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Louise Walker McCannel Collection

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Collection Identifier: C.2014-02
Repository
CFA
Extent of collection
87 reels of 16mm film totaling 26,000 feet; 46 reels of Super 8mm totaling 10,100 feet; 45 reels of 8mm film totaling 11,000 feet
Inclusive Dates
1917 - 1976
Abstract
The Louise Walker McCannel Collection consists of films made and collected by Minneapolis-based art curator and activist Louise Walker McCannel. The collection includes home movies depicting the leisure activities of the McCannel family; travels to Disneyland, Detroit Lakes, Montreal, the 1964 World's Fair in New York, Florida, Arizona, and more; the demolition and construction of the Walker Art Center in 1969; and performances at the Guthrie Theater. Also included are home movies of Louise's childhood and a Pathé newsreel depicting the opening of the Walker Art Galleries in 1926.
Description
The Louise Walker McCannel Collection consists of films made and collected by Minneapolis-based art curator and activist Louise Walker McCannel. The collection includes home movies depicting the leisure activities of the McCannel family, including travels to Disneyland, Detroit, Montreal, the 1964 World's Fair in New York, Florida, Arizona, and more.

Louise was the granddaughter of T.B. Walker, a Minnesota lumber magnate and founder of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The collection includes home movies of Louise's childhood, which appear to include T.B. Walker within them. A Pathé newsreel depicting the 1926 opening of the Walker Art Galleries by T.B. Walker is also included. Among the home movies shot by Louise are films showing the 1969 demolition of the old Walker Art Center building and the 1971 construction of the new (and current) one.
Creator
McCannel, Louise Walker (created by)
Louise Walker McCannel (1915-2012) was an artist, museum curator, and activist, known for her work as director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and her decades-long commitment to fighting racial injustice.

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 20, 1915, Louise was the third of six children and the only daughter born to Archie Dean Walker, Sr., and Bertha Willard Hudson Walker. Her grandfather was wealthy Minnesota lumber magnate and art collector Thomas Barlow (T.B.) Walker. Louise always felt conflicted about her family’s wealth, and the social privilege and strict conventions for young women that came along with it, but nonetheless she inherited her grandfather’s interest in and support of art.

Louise attended Northrop Collegiate School for Girls in Minneapolis and later studied at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, graduating in 1937 with a degree in Fine Arts. While at Smith, she spent a year (1936) studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. She also took classes at the Minneapolis School of Art. After graduation from Smith, Louise and her brother, Hudson Dean Walker, became caretakers of T.B. Walker’s art collection, housed at what was then the Walker Art Galleries. Louise served as director and conducted much of the initial research and cataloging of her grandfather’s collection. In 1939, she facilitated the transition of the Walker Art Galleries into the Walker Art Center and took on new curatorial roles, while Hudson moved to New York and Daniel Shafer Defenbacher began work as the Center’s first director.

In the 1940s, Louise worked as director of the Children’s Gallery, editor of the Magazine of Art, and assistant curator at the new Walker Art Center. She developed an innovative educational outreach plan to create 36 small exhibits that traveled around Minnesota, covering topics such as jewelry, Chinese painting, Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. During this time Louise also became romantically involved with Daniel Defenbacher. That Daniel was already married caused tension in the Walker family, but in 1941 he divorced his wife and married Louise instead. The couple had three children together: Teri Louise (b. 1943), Dana Dean (b. 1947), and Gail Walker (b. 1948). Gail changed her name to Abby in the 1980s. Daniel and Louise continued to work together at the Walker Art Center through the 1940s. However, in 1951, they divorced, and Daniel remarried days later, choosing to have little to do with their children after that.

In 1952, Louise met Malcolm “Mac” McCannel, an opthalmologist from Minot, North Dakota. They married that year, and Mac adopted Louise’s children from her first marriage. Before long they had another child, Laurie Hudson McCannel (b. 1953). Mac’s reputation in his field grew, and he became known as a pioneer in cataract surgery in the use of intraocular lenses, having developed the McCannel suture. In 1961, Mac began teaching surgery on the S.S. Project Hope, a peacetime medical ship.

It was in the 1950s that Louise’s social activism began to take a large role in her life. In the 1930s and 1940s she had been part of mental health movement to ensure treatment for people who were not institutionalized, later serving on the board of the Minnesota Association of Health and remaining active in the Hennepin County Mental Health Association. Starting in 1957, though, her focus fell on racial injustice and inequality, championing the idea that racism was a problem of the white community that needed to confront its own institutions, customs, and assumptions. She chaired the Interfaith Fair Housing Project, which pushed for desegregation in housing, helped launch the Minneapolis Urban Coalition, and served on the board of the The Way, a non-profit working to empower Minneapolis’ North Side community. Louise was also a longtime officer of the Lowry Hill Home Owners, which for 25 years resisted the construction of a high-rises in a vacant lot in Kenwood, MN, and she was involved in countless other organizations, including Opportunities Unlimited Inc., the St. Paul Urban Parish, and the Minneapolis YWCA.

As Louise became more involved in activism, she drifted away from the largely conservative political views of her family, drawing criticism for her liberalism and “communistic” sympathies. Especially critical was her older brother, Stephen Archie Walker, with whom tension was already high following her marriage to Daniel Defenbacher. In letters to her family, this criticism turned inward, and Louise frequently suffered bouts of depression, rarely satisfied with her own productivity.

Even with these myriad social endeavors, Louise still remained connected to the Walker Art Center she had helped create. From 1950-1997, she was an active member of the Walker’s board and remained an honorary board member and honorary director from 1998 to her death. Louise was on site during the 1969 demolition of the old Walker Art Center building and the 1971 construction of the new (and current) one, filming the whole process with attention and care.

Throughout her life, Louise was a committed organic gardener, an avid home movie maker, and a trained and talented singer, who could sing in three languages and harmonize in every song, even into her 96th year. She supported and invested in woman-owned business such as Anita Beck Cards and Reindeer Square and remained involved in the family timber business, advocating “sustained yield forestry.” Louise passed away on June 4, 2012, in Minneapolis.
Language of Materials
English
Access Restrictions
This collection is open to on-site access. Appointments must be made with Chicago Film Archives. Due to the fragile nature of the films, only video copies will be provided for on-site viewing.
Use Restrictions
Chicago Film Archives holds the copyright for the films in this collection.
Related Materials
Harvard University holds Louise Walker McCannel's letters and correspondence. More information is available on their own finding aid: http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~sch01370

The Minnesota Historical Society holds the letters of T.B. Walker and the larger Walker family. More information on their finding aid: http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00093.xml