Abundant with bloom: The garden worlds of Colby women

May 5th – September 8th, 2018

The exhibition discussed the Victorian garden from the point of view of its ties to the daily life of a family household. In addition to its aesthetic role as adornment to the house, the Victorian gardens was the source of a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, herbs and plants destined for use within the home; as nutrition, cut flowers and even medicinal purposes. The floral and arboreal arrangement of the garden evolved over time as tastes changed. By the end of the 19th century, the dominant trend was toward less formal, more natural, Gardens, and the use of native plants. The garden was designed as a place where members of the family could spend their leisure time, as part of the domestic landscape and an extension of the rooms of the house.

This exhibition featured Carrollcroft as a case in point. The Colby family was known to be particularly interested in gardening and our collection contains a good assortment of photographs, paintings and drawings. Colby family journals and the letters of Harriet and Jessie in which they discuss their gardening plans and describe day-to-day work in the Garden constitutes a  rich source permitting us to understand the role the garden played in the lives of upper-middle-class Canadian women in Victorian times. The garden will be our point of departure in exploring the close association between social and cultural practices, horticulture and landscaping.

This exhibition was produced with the collaboration of Cynthia Hammond, Associate Professor at the Department of Art History, Concordia University and Annmarie Adams, Department Chair and Stevenson Chair in the History and Philosophy of Science, including Medicine. Cynthia Hammond did an artist residency at the Colby-Curtis Museum. She used her research in our archives and collection to create a series of paintings responding to the history of gardening at Carrollcroft, gender and domestic landscape. Annemarie Adams, also collaborated in the project by writing an essay for this exhibition.