New memoir tells the story of the Guelph Art Gallery from its humble beginnings


The Creation of a Museum by Judith Nasby is illustrated with 80 images and tells the story of the museum from its humble beginnings in the halls of the U of G campus in 1916 to the present day

The book may tell the story of 100 years at the Art Gallery of Guelph, but for Judith Nasby it encompasses her entire career and places her in a unique position to tell the story of the historical museum.

“I stayed there for 45 years. And that’s why the book is called a memoir, ”said Nasby, who began her career in 1968 as the founding director and curator of the Macdonald Stewart Art Center, now known as the Art Gallery. of Guelph.

The memory, The making of a museum, is illustrated with 80 images and tells the story of the museum from its humble beginnings in the halls of the U of G campus in 1916 to the present day. The photos are from the museum’s permanent collection.

In the book, Nasby explains how artistic institutions can be created through dedication, serendipity, and perseverance.

“A lot of it is reminiscences and a lot of humorous stories that happened,” Nasby said.

“I think the reason the book is important is that in a smaller place, building an institution is also based on the goodwill of the people and the opportunities for serendipity that arise and that one is capable of. ‘act quickly. “

Nasby said when the Guelph Art Gallery was launched it was run by a group of volunteers and it wasn’t until 1916 that it really got off the ground. She said famous paintings like The reader by Tom Thompson were purchased and hung in the building and hallways of the Ontario Agricultural College.

“When I arrived in 1968 and was hired to be the Curator of Arts for the University of Guelph, I had 150 works in the collection. I was very determined to create a community gallery that then serves the whole community and we built a collection of almost 9,000 works when I retired in 2013, ”said Nasby. She said the museum has a large collection of Canadian art.

“I soon realized that there was no point in trying to copy the National Galleries and the Canadian Art Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and it would be best if we specialized, especially as a gallery affiliated with a university where we could do special research publications and show our work.

“This therefore gives rise to a very important collection of Inuit drawings which have toured the four continents. It has been very well received internationally. It really put Guelph on the map.

She said that in choosing art, she wanted to show the diversity and breadth of the collection.

“There are images of Aboriginal beadwork. There are images of contemporary Canadian goldsmithing. We have a specialized collection with this. And of course, the 39-piece sculpture park is perhaps the most famous in the community. It is known as the country’s largest collection of contemporary sculpture in one place, ”Nasby said, adding that other important works include Chinese painting and European prints.

She said she had always wanted a sculpture park.

“The first sculpture was put in place in 1983. And then I thought it was extremely important to put together a collection that would fit into this very small site of just a little over two acres,” Nasby said. .

“Because this work is still there. It is visible. It’s nice. It is freely open to the public from dawn to dusk, and it makes public art very accessible to everyone. When of course, you know, galleries are always limited in what they can show inside their permanent collection.

Nasby’s memoir is published by McGill-Queen’s University Press and is available at The Bookshelf and Art Gallery of Guelph.


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