Life before e-commerce

A virtual exhibit presented by the Canadian Museum of Civilization delves into the history of Canadian mail-order catalogues.

By Heather Camlot

Before E-commerce: A history of Canadian mail-order catalogues. A virtual exhibit presented by the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

With virtually every store having an e-commerce site these days, it may be hard to think back to a time when people eagerly awaited their catalogues to arrive in the mail to see and buy the latest fashions, home furnishings and even homes. Sure, some of us may receive an LL Bean or Victoria’s Secret catalogue here and there, but how many of us more than skim through it and actually order from it?

If your snapshot of catalogue history comes solely from Roch Carrier’s fab The Hockey Sweater story, in which a young boy receives a dreaded Toronto Maple Leafs jersey rather than a coveted Montreal Canadiens jersey through a mail-order mistake, it’s time to expand.

The Canadian Postal Museum of the Canadian Museum of Civilization collaborated with other Canadian cultural institutions to mount Before E-commerce. The virtual exhibit delves into the history of the mail-order business, noting its importance on women’s fashion decisions, to shoppers living outside of major Canadian centres and in developing customer loyalty (before today’s points systems came along). The exhibit features tons of pictures, ad campaigns, articles, catalogues and games and activities (love “Make an Alphabet Book” out of catalogue images – something, it seems, parents and teachers actually did with catalogues years ago).

We suspect you’ll become engrossed in the site’s rich content — as much as our ancestors did with their mail-order catalogues once upon a time.

First published August 11, 2011, on WorkLivePlayCafe.com.

 

 

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