‘Arresting Images’ portrays crimes from 1886 to 1908

June 30, 2015   ·   0 Comments

For whatever reason, the idea of crime and of examining the mindset behind crimes is intriguing to the average person. From popular book series like John Grisham’s legal-based series, to TV shows like Law & Order, CSI and Criminal Minds, and movies like Ocean’s 11 and the Shawshank Redemption, it’s clear that crime – or at least the legal pursuit to bring justice to crime, draws us in, and it seems we can’t get enough.

Starting this Sunday, crime/law and history enthusiasts alike will have the opportunity to take in a bit of Dufferin County’s own law-making history, as well as a special travelling exhibit from the OPP entitled “Arresting Images”. The exhibit features a series of 100 mug shots from the OPP taken between the years of 1886-1908.

“The topic is incredibly intriguing to many people, and we haven’t had an exhibit like this here before,” said Sarah Robinson, Curator at the Dufferin County Museum and Archives (DCMA). “We felt that this was an exhibit that could be connected with our own criminal history. There are a number of things people don’t know about the area, such as that the courthouse dates back to 1881, and used to have a governor and long-term prisoners.”

During a special media preview of the exhibit on Monday afternoon, the Citizen had the opportunity to view the photos, which line the walls of the museum’s silo, providing a brief note about each person photographed.

“For many of the people in these mug shots, these would be the only photographs they would ever have taken of themselves,” explained Ms. Robinson. “Many people didn’t come from wealthy families, and it was the wealthy who could afford the portraits. Not that they would ever see these pictures, but it would be their only photographed mark on history.”

Despite being mug shots, the photos could easily be described as works of art, with some of them more clearly, artistically and creatively shot than many professional portraits shot during that time. While many showcase stern-faced, and sometimes even terrified looking men and women, others wore smirks, smiles, and one duo-even goofing off together, despite being on their way to prison.

“One of the incredible things about these photos is that you see their personalities really come out in the images,” said Ms. Robinson. “Sometimes they’re smirking, sometimes they’re stern – sometimes you can tell they think it’s a big joke.”

And in some, the faces are haunting – leaving you wondering what could have led them down a path to have such a dark expression.

Those displayed in the exhibit have crimes ranging from pick-pocketing and petty theft, to burglary and larceny, horse thefts, and some even arrested for murder. Some of them hardly look their age, with wide-eyed, baby-faced young men who look shocked and frightened.

Not all in the exhibit were convicted, either; some were arrested merely under suspicion or for being in the company of suspicious persons. Others were housemaids and bellhops accused of theft by their employers, though not necessarily guilty of the crime.

“It’s definitely an area that people are becoming more and more interested in, and oftentimes for families it’s difficult to make it to exhibits like this that would be held in the city,” said Ms. Robinson. “We wanted to bring this travelling exhibit here so that local residents could come and see it without having to worry about the distance, as well as see the connection to our own history.”

The grand opening of the exhibit will be held this Sunday, July 5, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Dufferin County Museum and Archives, and will feature a number of family-friendly activities for adults and kids. Not only will kids have the opportunity to experience what it’s like to get finger-printed (for fun only, of course), they will also get to play games about facial recognition, and experience their own mug-shots while dressed up in costumes specific to the attire of the late 19th century. The event will even feature a nice little jail cell for those who want to see what it’s like to be ‘behind bars’. OPP Staff Sergeant Steven Sills and Constable Paul Nancekivell will also be in attendance for the grand opening. Admission to the event is donation based.

The Arresting Images exhibit will run until September 6th in the Silo Gallery, along with artifacts, information and anecdotes on the County Jail attached to (and now part of)  the Dufferin County Courthouse. It is an award-winning travelling exhibition, which was started in 2009, marking the Ontario Provincial Police’s 100th Anniversary, and has travelled across the Country.

For more information, visit the DCMA website at .

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