The Illustrated History of Tourism at Musée de la civilisation
May 22, 2013
Destination Québec: An Illustrated History of Tourism
Tourism posters are creative works and artifacts from our graphic design and advertising heritage
There is nothing new about efforts to entice travelers to visit a region or attraction! Here in Quebec, we have been using inspiring images and illustrations to extol the virtues of our most beautiful attractions since 1825! That’s one of the things visitors will learn as they admire the 40 posters featured in the exhibition Destination Québec: An Illustrated History of Tourism presented May 22 to August 18, 2013, at Musée de la civilisation, in partnership with Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), and next year from August 2014 to January 2015 at Centre d’archives de Montréal.
Taken from the collections of both partner institutions, the works on display were selected for both their artistic and documentary value. As Musées de la civilisation executive director Michel Côté noted, “These posters are creative works of art covering a period that is crucial to understanding the growing importance of leisure in our society. They must be recognized as precious and fragile indicators of the evolution of artistic and advertising techniques of the time. It’s vital that we preserve them so they can be shared with future generations.”
“Imagine visiting the Kahnawake reserve in 1880 in the company of Sarah Bernhardt, staying at the original Manoir Richelieu in 1900, or spending a winter evening at the Saint-Adèle Lodge during the Second World War. The same attractions have been drawing tourists for over a century, and these ads from the history of tourism will convince everyone of the importance of recording and preserving this aspect of our cultural heritage,” added Guy Berthiaume, chair and CEO of BAnQ.
Learning to draw a crowd
Born in Britain in the Industrial Age, tourism soon spread to North America, fostering new land and river routes as it grew. Steamships, trains, and ocean liners soon gave way to cars and planes as travel became faster, easier, and more comfortable. Quebec jumped on the bandwagon, eagerly attempting to draw visitors with a multitude of images showcasing its foremost attractions, major cultural events and celebrations, beautiful resorts, expansive forests, and numerous lakes, rivers, and mountains. The province was sold as a paradise for hunters, anglers, and nature lovers. Snow became white gold—and there was plenty of it!
These images were created to attract American visitors and were displayed in train stations, travel agencies, or in the street and used for trade shows and promotional activities. Many of them were created anonymously. Others bear the signatures of Quebec poster artists like Ernest Senécal and Roger Couillard or artists from Europe, mainly England. Starting in the late 1950s, the names of graphic design firms begin to appear on certain ads.
The Roger Couillard archival fonds
In 2009, the estate of Roger Couillard (1911–1999) made a magnificent donation to Musée de la civilization, providing insight into the craft of poster art and graphic design in the 20th century. Notable items in the fonds include 33 sketches and 27 original posters as well as tools like pens, pencils, and compasses. This gift is an eloquent homage to the legacy of Roger Couillard, a prolific artist who influenced the history of graphic arts in Quebec and whose work captures the evolution of holiday resorts in the 1940s.
See the exhibition, own the book!
To explore the exhibition in greater detail, Éditions de l’Homme has created a wonderful book of the same name providing a closer look at the history of these illustrated representations of Quebec society through some 350 works from various museums and cultural institutions across Quebec.
Take a voyage through time with a visit to the Destination Québec: An Illustrated History of Tourism exhibition presented May 22 to August 18, 2013, at Musée de la civilisation, in partnership with Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ).
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