Into the Light: Eugenics and Education in Southern Ontario

Guelph Civic Museum from September 14, 2019 – March 1, 2020

Content warning: The exhibition Into the Light: Eugenics and Education in Southern Ontario includes content that some visitors may find offensive and/or traumatizing. Guelph Museums aims to provide open spaces for the sharing and understanding of all histories and lived experiences. We ask that visitors help to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and sensitivity.

Into the Light examines local histories and ongoing legacies of racial “betterment” thinking in Southern Ontario that de-humanized and disappeared those who did not fit the normative middle-class lives of white, able-bodied settlers.

In the early to mid 20th century, eugenics (race improvement through heredity) was taught in a number of universities throughout Southern Ontario, including Macdonald Institute and the Ontario Agricultural College, two of the three founding colleges that formed the University of Guelph. Educational institutions played a significant role in the eugenics movement by perpetuating destructive ideas that targeted Indigenous, Black, and other racialized populations, poor, and disabled people for segregation in institutions, cultural assimilation and sterilization.

While eugenics sought to eradicate those deemed as “unfit,” this exhibition centres the voices of members of affected communities who continue to work to prevent institutional brutality, oppose colonialism, reject ableism, and foster social justice.

Into the Light is co-curated by Mona Stonefish, Peter Park, Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning, Evadne Kelly, Seika Boye and Sky Stonefish. This exhibition of artistic, sensory, and material expressions of memory aims to bring one of Guelph’s dark secrets, as well as stories of survival, out of the shadows and into the light.

Into the Light: Eugenics and Education in Southern Ontario is co-presented by Guelph MuseumsRe•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social JusticeBodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology and Access to Life, and Respecting Rights, Arch Disability Law. Find the Into the Light Access Guide here.

News coverage: 

New Guelph exhibit reveals history of eugenics education in Ontario (CBC)
“Into the Light” exposes eugenics course taught in Guelph colleges until 1948 (BLOOM Blog)

Guided Tours and Q&A sessions:

Guided tours and/or Question and Answer sessions with Dr. Evadne Kelly, Post-doctoral Fellow at Re•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice, University of Guelph, Into the Light co-creator and co-curator, are available most Mondays and Thursdays by request. Guided tours with Dawn Owen, Curator of Guelph Museums may be available on other days by request. Tours and Q&A sessions are approximately 1-hour long however this timeframe can be adapted for your group. Please contact Museum Bookings at museum.bookings@guelph.ca to make arrangements in advance of your group visit to the exhibition and visit the Guelph Civic Museum Education Program page for more information on booking group tours.

Further Teaching and Learning Opportunities

Into the Light has great pedagogical value and potential for social justice-oriented faculty and students and content from the exhibition may be integrated into courses for both Fall 2019 and/or Winter 2020 terms. The exhibitionextends to studies in disability, decolonizing, social and political dimensions of bodies, difference, sexuality, archives,history of sociology, psychology and anthropology, history of public health, education, and domestic science,Canadian history and the history of science, race and racism, equity, human rights law and policy, and more.

Into the Light Public Events at the Civic Museum

  • Into the Light Opening Celebration Friday, September 27, 2019 – 6PM – Free admission Remarks, performances and reception. All galleries will be open.
  • In Conversation: Eugenics Retold Saturday, October 26 – 2 PM – Civic Museum – Free admission
    A conversation among eugenics activists and Into the Light co-creators and co-curators Mona Stonefish, Peter Park, Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning, Evadne Kelly, Seika Boye and Sky Stonefish, who work to prevent institutional brutality, colonialism, ableism, and social injustice. The conversation event will have ASL Interpretation and CART Live Captioning.

Co-Curator Bios:

Elder Mona Stonefish is an Anishinaabe artist, Traditional Knowledge Keeper, Windsor Art Gallery board member, disability activist, and recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee award.

Peter Park is co-founder of Respecting Rights, founder of People First, and recipient of the June Callwood Award.

Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning is an Anishinaabe contemporary artist and Assistant Professor in Indigenous Education & Pedagogy, York University (start date 2020).

Evadne Kelly is a modern dancer, and Postdoctoral Artist-Researcher at Re-Vision Centre for Art and Social Justice, University of Guelph.

Seika Boye is a scholar, writer, educator and consultant, whose practices revolve around dance and movement. She is a lecturer at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Toronto.

Sky Stonefish is an Anishinaabe jingle dress dancer, photographer, and activist.

Acknowledgements and Thanks

The development of this accessible curated exhibition has been generously supported by Dr. Carla Rice, Canada Research Chair and Founding Director of Re•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice, University of Guelph, and Principal Investigator and Co-Director with Eliza Chandler of the SSHRC Partnership Grant Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology, and Access to Life (BIT), and the Re•Vision and Bodies in Translation team (in particular Tracy Tidgwell, Ingrid Mündel, Kayla Besse, and Lindsay Fisher); Dawn Owen, Curator, Guelph Museums; Respecting Rights, in particular, Sue Hutton, Co-ordinator; and ARCH Disability Law Centre, in particular, Mariana Versiani, Communications and Outreach Coordinator, and Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director. Aaron Kelly, Assistant Professor in Theatre at York University supported production and graphic design elements. And, Dr. Franklin White, development consultant, public health sciences, provided notes on some of the scientific fallacies underlying eugenics.