Big Picture

Agnes’s vault

A female student pulls out a large grate with paintings stored on it.

Photography by Johnny C. Y. Lam

More than 17,000 works of art and culture are housed at Queen’s University’s Agnes Etherington Art Centre. The collection has strengths in Canadian contemporary and historical art in all media, Indigenous art, European paintings and works on paper from the 16th to the 20th century, historical African art, and Canadian decorative arts, quilts, and historical dress. Works are brought into the collection through various means, whether by purchase, donation, or bequest.

When the objects are not on view in Agnes’s galleries or on loan to other art museums around the world, where and how are these works stored?

“The collection lives in climate-controlled areas in Agnes’s facility,” says Jenn Nicoll, Collections Manager. “In this space, paintings hang on racks, works on paper are stored in solander boxes, quilts are rolled on acid-free cardboard rolls and Indigenous ancestors (historically referred to as artifacts in Western museology) may receive offerings of tobacco and visitations from community members. This care ensures collections are available to their communities and accessible to present and future generations.”

In June, Agnes began to pack the collection in preparation for the building of Agnes Reimagined, the new future-oriented facility. Some of the packing is on view in the exhibition Collection Count + Care, presented by Johnson, Johnston and Macrae Investment Group, part of CIBC Private Wealth Wood Gundy. Curated works in twos and threes hold space, or “take the stage,” for biweekly intervals, as Agnes says goodbye to them temporarily. Agnes’s current building is open to the public until Dec. 4 and construction is scheduled to end in 2025. Agnes’s temporary home will be MacGillivray-Brown Hall (218 Barrie St.).

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