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The Undead Archive: 100 Years of Photographing Ghosts


Curated by Dr. Serena Keshavjee

Gallery 1C03: September 7 – November 10, 2023; UM Archives & Special Collections, September 21, 2023 – April 21, 2024; School of Art Gallery, September 21 – November 10, 2023 

Co-presented by The University of Winnipeg’s Gallery 1C03, University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections, and the School of Art Gallery, University of Manitoba

One hundred years ago, renowned author and Spiritualist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle arrived in Winnipeg to give an illustrated lecture on the possibility of communicating with ghosts and spirits.  In the audience that night were the Winnipeg physician Thomas Glendenning Hamilton, and his wife, Lillian Hamilton, a trained nurse. The Hamiltons went on to carry out hundreds of controlled séance experiments in a séance laboratory, investigating the invisible ‘psychic’ force that they believed was evidence of personalities surviving corporeal death. These experiments resulted in a series of captivating black and white photographs which form the core of this exhibition. The Undead Archive and the accompanying anthology, The Art of Ectoplasm, contextualize the photographs from an art historical point of view, revealing attitudes to science and religion after World War I and the 1919 pandemic.

Dr. Hamilton was a leader in psychical research during the 1930s, and his photographs were received in some international circles as scientific evidence of life after death. These uncanny images of ectoplasm had a second wave of recognition in the early 2000s after they were digitized and made available online. A large-scale, multi-site exhibition featuring photographs, séance-related archival manuscripts, and alternative scientific documents from the Hamilton Family Fonds, alongside a host of contemporary artworks in a variety of media, The Undead Archive highlights how contemporary artists from Winnipeg and around the world have responded to these photographs.

The Undead Archive is presented with the generous support of the Manitoba Arts Council and draws on  draws on research and student training supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.



KC Adams; Teresa Burrows; Irene Bindi; Aston Coles; Celia Coles and Martin Finkenzeller; Estelle Chaigne; Angela DeFreitas; Erika DeFreitas; Lily Despic; Chris Dorosz;;Evan Johnson; Galen Johnson and Guy Maddin; Sarah Hodges-Kolisnyk; Jodie Mack; Guy Maddin; Susan MacWilliam; Megan Moore; Michael Pittman; Paul Robles; Shannon Taggart; Sarah Wendt and Pascal Dufaux; Tricia Wasney; Grace A. Williams


With historical photographs and documents from the Hamilton Family Fonds, housed at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections and the Survival Research Institute of Canada.

The Art of Ectoplasm

Encounters with Winnipeg's Ghost Photographs

Serena Keshavjee (Editor)

Published November 2023, 288 pages

Paper: ISBN 9781772840377

The Art of Ectoplasm invites readers to explore the Hamiltons’ research and photographic evidence which has attracted international attention from scholars and artists alike. Notable figures like Arthur Conan Doyle participated in the Hamilton family’s séances, and their investigations garnered support among the psychical scientific community, including renowned physicist Oliver Lodge, the inventor of wireless telegraphy. In the century since their creation, the Hamilton photographs (now housed at the University of Manitoba) have continued to perplex and inspire as the subject of academic study, comedic parody, and artistic and cinematic renderings.

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