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Redpath Museum celebrates 130th anniversary

Sam Reynolds / McGill Tribune

On Thursday, March 22, McGill’s Redpath Museum celebrated its 130th Anniversary with the official launch of the Redpath Museum Club’s new publication, Behind the Roddick Gates. The event included presentations by student contributors to the journal and a retelling of the museum’s history.

Completed in 1882, the Redpath Museum is the oldest structure built as a museum in Canada, and was originally built to house former-principal William Dawson’s personal collection of artifacts. In the last 130 years, the Redpath Museum’s collection has grown considerably, and the museum currently receives about 10,000 visitors each year.

At the anniversary celebration, volunteers dressed as historically relevant figures like Principal Dawson and museum founder Peter Redpath explained the museum’s history. Emily Bamforth, PhD student and internal facilitator of the Redpath Museum Club, was dressed as Dawson’s daughter Anna.

“[The anniversary is] significant because the Redpath Museum [has] had teaching and research since it was open, and it continues to be the only free museum in Montreal because that was one of its mandates when it was opened,” she said.

Although Munroe-Blum was not able to attend the event in person, organizers played a recorded message in which she shared her thoughts on how the values of the museum have helped shape the values of McGill as a university.

“From its inception, the Redpath Museum has been open free of charge to the public,” Munroe-Blum said. “Indeed, in many ways it is a powerful expression of the public mission of McGill as a university itself to learning, research, teaching, and the ability to have a hands-on experience with artifacts that enrich our understanding of the world.”

Masi praised the museum’s role in McGill’s history, including its role in research, the expansion of its collection, its outreach and public programming, and its pedagogical innovations.

“When this museum was first built, it was clearly a state-of-the-art, scientific research facility that helped solidify McGill’s status and prestige as a world-class research university,” he said.

Part of the way the Redpath Museum Club is moving forward is with its new annual journal, Behind the Roddick Gates. According to Bamforth, members of the Redpath Museum Club have been working on the journal for over a year.

The journal is a collection of research on interesting facts and features of the Redpath Museum, McGill University, and Montreal. At the anniversary event, several student contributors to the journal briefly explained their research topics, which included Dawson’s discovery of an ancient lizard skeleton in 1852 and McGill’s conservation efforts for endangered species.

Natalia Toronchuk, a U6 English literature student and contributor to the journal, wrote an essay about the first Internet search engine, “Archie,” which was developed at McGill.

“It’s been really fun,” she said. “All the people who work at Redpath Museum and the people that are in the museum club are really amazing, sincere, wonderful people, so it really wasn’t that difficult for me to do my research with their help.”

“Anniversaries such as this one give us an opportunity to reflect back, but also to look forward,” Masi said.

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