Museum of Civilization’s Vachon Collection praised for its “outstanding significance and national importance”February 16, 2012
For immediate release
Gatineau, Quebec, February 16, 2012 — The Canadian Museum of Civilization has earned a prestigious certification for its Vachon Collection of heraldic objects. The Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board has designated the Museum’s Vachon Collection as of “outstanding significance and national importance”.
Auguste Vachon, retired archivist and Herald Emeritus at the Canadian Heraldic Authority (Rideau Hall), and his wife Paula Gornescu-Vachon, a former museum cataloguer, donated their vast personal collection to the Museum of Civilization in 2010. It comprises 1,123 objects, such as plates, bowls and many ceramic pieces, each featuring Canadian coats of arms, armorial bearings, insignia or other heraldic symbols representing Canadian provinces, municipalities and national as well as local institutions.
“The Vachon Collection is a unique and significant addition to our Museum,” said Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. “Through their generous gift, the Vachons endowed us with more than a thousand artifacts, fully contextualized. Together, these provide a valuable political and symbolic overview of the last two centuries of Canada’s maturation on national as well as local levels.
“We are pleased that the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board recognizes the significance of these heraldic objects, as there is no other comparable collection in Canada, either in private hands or in a public institution. It is a privilege for the Canadian Museum of Civilization to be entrusted with this legacy for the enjoyment of the public and for the benefit of political historians and other scholars.”
The Vachons built up their collection over a period of 20 years, meticulously photographing and documenting the artifacts, recording each one’s name, date, manufacturer, country of origin and material, along with descriptive, historical and bibliographical notes. The oldest heraldic object dates from 1810, and a large number are from 1900 to 1914. Most were manufactured in England, while others are from Austria and Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic), Germany, Canada, France and elsewhere.
“Thanks to this vast range of coats of arms and other symbols, we have gained an incredible visual, tangible survey of our country’s political history and identity during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,” said Dr. Xavier Gélinas, the Museum of Civilization’s Curator, Canadian Political History, and Assistant Director, Archaeology and History. “The collection represents the entire spectrum of Canadian heraldry, from the Crown, governors general and the federal government to provinces, municipalities, universities and military regiments.”
This political and symbolic significance is what makes the Vachon Collection truly valuable in the eyes of the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, an independent tribunal of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Yet many of the colourful and beautifully illustrated artifacts are interesting as individual objects, and lend themselves very well to both physical and virtual exhibitions. Some will be presented this summer as part of the exhibition Queen and Country: Elizabeth II and Canada, 1952–2012.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization is the centre for research and public information on the social and human history of the country. Located on the shores of the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec, the Museum is Canada’s largest and most popular cultural institution, attracting over 1.2 million visitors each year. The Museum of Civilization’s principal role is to preserve and promote the heritage of Canada for present and future generations, thereby contributing to the promotion and enhancement of Canadian identity.
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