AHEAD OF HER TIME. ELINOR DUNSMUIR’S CREATIVE LIFE.
A traveling exhibition designed for small museums and commnity organizations. Touring BC and Canadian venues
March 19 to April 30 at Craigdarroch Castle
See additional dates and locations »
The Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society is pleased to present a fascinating travelling exhibition about a fascinating woman of the early 20th century. Elinor’s legacy was two-fold – she was woman who was unafraid of being herself in times of repressive mores, and a major musical talent who left behind an impressive body of musical compositions in the form of art songs, concertos, Broadway show tunes, and more.
Elinor Dunsmuir was a prominent member of a wealthy coal baron’s family — a mining operation which ﬂourished on Vancouver Island BC in the late 1800’s. Today, the Dunsmuir family home, Craigdarroch Castle, is a National Historic Site and was the family home to the Dunsmuirs for nearly two decades.
exhibit has been designed to offer an interactive and enriched musical journey through Elinor Dunsmuir’s story. It was created to be accessible and low-cost, enabling small museums and community institutions across British Columbia to host it. Incorporating a variety of interactive elements, the exhibit immerses and engages visitors of all ages in the music, life and times of Elinor Dunsmuir.
The ﬁfth child of James and Laura Dunsmuir, Elinor Dunsmuir was born in 1887 in the coal mining community of Departure Bay, outside of Nanaimo. Both wealthy and well connected, the Dunsmuirs later moved to Victoria, where James served as Premier and Lieutenant Governor during Elinor’s childhood.
The prominent role the Dunsmuir family played in BC society meant that Elinor and her siblings were expected to conform to a particular set of behaviours deemed appropriate for wealthy young women at the time. She was expected to be pleasant and docile, and to converse with a variety of people, but never to challenge them. Shy and intelligent, Elinor struggled with this role from an early age.
Elinor’s privileged background meant that her childhood was ﬁlled with music and art. At an early age, Elinor began studying the violin, performing with local musical societies and in amateur theatrical productions. With her sister, she was sent to school in New York and then to Germany, where she studied music.
Elinor’s decision to remain in Europe likely stemmed, in part, from her sexuality as there was little tolerance for sexual and gender diversity in early 20th century Canada. Elinor did not hide from the fact that she was a lesbian. As such, in these times, she would have faced judgement and discrimination from her family and community.
Elinor often addressed her sexuality in her music, through love songs written to women and pieces set to the erotic poetry of the ancient Greek writer Sappho. Her music is surprisingly diverse in both the type of music she composed and the techniques she used. In addition to short art songs, Elinor wrote piano concertos, ballets, and Broadway show tunes.
We are grateful to the Government of Canada funding through the Access to Heritage Component of the Museums Assistance Program for their financial support.
EXHIBIT DATES AND LOCATIONS
Craigdarroch Castle - March 19 to April 30, 2020
Courtenay Museum – June 29 to October 19th, 2020
PLEASE CONTACT US TO FIND OUT MORE OR TO BORROW THIS EXHIBIT.
Fees to be determined.
Created by the Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society. Designed and built by InSitu Services and Lime Design. This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada.
MEET THE DUNSMUIRS
Robert and Joan Dunsmuir had two sons, eight daughters and plenty of exploits. The Castle weaves a fascinating tale of this intriguing family – their achievements, their relationships and even their quirks.Learn More
ABOUT THE CASTLE
Built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir during the reign of Queen Victoria and now a National Historic Site, Craigdarroch Castle has been meticulously restored, giving visitors a glimpse of privileged life in the 1890s.Learn More
PLAN YOUR VISIT
We are open daily from 11am - 4pm (closed Monday & Tuesday), with extended hours from June 15th to September 6th (9am – 7pm). (Please note that we are closed December 25th, 26th and January 1st)Learn More