Hol­land map a big hit

Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre or­ga­niz­ers did great job; made ex­hi­bi­tion kid-friendly

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Louis Cooper of Sum­mer­side was a re­cent win­ner of a Sum­mer­side Her­itage Ac­tiv­ity Award for his many con­tri­bu­tions to the re­gion’s his­tory and cul­ture

Over the re­cent New Year’s week­end an ex­hi­bi­tion, re­lated to the life and times of Sa­muel Hol­land, closed at the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre in Char­lot­te­town. It had taken three years from con­cep­tion to ac­tu­ally get­ting the ar­ti­facts into the Cen­tre. The cen­tre­piece of the ex­hi­bi­tion was the orig­i­nal map of Prince Ed­ward Is­land — St. John’s Is­land, as it was known in 1765 — as drawn by Hol­land lay­ing out the re­gions and county’s of the Is­land, as well as nam­ing most of them.

The map had been loaned by the Na­tional Ar­chives in the UK. It had never left the UK un­til this ex­hi­bi­tion. Much of those three years were spent in re­fur­bish­ing this his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ment so it could stand the rig­ors of in­ter­na­tional travel. There is a fas­ci­nat­ing story in the Spring/Sum­mer 2015 edi­tion of The Is­land mag­a­zine by Lucy An­gus, de­tail­ing the care­ful and painstak­ing work in­volved.

The staff of cu­ra­tors at the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre also had the in­ge­nious idea of mak­ing a copy of the map — en­hanc­ing the faded orig­i­nal draw­ings and mark­ings — and putting it on the floor be­hind the wall where the orig­i­nal was stand­ing. At the fi­nal view­ing of the ex­hi­bi­tion, I saw fam­i­lies stand­ing on that floor map show­ing their chil­dren where they had ei­ther been born on the Is­land or where they lived on the Is­land. The floor map was a smart move, in­volv­ing all who came to the ex­hi­bi­tion.

While the orig­i­nal Hol­land map was the high­lighted fea­ture, there were other Hol­land ar­ti­facts on show; sev­eral of which were loaned by de­scen­dents of the late He­len Perkins Hol­land Dal­ton, still liv­ing on the Is­land. Other his­tor­i­cal items at the ex­hi­bi­tion came from the Hol­land Col­lege col­lec­tion, along with other maps from the James Macnutt Map col­lec­tion.

A dou­ble drop-sided draw­ing room ta­ble. A paint­ing of the pis­tol given to Sa­muel Hol­land by Gen­eral James Wolfe plus a hand-made pis­tol with its orig­i­nal case. A jacket, worn by Hol­land’s son, John Fred­er­ick, who was born on the Is­land. The Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre or­ga­niz­ers did an­other smart thing: they made the ex­hi­bi­tion “kid­friendly.”

I was pleased and pleas­antly sur­prised at the num­ber of young­sters at the ex­hi­bi­tion on that cold and snowy Sun­day af­ter­noon. They were well be­haved — per­haps in awe of the Hol­land pres­ence! And when they ei­ther got tired or bored, there were ta­bles and chairs setup with crayons, and pa­per to draw on.

One of the vis­i­tors was a ca­su­ally dressed premier of P.E.I., Wade MacLauch­lan. It was his third visit and he “wanted to take an­other look be­fore it closed.” He hoped that some of the smaller pic­tures and maps could be dis­played in his of­fice and in the cab­i­net room. He said he al­ready had one pic­ture, re­lated to Hol­land, in his of­fice and he was “look­ing for more.”

Lis­ten­ing to the hum of ex­cite­ment through­out that par­tic­u­lar ex­hi­bi­tion hall that Sun­day af­ter­noon, I re­flected that there was no spe­cific place for the Is­land’s his­tory to be so el­e­gantly and thor­oughly dis­played.

No mat­ter how well and how dili­gently the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre ex­hi­bi­tion peo­ple worked — the Hol­land ex­hibit is only one of many staged at the Cen­tre over the years — there was a col­lec­tion of pho­to­graphs from the First World War on the gallery above the Hol­land ex­hi­bi­tion, just as mov­ing and his­tor­i­cal in its own way — Prince Ed­ward Is­land lacks a pur­pose­built mu­seum, where all the Is­land’s rich and vig­or­ous his­tory can be dis­played.

Clearly, if you do it right, as the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre peo­ple have done with the Hol­land ex­hi­bi­tion, peo­ple will come. They will come, with their fam­i­lies, proud to show their Is­land’s place in Canada’s his­tory.

The Hol­land Map of Prince Ed­ward Is­land on dis­play at the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre art gallery.

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