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Art History student wins Montreal museum prize

September 29, 2015

Elizabeth Cavaliere Elizabeth Cavaliere

Art History doctoral student Elizabeth Cavaliere was awarded a Michel de la Chenelière Prize by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on September 10 for her doctoral disseration "Surveying the Landscape: Cultural Imprints in Nineteenth-Century Canadian Topographical Photography".

The Michel de la Chenelière Prizes are awarded annually for academic excellence to a Master's and a PhD student studying in Montreal.

We asked Cavaliere about her work in Art History's Interuniversity Doctoral Program in Art History.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I am in the editing stages of my dissertation. This is such an exciting place to be because it means I get to revisit six years worth of archival findings and research. All of the puzzle pieces I’ve been accumulating through my research over that time have finally come together and that’s really rewarding. When I’m not editing, I’m working on conference papers or journal articles. I’ll be giving a paper at the Universities Art Association of Canada Conference in November on the photographs of Charles Horetzky as they were reproduced in George Monro Grant’s publication Ocean to Ocean: Sandford Fleming’s Expedition through Canada (1873). I’m also tinkering with a paper that has been accepted into a special, edited issue of the journal Histoire sociale/Social history
looking into the history of tourism in Canada. My contribution titled “Canada by Photograph: Instructed looking and tourism of the nineteenth-century Canadian landscape” examines two view-books, C. R. Chisholm’s All-round Route and Panorama Guide (1869) containing the photographs of Alexander Henderson and William Godsoe MacFarlane’s Canada’s Scenic Grandeur (1901), in establishing the importance of photography for the tourist of the Canadian landscape; for the construction of a sense of Canadian-ness in the viewing of the landscape; and, in the current dialogue surrounding the history of tourism in Canada.

What has your attention? What are new trends and/or new directions in your area of research or creation?

As someone who has spent their fair share of time digging around in archives, I am most excited to see so many initiatives within art history that are working to make archival findings accessible through online initiatives. For example, the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative (CWAHI) based in the Department of Art History at Concordia is a collaborative project working to bring resources and researchers together to enhance scholarship on historical women artists in Canada. The online CWAHI Artist Database makes accessible biographical information and bibliographic resources. Since 2010 I have been part of a research team, directed by Dr. Martha Langford, Research Chair and Director at the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, working to create a Canadian Photographic History Common Research Tool. Set to launch in 2016, the Common Research Tool is an online interactive database of primary writings on Canadian photography that works to address the central question of What did Canadians know about photography, and when did they know it? These types of initiatives not only bring together the research of emerging and established scholars both within and outside the disciplinary field, but also make that research accessible to a public increasingly interested in Canadian art and photographic histories.

How did you get here?

At least once a semester I have a student ask me what it’s like to get a PhD. I always give the same response: It’s a different journey for every single professor, researcher, and academic; often filled with both great difficulties and great accomplishments. The common thread is that everyone is greatly passionate about their research and wants to contribute meaningfully to the ongoing dialogue within their field. It’s also important to combine that passion with a strong and steady work ethic. The best advice I’ve ever received was to never say no to work, to ideas, or to yourself!

What are some of your recent accomplishments?

I am very excited about my recent publication “Benjamin Baltzly: A Photographer’s Expedition Journal” in the 2014 issue of the Journal of Canadian Art History. The publication brings together the complete collection of photographs produced by Benjamin F. Baltzly as he accompanied the 1871 Geological Survey of Canada with my transcription of Baltzly’s journal that kept while on the expedition, both held in the Notman Photographic Archives at the McCord Museum in Montreal. In collaboration with the archivists and curators at the McCord Museum all 124 photographs from the expedition were reproduced and published, inserting them into the journal transcription on the exact dates the photographs were taken. In my introduction to the photographs and journal, I maintain that Baltzly’s writing is the key to understanding both Baltzly and the photographs he took.

What are your students working on?

I’m teaching History of Photography at OCAD University and History of Canadian Art at University of Toronto Mississauga. In both classes students are looking at the ways that photographers and artists have been shaped through exhibition. They are visiting exhibitions in person to assess the impact of curation on the history of a particular art, and are also looking critically at historical exhibition catalogues. In developing a course, I always try to incorporate archival and collection research into lectures and assignments, offering students the opportunity to view and analyse material beyond the traditional text articles and monographs. My pedagogical approach is one that integrates my research interests and activities into the classroom, and also works to bring students’ interests to bear on course material; encouraging students to develop their own emerging areas of interest as well as to form their own critical perspectives.

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