The header of this blog is a cropped image created by our famous Canadian artist Paul Kane. This wonderful oil painting shows an Ojibwa camp at Lake Huron.
Here is another photograph of the same picture. What do you notice? Both photographs were taken at the Royal Ontario Museum and accessed from Wikimedia Commons.
The differences may be due to any or a combination of factors such as lighting, camera, or photography techniques. In the process of interpretation, these secondary sources became altered. For this reason, our understanding of primary and secondary sources is important in the study of history. This helps us to keep an open mind for possible biases when doing research. Also, we need to use credible sources and verify the findings.
Paul Kane’s art provides a valuable record of the life and customs of the Aboriginal peoples in early Canada. Interestingly, his sketches are considered a primary source that documents history. On the other hand, Kane’s paintings are treated as a secondary source. Many historians believe that his paintings were influenced by his art training and the European culture at that time. Look at above pictures. The Ojibwa belong to the Anishinabe society. What do you notice about the way they lived? How does the picture make you feel? Connect to what you already know about the Anishinabe. Should the original painting be considered a primary or secondary source? Why?
To learn another perspective, watch this video clip by Ken Lister, curator of the Paul Kane Collection at the Royal Ontario Museum. Do you agree with him?
References: Paul Kane, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online