The Gwillim Collection at the Blacker Wood Natural History Collection, McGill University Library

The collection contains 164 botanical and zoological paintings created chiefly by Elizabeth Gwillim as well as possibly by her sister Mary Symonds while living in Chennai, India (then Madras). The collection includes 121 watercolours of birds with inscriptions, 31 watercolours of fish, and twelve of flowers, drawn from life rather than specimens. The paintings reflect the sisters’ time in Madras; as artists and letter writers, the two created a substantial visual record of the landscape and inhabitants of Madras and its environs. The paintings also reflect Elizabeth Gwillim’s scientific pursuits, including her study of botany.

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The McGill Library began collecting rare materials in the 1850s, and through gift and purchase the holdings now constitute rich and highly diverse research collections.

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