Marie Dressler House Revitalization Project

2015, History, Marie Dressler House, Permanent Exhibit
20th-century, Academy Awards, biography, Broadway, Cobourg, film, gender, Great Depression, Hollywood, poster, promotional materials, Vaudeville
About This Project

Partner: Marie Dressler House

Venue: Marie Dressler House – map

Project Members: Alexandra Jeffery, Blair Newby, Brittney Sproule, Jaime Clifton-Ross, and Mackenzie Warner


The purpose of the Marie Dressler House Revitalization Project was to design a new permanent exhibition for the Marie Dressler House in Cobourg, Ontario. The previous exhibit in the house was a simple display of memorabilia and was not doing justice to Marie’s vibrant character and her impact on early 20th-century stage and film.


The intended audience for the exhibition will be residents of the town of Cobourg, students within Northumberland County, visitors from across Ontario and internationally, as well as local history enthusiasts and film buffs. The Foundation desires that the exhibition will draw tourists to the Town of Cobourg and thus contribute to the economic development and cultural vibrancy of the town.


The Marie Dressler Foundation was the partner foundation for this project and provided artifacts and resources that were used in the development of the exhibition plan.


The Town of Cobourg owns the Marie Dressler House and had provided a 400 square foot space in the house for the Foundation to display their exhibition.


The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information facilitated the partnership, in which five students in the Museum Studies program developed the exhibition plan. The University also contributed funds for the students’ transportation and the printing costs of the plan.


The process of developing this plan began when Chair of the Marie Dressler Foundation, Rick Miller, presented to the Master of Museum Studies exhibition class in September 2015. The group of five students then signed on to work with the Foundation in creating a plan for a new permanent exhibit.


The group created a comprehensive inventory of the Foundation’s existing artifacts, conducted extensive background research on Marie’s life and films, and developed an interpretive plan for the exhibit including themes and narratives. They researched external artifacts, as well as copyright and licensing relating to the exhibit’s audiovisual materials. They developed draft budgets and a report on funding options for the Foundation. The group also developed an educational plan and accompanying lesson plans that complement The Ontario School Curriculum. A draft of the plan was presented to the board of the Foundation in February 2015, as well as a pitch to the Town Council of Cobourg.


By April 2015, the group had developed a finalized artifact list, completed the interpretive text for the exhibit, and created floor plans and wall layouts for the exhibition. The final plan was then delivered to the Marie Dressler Foundation in conjunction with a presentation by the project team to the board of the Foundation.


The exhibition will make use of the Marie Dressler Foundation’s collection of films, photographs, and ephemera. It will also include material sourced from external institutions such as the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the USC Moving Image Resource Center.


These materials will be presented in both physical and digital formats. Moving images and sound clips will provide an essential element of the exhibition experience. As Marie was a performing artist, the display of audiovisual works is essential to the exhibition experience in order to bring Marie to life.


We would like to thank Rick Miller, Chair of the Marie Dressler Foundation, for his support, generosity, and hospitality throughout the development of the plan.


We would also like to acknowledge the support and advice that we received from Dr. Matthew Brower at the Faculty of Information throughout the project process.