September 18, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 12  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Pieces of London's history

Exhibition: Streets and Surveys: Growth in London, 1826-1993
Location: Museum London
Dates: Now through Jan. 4, '04

By Nicole Laidler
Gazette Staff

Matt Prince/Gazette
NOW THIS IS EXCITMENT. If your Friday night is otherwise unbooked, why not check out Streets and Surveys at Museum London?

If a picture paints a thousand words, then a map can hold a whole novel.

Streets and Surveys: Growth in London, 1826-1993 tells the story of London's development through an exhibition of historical maps, postcards and photographs currently on display at the Lawson Family Gallery in Museum London. The large "City of London Annexations" (1826-1993), by cartographer Cheryl Koteles, is meant to be the show's centre piece. This colourful map documents the series of boundary changes London underwent as it grew from a small settlement at the forks of the Thames River to the mid-sized city it is today.

"Bird's Eye View of London, 1872," is a fascinating example of the panoramic map craze of mid-19th century North America. Prominent buildings are painstakingly reproduced in minute detail. Many familiar London landmarks are easily identifiable, but many more beautiful looking buildings have since disappeared. A surprising number of oil refineries once lined the rail lines east of Adelaide St. according to the map, reminding the viewer that Lampton County, west of London, was once the site of an oil boom.

"The Township Maps, 1878" documents the land ownership of London and Delaware townships. Many of the family names will be familiar to Londoners and a surprising number of the farms are registered to women. "The Fire Insurance Plans 1881-88" show the large variety of businesses that once thrived downtown. Every store is listed along with the materials the buildings were made of.

A number of exhibits also trace the development of Western. The campus is barely recognizable in an aerial photograph taken in 1946. Middlesex College, the old stadium and Cronyn Observatory stand isolated in green fields. Western was still surrounded by the London Hunt and Country Golf Club at this time and several sand traps are clearly visible.

Streets and Surveys is more work than entertainment. The written commentaries that accompany each exhibit provide a wealth of historical information about the development of the Forest City. Unfortunately, the maps themselves are not laid out in a clear, logical order, making the show disjointed and confusing.

On a purely visual level, this exhibition is not particularly interesting. More photographs and paintings should have been included to break up the visual monotony and to bring the streets on the maps to life. However, the show does accomplish its stated goal - to chart the physical growth of London from its beginnings to the present and several visitors seemed genuinely delighted to discover what chapter of London's history "their" house belonged to.

Streets and Surveys: Growth in London, 1826-1993 continues at the Lawson Family Gallery, downstairs at Museum London, until Jan. 4. Museum London is located at 421 Ridout St. N. and is open Tuesday-Sunday, from 12-5 p.m. Admission is by donation.

 

 

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