Museum Sinks its Teeth into Dental History
By Paul Robertson, Curator (2010)
The Museum of Health Care is excited to announce the arrival of Canada’s premier dental history collection. A gift to the MHC from the Canadian Dental Association’s Dentistry Canada Fund, this collection represents the most comprehensive cross-section of dental technology and practice in Canada over the past 200 years and greatly enhances our current dental holdings.
We are naming the collection after Dr. Ralph and Mrs. Olga Crawford to honour their more than 40-year ‘labour of love’ amassing and curating this extensive assemblage of artefacts and archives. Dr. Crawford began the collection as a dental student in the 1960s and originally used the objects to decorate his office in Winnipeg. In 1997 the Dentistry Canada Fund invited the Crawfords to establish the Dentistry Canada Museum at the organisation’s downtown Ottawa headquarters. After the closure of the museum in 2008, the DCF offered the Crawford Collection to the MHC.
The collection contains well over 1500 artefacts and documents. Included are dental chairs, units, cabinets, instruments and supplies, laboratory equipment, books, journals, and ephemera. Representing innovation and ingenuity, the Crawford Collection contains such items as an 1846 finger drill, circa 1912 portable dental chair, 1930s X-ray unit, 19th-century tooth keys for pulling teeth, a set of dentures made of deer teeth, and modern mouth guards and helmets used to prevent sports injuries. We even have a plaster dental cast of the late Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s teeth!
Not since 2002 when we accepted the 4600-item University Health Network collection of 18th to 20thcentury health care artefacts and archival materials (originally assembled by the Toronto Academy of Medicine) has the MHC been offered a collection of such size, scope, and quality.
The additional financial support of the Canada Dentistry Fund that accompanies the donation will assist with the housing and integration of the Crawford Collection into existing Museum holdings. We welcome Young Canada Works intern Sophie Malek who will begin to inventory, catalogue, and photograph the objects over the next six months. We are now planning future exhibits featuring the Crawford Collection to be shown in the Museum and on the website. Dr. and Mrs. Crawford have generously offered their time and expertise to curatorial staff as we work through the collection.
The accessioning of this collection was funded by the Museums and Technology Fund. The support of the Government of Ontario through the Programs and Services Branch of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture is acknowledged.
Interview with Dr. Ralph Crawford about the Crawford Dental Collection
The Crawford Collection in the Media
Museum Media Release: Canada's Premier Collection of Dental Artefacts Arrives in Kingston (2010)
Read more about Teeth in Time: Selections from the Dr. Ralph and Mrs. Olga Crawford Canadian Dental Collection in the Gallery Guide.