Holland map a big hit at Confederation Centre in Charlottetown

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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The Holland Map of Prince Edward Island on display at the Confederation Centre art gallery.

Organizers did great job; made exhibition kid-friendly

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 Much of those three years were spent in refurbishing this historical document so it could stand the rigors of international travel.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 “kid-friendly.”

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 purpose-built 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.


By Louis Cooper (guest 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.

Organizations: Holland College, Confederation Centre, National Archives The Island magazine

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Holland, UK Charlottetown Canada Summerside

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