“Intimate Relations”: Canada and Scotland at the Glasgow International Exhibitions

Spooner, R. (2015) “Intimate Relations”: Canada and Scotland at the Glasgow International Exhibitions. British Association for Canadian Studies Annual Conference, London, UK, 23-25 Apr 2015.

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International Exhibitions served as platforms for the display of objects, the movement of people, and the dissemination of ideas across the British Empire and beyond. This paper looks at the historic connections between Canada and Scotland, examining how this relationship took shape at two International Exhibitions held in Glasgow in the late-Victorian period. Given the strength of the historic links between Scotland and Canada – represented through numerous public figures, as well as countless other Scots who worked, traveled and settled there – it was a priority to secure Canadian participation. As it was stressed to the Canadian government’s representative in Glasgow in advance of the International Exhibition of 1888, “I venture to hope from the intimate relations, commercial and personal, subsisting between your colony and this part of the Empire, that…we may receive your hearty support and co-operation.” I will begin this paper by outlining Glasgow’s position within the International Exhibition movement and its role as host. This topic has received minimal attention from scholars, a surprising omission given four of the largest and best-attended exhibitions ever mounted in Britain took place in the city. Following this, I will examine Canada’s presence at the Glasgow International Exhibitions of 1888 and 1901. The political and economic motivations that underlay the Canadian government’s decision to participate will be discussed through a consideration of the events that led to Canada’s first showing in Glasgow in 1888. I will then turn to the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901, looking at specific examples of what the Canadian government chose to display. What was the rationale for these carefully constructed and well-planned exhibits, and what visions of Canada was it hoped they would convey to a largely British, and particularly Scottish, audience? I will address some of the more emotive aspirations symbolised by what was exhibited in order to examine how Canadian authorities used these exhibitions to construct and promote a burgeoning sense of unique national identity. Consequently, the paper I am proposing adds to analyses of the country’s transition from colony to nation by framing the unification of Canada not as a single decisive political moment, but as a complex and on-going cultural process.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Keywords:International exhibitions, Canada, Scotland, British Empire, material culture, soft power.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Spooner, Dr Rosie
Authors: Spooner, R.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1001 Canada (General)
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Information Studies
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