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ARCHIVED - Posters and Broadsides in Canada

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Art and Culture

Come One, Come All!

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In the vaults of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is a stunning collection of posters advertising performances. The lofty goal of such posters was to fill music halls, bookstores, theatres, opera halls, big tops, cinemas and convention halls with eager audiences.

These posters have come from varied sources. A large number were transferred directly from various government agencies, as in the substantial amount of visual documentation from Expo '67, and a set of works celebrating Inuit arts and culture from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. Other cultural bodies such as the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the National Film Board of Canada have added significantly to the collection.

Acquisitions also come directly from talented graphic designers. And some pieces were donated by or were purchased from passionate collectors and dealers who tracked down these rare notices documenting our cultural history. But a large number of our rarest posters are not tied to any source at all. They might simply indicate that they came from "Dr. Doughty's Office." (Dr. Doughty was the Dominion Archivist and Keeper of Records for the Public Archives from 1904 to 1935.) More contemporary exhibition and performance advertisements are often kept in the personal archives of artists. LAC has acquired some of these types of posters, such as the one advertising the visual skills of photographer Walter Curtin or that of the Cape Dorset artist known simply as Lucy.

Coloured poster of carved stone Aztec head, with red and blue type

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Figure 1
Poster with a black-and-white cartoon of Farley Mowat, smoking a pipe, wearing a parka and holding a large fountain pen like a harpoon. Title and text in white font at top on green background

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Figure 2
Colour art poster depicting a young owl in mid-flight

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Figure 3
Poster with a colour photograph of a columned terrace with statuary, overlooking estate grounds. Title and text in black at bottom, on white background

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Figure 4

Figure 1: Advertisement for international fine arts exhibition for Expo 67, Montréal, 1967

Figure 2: Film advertisement for In Search of Farley Mowat

Figure 3: Art print of a young owl by the artist Lucy

Figure 4: Poster advertising the publication of Jennifer Dickson's book entitled The Hospital for Wounded Angels, 1987


A sampling from the collection shows us that ads for early cultural events frequently focused on the war effort. J.E.H. MacDonald (a future member of the Group of Seven) drew the lavish illustrations for a 1914 Royal Canadian Academy exhibition to raise money for the Patriotic Fund, which assisted families of soldiers fighting in the First World War. A second graphic milestone for MacDonald was his enormous design for the 1919 Canadian National Exhibition, which also featured the iconic "Miss Canada" led by a soldier in uniform.

Coloured poster with an illustration of a woman wearing patriotic symbols, standing between a group of marching soldiers and a farmer. In the background, upper-right, are ships. Text at bottom

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Figure 5
Coloured poster with an illustration of a woman wearing patriotic symbols, on a horse, with a soldier standing at the left. In the background is the Union Jack and other flags from different countries. Text at the bottom

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Figure 6

Figure 5: Advertisement for an exhibition of pictures by Canadian artists in aid of the Patriotic Fund, illustrated by J.E.H. Macdonald, 1914

Figure 6: Advertisement for the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, August 23rd to September 6th, 1919


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