MB: living and writing the early days of parks canada

0 > The Narrative

The Narrative

Find out more about the stages of MB Williams’ life and her experiences working with national parks. The exhibits below have been designed to be tell different parts of her life story sequentially. They each also highlight a different component of the collection, pointing the visitor to specific series of letters, publications, and other original sources.

 

Becoming MB

Becoming MB

Joining the Dominion Parks Branch on its first day of operation in 1911 did more than mean Mabel Williams could be a witness to history: it meant she could be a participant. She played a key role in developing and communicating a philosophy for national parks.

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A Great Land Waiting

A Great Land Waiting

In the 1920s MB rode horseback, hiked, and drove the parks of Western Canada. From this research she wrote what is arguably the most distinctive and enduring series of guidebooks that Parks Canada has ever produced.

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Letters Domestic and International

Letters Domestic and International

MB’s letters are in every sense the heart of the collection. Letters from her to her family reveal her everyday life, including in prewar London, England. And letters to her from famous folk or from her only known sweetheart reveal much, too, including what she thought worth hanging onto.

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Out Grey Owling Grey Owl

Out Grey-Owling Grey Owl

Grey Owl’s 1936 speaking tour of England brought MB back into the orbit of Canadian national parks. Letters to her provide compelling evidence that the Parks Branch knew Grey Owl’s secret – that he was an Englishman born Archie Belaney – well before his death.

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Photo Credit: Yousuf Karsh, Library and Archives Canada, Acc. no. 1987-054, PA-164228

Everything After

Everything After

MB wrote the first history of the Canadian parks system in 1936, but spent much of the next decades struggling unsuccessfully to build a career as an author. It was as if only when writing about parks that she had the passion to see things through.

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