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A trove of Caribbean history

A group of Toronto donors have united to bring one of the largest, most significant collections of historical photographs of the Caribbean to the AGO Collection.

J.W. Cleary, Coconut Palms, Kingston Harbour

J.W. Cleary, Coconut Palms, Kingston Harbour, ca 1895, 17.53 cm x 23.11 cm. Gelatin Silver print Promised Gift of Patrick Montgomery.

Spanning 100 years of history and featuring more than 3,500 photographs from the Wider Caribbean Region including Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad, The Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs has arrived at the AGOand is now part of our Collection.

This incredible visual record is one of the largest and most significant of its kind and includes compelling images ranging from the 1840s to the 1940s, including prints, postcards, albums, stereographs and more. Studio portraits, landscapes and tourist views all bring to life the changing economies, environments and communities that emerged following the abolition of slavery. 

Made possible in part by the generous contributions of a group of 30 donors, the majority of whom are from Toronto’s Black and Caribbean communities, these works will go on display in 2021. The AGO’s Photography department is excited to delve deeper into the Montgomery Collection and continue the research process as it prepares for the highly anticipated exhibition.

“We know little about the photographers who took these images, and there is much to be learned about the complicated histories captured in them,” says Julie Crooks, Assistant Curator, Photography. “A visual record of transport and migration, racialized communities, economics, geography and colonialism, they are as compelling to look at as they are to study, and we can’t wait to get started. This is the largest known collection outside of the Caribbean, and positions the AGO as a leader in Caribbean photographic research.”

The AGO’s Michael and Sonja Koerner Director, and CEO, Stephan Jost is also excited. “What we collect is what we study. What curators study is what we show. And what the AGO shows becomes culturally important,” he says.

Unknown, At The Market, Martinique, ca 1895, 22.23 cm x 18.42, albumen print.
Felix Morin, Bananas, Trinidad, ca 1890, 25.4 cm x 19.69 cm, albumen print.
Unknown, Glendairy Prison Officials, Barbados, 1909. 13.97 cm x 19.69 cm, albumen print.

Stay tuned for future programming and events as we prepare for the first exhibition of this incredible collection in 2021.

Admission to the AGO Collection and all special exhibitions is always free for AGO Members,  AGO Annual Pass holders and visitors 25 and under. For more information, please visit the website.

All images above are from the Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs. Purchased, with funds from Dr. Liza & Dr. Frederick Murrell, Bruce Croxon & Debra Thier, Wes Hall & Kingsdale Advisors, Cindy & Shon Barnett, Donette Chin-Loy Chang, Kamala-Jean Gopie, Phil Lind & Ellen Roland, Martin Doc McKinney, Francilla Charles, Ray & Georgina Williams, Thaine & Bianca Carter, Charmaine Crooks, Nathaniel Crooks, Andrew Garrett & Dr. Belinda Longe, Neil L. Le Grand, Michael Lewis, Dr. Kenneth Montague & Sarah Aranha, Lenny & Julia Mortimore, and The Ferrotype Collective, 2019.

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