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200th anniversary portrait bridges Dal past, present and future

- May 25, 2018

"Dalhousie University: A 200th Anniversary Portrait" — out and about on campus, next to the Dal 200 sign. (Staff photo)
"Dalhousie University: A 200th Anniversary Portrait" — out and about on campus, next to the Dal 200 sign. (Staff photo)

When Dalhousie graduates leave convocation this year, they’ll take a little something extra home to remember their alma mater by: a copy of A 200th Anniversary Portrait.

The glossy, 140-page book, produced to coincide with the university’s bicentennial year, casts Dal’s first two centuries in a creative light through its visual culture and oral history.

By blending Dal’s past, present and future into carefully curated spreads of historical and contemporary photography as well as artifacts and ephemera, the publication feels more like an art exhibit than history tome.

“People shouldn’t go to this book expecting it to be a traditional historical volume,” says Mona Holmlund, an assistant professor of visual culture at Dal and curator on the project. “It’s not history, it’s art.”

The book begins with a full reproduction of The Story of Dalhousie; OR, The University as Insurgency, former Canadian parliamentary poet laureate George Elliott Clarke’s adventurous take on Dal’s first 200 years in verse.

From there, the book turns primarily to visual culture and oral history as a way to express what Dr. Holmlund calls the “multiple histories of Dalholusie.”

“The story of Dalhousie if you are a Mi’kmaq person is different than the story of Dalhousie if you’re an African Nova Scotian or a settler Anglo Nova Scotian,” she says.

A journey through Dal history


Dr. Holmlund worked with University Archives, Design Services, Dalhousie magazine editor Kim Pittaway and others to bring structure and order to the book, which draws on thousands of individual items.

The book is organized around five different aspects of the Dalhousie experience: Buildings and Boulevards; A Year in the Life; Quest for Knowledge; Dal in the World; and You Were Here. A sixth section, My Dal, provides space for readers to add their own pictures and visual mementos into the mix.

“Dr. Holmlund and the entire team have put such care and consideration into this project,” says Catherine Bagnell Styles, Dal’s assistant vice-president of communications and marketing and lead on Dal 200. “I can’t wait for people to see this beautiful thoughtful reflection of our first 200 years and to hear about the memories it inspires.”  

Dal Office of Advancement helped make it possible for all 2018 grads to receive a complementary copy of the book thanks to financial support from TD Insurance Meloche Monnex. Copies of the book are available to the general public through Goose Lane Editions, and are making their way to bookstores now.

Order your copy: Order A 200th Anniversary Portrait from the Dal Bookstore

Net proceeds from sales of the book will go to supporting scholarships for Indigenous and African Nova Scotian students.

See a snapshot of what to expect below.


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