Cook and Canada: A Reputation in the Making. Captain Cook Memorial Museum. 2009

Cook and Canada: A Reputation in the Making. Captain Cook Memorial Museum. 2009

Cook and Canada: A Reputation in the Making
A catalogue to the exhibition at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby. 

Following in the style of the previous catalogues to exhibitions at the Memorial Museum in Whitby, the latest contains only twenty pages but the factual content and the many illustrations make it a very worthwhile addition to any Cook library. A major contributor and supporter is Dr Ian Jackson, a Yorkshireman by birth but now of Montreal, Canada, who has held several important positions for the Canadian Government. He is joined by several other contributors, including CCS members John Robson and Selma Huxley Barkham. Exhibits have been loaned by many important institutions throughout the UK and material is also reproduced from museums and people worldwide.

The title is faithfully followed by a chronological development of Cook's association with Canada, including a useful timeline. Appropriately, the exhibition opens just 250 years after Cook, then Master of Pembroke, was involved in the events leading to the successful British assault on the French city of Quebec in 1759. A two-page article notes the difficulties of navigating the river St. Lawrence and Cook's role in charting it, thus enabling the British fleet to reach Quebec. It outlines the course of the battle culminating in success for the British and the deaths of the two commanders, Wolfe and Montcalm. Prior to this one are articles concerning Cook's presence at Louisbourg and the important meeting with Samuel Holland, the military surveyor. There is also essential information on the importance of Newfoundland and the cod fisheries. The end of the Seven Years War brought Cook's appointment as the surveyor of Newfoundland, and emphasis is given to Cook's skills in navigation and charting in the next article, with attention also given to the publication of the charts. This work, of course, led to Cook's appointment to command of Endeavour and his first world voyage. The final article is about Cook's time on the North West Coast of Canada during his fateful Third Voyage, and gives special prominence to the time spent at Nootka Sound. Each of the articles is very well illustrated with examples of Cook's charts and the reproduction of famous paintings and drawings, many of which appear in the exhibition.

The remaining pages of the catalogue are devoted to a list of the exhibits with background information about each item; many of the items are illustrated. The front and back covers of the catalogue cleverly combine a copy of Cook's chart of the Harbour of St. Peter for Thomas Graves, then Governor of Newfoundland, with a reproduction of a troop landing boat used at Quebec and a photograph of the "Little Wooden Midshipman", a figure used by a well known chart maker in London and used by Charles Dickens in his novel Dombey and Son. It is now in the Dickens Museum, London.

A small, entertaining and informative booklet and an essential guide to the exhibition.

Alwyn Peel

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 45, volume 32, number 3 (2009).

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