Bottoms Up! A Spirited History of Drink in Canada

2007, History, Steam Whistle Brewery, Temporary Exhibit
alcohol, Canada, ephemera, event photos, food and drink, glassware, Greater Toronto Area, history, installation photos, photography, print
About This Project

Date: March 7, 2007 – April 2, 2007

Partner: Steam Whistle Brewery

Venue: Steam Whistle Brewery – map

Project Members: Graduating Class of 2007


Bottoms Up! A Spirited History of Drink in Canada will invite the visitor to explore a balanced presentation of the interrelation between alcohol and Canadian social history. Through a critical analysis of media, archival material, ephemera, and alcohol-related physical objects, the exhibition will examine the changing perceptions of alcohol consumption and production in Canada. From mid 19th century, through to prohibition and bootlegging, and continuing into the 21st century, alcohol has remained a dominant factor in shaping the social dynamic of Canada.


The exhibition was mounted at Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto. It was selected because the history and décor were relevant to the subject matter. Additionally, the Brewery provides a gallery to fulfill its mandate of supporting student work and art. Although not a museum, Steam Whistle provided students with experience in a gallery setting and presented new experiences that encouraged creativity.


Because the exhibition was held at Steam Whistle, many of the visitors to the exhibition were those who had already an interest in alcohol production, or the brewery specifically. It is therefore assumed that the audience would not take issue with alcohol or the potential controversy surrounding it. It was also assumed that the audience would be of a more mature age.


Steam Whistle Brewery provided the gallery space for free to students as part of its mandate. The University of Toronto, Museum Studies Program also provided funding for the project.
The exhibition featured a variety of mediums including photography, print media, unique stories, glassware and other alcohol-related ephemera. The exhibition was broken down into 6 major themes including: History, focusing on Canadian laws and legislation as well as ancient and early history of alcohol in Canada; Health, focusing on how alcohol has been viewed as both positive and negative to a healthy lifestyle; Industry and Technology, focusing on alcohol production; Design, focusing on the evolution of vessel and packaging design and finally, Culture and Media, looking at how advertising shapes consumption. These themes were communicated through reproduction photos, large and small text panels, videos presented on flat-screen television monitors, and objects in display cases.


Due to a limited budget, the exhibition was promoted through free articles and reviews in both voice and print. The museum studies program also provided advertising through brochures and press releases. A now-inactive website was created to support the exhibition during its launch. An opening reception was held for the exhibition, featuring live music, catering, a signature cocktail, a silent auction and free tours provided by students. Students also created a self-guided walking brochure and lecture series to help visitors explore the exhibit on their own.