Imagine Antigonish

Imagine Antigonish is an initiative of Arts Health Antigonish (AHA!), a group of artists, health workers and educators who are exploring the many links between art and health. Our mission is to foster all forms of creative expression for our community’s sustained health and vitality. Imagine Antigonish is an AHA!-sponsored travelling exhibit that combines an installation of 14 banners with a virtual gallery of restored black-and-white photographs capturing almost 150 years of the rural and urban heritage of Antigonish town and county. It’s a visual tour of the many essential conditions for our community’s wellbeing and sustainability—a model of healthy community that can help educate local, regional and national populations, organizations, and businesses.

The exhibit represents a diversity of heritage themes—rural/urban employment, childhood/adult education, healthcare access, sports/pastimes, religious/spiritual practices, celebrations and conflict resolutions. Many organizations have generously furnished the photos, including the Highland Society, Nova Scotia Archives, Heritage Museum, StFX Library and Archives, Coady International Institute, The Casket, the Sisters of St. Martha, and Pomquet Historical Society. Members of the Antigonish Photographers’ Group Exhibit (APx) have skilfully and lovingly restored them, and the whole exhibit will be inaugurated during next month’s Highland Games, initially at the July 10th Downtown Street Fair, before moving to a tent on Columbus Field for July 11th-12th. “Passports” will be handed out at the Fair, and children who get their passports stamped at all 14 banner locations will be able to get into the Highland Games free of charge!

Each photo has a descriptive plate—subjects, location, narrative, photographer, date, source acknowledgement—to the extent we have all this information. A virtual gallery will accompany the exhibit, where visitors can contribute their own reflections, stories, and of course any missing information about the photos. We are also producing an extensively illustrated 75-page catalogue to describe in more depth the sources of these vintage pictures and the stories behind them.

Following the Highland Games, AHA! will promote Imagine Antigonish throughout the tourist season as a travelling exhibit for the community-at-large. Individual banners will move to appropriate locations, for example, Food Security photos at grocery outlets or the Farmers’ Market, Early Childhood Education and Intergenerational Learning at the People’s Place library. In the fall semester, the exhibit will move to StFX University, where students can learn about the significance of heritage in this community, where they spend four or more years before entering the workforce. Imagine Antigonish will then become available as a travelling exhibit at other interested local, regional and national locations. Although the photographic content of this travelling exhibit focuses on the town and county of Antigonish, we believe it to be a model of public health education, with the potential for public education in community settings both rural and urban, for all age levels, and in intergenerational contexts.

This is very much an ongoing collection of vintage photos of our community, and we welcome any and all offers of suitable images from the 1960s going back to the 19th century. We are especially interested in those of “minority” cultures that are numerically smaller in number, and so may be underrepresented at present. Many thanks to all for your interest in and support of this community initiative!

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Dorothy Lander & John Graham-Pole for AHA!

intro Highland Games ParadeHighland Games Parade, 1953, Restoration: Jeff Parker; Courtesy Antigonish Heritage Museum


girls with china dollsGirls with China Dolls, circa 1910; Restoration: Anne Louise MacDonald; Courtesy Antigonish Heritage Museum

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