The history of the Humanities Section of the New Brunswick Museum parallels the history of the institution as a whole. Many collections trace their roots to Abraham Gesner’s Museum of Natural History in 1842, and then through its subsequent incarnations.
Under the care Dr. William McIntosh (1867-1950), the museum's collections and its activities expanded dramatically. In 1934 a proud new building on Douglas Avenue opened to the public and in 1942, the collections became the property of the people of New Brunswick.
In 1934, the New Brunswick Museum accepted the collection of Dr. John Clarence Webster (1863-1950), thereby laying the foundations of the Department of Canadian History and endowing the Museum with one of its greatest assets. For Dr. Webster, 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.
The decorative arts collections are largely the manifestation of one woman's vision. Beginning in 1935, Dr. Alice Lusk Webster (1880-1953) gathered artifacts from around the world to illustrate major creative developments throughout history. Through her efforts and financing, Dr. Webster created a cohesive collection from a disparate one. By giving it a unique character and international scope, she made an irreplaceable contribution to the cultural life of New Brunswick. Subsequent additions by many generous donors have increased both the scope and the significance of the collection.
Today, the New Brunswick Museum, a Provincial institution, funded by the Province of New Brunswick, continues to collect, preserve, study, and exhibit our cultural and natural heritage. As well as its remarkable natural sciences collection, the museum has expanded to include one of the largest collections of 19th century decorative arts, history and Canadiana in the Atlantic Provinces.
The Humanities Collections are the responsibility of two curators: Gary Hughes, History & Technology, and Peter Larocque, New Brunswick Cultural History & Art, with the support of Curatorial Assistants and the Registrar. The Humanities Section currently consists of over 100,000 artifacts across multiple disciplines including fine and decorative art, history, militaria, clothing and textiles, and photography. The extensive collections are managed through the TMS (The Museum System) database and are supplemented with over 60,000 digital media assets. In addition to the research and exhibition in our own galleries, the Humanities Section also provides loans to other institutions provincially, nationally and internationally. Most recently, the section has also engaged in providing online content through the museum web site and external partners in the form of virtual exhibitions.