To Robert MacMillan, Canadians are like small children peering into the window of the American house, oblivious to their own surroundings.
And he wants to change that.
“American culture has so strongly flowed into Canada and has made it so that we are in a very large way an adjunct for most of American culture,” MacMillan said. “If you want to dig into Canadian culture, you really have to go into it. That’s why I do this, so when some does dig into it, it will be there.”
MacMillan, a hobby historian and archivist, has spent the past 50 years compiling information about Canadian pop culture and, more recently, Brantford pop culture in the hope of creating the ultimate archive of music, arts and entertainment.
“I clip heritage and culture and entertainment because most people consider it ephemera, materials not worth looking at, and yet this is the stuff that makes up the larger fabric of our lives,” he said. “This is the stuff societies come out of.”
MacMillan has four filing cabinets filled with newspaper and magazine articles about local pop culture events, as well as a basement full of shelves filled with books and magazines. He also collects records, programs, posters, photographs and advertisements as a way to offer a true sense of events.
“One of the most fascinating things I’ve come across is that a lot of (Brantford’s) choirs were profiled in the Globe and Mail,” he said. “The fellow in the Globe and Mail was calling the conductor of the Schubert choir a genius. And that wasn’t even his career, he (conducted) on the side.”
Adding biographies and additional source material, MacMillan is compiling his data to create both a physical and online database of everything to do with Brantford pop culture.
“My prime objective is not simply to collect material, but to create a research base that people can use,” MacMillan said. “I hope it will become the raw data for students or researchers who want to write on the subject.”
A comprehensive pop culture archive like MacMillan’s isn’t something that currently exists in Brantford. Kim Harrington, office manager with the Brant Historical Society, said it’s something that is definitely important to have.
“Pop culture is definitely part of our history,” Harrington said. “It definitely is something that we should be recording.
“It’s everything that is happening in our day-to-day lives.”