The Exhibition

A puppet is an inanimate object or representational figure animated or manipulated by a puppeteer. There are many different varieties of puppets, and they are made of a wide range of materials, depending on their form and intended use. They can be extremely complex or very simple in their construction. Puppets seem to be almost universal being found in most societies all over the world.

The history of puppets begins in the theatres of the Ancient World where they played a role in both the development of the drama and the evolution of religious ritual. Reactions to puppets vary widely – from affection and bemusement to fear and loathing. Are they toys or are they homunculi? It is perhaps this ambivalence that is part of their fascination and we don't really know whether they have self-awareness or not.

Richard Pennington, the University Librarian, wrote in 1961 that Rosalynde Stearn was "an historian as well as a practitioner of puppetry, and by 1952 had brought together not only a most comprehensive library on the puppet theatre but a collection of puppets characteristic of different times and countries." The collection formed by Rosalynde Stearn has been developed by the Library since its donation and forms the basis for this exhibition.

Special Thanks

This exhibition was curated by Richard Virr (Head of Rare Books and Special Collections and curator of manuscripts, McGill University) and Donald Hogan (Conservation specialist). Several library staff were involved in the creation of this website. Special thanks to Ed Bilodeau, Megan Chellew, Greg Houston, Elizabeth Thomson, Sharon Rankin and Alessandra Scarcia.