Sunday, February 25, 2018

Visit to the William Osler Library

entrance to the library, where our show will be mounted

I am preoccupied these days with our Text'art group show, which now has a title. Cloth and Stitch: Inspired by the Maude Abbott Collection will be installed at the Osler Library of McGill University on May 11, 2018. The official opening is May 17.

To familiarize myself a little better with the space, I visited their current show, Materia Medica, by Montreal artist Loren Williams. Williams is the recipient of the Larose-Osler-Artist-in-Residence for 2017, and she was invited by the Osler Library to create a body of work on the theme of Montreal's medical history.

Using epidemiological maps, Williams explored the sites and neighbourhoods
of the city's devastating outbreaks of Typhus, Cholera, Small Pox and Tuberculosis.

A detail from the cabinet shown above.

Another detail: A reference book has been "innoculated" with pox by the artist.

The work in this exhibition draws inspiration from books and artifacts in the Osler Library as well as a wide variety of other sources. Early maps of the city offer a form of time travel, indicating the location of the first hospitals and their large gardens, used for food and medicinal plants. Three hundred year old streets such as rue de l'Hôpital and rue des Soeurs Grises still exist in Montreal today, drawing direct lines to Montreal's medical history, as do streets named Jeanne Mance, Marguerite d'Youville and Penfield.

First aid kits and their compartments double as garden plans for medicinal plants.

Images of medicinal plants used by the First Peoples and early settlers of Montreal
 were created using a 19th-century camera-less photographic process, Cyanotype.

The blue coloured images reveal the shadowy forms and details of the plants.
Cyanotype requires sunlight and water, as do the living plants.

On my visit, I also explored the two floors of the Osler Library. On an earlier occasion, I was able to visit an inner sanctum, available for viewing by appointment only. It holds a fascinating archive of antique books, as well as the ashes of Dr. Osler himself. The library's holdings number about 100,000 volumes.

The reception for our show will be held here, in the main room of the library.

The McIntyre Medical Building that houses the library was designed as a round tower. Before construction in 1965, the design was modified to accommodate the Osler Library, which was moved piece by piece (including stained glass windows and plaster cornices) from its original location elsewhere on the McGill campus.

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