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Consultation begins on proposal to move Macdonald sculpture to Macaulay museum

Consultation on a proposal to relocate the Sir John A. Macdonald “Holding Court” sculpture to the Macaulay museum in Picton will take place over the next several weeks. It was removed from in front of the library on Main Street Picton and placed in storage in June 2021.

The bronze portrait depicts a 19-year-old Macdonald winning his first court case in Picton. Canada’s first prime minister was once a resident of Prince Edward County. The sculpture was commissioned by The Macdonald Group and created by Canadian artist Ruth Abernethy to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth. It was unveiled in 2015.

The portrait was in storage once before between its relocation from the Armoury Mall next door. Its return in 2020 was a catalyst for conversation about about Macdonald’s complex legacy, within the broader context of colonialism. The sculpture was vandalized in multiple instances.

“We are pleased to see progress being made by staff members on this important issue,” said Mayor Steve Ferguson. “They took the time to thoughtfully consider the comments offered at previous special council meetings. In the coming weeks, we look forward to hearing from the public as we continue to work toward finalizing a plan for the future of the Holding Court sculpture that the community can support.”

The staff proposal suggests the sculpture would be part of a permanent exhibit exploring the local community’s reckoning with the national tragedy of the Indian Residential School system. The plan is informed by deputations made at special council meetings in November 2020 and June 2021.

Council has directed staff to begin consultation with first with key stakeholders including members of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, the Macdonald Project and members of the Holding Court Working Group that examined ideas for the future of the sculpture in 2020, as well as artist Abernathy.

Following, staff is to seek feedback from the broader public, including in-person engagement opportunities (within COVID-19 health protocols).

County staff is charged with finalizing a plan to go to council for final approval by March 31, 2022. The goal is to launch the exhibit in the summer of 2022.

People with questions are directed to contact Chris Palmer, Supervisor of Museums and Cultural Services, at 613.476.2148 extension 2521 or email cpalmer@pecounty.on.ca.

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