McCord Museum Receives Gift of 9000 Historical Photographs

by Photo Life

© Laura Dumitriu, Musée McCord Museum

The McCord Museum in Montreal recently received a gift of a collection of more than 9000 photographs from Jean-Luc Allard and Lucie Surprenant. The images include work from 1030 photographers from the province of Quebec from the mid-1800s to the end of the last century. The collection’s contents span the range of historical photographic processes: daguerreotypes; tintypes; albumen  prints  in  the  form  of  cartes-de-visite, cabinet cards and stereographs; gelatin-silver print postcards; and other special formats like photographic jewellery.

Press release from McCord Museum

McCord Museum receives extraordinary donation of over 9,000 photographs

The McCord Museum has received an exceptional gift of over 9,000 photographs dating from the mid-19th to the late 20th century created by Quebec photography studios from across the province. The donation from Mr. Jean-Luc Allard has been granted ‘‘cultural property’’ status by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board.

Composed  of  a  wide  variety  of  photographs,  this  extensive  collection  eloquently  illustrates  the  production  of  Quebec  photography  studios  and,  at  the  same  time,  helps  situate  and  illuminate  the  professional  practice  of  photography  in  Quebec  from  the  mid-19th  to  the  late  20th  century.  The  1,030  photographers  from  around  the  province  represented  in  this  collection  of  images  augment  the  list  of  amateur  and  professional  artists  active  in  the  province, many of whom are lesser known to the general public. Among them are Ludger Côté from Montreal, John Thomas Lambly from Trois-Rivières and Quéry Frères from Quebec City, to name a few.

In  addition  to  identifying  more  photographers,  this  donation  is  an  incredible  source  of  information  on  photographic  processes.  The  different  media  and  dimensions  of  the  images  illustrate  the  technological  evolution  of  black  and  white  photography  from  its  beginnings:  daguerreotypes,  tintypes,  albumen  prints  in  the  form  of  cartes-de-visite  (calling  cards),  cabinet cards and stereographs, gelatin silver print postcards, and other special formats like photographic jewellery.

The   thousands   of   portraits   from   photography   studios   located   throughout   the   province   provide an overview of a changing population over time and through the lenses of social class and region.

‘‘The Allard collection is an invaluable resource for expanding our knowledge of the history of photography in Quebec. The names and addresses of the various studios provide information about  the  profession  of  photographer,  notably  the  place  of  women  in  this  field.  Jean-Luc  Allard  and  his  wife  Lucie  Surprenant  have  made  an  extremely  generous  gift  and  we  are  very  appreciative,’’ notes Hélène Samson, Curator, Photography.

A retired chemistry teacher from Montreal’s Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, Jean-Luc Allard began his  collection  in  the  early  1970s.  Initially  interested  in  postcards,  he  started  collecting  old  photographs  several  years  later,  focussing  on  images  with  details  of  material  culture  like  clothing,  objects  and  furniture.  In  2006,  he  and  Jacques  Poitras  published  a  book  entitled    Les photographes québécois : la première liste officielle (1839-1950), which catalogued a large part of his collection. Estimated  to  be  worth  several  hundred  thousand  dollars,  the  Allard  collection  required  the  McCord’s teams to spend approximately 3,000 hours studying, cataloguing, and storing each individual item, in accordance with professional museum practices.

Val d’Or Studio, View of Val-d’Or, QC, about 1935. Gift of Jean-Luc Allard and Lucie Surprenant, M2017.46.2.6883, McCord Museum


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