Talbot: the man and
Exhibit: Thomas Talbot: Man and Myth
Dates: Feb. 16-Apr. 27
Location: Museum London
By Beth Hunwicks
ONE DAY I'LL MAKE IT ON THE $5 BILL!" Thomas Talbot's life and
works are currently being featured at Museum London.
Museum London is currently
housing an exhibit rich in local history and legend.
As part of a celebration honouring the 200th anniversary of Talbot's settlement,
the exhibit Thomas Talbot: Man and Myth pulls its visitors back
into a time of growth and opportunity, when the surrounding area of London
was wild and uncivilized.
The questionable reputation of the great colonizer Thomas Talbot resonates
throughout the story of the founding of London and surrounding area. The
exhibit explores Talbot, who is known for his rather "idiosyncratic,
eccentric and authoritarian" personality. It also looks at the growth
and settlement of the area, which was initiated by Talbot.
The curator of Regional History for Museum London, Michael Baker, is interested
in broadening the knowledge of London's citizens by offering this historical
look into London's past. While a young audience may not initially be attracted
to an event such as this, Baker feels it may draw the interest of those
interested in art history, Canadian history or even those who have once
inquired why the historic town hall looks like a castle, or why Richmond
street lies where it does.
Talbot came to southern Ontario from Ireland in 1803, and by the end of
his active period in 1837, he controlled 27 townships, extending from
Long Point in Norfolk County to the Detroit river.
Throughout the exhibit, many maps of the settlements are displayed. Each
land plot is individually named after a specific settler. Talbot was known
to have been extremely specific and even rather petty with his selection
of landowners, often writing their names in pencil, which was easily erasable.
Talbot gave land to those he felt were dedicated and determined enough
to successfully build upon the land allotted to them.
The maps show land division, road placement and building sites, many of
which still stand true today; for example, the old town hall was actually
fashioned after Talbot's castle in Ireland. The map illustrations also
provide valuable documentation that places certain families in various
locations, which is very helpful in tracing family histories.
Many works of art are included within the exhibit by Garrison artists
who were specially trained in topographical art, and produced many works
showing the composition of the surrounding area. Luckily these works of
art survive and show modern viewers the progression of the settlement
as time progressed. In addition, a few paintings of Talbot's personal
estate and images of the landscape are also included in the collection.
Some of Talbot's personal items are displayed, such as his cane, desk,
chair and a map similar to the one that originally hung above his desk
in his office. Talbot kept close watch on the expansion of his land and
settlement, and carefully recorded any and all changes upon his maps.
He would often make conditional deals with prospective settlers, one condition
being that they would be given land, and in turn, they would be required
to clear the land to make way for the road systems he had set out.
Today, Talbot is known for his dominant personality, open opposition to
reform, insistence of loyalty and commitment from his settlers, as well
as his incredible skill as a colonizer. Museum London's current show celebrates
and immortalizes this diverse man and the history of London. Baker hopes
that this exhibit will teach modern citizens about their interesting local
history and foster a new interest in the past.
The Thomas Talbot exhibit runs until Apr. 27 in the Lawson Family
Gallery at Museum London.