A hidden piece of Canadiana is going to a museum after its discovery in an archive at the University of Waterloo.
Several companies and charities in Waterloo region send their archives to the University of Waterloo Library. It was while cataloguing a box belonging to YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo that Jessica Blackwell, one of the librarians, noticed something unusual tucked inside and showed her colleague.
"It's unlike anything else we've ever received for safekeeping," said Jane Britton, retired head of Special Collections & Archives at the Dana Porter Library at Waterloo. "It was a small rug with a tag, but before I even read it I knew it was a Grenfell mat. I gasped."
Grenfell hooked mats are hand-made rugs named after Sir Wilfred Grenfell, whose eponymously named mission helped provide medical care for people in Newfoundland and Labrador starting at the beginning of the last century. He instigated a project in which local women made several different styles of mats from pieces of fabric and silk or rayon stockings. The sale of these items outside the region became a means for families in Newfoundland and Labrador to supplement their meager and unreliable income from fishing. Production peaked during the Great Depression. Collectors of folk art prize the artifacts.
This particular Grenfell mat depicts a stylized map of Newfoundland meticulously hooked primarily with stockings. How it arrived at the YWCA is unclear.
"When we got the call that we had an artifact in with our documents, we were both thrilled and perplexed because we don't know how we got it, from whom or when," said Elizabeth Clarke, CEO, YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo. "But we did know that this interesting item belongs with those who would appreciate it and communicate its significance to women's history in Canada. We are delighted to have this opportunity."
At Britton's suggestion, and with the assistance of the University, the YWCA will donate the mat to the Hooked Rug Museum of North America in Hubbards, Nova Scotia. It will become part of its permanent collection in May.
The YWCA is announcing the discovery and subsequent donation of the Grenfell mat to its stakeholders attending its Annual General Meeting today.
About the University of Waterloo
In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's technology hub, has become one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities with 35,000 full- and part-time students in undergraduate and graduate programs. A globally focused institution, celebrated as Canada’s most innovative university for 23 consecutive years, Waterloo is home to the world's largest post-secondary co-operative education program and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. In the next decade, the university is committed to building a better future for Canada and the world by championing innovation and collaboration to create solutions relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow. For more information about Waterloo, please visit uwaterloo.ca.
About the YWCA
YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo champions and supports the enrichment of the lives of women, families, youth, and children. We achieve this by offering early learning and care, youth development, emergency and supportive housing, counselling, advocacy, and referrals, and collaborative community leadership.