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Let’s talk mug shots

|Written By Gail J. Cohen

Who isn’t familiar with the mugshot of the latest ne’er do well sprawled across newspapers and television screens? Arrest photos of celebrities have also become a hot commodity. The Smoking Gun web site has been trafficking in the images for years. So it’s easy to see that the public’s voyeuristic appetite for them is great.

Tapping into that, the Archives of Ontario is hosting a touring exhibit of mug shots from the Ontario Provincial Police Museum. There are 100 historical pics of “general ruffians of both genders, arrested for crimes ranging from pickpocketing and forgery to opium eating and murder” taken between 1886 and 1908.

The Arresting Images exhibit runs at the archives, which is located on the cmapus of York University in Toronto, until Dec. 9.

Checking out the photos will be interesting but the exhibit has also inspired York to put on a couple of fascinating panel discussion that include professors from Osgoode Hall Law School as well as York’s faculties of liberal arts and fine arts. So if you have a couple of hours on the afternoons of Nov. 21 or Nov. 29, it might be fun to spend them at these free lectures.

Lillie Williams (alias Harrington), a housekeeper, was arrested in 1901 on suspicion of an unidentified crime. Photo: OPP Museum

The first is Crime, Perception and Punishment and starts at 1 p.m. on Nov. 21 in the George Spragge Classroom at the Archives of Ontario. The panellists include Osgoode associate dean Shelley Gavigan, history professors Douglas Hay and Bill Wicken, and sociology professor Carmela Murdocca. This panel will be moderated by law professor Lisa Phillips.

The second panel, Busted: The Enduring Allure of the Mug Shot, focuses more on the visual aspects of the collection and features visual arts professors Katherine Knight, Sarah Parson, and Carol Zemel. The panellists will “bring to the table their distinctive interests and ways of viewing these images through the lens of the artis, theorist, and cultural historian.” Bulger Gallery presidnet Stephen Bulger will moderate this panel, which takes place at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 29 also at the archives.

For more information on the panels, click here.


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