A symbol of significance: Dal seeks ideas for new ceremonial object to replace university mace

- March 7, 2017

An archival shot of the Dalhousie Mace at Convocation. (Nick Pearce photo)
An archival shot of the Dalhousie Mace at Convocation. (Nick Pearce photo)

Convocation is an exciting time for the Dal community. It’s an occasion to celebrate students who have committed themselves to academic excellence and now have a world of possibility set before them. And it’s a time at which the diversity of the Dal community — in culture, background, areas of study — is on full display.

Dalhousie has launched a search for a new symbol to celebrate that diversity. Under the university’s Strategic Initiative on Diversity and Inclusiveness, a committee has been struck to commission a new ceremonial object for the university to replace the university mace, currently used by the University Beadle (the Registrar) to lead the academic procession at Convocation and Induction ceremonies.

The process aligns with the Strategic Initiative’s 2015 Belong report, which recommended that the Euro-centric mace be redesigned to “reflect the richness of our historic Nova Scotia and the modernity of our intellectual commitments.”

“The re-visioning of the mace represents a significant step in our continued work in fostering a campus community that embodies values of inclusiveness, diversity and respect” said Norma Williams, Dal’s executive director of diversity and inclusiveness. “I am excited to see a ceremonial object that will represent our rich history and evolving values.”

Seeking a new symbol

Although maces were originally a medieval-era weapon, they have become commonplace in many governing bodies including legislatures, municipal councils and universities. They add importance to events by symbolizing the values and culture of an institution and its history.

Dalhousie’s mace was first carried in 1950. It was designed by Dr. Richard Lorraine de Chasteney Holbourne Saunders, former head of the Department of Anatomy, and carved in oak by A. H. MacMillan. Saunders intended the mace to represent maritime traditions and the historical significance of Dalhousie’s service to the Atlantic provinces.

But Dalhousie has changed a great deal over the past half century. The university community is larger and more diverse, with a greater appreciation for the much wider set of traditions and values that shape its past, present and future. Replacing the mace with a new ceremonial object represents an opportunity to identify a symbol that reflects the current diversity of the Dal community and its values, while still paying tribute to the university’s history and heritage.

Dalhousie recently put out a call for submissions to artists and designers to submit their ideas for the design of the new ceremonial object.

“We will be looking for a ceremonial object that acknowledges the true history of Nova Scotia and Dalhousie University and represents all members of the Dalhousie community,” said Peter Dykhuis, director and curator of the Dalhousie Art Gallery and chair of the Mace Re-Visioning committee.

Spirit of collaboration

The committee is made up of members from across the Dalhousie community. It includes: Norma Williams (President’s Office), Isaac Saney (Transition Year Program), Kathleen Reid (Dalhousie Student Union), Kara Paul (Indigenous Advisory Council), Geri-Musqua-Leblanc (Elder in Residence), Catherine Martin (Dalhousie Alumnae), Christine Macy (Faculty of Architecture and Planning), Kevin Hewitt (Chair of Senate and Black Faculty and Staff Caucus representative), Katherine Harman (Vice Chair of Senate and Faculty of Health Professions), Michele Gallant (Art Gallery), Lindsay Dowling (Communications and Marketing), Michael McAllister (Registrar’s Office) and Christina Coakley (Registrar’s Office).

Dykhuis says it is too early in the process to know what form the new ceremonial object will take and how it will be incorporated into our Induction and Convocation ceremonies. He’s eager, though, to explore the ideas that will be brought forward by artists during the competition process.

The committee’s goal is for the new ceremonial object to be unveiled on February 6, 2018 during Dalhousie’s Bicentennial Address


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