When Auguste Vachon and his wife Paula Gornescu-Vachon began collecting ceramics featuring Canadian heraldry (coats of arms, armorial bearings, insignia and other related symbols) in the mid-1980s, even they had no inkling that their collection would eventually include more than 1,100 ceramic pieces representing the entire spectrum of Canadian heraldry.
It was easy to predict that the Vachons would assemble an impressive collection. After all, Auguste was Saint-Laurent Herald and Registrar of the Canadian Heraldic Authority and Paula was a museum cataloguer.
The Vachon’s collection included plates, bowls, saucers and many other pieces featuring heraldic designs from the Crown, governors general, the federal government, all of the provinces and a wide range of municipalities, universities and military regiments. As they acquired pieces, the Vachons documented each object’s date, manufacturer, country of origin and material, along with descriptive, historical and bibliographical notes.
A National Treasure
In 2007, after downsizing from a house to an apartment, the Vachons made an extraordinary decision: to donate their collection to the Canadian Museum of Civilization. “When we moved, we had to put the collection in storage,” says Auguste. “We wanted it to have a permanent home and to be widely accessible, so we chose the Museum of Civilization.”
“To have such an extensive collection assembled by experts is extraordinary,” says Dr. Xavier Gélinas, the Museum of Civilization’s Curator, Canadian Political History, and Assistant Director, Archaeology and History. “When you add very broad and accurate documentation as a support, it’s even more precious.”
The unique value of the collection was recently affirmed when the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, an independent panel of experts, designated it to be “of outstanding significance and national importance.”
A Unique Record of Canada’s Symbolic History
“The Vachon Collection offers the widest possible panorama of our national symbolic history, with every type of political institution across Canada pictorially represented,” says Xavier Gélinas.
“It documents seminal events such as royal visits, the Boer War, the First World War, the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Expo 1967 and the repatriation of the Constitution. The Museum receives the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board’s recognition of the collection’s significance with pride and humility. It’s our responsibility to be a good steward for this remarkable collection, which is truly a gift to all Canadians.”
The public will have an opportunity to see Vachon Collection pieces in the upcoming exhibition A Queen and Her Country opening this July at the Museum of Civilization.