Allisonian Firsts

11 Jul 2022
New virtual exhibitions from the University Archives share Mount Allison’s history

SACKVILLE, NB – Two new online exhibitions are helping to tell the history of Mount Allison University’s campus and community. Historic Mount Allison showcases the early buildings of the Mount Allison campus (1843-1950) while Allisonian Firsts celebrates ‘firsts’ for the University.

Both exhibitions were created/curated by Renée Belliveau (Class of 2017), who was the acting University Archivist over the past year. Belliveau started working in the Archives in 2018 after she completed her Master of Arts in English at the University of Waterloo. She subsequently earned a Master of Information in Archives and Records Management at the University of Toronto and served as the acting University Archivist when long-time archivist David Mawhinney was on sabbatical this past year.

“Putting both these projects together was really a fun part of my work at Mount Allison,” says Belliveau. “The Historic Mount Allison exhibition came together over the past year while Allisonian Firsts has been an ongoing project for the last three years. It’s great to be able to share these histories and show some of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ work of the Archives at the same time.”

Belliveau worked with intern Keegan Hiltz (’19) over the past year to complete Historic Mount Allison while alumna Barbara McNutt (’53) served as an editor for Allisonian Firsts.

Belliveau is also the author of The Sound of Fire, a historical novel based on the events and aftermath of the 1941 men’s residence fire in which four Mount Allison students died. The book was released in 2021 and was named one Quill and Quire’s 2021 Books of the Year, the Miramichi Reader’s Best Fiction Titles of 2021 and shortlisted for the 2022 ReLit Novel Award.

When asked if she discovered any surprises in her research, the theme of fires continues for Belliveau.

“There were eight significant fires on campus over the years, the 1941 residence fire being the only one that saw a loss of life,” says Belliveau. “These events really shaped how the campus evolved over the years.”

Historic Mount Allison includes images and information on campus buildings throughout the ages from the first Mount Allison Wesleyan Academy building in 1843 to several current buildings. The exhibition includes quick facts around each facility including the architect, materials, its present-day location, and opening and closing dates, allowing visitors to easily imagine campus past and present.

Allisonian Firsts, which Belliveau says will be a continuing project at the Archives, celebrates known and researched ‘firsts’ by Allisonians past and present. This includes Grace Annie Lockhart, the first woman in the British Empire to earn a Bachelor's degree; Frank Parker Day, Mount Allison’s first Rhodes Scholar; and graduate Brenda Robertson, who was the first female MLA and Cabinet Minister in New Brunswick.

“Both of these projects are very much works in progress, like all archival research,” says Belliveau. “The list of Allisonian Firsts actually goes back farther than one might think, especially as it relates to women. Going forward, we’d like to focus more on Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) history at Mount Allison, first graduates of various programs, and better document both these individual and group firsts in the future.”

Both exhibitions are publicly available online:

Historic Mount Allison: https://libraryguides.mta.ca/historic_mount_allison
Allisonian Firsts: https://libraryguides.mta.ca/firsts/home


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