- Gesner’s Museum of Natural History
- Mechanics’ Institute
- Natural History Society of NB
Three institutions laid the foundation of what was to become The New Brunswick Museum. Gesner’s Museum of Natural History, the Mechanics’ Institute and the Natural History Society of New Brunswick are discussed respectively in terms of their contributions to the present collection. Each institution has a unique story to tell that provides a fresh glimpse into Saint John’s colourful past.
Investigation of the collections has presented several challenges. In common with other museums of similar age and size, the New Brunswick Museum’s records for the nineteenth and early twentieth century are incomplete, scant and often inaccurate. Also, many artefacts have lost their identities within the collection, because they lack accession numbers that would tie them to the records. When places of origin are documented, they are often vague or incorrect. Finally, consistent with conventions of the time, donors are often credited with nothing more than their last name and initial, making it difficult to ascertain their identities.
Study of the donors has brought to light for the first time many engrossing stories of travel and adventure. Their stories form a rich, multi-faceted anthology. Study of the artefacts is revealing for the first time the true character and diversity of the early international collections, evoking some of the fascination they must have held for their donors, the museum collectors and the audiences who viewed them. They provided residents and visitors with a window on the world and, at the same time, an expression of the character of Saint John. Then as now Saint John was an industrial city and a seaport, which also produced a vibrant community of museum builders who were outward looking, engaged in the world and curious about other cultures. Close