Cotton, a fabric filled with memory…
What does antique cotton recall?
History Is Rarely Black or White examines cotton garments in the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress at Agnes from the late 1700s to the early 1900s through archival research, artistic intervention, and scientific enquiry. By the mid-1800s, the cotton industry comprised a complex, transnational network of industrialization, commerce and violence. The global thirst for cotton made the oppression of marginalized communities systemic, forever affecting generations.
This exhibition focuses on the humanity at the core of this brutal enterprise. Experts at the Facility for Isotope Research, Queen’s University, locate the point of origin of raw cotton used in garments displayed in this gallery. Archival tintypes and documents trace this journey into Canada, while works by artists Karin Jones, Damian Jöel, and Gordon Shadrach illuminate the ways in which the cotton trade’s problematic legacy is still with us today.