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Sunday, March 3, 2024
Museum exhibit shows selfie culture is nothing new
Shawna Butts, assistant curator at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum, marks the upcoming opening of the museum's new exhibit, "Strike a Pose: The Art of Self-Obsession," by taking a selfie. NOTL Museum/Supplied
A portrait of Charlotte McMurray (nee Johnston). NOTL Museum/Supplied
An example of the work of photographer William Quinn, a portrait of his son. NOTL Museum/Supplied

Think taking a selfie to share on social media is something new?

Not by a longshot.

From the paintbrush to the smartphone, capturing one’s likeness, it would seem, has always been an obsession.

And today, grabbing that selfie to mark a special event, a meeting with a celebrity or just simply documenting your daily life is an activity that many today cannot live without.

A new exhibit at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum called “Strike a Pose: The Art of Self-Obsession” shows how the people of Niagara-on-the-Lake have been documenting themselves for centuries, whether in paint, ink, pencil, film photography or digital pixels.

The exhibit opens this weekend in time for the Rotary Club of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Holiday House Tour, running Dec. 1 and 2 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sponsored by NOTL-based Selfie Mode, the exhibit continues through the end of April 2024.

Selfie Mode has provided its Selfie Booth, which will add an interactive element to the exhibit. Visitors are encouraged to take a photo of themselves, which can then be included in the exhibit.

“We’re lucky to have a long history with photography here,” said Shawna Butts, the museum’s assistant curator.

“Many of the pictures I chose for this exhibit were taken by photographer William Quinn, who had his studio in the family home on Ricardo Street.” 

NOTL historian Joseph Masters wrote about how locals used to enjoy watching Quinn set up his gear. 

“And once he was underneath his camera hood, according to Masters, they’d give him some swift kicks in the rear,” Butts said.

Luckily, today’s photographers are treated a little more gently.

Before the advent of photography, the only way for people to leave behind a personal legacy was to immortalize themselves in paintings and drawings.

The exhibit will highlight that with early settler portraits, including Mary and Peter Servos, John Crooks and Capt. William Milloy.

As well, the museum showcases its collection of miniatures – handheld portraits that were popular well into the 20th century. One rare image is that of War of 1812 heroine Laura Secord, created several years before her death.

For more information, visit www.notlmuseum.ca.

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