About the Canadian Women in Film Museum

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The Canadian Women in Film Museum is located in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada, inside the charming heritage house in which Marie Dressler was born in 1868, now named Marie Dressler House.

This museum is owned and operated by Marie Dressler Foundation (the “Foundation”).

The Canadian Women in Film Museum demonstrates how remarkable Canadian women were able to leverage and challenge the gendered expectations of their era to make advancements in the early twentieth century film industry.

Their work inspires contemporary efforts to achieve gender equality and inclusion in front of and behind the camera.

We seek to connect past with present through seminars, film screenings, and other educational programs and to motivate visitors to demand their fair opportunity to succeed.

History of the Museum and Marie Dressler House

In 1990 Marie Dressler Foundation was created with the objective of saving and preserving the natal home of Marie Dressler, built around 1840. This heritage house had been operating as a restaurant since the late 1930s as a tribute to Marie Dressler who was born in this house in 1868. In 1989 the restaurant suffered devastating damage from a fire. Its continued existence was in peril. With the support of the community, the Foundation raised funds to rescue the house which was subsequently restored, renovated and re-purposed in 1990 to use as municipal offices for the Town of Cobourg.

After the restoration, the Foundation began to collect artifacts related to Marie Dressler. These artifacts were displayed in a small memorabilia room in the house.

Image of the Marie Dressler House as a restaurant.

Marie Dressler House circa 1963

Image of fire damage to the Marie Dressler House

Marie Dressler House, January 1989

In 2014 the Foundation embarked on an ambitious plan to transform the memorabilia room into a proper museum celebrating the life and career of Academy Award winner, Marie Dressler.

With the support and assistance from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Information, Museum Studies Masters Degree Program, an innovative design was created for an interactive heritage museum. Five female students completed the work between 2014 and 2015 and the design was donated by the University to the Foundation. This museum was designed by women, curated by women, and built by women. With the generous financial support of Heritage Canada and individuals and businesses in the community, the newly created Marie Dressler Museum opened to the public in September 2016.

There was more to be done.

In 2014 the Foundation embarked on an ambitious plan to transform the memorabilia room into a proper museum celebrating the life and career of Academy Award winner, Marie Dressler.

With the support and assistance from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Information, Museum Studies Masters Degree Program, an innovative design was created for an interactive heritage museum. Five female students completed the work between 2014 and 2015 and the design was donated by the University to the Foundation. This museum was designed by women, curated by women, and built by women. With the generous financial support of Heritage Canada and individuals and businesses in the community, the newly created Marie Dressler Museum opened to the public in September 2016.

There was more to be done.

Image of fire damage to the Marie Dressler House

Marie Dressler House, January 1989

There are only three Canadian women who have been awarded Academy Awards for Best Actress, namely Marie Dressler, Mary Pickford, and Norma Shearer. The Foundation’s goal was to bring all of these remarkable actresses under one roof, Marie’s natal home. After all, they knew each other and they won their Oscars in consecutive years, 1929, 1930, 1931.

The University of Toronto Museum Studies was up to the challenge to again assist the Foundation. Between 2019 and 2020 five female students created the design for an expanded museum to include Academy Award winners Mary Pickford and Norma Shearer, along with other remarkable women. These galleries were opened to the public in phases, starting in November 2021 with completion in November 2022. This expansion absorbed Marie Dressler Museum and was named Canadian Women in Film Museum was again designed by women, curated by women, and built by women.

In late 2023 a multi-purpose screening room/cinema, CINEMA trailblazeHER, was created and is now open to host the museum's guided in-person programming and events.

Marie Dressler House, 1922; photo from Marie Dressler's book "My Own Story"

Marie Dressler House, 1933; photo from Marie Dressler's book "My Own Story"

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University of Toronto Museum Studies Team, 2014-2015

University of Toronto Museum Studies Team, 2019-2020

University of Toronto Museum Studies Team, 2019-2020

University of Toronto Museum Studies Team, 2022-2023

University of Toronto Museum Studies Team, 2022-2023