Library and Archives Canada

Library and Archives Canada

June 05, 2015 11:40 ET

Exhibition of Rare Sir John A. Macdonald Artefacts Opens at Bellevue House National Historic Site

PM's Kingston home hosts special Library and Archives Canada exhibition

KINGSTON, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - June 5, 2015) - Bellevue House National Historic Site, John A. Macdonald's one time Kingston home, is hosting a special exhibition from Library and Archives Canada (LAC) that documents the public face, private life, and enduring power of one of Canada's most iconic political figures.

The exhibition features famous treasures from LAC's vaults, such as a page from an original draft of the British North America (BNA) Act, thought to have been handwritten by Sir John A. Macdonald himself and the telegram announcing the driving of the last spike signalling the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The exhibition also showcases a Romantic-style oil painting thought to be the earliest portrait ever made of Canada's first Prime Minister.

A selection of personal receipts also offers some insight into how Macdonald spent his money. Purchases range from a genuine Scottish kilt to a medical prescription for indigestion.

One of Macdonald's school books allows visitors to make their own decision about whether or not he was a good student. His last will and testament provide a unique perspective into a life well lived.

As Bellevue House National Historic Site celebrates the 200th anniversary of Macdonald's birth, the historic house has been revitalized to present a more open and inviting space. In the visitor centre, a new exhibit on the life and legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald will feature a rotating display of artefacts directly related to Macdonald's life.

Quick Facts

  • Sir John A. Macdonald was born on January 11, 1815 in Scotland and immigrated to Kingston, ON with his family as a young boy.
  • The LAC exhibition will be on display until October 12, 2015.
  • LAC holds Canada's most comprehensive collection of material related to the life, times and legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald.
  • One of Macdonald's greatest accomplishments as Prime Minister was the expansion of Canada. Within four years of Confederation, Canada extended from sea to sea.
  • Macdonald also created Canada's first national park in Banff, Alberta in 1885.


"Sir John A. Macdonald was a visionary leader who established Canadian institutions that still form the backbone of the modern country we love today. Together Parks Canada and Library and Archives Canada are presenting rare and fascinating insights into the life and times of Macdonald. I encourage Canadians of all ages to take advantage of this anniversary year to discover more about our country's first Prime Minister."

Katherine Patterson, Field Unit Superintendent, Georgian Bay and Ontario East, Parks Canada

"The exhibition allows visitors to see some of Canada's most precious political documentary heritage, in a setting that affords personal interaction with these rare artefacts."

Dr. Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada

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Bellevue House National Historic Site:

About Parks Canada

Bellevue House in Kingston, Ontario, once the home of Sir John A. Macdonald and his family, is now a national historic site and part of Parks Canada's family of unique places. Sites like Bellevue House enable Canadians to experience their rich history and heritage in a special way. These places will play an important part in the celebrations and commemorations leading to Canada's 150th birthday in 2017.

About Library and Archives Canada

The mandate of Library and Archives Canada is to preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations, and to be a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all, thereby contributing to the cultural, social and economic advancement of Canada. Library and Archives Canada also facilitates co-operation among communities involved in the acquisition, preservation and diffusion of knowledge, and serves as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions. Stay connected with Library and Archives Canada on Twitter (@LibraryArchives), Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.

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