Canada In A Box Analysis

I chose to do the Canada In A Box exhibit because it stood out to me compared to the other exhibits. This exhibit is about cigar containers that provide insight to Canadian history from 1883 to 1935. I did not know what a cigar container was or why it would have any significance to be put up for display in an exhibit before the online tour. I was intrigued to learn about why they were so popular and how information could be found by the images found on the containers, whatever objects that still remained in the containers, and the brand and origin of the companies that manufactured the containers.

As I stated earlier this exhibit is about cigar containers, which are simply containers that cigars were sold in between 1883 and 1935. The exhibit provides information about the many different companies and manufacturers of these containers and tells us why they were popular to have. The artifacts used are multiple different brands of cigar containers ranging from English- Canadian and French Canadian, American, and United Kingdom manufacturers.

Although the purpose of the cigar container was to be the holder of the cigars that one bought the main attraction was not only the quality of the cigar itself, but also the pictures, symbols, and images found on the containers. These images ranged from brand logos, comedy pictures, nation symbols, event pictures, animal images, sporting event images, and any icon that was significant that people found interesting. Cigar containers in a sense are similar to modern day lunchboxes with images that children use to show what they are interested in except these containers were a way for adults to show their interests.

They also had value as collectibles to some people which sparked interest for collectors and was a reason why manufacturers made some limited versions of these containers. The exhibit was straightforward beginning with an introductory video giving a brief history of the images found on one specific container which then proceeds with sublinks to the different national cigar containers with images and some explanations for the images chosen by manufacturers and their significance back then and now.

The thing I liked about this exhibit was that it was easy to follow and understand. The information was straightforward, the images were clear to see, there were some good descriptions, and it provided a niche part in canadian history that allows us to see what Canadians were interested in during the time period of 1883-1935. What I did not like about the exhibit is that there were multiple containers that had information of what they were and who they were manufactured by but without the significance of the container or why it would be a container of interest or controversy.

Also, the exhibit gets repetitive when it shows the containers without a significance description because there were many like this. I think the exhibit was good, it provided unique information with interesting topics and well thought out insight to the interests of society from 1883-1935. The layout is simple with interactive elements and follows their specific theme well. The overall point of this exhibit is to provide examples of how people were able to show their interests through the images on their cigar containers and also the items that may have been left inside them.

One problem I had with the exhibit was the absence of information for some of the artifacts because I feel that more historical information and reasoning to go along with the pictures of these cigar containers would be beneficial to the exhibit. That being said, the introduction video shows this exhibits curator, Sheldon Posen, describes one of the containers that they had acquired and describes how that one container sparked the drive for the exhibit itself.

He goes on to explain how he recognized the image on the container of “Jumbo” the elephant and his trainer, which was the elephant that popularised the word jumbo as being used for something or someone that is big or huge, and it provided the location of St. Thomas, Ontario as well. Sheldon Posen then went on to research the connection between Jumbo and St. Thomas, Ontario and found that Jumbo died in St. Thomas, Ontario on it’s way to a circus along a railroad with his trainer and another elephant . Jumbo noticed on oncoming train and tried to protect his trainer and fellow elephant from the train and was unfortunately hit by the train.

This story is interesting and is fascinating how it can be represented and remembered on a simple cigar container, but I believe this is because the whole story is provided along with the artifact. Maybe one of the exhibits goals is to spark interest in the images on these containers so that people could research the information themselves for a more individual interactive learning experience, but I think if the information and story of each artifact was presented along with its image it would make the exhibit a better experience.

Another artifact that I felt was effective in contributing to the exhibit was the cigar container containing the image of the character “Punch” which derived from the British cartoon character of an Italian man named Puncinello which had short fame within the UK. Canadian cigar makers took influence from Cuban cigar makers to revive the character as “Punch”, which had the interest of children and adults, on their boxes to create interest from English consumers while also providing a character that had some fame in Canada as well.

From this artifact we are able to see how a simple cartoon character on these cigars was used to market the cigars to a broader market showing the economic effect of these symbols and the similarities of marketing now and in the past. All this historical information is able to presented through the images and labelling on the exterior of one cigar container which is why it helps contribute to the goal of this exhibit along with the hundreds of thousands of other cigar containers.