Kenneth Lister

Kenneth Lister

Kenneth Lister

Assistant Curator of Anthropology (Arctic, Subarctic, Great Lakes, Northwest Coast, Paul Kane collection) - Retired

Area: World Cultures, Canada, World Art & Culture

Exhibitions & Galleries: Daphne Cockwell Gallery of Canada: First Peoples


B.A. (Honours), Anthropology, McMaster University, 1976
M.A., Anthropology, McMaster University, 1996

Kenneth Lister received his B.A (Honours, 1976) and M.A. (1996) in Anthropology from McMaster University. He joined the Department of Ethnology at the ROM in 1978 and holds curatorial responsibility for several collections, including: Arctic, Subarctic, and Northwest Coast ethnographic collections of North America, the Native watercraft collection of canoes and kayaks, and the Paul Kane collection of sketches and oil paintings. Ken’s field research includes archaeological research in the Hudson Bay Lowland of northern Ontario, ethnographic research among the northern Ontario Cree and the Inuit of Baffin Island, and field studies relating to sites sketched by Paul Kane. The main focus of his work is oriented toward understanding the role of material culture within the context of traditional cultures.

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Past Exhibitions

Canada Collects: Treasures from Across the Nation. (October 6, 2007–January 6, 2008). Garfield Weston Exhibition Hall.

Daphne Cockwell Gallery of Canada: First Peoples. Curatorial Coordinator. Permanent Gallery opened December 2005.

Tuugaaq: Ivory Sculptures from the Eastern Canadian Arctic. (October 12, 2002–March 31, 2003). Gallery of Indigenous Peoples.

Paul Kane: Land Study, Studio View. (August 5, 2000–February 20, 2001). Sigmund Samuel Canadiana Gallery Feature Exhibition Space and Portrait Gallery.

Wilderness to Studio: Four Views of Paul Kane. (November 11, 1998–May 1, 1999). Sigmund Samuel Canadiana Gallery Feature Exhibition Space and Portrait Gallery.

In the Time of the Kayak: Hunting in the Eastern Canadian Arctic. (February 1994–January 1996). Gallery of Indigenous Peoples (inaugural exhibition).

Western Woods Cree Snowshoes. (July 1993–June 1994). From the Collections Gallery.

Arctic Bay Kayak Frame. (March 1992–April 1993). From the Collections Gallery.

"I Took His Likeness": The Paintings of Paul Kane. (April 1985–April 1986). Canadiana Building. Joint curation with Honor de Pencier.

Wilderness to Studio: The Work of Paul Kane. (April–September 1984). 1B Terrace Galleries.

Recent Publications

Year Publication
2012 "Arabella: Canadian Art, Architecture & Design." ROM Acquires Rare Paul Kane Sketch, Spring, 104–105.
2010 "The Wandering Artist: Paul Kane’s Land Studies and Studio Views." ROM Magazine, Winter, 18-23.
2010 "Paul Kane /the Artist/: Wilderness to Studio." Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum Press
2009 Edited by Sandra Dyck. "Ivory Work: Inuit Representations from the Historic Period." Sanattiaqsimajut: Inuit Art from the Carleton University Art Gallery Collection, 106-107 .
2007 "Canada Collects: Treasures from Across the Nation." Royal Ontario Museum
2004 "‘Then the bargaining began’: Pangnirtung, the Museum, and the Dr. Jon A. Bildfell Collection." Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society XLVI, (2), 151-168.
2003 "Looking into the Eye of the Spider: Some Thoughts About Context with Reference to 'Tuugaaq: Ivory Sculptures from the Eastern Canadian Arctic." Inuit Art Quarterly, 18, 3, 10-17.
2002 Edited by John Jennings. "The Kayak and the Walrus." The North American Canoe: The Living Tradition, Firefly Books Ltd. , 120-137.
1999 Edited by John Jennings, Bruce W. Hodgins, and Doreen Small. "‘Extremely Cranky Craft’: The James W. Tyrrell Kayak, Big Island, Hudson Strait." The Canoe in Canadian Cultures, Natural Heritage/Natural History Inc. , 28-42.
1996 "Water for the Phalarope: Kayak Design and Cultural Values among the Tununirusirmiut." Museum Small Craft Association, Transactions 2, 46-59.

Research Projects

Between 1844 and 1848, the iconic Canadian painter Paul Kane spent 37 months travelling in the wilds of northwestern Ontario and ultimately along the fur-trade routes all the way to the Pacific Ocean and back again. He returned with 600 sketches, which formed the basis for the next eight years of creating oil paintings in his Toronto studio.  How do these final works compare to his field sketches? Are they accurate representations of what he saw? Is there a story to be told by looking beneath the surface layers of his painted canvases?  


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