20 Pieces/4 Cultures/1 Space: Immigrant Furniture of Western Canada, 1870-1930

2004, Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Culture, History, Temporary Exhibit
collecting, diaspora, folk art, furniture, history, immigration, religion, University of Toronto
About This Project

Date: 23 March 2004 – 23 July 2004

Partner: Art Museum at the University of Toronto

Venue: University of Toronto Art Centre – map

Project Members: Graduating Class of 2004


Our general objectives included a desire to represent Doukhobors, Hutterites, Mennonites and Ukrainians as four distinct cultures with separate reasons for immigrating to Canada. We also wanted to highlight the original function of the furniture, as well as its distinct features and adaptations within Canada. We wanted the visitor to walk away with an understanding of the way furniture reflects cultural beliefs and values or their changes over time and place.


The exhibition was developed with the University of Toronto Museum Studies Program, the University Art Centre and its patrons in mind.


The timeline for the exhibition was as follows: Research & development began August 2003; the venue was secured by Fall of 2003; publicity materials were released in December 2003; fabrication, gallery prep, and installation took place in mid-March of 2004; and a summative evaluation was completed by 14 April 2004.


The exhibition consisted of twenty pieces of furniture made within Doukhobor, Hutterite, Mennonite, and Ukrainian communities in Western Canada, with five pieces from each group. The exhibition layout was thematic, with groups of furniture organized by what they revealed about form and style, function, immigration experiences, and the cultural traditions or adaptations of each group in the Canadian West. Maps and photographs were used to historicize the furniture throughout the exhibition. Visitors shared their experiences/reactions on a response wall, nd learned more about the four cultures through hands-on activity boards and resources in an educational immersion area.


In order to market the exhibition, press releases coordinated with the staff of the Art Centre were submitted to most media outlets in the GTA and flyers were posted around the university. The programming consisted of a lecture by Prof. John Fleming at Art Center and tours of the exhibition led by Art Centre docents trained by exhibition team.


Thanks to Niamh O’Laoghaire and the staff of the University Art Centre; Professor Ursula Franklin, John Fleming, Michael Rowan, and Ian Gregory.