Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX student-curated exhibit at Antigonish Heritage Museum

March 29th, 2018
L-r, Jocelyn Gillis, Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell and Natalie Chicoine

For students, handling and researching old artefacts provide an immediate connection with the past. StFX honours history student Natalie Chicoine is taking it one step further. This term, as one of her assignments with history professor Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell, Ms. Chicoine will curate an exhibit at the Antigonish Heritage Museum, entitled, “Fade to Black: Dressing for Widowhood in late 19th-century Scottish Nova Scotia.”

This exhibit will feature objects related to the death trade of the 1890s, including mourning pins, hair jewelry, mourning dress, and memorial buttons from the Antigonish Heritage Museum, the Highland Village Museum, and private collections.

According to Dr. Stanley-Blackwell, “there was a profusion of mourning accessories, mourning pageantry and mourning protocols at this time and women were major consumers in the business of death.”

For this exhibit, Ms. Chicoine has combined a gender and material culture approach to depict how women in Scottish Nova Scotia expressed bereavement through dress. She says she has enjoyed her time as a student curator at the Antigonish Heritage Museum. It has enabled her to learn about display design, curatorial best practices, as well as history.

“It allows you to be in close proximity with the very items that the people and culture you are studying held so dear,” she says.

Museum curator Jocelyn Gillis has also found the experience a positive one. She comments, “This represents the first time a student from the university has curated an exhibit at the museum.”

“Fade to Black” will launch on April 3, 2018 with a small reception and commentary by Ms. Chicoine starting at 2:30 p.m. The exhibit is open to the public and will run until May 4. 

This event also pairs neatly with the public lecture, “’Death Becomes Her’: Women and Mortality in 19th- and early 20th-century Nova Scotia,” recently given by Dr. Stanley-Blackwell and Celtic studies professor Dr. Michael Linkletter. It also complements the current series, “Living with Death and Dying in Antigonish,” organized by women and gender studies professor Dr. Rachel Hurst, which focuses on public discussions about responses to death in the present and future. 

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