Objects, photographs and ephemera offer us fragments and glimpses of life in another time, showing us details of a larger picture. Each item in this exhibition is part of one or many stories about the people who made the items, the people who used them and those who chose to keep them. They speak to a larger narrative about the changing experience of being a student at McGill University throughout its 200-year history. These items also tell us about the way that institutions create and maintain their own memories, about the way McGill’s archives play a role in the university’s present and future.
In each category, you will find a selection of 20 items drawn from the McGill University Archives; two-hundred items in all that represent many different parts of the life of a student. The academics category showcases the intellectual labour of students, their achievements, their tools, and the products of their work as they move towards graduation. Activism offers a snapshot of students organizing and fighting for a better world during the tumultuous period of the 1960s and 1970s. Theatre, music, visual arts and literature are all represented in the arts category, combining the serious and the light, the dramatic and the comedic. The items in the athletics category celebrate the excellence of student athletes and their successes as individuals and teammates. The campus category offers some perspective on the spaces that students inhabit, and the way that this home away from home has changed over the years. Convocation, of course, documents the ceremony that is the culmination of a student’s time at McGill, when they receive their degrees and move on to lives outside of the university. The leisure category captures some of the joys and mischiefs of students’ personal time, spent with close friends or with their classmates. Military pays tribute to the dedication of McGill to war efforts, especially the First and Second World Wars. The structured gatherings of balls, class dinners, and the winter carnival are represented in the social events category. Finally, the student organizations category shows just a few of the numerous and diverse student groups that have been active on McGill’s campuses.
This digital exhibition has a physical counterpart, on view in the lobby of the McLennan Library Building beginning on the 27 September 2021. To explore further, we encourage you to consult our online Archival Collections Catalogue, especially the McGill University Archives Collection (MG4319) from which most of the material in this collection is drawn.