New Exhibit Takes Visitors Back to the Future

Travel Back in Time to Discover the 19th-Century Innovations that Changed our World

What will the future look like? Time travel? Aliens? Settlements on other planets?

Scientists, authors, and visual artists have pursued this very question for centuries. Driven by curiosity and imagination, they have pushed the boundaries of the possible, envisioning whole new ways of being. The seismic impact of their ground-breaking explorations of the future can still be felt today.

Black Creek Pioneer Village’s newest exhibit, Invented: Propelled by Imagination, traces the historical lineage of scientific, technological, and creative concepts and products through a modern lens.

Invented - Propelled by Imagination

The exhibit unpacks the history, inspirations, and ideas of the 19th century’s most innovative thinkers and creators to reveal the influences that helped to shape our contemporary world, while also bringing attention to the diversity of players involved whose voices often are unheard.

The 19th century was a time of incredible innovation and creation, a fertile ground in which world-changing ideas would flourish.

However, we know this was also a time and environment that privileged a narrow demographic. Despite this, there are records of women, people of colour, and other marginalized groups who were involved in inventing the new world, and who are a significant part of the legacy. These important individuals are spotlighted in the exhibit.

Scientific discovery in the West reached new heights during the 1800s, powered by a deep curiosity about the world and ultimately changing the way we understood our own place in it.

It was during this period that Charles Darwin published his seminal work On the Origin of Species, which catalyzed the subdiscipline of evolutionary biology. It was also when Ynés Mexia, a female Mexican-American botanist, made great advancements for botany with her extensive collection of approximately 150,000 plant specimens – 500 of which were new species.

the Invented - Propelled by Imagination exhibit showcases the great scientific and technological innovations of the 19th century

Technology also advanced by great leaps with the invention of the light bulb, telephone, and phonograph in the latter part of the 19th century.

Elijah McCoy, an African-Canadian mechanical engineer and inventor with 50 patents under his name, became an important figure in the evolution of locomotives during this period, thanks to his invention of lubrication systems for steam engines. (Fun fact: It was Elijah McCoy who inspired the term “the real McCoy”, due to the great value of his products.)

The new revelations and innovations of this era would spark the imaginations of writers and illustrators whose visions of possible futures gave birth to science-fiction, a brand new genre in which the seemingly impossible became possible.

a visitor to the Invented - Propelled by Imagination exhibit uses a viewer to experience the work of visionary 19th century visual artists
Invented - Propelled by Imagination is the newest exhibit at Black Creek Pioneer Village
Invented - Propelled by Imagination explores the birth of science fiction in the 1800s

Some of the most influential 19th-century science-fiction authors – among them Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Jules Verne (Journey to the Centre of Earth), Bram Stoker (Dracula), and H.G. Wells (The Time Machine) – are still well known today. Their classic works, in turn, inspired further scientific and technological innovations.

They also paved the way for new generations of authors, establishing an art form that encouraged readers to imagine the possibilities of the world around them, and of worlds beyond – and their ability to make these possibilities a reality.

the Invented - Propelled by Imagination exhibit considers how contemporary science fiction writers are envisioning the future

This journey back in time will engage visitors in dialogues about what is possible, who can be involved, and what the future will look like. By digging into the human condition of understanding our world and our place in it, it will invite guests to answer the key question: what do you want our future to be?

Invented: Propelled by Imagination opens to the public on Saturday, April 22, 2023 in the McNair Gallery at Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Access to this new permanent exhibit is included with the purchase of general admission to the Village.