128 years ago, the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven into the dirt at Craigellachie, BC. It was a triumphant moment, one that signalled the start of a new era of westward expansion, immigration and economic prosperity. But the triumph of the CPR’s completion obscured something much darker: the sweat, sacrifice and suffering of thousands of workers who laboured thanklessly to construct it.
The Canadian Pacific Railway’s dichotomous history as both gateway to paradise and vehicle of oppression is explored in the current exhibit at Banff’s Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, entitled Picturing the Canadian Pacific Railway. Bringing together art, photographs, artifacts and historical records, the exhibit traces the history of the railway while illustrating the changing ways in which artists, citizens and policy makers have conceived of its function and symbolism over the last 150 years.
The comprehensive exhibit draws from the Whyte Museum’s own collection along with a sizeable selection of work from public and private lenders, everything from idealized early-1900s paintings of the railway’s tourist attractions to stark images of downtrodden labourers to contemporary art that represents the CPR’s wide-reaching social impact. Notable artists include Kristopher Weinmann, Peter von Tiesenhausen, Ciprian Muresan, Michael Cameron, and Jeff Spalding.
In addition to the Picturing the Canadian Pacific Railway exhibit, which runs until October 13, you’ll find a number of new exhibits and events happening at the Whyte Museum all year round, along with an impressive permanent collection of works both historical and contemporary. Established in 1968, the Whyte Museum does more than any other organization to celebrate and preserve the history and art of the Canadian Rockies.
The Whyte Museum is located in Banff, less than a 30 minute drive from the BEST WESTERN PLUS Pocaterra Inn in Canmore.