Exhibition Cases

The exhibition has been divided into eight cases; some maps, and sketches by David Thompson are hung on the walls of the Maclean-Hunter Reading Room.

Case 1 French Discovery and Exploration of the Continent

Beginning with Cartier, who in 1534 traded French-made goods for furs, to the travels of Charlevoix searching for the purported western sea between the New World and Asia, this case documents the explorations of the French from the eastern coast of the New World down the St. Lawrence and into the Great Lakes region. Maps range from the first printed map largely devoted to Canada, initially printed in Ptolemy's Cosmographica, to Sanson's attempt to document "Le Canada", Du Creux's mapping of the canoe routes used by the voyageurs, and Lahontan's imaginary westward-flowing "La Rivière Longue".

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Case 2 British Exploration of the North

French domination of the eastern coastline and British attempts to find the Northwest Passage led to British control of the northern regions through Hudson's Bay. The case illustrates the early voyages of John Davis, and Thomas James, among others, to find the Northwest Passage, and the controversy between Christopher Middleton and Arthur Dobbs as to whether such a passage existed.

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Case 3 Hudson's Bay Company

The early British practice of stationary forts to which furs were brought is illustrated in the account by trader Joseph Robson who began working for the company as a stonemason, helping to build Prince of Wales Fort on the shore of Hudson's Bay. Later exploration into the interior is exemplified in Samuel Hearne's A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean; one of David Thompson's earliest tasks as a new employee of the Company was to write out part of this text. The great map of Hearne's journey is featured. Life in the service of the company after it joined with the North West Company is detailed in John McLean's Notes of a Twenty-Five Years' Service in the Hudson's Bay Territory. Just like Robson, and David Thompson, McLean was highly critical of the Company's practices.

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Case 4 North West Company

The French practice of sending out voyageurs in canoes deep into the interior of the continent was carried on by the North West Company, formed principally of Scottish traders, after the conquest. A number of notarial voyageur contracts and a manuscript letter about the sale of beaver skins to the firm of Sir Alexander Mackenzie & Co, one of the co-partners of the North West Company are featured in this case. Also displayed is the large folded map published in Alexander Mackenzie's Voyages from Montreal on the River St. Laurence, Through the Continent of North America.

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Case 5-6 David Thompson

The Thompson papers held by the Fisher Library consist of several drafts of the manuscript of the 'Travels', and essays on subjects of natural history that greatly interested the cartographer and which are described in this catalogue. Examples are shown in these cases.

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Case 7 Influences on David Thompson

Mentioned in both the journals and notebooks and the 'Travels' are the titles of many books read by Thompson, not only in preparing his text for publication, but to answer his curiosity about the natural world around him. A number of these titles are displayed.

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Case 8 David Thompson's Legacy

The 'Travels' has fascinated readers since it was first edited by Joseph Burr Tyrrell for the Champlain Society in 1916 "with the hope that it may assist in confirming David Thompson in his rightful place as one of the greatest geographers of the world." Later editions by Richard Glover and Victor Hopwood are joined by typescript pages of the latest edition, currently in preparation by Bill Moreau, one of the authors of this catalogue.

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