The People’s Photo Album

The People’s Photo Album
A Pictorial Genealogy of the Antigonish Movement

The People’s Photo Album is a tribute to the Extension Department of St. Francis Xavier University (StFX) on its 90th anniversary.  The People—individuals and families and organizations from the intergenerational community of the worldwide Antigonish Movement—opened up their  albums and scrapbooks and shared with us their collections from Facebook, Flickr and Instagram. The photos came with stories of struggle and triumph, charting the legacy of social justice.

When we began this project, we had projected a modest volume with perhaps 25 contributors and 50 pages. Over 100 pages and  800 photographs later (with more connections coming at us daily), we emerged with the inarguable conclusion: the work of the Extension Department has had an enduring impact on individuals, families, communities and institutions around the world; the Antigonish Movement is alive and well.

The first murmurings of a Movement began back in the 1920s. Prominent members of the Scottish Catholic Society of Canada, many of them priests of the Antigonish Diocese, pressured the University’s Board of Governors to form a Department of Social Action or a Department of Extension.  The StFX Extension Department was launched in November, 1928, and Rev. Dr. Moses Coady took up his duties as the first director in June of 1930, after an extended study leave to learn techniques of adult education in centres across Canada, Wisconsin, and the Carnegie Foundation in New York.

Adult education and social and economic cooperation have been the intrinsic guiding principles for social action. This is perhaps a more apt descriptor of the StFX Extension Department, and the organizing forces of the social justice movement known as the Antigonish Movement. Early on, Dr. Coady pronounced its social vision as the quest for the “good and abundant life” for all people.  The People’s Photo Album traces the legacy of this vision through photos and archival materials, especially letters, that span 90 years.