Before the Erebus: The making of Sir John Franklin

29 January 2018 - 22 March 2019

A most able seaman

Sir John Franklin is a legend in our time—but not for his successes. The mysterious fate of Franklin’s last Northwest Passage expedition has fascinated people for 170 years, but Franklin didn’t step aboard the Erebus out of obscurity. In his day, he was a celebrated explorer and naval commander: a man of vast experience.

The Bank of Canada Museum presented Before the Erebus: the making of Sir John Franklin—an exhibition that followed Franklin through the routes of his adventurous career. Like signposts along the way, the exhibit presented examples of currency that reflected the societies, the shifting empires and the turbulent histories that Franklin encountered during this great era of exploration and revolution.

Photo Gallery

close up of model coin

The 3D printed coins show far more detail than can be easily seen on the originals. And you could touch them!

model coin

All the 3D printed coins could be flipped to see the front and back.

museum panel

The reader rail featured 6 zones showing highlights from Franklin’s career and money he may have encountered at those times and places.

model coin

This coin was Spanish before being re-stamped with the image of Britannia. If you looked closely, you could just make out some Spanish words on it!

old coin

And here’s the original. All the artifacts that appeared in the reader rail were displayed on the map.

old bank note

This “Bank of Canada” note is not one of ours but from a 19th-century American Bank.

old bank note

Before there was a Canada, the Hudson’s Bay Company produced promissory notes for their outposts.

ropes and pulleys

Franklin spent most of his life aboard a ship, so the nautical theme was important to the exhibition.

ropes and pulleys

These pulleys are artifacts themselves—antiques that were obtained for the display.

illustrated map

The routes of Franklin’s adventures were all indicated with markers that resemble naval signals flags. The pins identified the artifacts.

exhibition window

One key message of this exhibition was that there was much more to Franklin’s life than just the mysterious disappearance of his last expedition.

exhibition window

The money of Franklin’s day was a reflection of the social upheavals, colonization and revolution taking place in the societies he encountered.

30 Bank Street
Ottawa, ON