Becoming Canadian: A Flag Story

An exciting new exhibition, Becoming Canadian: A flag story opens at Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History on Friday, November 27th from 7-9pm. On loan from a private collection, this exhibition documents through the use of historic flags the story of becoming Canadian. The exhibition spans nearly a century from the earliest official Canadian…

2009 Nov 28 – 2009 Jan 20

Curated by Alistair Fraser

Nelson is a haven: a mountain fastness more attuned to wildflowers and kayaks than smog and traffic. This setting inspires the inward-looking soul often evident in the depictions of wildlife, lakes and mountains seen in local shops and galleries. Now, this little community has extended its introspection to the nation.

In a coming-of-age tale, Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History, has launched Becoming Canadian, a flag story. Marking the forty-fifth anniversary of the National Flag in 2010, the exhibition looks at Canada’s journey from colony to country by presenting a series of flags Canadians have hoisted to proclaim their evolving identity. The exhibition opens with Canada’s long forgotten flags of 1870, travels through the many versions of the Canadian Red Ensign, and pauses to tell the strange tale of how an overseas editorial caused the Union Jack to fly over Parliament and schools for forty years.

The growing Canadian sense of self was mirrored in the role played by the maple leaf on flags. In 1870 it played a bit part. From the 1890s through the 1960s, its importance grew as a series of contenders vied for the national honour. Finally, in 1965, the maple leaf dominated and Canadians said of their National Flag: “That’s me!”

The exhibition marks a second anniversary: in 2010 the flag of British Columbia turns fifty. Adding to the national story, Touchstones Nelson also tells the tale of political subterfuge that in 1960 transformed a half-century-old hand waver into the flag of the Province.

Rarely does a community museum have the opportunity to build a show that ponders the nation. Touchstones Nelson has produced an exhibition that could play from Victoria to St. John’s. The show lasts from November 28, 2009 to January 17, 2010.

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The Nelson Museum is located in beautiful downtown Nelson, British Columbia.


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