Skip to Content

McTavish, Lianne. "Strategic Donations: Women and Museums in New Brunswick, 1862-1930." Journal of Canadian Studies 42, no. 2 (2008): 93-116.


With the use of archival sources, this essay focuses on white middle-class women and their contributions to the Museum of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Findings suggest that despite being excluded from full membership, the women of the Ladies’ Auxiliary established methods of representing themselves via official records, meetings, and being in the public eye; this was often done by employing conventionally female activities such as baking, decorating, gift giving, and acting as hostesses at gatherings. Despite increasing female presence (from the museum’s origin in 1862), male dominance remained apparent, often marginalizing the female position when thought to thwart male supervision. While addressing the role of women in early museums, this essay simultaneously challenges the theory of contemporary museums predominantly becoming entertainment. While stating that the economic function of museums has changed, historical evidence of commercialism can be seen through the Ladies Auxiliary of the National History Society in the nineteenth century raising funds through traditional female-gendered assumptions. Taking women and their contributions to early museums seriously can shed light on issues, including the changing definition of what museums are.

Kelsey Wood-Hrynkiw