Recently, the museum received a kind donation from the Estate of Joyce Cunningham, consisting of five beaded items dating to the 1910s. Born in 1928, Joyce was a long-time Atikokan resident who loved gardening, preserving, crocheting and feeding Whiskey Jacks. Her husband, Harold, was a heavy equipment operator who worked the shovel at Caland Mine. Joyce inherited these beautiful beaded pieces from her mother, Erie Hann, who immigrated to Thunder Bay from England in 1901. Born in 1899, Erie would have been well-versed in several types of domestic work, including beading and embroidery. Her grandson, Bruce, and grand-daughter-in-law, Nancy, state that Erie made the 1914 keepsake pillow seen below, and also believe that she hand-crafted the other pieces as well.
Beaded clothing and accessories have been an art form practiced for thousands of years by individuals from various cultures around the world. Delicately beaded handbags became popular in the Victorian era, making glass beads a major part of domestic textile art. Beading and embroidery played a central role in the daily lives of middle class women and their female children. They spent countless hours embroidering their purses as a way to attract prospective mates. Purses like the one seen in the photographs above can be viewed as a wearable sampler that allowed women to showcase their domestic abilities. The 1847 Quarterly Review stated that, "dress becomes a sort of symbolic language - a kind of personal glossary...[and] every woman walks around with a placard on which her leading qualities are advertised."
In the later decades of the 1800s beaded purses saw a decline in popularity, only to see a resurgence again at the beginning of the 20th century. The keepsake pillow seen here was decorated with the date 1914, showing that the popularity for this aesthetic returned at this time. During the First World War, beading continued to be a fashion trend. In 1914, The Times fashion columnist reported that “these bead bags carry us straight back fifty years to the days of hoop skirts and muslin tuckers, lace mitts and pantalettes…” Perhaps the volatility and uncertainty of this period left women with a longing for the past, and beaded items satisfied their need for the golden age.
 Informal Interview with Bruce and Nancy Cunningham, June 13, 2017.
 Random History. Fashion is in the Bag: A History of Handbags. http://www.randomhistory.com/2008/10/01_handbag.html, (accessed June 13, 2017)
 Helene E Roberts. "The Exquisite Slave: The Role of Clothing in the Making of the Victorian Woman," Sings: The Role of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 2, no. 3., 1977., 554.
 Hoag Levins. Beaded Bags and Industrial History: Six Hundred Years of Glittering Commerce, 2005, historiccamdencounty.com/ccnews98.shtml. (accessed June 13, 2017)
What was Quetico Centre?
Quetico Centre was an residential adult education centre in Northwestern Ontario, located approximately 26km east of Atikokan. In 1958, the Eva Lake Planning Committee purchased the Quetico Conference and Training Centre property from the Department of Lands and Forests. Shortly after, Cliff McIntosh was appointed director of the Centre. He worked with H.E. “Bud” Thomas, formerly the Regional Officer within the Community Programs Branch of the Department of Education of Thunder Bay, to bring the idea of a residential adult education centre into fruition. Quetico Centre quickly became a meeting place attracting people from the region and surrounding area to partake in art courses, outdoor programs, heavy equipment training and craft classes. The Centre's philosophy was based on the belief that learning was a life-long pursuit that informed daily life as well as fostered community development. It successfully brought many educational opportunities to individuals in Northwestern Ontario, other interested Canadians as well as some Americans.
Quetico Centre Programming
Life at Quetico Centre
For the exhibit I created a ten page booklet that placed Quetico Centre into the larger adult education narrative. Rather than take a chronological approach, the booklet discussed how the Centre borrowed from the progressive and folk school traditions to create a successful teaching institution. As a parting gift, this booklet was given out to all guests who came to the opening. Additional copies are now sold at the museum's gift shop.
There were several reasons why I chose to have the museum's staff mimic the 1983 photograph seen above. For one, I thought that it was be a fun addition to the gallery space, especially since Joan is holding the book in both photographs. Second, I wanted to show guests that Quetico Centre's story is constantly evolving, with this exhibit being another chapter in its history. Third, curating an exhibit involves many hours of hard, unseen work and I wanted to put faces to those involved in the creation of the displays/opening event. I was tasked with curating the exhibit, which meant I researched, wrote labels, chose photographs, and assisted with exhibit design and event planning. I was also in charge of marketing, meaning that I recorded a radio ad, wrote a newspaper article, and (with the help from our volunteer Jim Blunderfield) handed out posters to local businesses. Lois provided feedback and assistance throughout the project. She also played a large role in planning the event. Nancy aided with exhibit design, cutting labels, mounting titles and helping to set up the room for display. Joan helped me select images, read the labels to ensure the information was correct and provided insight into Quetico Centre's history.
Creating the Fonds
The Quetico Centre archival fonds is kept in the museum's community room, the same room the exhibit was set up in. I decided to use this as an opportunity to educate the public about basic archival principles. I took "before" pictures of the collection to juxtapose against the nicely organized final product.
The day was a success, with 40 people attending the opening. It is always great to watch an idea become a tangible thing- and I am glad that I was able to share Quetico Centre's story with the local community.