Webster Canadiana Collection

For Dr. John Clarence Webster (1863-1950), knowledge of history had a value beyond educational enrichment. In his view it could instill a sense of cultural pride, a vital ingredient in any region's social and economic health. To foster knowledge of Canadian history, Dr. Webster formed his collection as a visual record of this country's history. Consisting of paintings, sculpture, maps and plans, photographs, medals, documents and minor arts, his Canadiana collection was unparalleled in his day. Although representing many aspects of the nation's history and life, its greatest strength lies in the areas of military and naval history. These extend from early exploration through the consolidations of French power; the period of Anglo-French conflict in the eighteenth century and the subsequent establishment of British rule; the British struggle in the American Revolution, to nineteenth-century settlement and expansion of Canada. Dr. Webster was particularly fascinated with the life and career of General James Wolfe (1727-1759) and acquired everything he could relating to the British hero.

Though seeking works primarily for their historical associations, Dr. Webster was also concerned with artistic merit. Whenever possible, he acquired the production of major artists and, to fill gaps, he commissioned original art as well as copies of unobtainable historical pieces. Some of these commissions are by Canadian artists, but as a consequence of the predominantly British subjects depicted, most of the paintings are British in origin.

Dr. Webster, a native of Shediac, New Brunswick, and a distinguished gynecologist, began his collecting activities shortly after World War I, when he and his wife Alice Lusk Webster moved back to the province from the United States. He was one of the founders of the New Brunswick Museum and donated his collection in 1932, thereby laying the foundations of the Department of Canadian History and endowing the Museum with one of its greatest assets.

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