The cases of the McLennan Library Building Main Floor Lobby are filled with items that harken back to one of Montreal’s most exciting events – Expo 67. Brightly coloured passports, scarves, photos, trays, and souvenir bottle caps bring visitors back 50 years to a summer that, in many ways, was Montreal’s coming out party to the rest of the world.
“It’s like a well thought through garage sale of interesting memorabilia from an event that changed people’s lives,” says Annmarie Adams, Professor, School of Architecture and Chair, Department of Social Studies of Medicine, and one of the curators of the McGill@Expo 67exhibit. “We really wanted to make it super accessible and fun for people to take in. Expo 67 brought amazing people to McGill and Montreal, some of the most interesting buildings and projects at Expo involved McGill people, and Expo left an indelible mark on McGill, Montreal and Canada.”
Adams shows her favourite part of the show which is a simulacrum of the desk of architectural historian Peter Collins, with a light box and slides, a vintage fountain pen and letter opener. On the other side of that section is the Polaroid land camera that belonged to her parents, who visited Expo but left her at home.
The exhibition is the result of collaboration between McGill students, faculty, staff and alumni across departments. It was jointly curated by Adams; Jennifer Garland, Associate Librarian, McGill Library; and David Theodore, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture.
Theodore points to the musical programs that were loaned by the former head of Rare Books and Special Collections, Richard Virr. “He went to see dozens of musical and cultural shows, with some of the best performers of that time from all over the world,” says Theodore. “The shows were an integral part of Expo and they only cost $3. There was also a lot of free food from all over the world, a real smorgasbord of international cuisine. It was a cultural and culinary awakening and experience for those who visited.”
Garland particularly likes the red Expo passports with photos of some very young visitors, now in their 50s, who loaned the items for the exhibition. Garland is particularly fond of the architectural plans of Children’s World designed by McGill Architecture professors John Schreiber and Radoslav Zuk for La Ronde.
“These wonderful passports with all their different stamps give a sense of just what an international experience it was for visitors to Expo. It was like a visit around the world, and it had a big impact on visitors, especially those who were children,” says Garland. “There are a number of McGillians who loaned us their passports, including Kate Desbarats, Gordon Burr, Martin Bressani, Alfonso Mucci, Carolyn Samuel, Laura Winer, Raymonde Grant, Francisco Uribe, Nina Peritz, Richard Courtois, Fiona Clark, Lillian Kliger and Carole Bourget.”
McGill @ Expo 67 looks at the role of Expo 67 in teaching and research, arguing for the continued relevance of Expo 67 for Canada’s next generation of university students. At least six MA and PhDs focussing on Expo have resulted from work done by graduate students using McGill Library’s Expo Collection and the John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection. This material will be available by consultation in the library following the exhibition.
When the exhibition ends, people will be able to view Expo 67 materials by visiting Rare Books and Special Collections during opening hours.
December 15, 2017