Peel's newest digital exhibitions

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Bruce Peel Special Collections launched three new digital exhibitionseach prepared over several years—during the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, hosted online by University of Alberta in May-June 2021. If you are new to Peel's digital exhibitions, you will want to be sure to also check out Tinctor's Foul Treatise, an award-winning exhibition that has been attracting an extraordinary amount of interest and discussion for almost five years. 


Ancestors: Indigenous Peoples of Western Canada in Historic Photographs

Launched in 2021, this introductory digital exhibition provides a brief overview of a forthcoming in-house exhibition of historic photographs of Indigenous peoples of Western Canada. The exhibition features audio commentary from the curators (Sarah Carter and Inez Lightning) remarking on the diversity and richness of the collection and its potential for understanding the lives portrayed in the photographs. It links to a digital collection in the Internet Archive with hundreds of photographs, offering free access to high-quality downloads. Note that the Photographies exhibition, described below, offers a useful companion to this exhibition/collection.


Launched in 2021, curated by Andrea Korda and Heather Caverhill, Photographies explores the many technologies, materials, and practices—in other words, the many “photographies”—that make up the history of photography from its origins in the late-eighteenth century to the present. This exhibition, an Open Access Educational Resource, offers free access to images and content that are not available elsewhere. The exhibition is arranged around a series of questions, beginning with “What is Photography?” and moves on to consider how photographs shape memory and identity, circulate knowledge, and become works of art. Note that this exhibition offers a useful companion to the Ancestors exhibition/collection, described above.

Tinctor's Foul Treatise

In 1460, scholar Jean Tinctor penned an elaborate text, part sermon and part scholarly argument, condemning witches. One of the most unusual manuscripts housed in Bruce Peel Special Collections, and all the more disturbing for its polished scholarly approach, Tinctor’s treatise was written to defend early witch trials—the torture and execution of those accused of practicing witchcraft, normally the most vulnerable members of society—and as a call to arms to princes and church leaders to take a stand against what he imagined to be a growing evil. Tinctor’s Foul Treatise is an award-winning digital exhibition, launched in October 2016, with more relevance to the present times than it might at first seem.

Pushing the limits of the traditional book form and constructed using a wide variety of formats and materials, artists’ books first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s as an expression of social and political activism, a way to "talk back" to mass production and mass media. Today, these hand-made unique or limited edition art objects are sought by collectors and studied by scholars, and the best of them continue to challenge many of our preconceptions. Exploring topics ranging from illness and healing to nursery rhymes and haircuts, from religion and spirituality to race and gender, the artists’ books that are celebrated in this gorgeous exhibition (redesigned for the Omeka platform, updated and relaunched in 2021) have wide-ranging appeal. Bruce Peel Special Collections was able to secure special permission from the Canadian women artists represented in this exhibition to show their work, and anyone who wishes to reproduce these images for social media or other purposes should contact the artists directly for copyright permission.

Bruce Peel Special Collections offers a wide range of digital exhibitions. Highlights include the opportunity to explore the papers (including photographs) of pioneering Western Canadian journalist Miriam Green Ellis, the complexities of working with primary source materials (Sam Steele's Forty Years In Canada: History or Fiction?), the cultural networks and narratives around food, farm to table, in Culinaria: A Taste of Food History on the Prairies, and some of the most frequently-requested rare books in Bruce Peel Special Collections, i.e., those purchased as Honorary Degree Books to help celebrate the accomplishments of the University of Alberta's honorary degree recipients from 1987 to the present day.



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