Collecting is about connecting across time and space. We use our knowledge and our networks to seek out objects that embody important stories in the history of science and technology in Canada. But sometimes, when we don’t even know we should be looking for it, an object finds us and forces us to look beyond our established collecting priorities to discover a genuine treasure.
Throughout my travels across Canada - purposed to interview veterans of the mining, metallurgy and petroleum sectors, one of the questions I asked was: How present (or absent) were women in the workplace?
Although the history of Canadian metallurgy is of national significance, our collection in this area is rather small. Before, I could decide what to collect, I needed to gain a better understanding of the subject. Therefore in June 2015, I travelled to the Georg Fischer Iron Library in Switzerland where I spent three weeks as a Scholar-in-Residence. I researched the history of metallurgy, and the technology transfer between Europe and Canada.
It was a great pleasure to learn about John Colton’s service. His son was kind enough to share many of his stories with me. I would like to share one in particular which has stuck out in my mind.
Plastics are so much a part of our lives that we don’t even think about them except when we check for the recyclable symbol. Plastics in museums, however, deserve much more attention as they present significant and constant collecting and preservation challenges.
When asked where metals such as nickel comes from, most people would tell you that it is found in the ground. Evidently it is a metal you mine. But what if I told you nickel can actually be grown?