AGNES: Illustrating Canadian Wildflowers and Plant Life

2021, Lambton House
Botany, Canada, Canadian Literature, Heritage York, Humber River, Lambton House, Lithography, online exhibition, Printing, Toronto, Women Artists
About This Project

Date: April 26th, 2021
Partner: Heritage York 
Project Members: Alynese Nightingale and Chloé Houde
Agnes is an online exhibition that looks at the life and work of Agnes Dunbar Moodie Fitzgibbon Chamberlin. Agnes was born in 1833 and died in 1913, having lived in Ontario her whole life. She was a botanical illustrator with a specific focus on Canadian wildflowers, plants, and fungi, drawing inspiration from the plant life she saw along the Humber River in Toronto. Agnes illustrated several books, and her artworks were shown at exhibitions across the world. Our exhibition takes a deeper dive into Agnes’ work, life, and legacy within Canada.

For our roles, both Alynese and Chloé conducted research, wrote the text, and collected images. Alynese led the communications and project logistics in addition to developing and directing the exhibition video. Chloé documented and organized project components and files.

Agnes was first proposed in September 2020 by Heritage York. Although initially envisioned as a physical exhibition, the pandemic moved it online. The initial stages of our project involved settling on our selected themes and subthemes. Although we had been given the general theme of “Agnes”, it was up to us to shape what this would look like. Therefore, we began with a lot of research into Agnes’ life, work, and what legacy she left behind. We quickly realized that much of this knowledge is in the hands of a few people, and without access to research in archives, we had to rely on this knowledge and the few resources available online. Throughout the fall, we unearthed the story of Agnes’ life and formed the story that we wanted to tell.

In January and February, we began to plan and coordinate the filming of a video about “Aggies’ Wildflowers”, an annual walking tour hosted at Lambton House that takes a look at Agnes’ life and work, all the while discovering the flowers and plant life that she drew from around the Humber River. We continued to research, gather content, and write the text for the exhibition website. In March, we successfully shot the video at Lambton House with exteriors along the Humber River.


Building the online exhibition will begin in April and visitors will be able to gain insight into Agnes and her work as an early artist in Canada. Keep an eye out in the future for a physical installation at Lambton House, found at 4066 Old Dundas St, York.

We would like to thank Heritage York for allowing us the opportunity to create this exhibition. Special thanks to board members Madeleine McDowell, Joy Cohnstaedt, and Margo Duncan for their expertise, knowledge, and guidance throughout this exhibition. Our sincere appreciation to Emily Flynn and Chelsea Innes for creating the video components of the exhibition. Finally, thank you to Professor Agnieszka Chalas, University of Toronto, for her support throughout this project.