Leacock Museum to host first Anne Lister exhibit in North America

Anne Lister (photo by permission of Shibden Hall)

The Leacock Museum is proud to present its latest exhibit, “Decoding Anne Lister: History’s First Modern Lesbian,” opening on Sept. 9, 2023.

The exhibit explores the life of one of the most famous code-writers and diarists, Anne Lister, who hid her private life inside a series of journals containing five million words and her own complex system of code.

“This is the first Anne Lister exhibit in North America, introducing her to an entirely new audience and providing a unique opportunity for Orillia,” said Mayor Don McIsaac. “As stewards of the Leacock Museum, our growing city is honoured to be able to present diverse figures in literary history that so often go overlooked in a museum setting.”

The focus of a popular TV show, “Gentleman Jack,” Anne Lister meticulously captured the details of her life including love affairs, business deals, and politics in a partially encoded diary that scholars have worked for decades to transcribe. The exhibit focuses on the life of this revolutionary British lesbian while exploring themes of Canadian Queer history, the art of code breaking, and the world in which Anne Lister existed.

On Sept. 9, the Leacock Museum is hosting an artist-led painting workshop and an exclusive look at the new exhibit with a guest speaker appearance discussing topics in Queer literature and art. Stay tuned to the Museum’s social media as the identity of the painting instructor and guest speakers are revealed in the coming weeks. Two sessions are available to attend: noon to 2:15 p.m. and 1:45 to 4 p.m. Tickets are $25 plus HST per person and available for purchase at leacockmuseum.ca.

“History is filled with individuals getting creative to hide their personal letters and journals for various reasons. For Stephen Leacock that meant a hidden compartment in his closet. For Anne Lister, the famous diarist, that meant a complex and personal code,” said Amanda Marino, Leacock Museum Experience Development Officer. “This exhibit is a year and a half in the making and we are so excited to share Anne Lister’s story with Orillia.”

The Leacock Museum has collaborated with Calderdale Museums in the United Kingdom; the makers of the “Gentleman Jack” TV series; Lake Country Pride; ArQuives; and the Mariposa Arts Theatre to bring the story of Anne Lister to North America. The exhibit can be viewed during self-guided tours Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last entry at 3 p.m.). The exhibit is expected to run until January 2024.

For more information visit leacockmuseum.ca or the Museum’s Facebook and Instagram pages @LeacockMuseum.

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