviving witnesses to significant past events. Fragile Witness is an intimate encounter with Canadian history, and a poignant reminder of the wealth of personal and historical information that is preserved in paper, ink and paint.  

"Researching this exhibition was a rewarding and eye-opening experience," says Dr. Dickenson. "While exploring the collection I repeatedly came across small but remarkable documents, artifacts and works of art. Their ephemeral nature makes them no less significant, but sadly, the public is largely unaware that we have them. This exhibition and in the long term, this gallery will allow us to highlight these rare and overlooked items, and make them accessible to all."  

Dr. Dickenson, who began her tenure at the McCord in 1998, is a passionate advocate of public access to information. Fragile Witness is the first exhibition she has curated at the McCord since her arrival. She obtained her Ph.D. in history from Carleton University in 1995 and her thesis, on the role of visual imagery in early science, was published by University of Toronto Press in 1998. She is also a graduate of the University of Toronto Museum Studies Program and has over thirty years of experience in museums at the provincial, national and international level. Dr. Dickenson has been involved in numerous exhibitions and interpretive projects within the museum community and the private sector, and has championed the use of information technology to make museum collections more accessible. In 1999 she spearheaded the effort that won the McCord, with its partners McGill University and Université de Québec à Montréal, a $600,000 three-year grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to develop curriculum-linked on-line material history resources. Dr. Dickenson was ably assisted in the development of the exhibition Fragile Witness by the entire Museum team, especially Conrad Graham, Curator, Decorative Arts, Suzanne Morin, Archivist, Line Villeneuve, Head of Exhibitions, Anne MacKay, Chief Conservator, and Denis Plourde, Conservation Technician.  

The new Third Floor Gallery was designed by Saucier + Perrotte, an award-winning Montreal architectural firm specializing in the design of cultural buildings and spaces in the evolving contemporary city. In the future the new gallery will continue to present small exhibitions organised by the Museum. Among these are a planned exhibition on the Lachine Canal and a re-photography project on Montreal. The Third Floor Gallery is also perfectly suited to welcome small travelling exhibitions from other institutions.  

Fragile Witness is on view at the McCord Museum from March 21 to August 4, 2002.  

Nike Langevin  
Coordinator, Communications  
(514) 398-7100, ext. 251

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