Written by: Michelle Gomez, Staff Writer
SFU is getting a poster collection which documents the past 40 years of Vancouver history.
The school bought the posters from Perry Giguere, a Vancouverite who had spent the past four decades putting up posters for different organizations across the city. Each time Giguere put up a poster, he kept a copy to add to his collection. Over time, Giguere collected what he claimed was 150,000 posters.
In an interview with The Peak, SFU special collections archivist Melanie Hardbattle explained that Giguere came to Vancouver in the mid-70s. He volunteered for the very first Vancouver Folk Music Festival, during which he was offered the side job of putting up posters for the event. From there, Giguere picked up jobs putting up posters for different events through word of mouth. His collection spans a large variety of festivals, organizations, bands, artists, dancers, protests, theatre, and benefits posters, among others.
Hardbattle has been working with Giguere for the past few years, going through his posters in the basement of the Vancouver Tap Dance Society, a space which he rented for storage. In February 2018, Giguere formally agreed to give SFU all of his posters, mainly as a donation. A month later, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and passed away in July at the age of 67.
Over the few years that Hardbattle was working with Giguere before his diagnosis, SFU had obtained 1,400 posters, and acquired 5,000-10,000 from his house after. While the final paperwork is not yet completed, Hardbattle estimates the university will end up with between 30,000 and 40,000 posters.
While Hardbattle noted that the posters were mainly given to the university as a donation, she maintained that any monetary sum that SFU may have paid for the collection was confidential.
Hardbattle explained that this collection is significant to SFU and to the community in general because “it captures, so comprehensively, the cultural, social, and political history of Vancouver over the last 40 years.
“A lot of the underground movements and activism are captured here that otherwise we wouldn’t have a record for,” she said. In particular, SFU is interested in activism posters relating to the LGBTQ+ community and Indigenous communities.
Posters are usually considered ephemera, said Hardbattle, meaning that they are usually thrown out after having served their purpose, and for this reason, many of the posters aren not dated. She also noted that, since many organizations now use social media to advertise their events, fewer and fewer physical posters get put up.
“It’s really significant that Perry kept copies because many of the posters in this collection are going to be the only ones that exist,” said Hardbattle.
Some of the posters will eventually be viewable online, as SFU received a grant to digitize about 800 of the posters. While SFU hopes to make a display in their special collections by next year, any student or member of the general public who wants to see the posters in the meantime can make an appointment to visit in-person.
In speaking about Giguere, Hardbattle said, “so many people knew him or had him put up their posters [ . . . ] He could always tell you a story about every poster or the person that was on the poster.” The BC Alliance for Arts and Culture wrote in a memorial post for him, stating that “Perry’s legacy lies not only in the physical documents he archived, nor in his tireless work promoting Vancouver’s arts and culture scene, but in his warmth, kindness, and generosity of spirit.”