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Members of the Bytown Museum's Youth Council 2016.

Student-led exhibit showing photos of 100 years of Ottawa youth coming to the Bytown Museum in 2017

By Danuta Sierhuis on December 9, 2016

When is the last time you saw images of youth in a museum exhibition? Maybe it’s hard for you to recall? That’s probably because it has been a historically rare occurrence in museums. Many times if there are images of youth shown in a museum exhibition, they are often accompanied by a larger group or as a second thought within the image.

Photo courtesy of the Bytown Museum.

Photo courtesy of the Bytown Museum.

The Bytown Museum is changing this with a new permanent exhibition of photographs of Ottawa’s youth from 1917 to 2017 curated by the museum’s Youth Council opening in early February of 2017. The exhibition will be called “100 Years of Youth in Ottawa”.

“Museums often overlook youth when depicting history,” explain the members of the Youth Council in a press release, “be it in wartime, farm life, urban life, or political decisions. Our goal is to bring attention to this ignored demographic group.”

The Youth Council was founded in 2013 as a way to engage youth from high schools, universities, and colleges from around the city with Ottawa’s history, the museum, and to develop programming “by youth, for youth.” The Bytown Museum’s Executive Director, Robin Etherington says, “We chose youth because youth programming is part of our overall programming, but more importantly youth are our future – in galleries, museums, and businesses. We take youth involvement very seriously, and the Youth Council has evolved and grown into several unique projects, like this exhibition.”

The idea for the exhibition arose after the museum decided to update some of its gallery spaces, including adding a new blank wall on its third floor facing the newly revamped children’s/youth space (another project of the Youth Council). The Youth Council’s members developed a proposal for a permanent exhibition of photography with the theme “100 years of youth” to coincide with the museum’s centennial anniversary in 2017, which was accepted. Since then, the council has been involved in every step of the exhibition’s development from selecting materials, designing the layout to writing funding applications.

The exhibition will feature photographs of youth having fun, playing sports, and hanging out in Ottawa from the Bytown Museum’s collection of photographs, the Andrews-Newton Collection from the City of Ottawa Archives, yearbook photos from Lisgar Collegiate Institute, and the National Film Board’s photography collection housed at Library and Archives Canada. In addition to historical photographs, the members of the Youth Council have also included some of their own personal photographs to the exhibition.

The Youth Council’s Facilitator, Corrie Bouskill says, “The photographic archive only really goes up until the 1990s, so in order to represent the next 27 years we had to delve into our own personal archives. The Youth Council members were very excited to contribute their personal photographs to the exhibition – I have even included one of my own photographs as well.”

The exhibition, which won the September edition of the Awesome Ottawa award, seeks to inspire Ottawa youth by examining their role within the historical record. “Young people are not just the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today” says the Youth Council. If we can show youth that young people played a part in history, it will inspire them to do great things in the community.” 

100 Years of Youth in Ottawa will be unveiled in its permanent space on February 3, 2017 alongside the opening of the Bytown Museum’s centennial anniversary special exhibition, “Bytown Museum: A Century of Community”, which will run until February 19, 2018.

The current members of the Bytown Museum’s Youth Council are Rosalee Allen, Sophie Burgener, Sarah Cool-Fergus, Jessie Lang, Delany Leitch, Fan Li, Lilia Lockwood, Asmaa Mabrouk, Lindsay MacMillan, Tunmise Olatifede, Marielle Rochefort, Atae Sahmoudi, Julia Schwindt, Beatrix Shackleton, and Carson Turnbull.

For more information about the Bytown Museum’s Youth Council, see their blog.

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