It is with great sadness that THS has learned of the passing of a bright star of international historic theater preservation, Janet MacKinnon, Director of the former Canadian organization Historic Theatres’ Trust.
Those of us who enjoyed the 1996 Montreal Conclave (my first Conclave, by the way) will remember Janet, Philip Dombowsky and Dane Lanken as our International Hosts.
The tenth anniversary issue of the Historic Theatres Trust newsletter in 1999 included the following remarks by Dane Lanken: “Threatened theatres could not hope for a better friend than Janet MacKinnon, With vigor and wit and sometimes at personal risk, she has stood up for the palaces of ages past and told everyone who would listen and many people who would not that changed habits and fast bucks are no reason to throw away the paint and plaster dreams of earlier eras. She has been a help and an inspiration to those of us who love the old theatres and a welcome paint in the neck to those who need their conservation consciousness raised.”
Historian Philip Dombowsky writes: Janet founded Theatres’ Trust in 1989 (later renamed Historic Theatres’ Trust) and served as the organization’s guiding light until it was disbanded in 2006.
The mandate of the Historic Theatres’ Trust was to promote a greater appreciation for the preservation of historic Canadian theatres and to encourage improved methods of preserving, restoring, operating and researching historic theatres.
Janet’s unrelenting advocacy on behalf of historic theatres in Canada was reflected in the Historic Theatres’ Trust newsletter, her support for a wide range of research projects, and in the numerous tours of historic theatres she organized. In 1996, to help highlight the rich theatre heritage of Quebec, Janet organized the annual THSA conclave in Montreal, which included tours of historic theatres in Montreal, Sherbrooke, Rock Island, Quebec City and Trois Rivières.
Janet was probably most effective in her lobbying of government – municipal, provincial, and the federal – to extend heritage status to historic theatres. Most notable were requests for historic status at the federal level, which resulted in Government of Canada designations for the Metropolitan Theatre (former Allen) in Winnipeg, and the Rialto and the Outremont theatres in Montreal, to name a few.
During her many years of promoting Canada’s theatre heritage, Janet built up an extensive library of materials related to historic theatres, including the Emmanuel Briffa Collection, which comprised archival materials such as architectural plans, photographs, and theatre memorabilia. The library was donated to the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal in 2006.
THS extends our hearfelt sympathy to the family and friends of Janet. Her loss leaves a great void but her legacy will endure.