A one-of-a-kind donation! - McCord Museum

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Collections and Research

Edward Melville Presby, Portrait of firefighters, Richmond, QC, 1909 (detail). Gift of Jean-Luc Allard and Lucie Surprenant, M2017.46.2.7450, McCord Museum

A one-of-a-kind donation!

Our Photography collection recently received an exceptional donation that most museum collections could only dream of acquiring. Jean-Luc Allard, a retired chemistry teacher from Montreal’s Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, has entrusted the McCord Museum with some 9,000 Quebec photographs, a collection he began in the early 1970s.

What makes the Allard collection so unique is its eloquent illustration of the practice of photography in Quebec in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although the photographs cover the period from 1853 to 1987, the majority were taken before the First World War: 6,625 items predate 1914. Comprised primarily of portraits, the collection comes from a variety of places in Quebec, making it an extraordinary sampling that enables us to map the photography studios active in the province during the first six decades of the medium.

  • Val d’Or Studio, <i>View of Val-d’Or, QC</i>, about 1935. Gift of Jean-Luc Allard and Lucie Surprenant, M2017.46.2.6883, McCord Museum
  • Edward Melville Presby, <i>Portrait of firefighters, Richmond, QC</i>, 1909. Gift of Jean-Luc Allard and Lucie Surprenant, M2017.46.2.7450, McCord Museum
  • J. H. Braün, <i>Wedding portrait, Richmond, QC</i>, 1901-1920. Gift of Jean-Luc Allard and Lucie Surprenant, M2017.46.2.7349, McCord Museum
  • Armand Sylvestre, <i>Portrait of unidentified men, Waterloo, QC</i>, about 1912. Gift of Jean-Luc Allard and Lucie Surprenant, M2017.46.2.6741, McCord Museum
  • Ludger Côté Sr, <i>Group portrait of an unidentified family, Saint-Henri, QC</i>, 1863-1876. Gift of Jean-Luc Allard and Lucie Surprenant, M2017.46.2.1302, McCord Museum
  • Eugénie Pilon, <i>Portrait of an unidentified man, Montreal</i>, 1890-1898. Gift of Jean-Luc Allard and Lucie Surprenant, M2017.46.2.2751, McCord Museum
  • P. D. Manseau, <i>Family portrait, Coaticook, QC<i>, 1890-1905. Gift of Jean-Luc Allard and Lucie Surprenant, M2017.46.2.7427, McCord Museum
  • Ernestine L’espérance, <i>Le port de Gaspé</i>, QC, 1904-1933. Don de Jean-Luc Allard et Lucie Surprenant, M2017.46.2.4420, Musée McCord
  • François-Xavier Vachon, <i>Portrait d’une inconnue, Lac-Mégantic, QC</i>, 1898-1926. Don de Jean-Luc Allard et Lucie Surprenant, M2017.46.2.6853, Musée McCord

The approximately 1,030 photographers represented in this collection worked throughout the province—not just in the greater Montreal and Quebec City areas, but from Gaspé to Rouyn, Lac-Mégantic to Chicoutimi, and Baie-Comeau to Coaticook.

The photographic processes, as well as the media and dimensions of the images, illustrate the technological evolution of black and white photography: albumen prints in the form of cartes-de-visite (calling cards), cabinet cards and stereographs; gelatin silver print postcards; daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes; and photographic jewellery.

The Allard collection is an invaluable resource for studying the history of photography in Quebec. The names and addresses of the various studios provide information about the profession of photographer, notably the place of women in this field.

Thanks to the large number of photos from the studios of Ludger Côté, Laprés & Lavergne, James Inglis and Eugénie Gagné in Montreal; Kilburn in Coaticook; Quéry Frères and J. Rivet in Quebec City; and Lambly in Trois-Rivières, the work of these lesser-known photographers can be studied in greater depth. The thousands of portraits in the collection provide an overview of an entire population over time and through the lenses of social class and region.

From January 2017 to December 2018, the McCord’s Collections Management team spent approximately 3,000 hours over two years cataloguing, numbering, constructing custom-made containers for and storing every item in Jean-Luc Allard’s donation. Once this exhaustive inventory was completed, the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board (CCPERB) recognized the national importance of the Allard collection by granting it “cultural property” status.

For the McCord Museum, which is already home to the celebrated Notman Photographic Archives, the addition of the Allard collection perfectly complements our knowledge about the practice of studio photography in Quebec since the invention of the medium.

Hélène Samson, Ph. D., March 2020

See Press Release (PDF)

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