E. Mary Schwall: Traveller, Mission Volunteer and Amateur Photographer

E. Mary Schwall Exhibition

A unique collection of photographs is currently on exhibit on the third floor of the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Library.

E. Mary Schwall: Traveller, Mission Volunteer and Amateur Photographer is a series of black and white photographs taken in the summers of 1913 and 1915 when Mary Schwall was a volunteer for the Grenfell Mission.

The exhibit includes photographs from all of the communities in Newfoundland and Labrador en route from her home in Bedford, Mass., via Mulgrave, N.S., to the Grenfell Mission, in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, and Battle Harbour, Labrador. The photos provide a unique glimpse into the daily life of communities in Newfoundland and Labrador a century ago, through the lens of a tourist/traveller and amateur photographer. 

Dr. Katherine Side researched the collection and curated the exhibit with the assistance of Linda White, Archives and Special Collections, QEII Library.

“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time the collection has been displayed,” said Dr. Side, who is currently the interim associate dean, School of Graduate Studies, and an associate professor in the Department of Gender Studies. “What I have tried to provide for viewers is some background about who Mary Schwall was, how this collection was acquired and what it provides, in terms of our understanding about tourist travel in Newfoundland, Grenfell Mission volunteers and amateur photography at the turn of the 20th century.” 

According to Dr. Side, there is a body of scholarly work that suggests that photography was one of the ways in which women at that time could document their independence, and Schwall’s collection illustrates this "quite nicely."

The exhibit runs until January 15, 2015.

(This article also appeared in MUN Today.)