History of the Beaverbrook Foundation

The Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation

The Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation is located in Montreal, QC. It supports selected organizations predominantly in Eastern Canada in the areas of education and arts and culture. Max Aitken is the Chairman and President of the Board of the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation, as well as a trustee of the Beaverbrook Foundation and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

Projects that are currently and have received the support of the Foundation include:

The Vimy Foundation

The Vimy Foundation is a prestigious scholarship that aims to educate and inspire students through the historic Battle of Vimy Ridge, where Canada came of age and was then recognized on the world stage.

The Beaverbrook Vimy Prize is the Foundation’s flagship programme providing students aged 15 to 17 with the unique opportunity to take part in an intensive and rewarding scholarship programme in Europe. During the summer, students participat in educational seminars, visit museums and historic battlefields, gravesites and monuments such as the iconic Vimy War Memorial, while building new relationships with other participants from Canada, the United Kingdom and France, as they learn about history.

Chair of Media and Ethics at McGill and Media@McGill

Media@McGill is a hub of research, scholarship and public outreach in issues and controversies in media, technology and culture. Media@McGill seeks to provide an interdisciplinary environment in which ideas that challenge prevailing orthodoxies, lead public debate, engage decision-makers and inform public policy about media, can be generated and put into wide circulation in the most influential venues of national and international opinion formation. To do so, it draws on a variety of disciplines. It supports the cultivation of new generations of scholars, citizens and educators committed to driving public engagement and innovation in this area.

Canadian War Museum, Ottawa

Despite his influence, Beaverbrook had trouble convincing the War Office of the value of documenting the war. The War Office feared the revelation of military secrets to the enemy and a loss of control over information coming from the front. While Beaverbrook was prevented in early 1916 from moving photographers, filmmakers, and war artists to the front, he refused to compromise, eventually enlisting the aid of Canadian and British politicians. By the summer of 1916, he had succeeded.

While some soldiers had brought small, hand-held cameras into the trenches at the start of the war, in March 1915 an order from the British high command forbade personal cameras in the trenches for fear of turning over valuable information to the enemy. Its enforcement meant that only a few illegal photographs depicted the front from the start of the war until the official photographers arrived in the summer of 1916. After this, official photographers recorded the Canadians in the line and behind. Cinematographers joined them on the battlefield in time to capture the Canadians on the Somme. The photographs and film footage was stunningly good, although it was always difficult to capture the soldiers in combat as smoke, dust, explosions, poor lighting, bulky equipment, and enemy fire were not conducive to clear photographs or film. But the photographers and cinematographers continued to try eventually snapping 7,900 photographs and shooting thousands of feet of reel.

Beaverbrook also established the Canadian War Memorials Fund in 1916 to commission official war artists to paint the Canadian war effort. The official war art programme would eventually employ close to 120 artists, most of them British or Canadian, who created nearly 1,000 works of art. A number of painters were Canadian, including future members of the Group of Seven A.Y. Jackson, Frederick Varley, and Arthur Lismer. While most of the works depicted the fighting forces and geography overseas, important artists like Mable May and Manly MacDonald painted women in factories and fields in Canada.

Beaverbrook's programmes left a poignant visual legacy of the war as his photographs, films, and war art were returned to Ottawa. Copies of the photographs were available for purchase until the mid-1920s, before being transferred to the Public Archives of Canada, now Library and Archives Canada. The film collection was lost for many years and not found until the 1930s, when it was used to create an official war film, Lest We Forget (1935). It was later transferred to the National Film Board and the Public Archives of Canada, but much of it was destroyed in a fire in the 1960s.

The war art had a similarly tumultuous fate. Beaverbrook had hoped that it would be housed in a new national war museum, but successive governments refused to commit funds. The art languished in the basements and vaults of the National Art Gallery, rarely seen by Canadians. In the early 1970s, most of the art was transferred to the Canadian War Museum, which had been reopened in 1942. In recent years, hundreds of pieces have been restored or displayed in permanent and travelling exhibitions, or loaned to institutions across Canada.

The Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation is delighted to support the development of this valuable archive at the Canadian War Museum.

University of New Brunswick

Since 1920 the University of New Brunswick has benefited from the generosity of its chancellor, Lord Beaverbrook, and, after his death in 1964, the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation. Lord Beaverbrook’s son, Sir Max Aitken, and subsequently his daughter-in-law, Lady Aitken, also served as chancellors of UNB.

Over the years, countless millions of dollars have been contributed to UNB to fund scholarships, buildings, programmes and special projects. The Foundation has donated more than $1 million in matching funds for alumni contributions to library acquisitions and to the endowment for the Beaverbrook Scholars Award. Special grants of $100,000 each were also made for the Faculty of Law Heritage Campaign and the restoration of Maggie Jean Chestnut House in Fredericton.

The Beaverbrook legacy lives on in the many buildings that bear the family’s name; the Beaverbrook Undergraduate Scholarships and Scholarships in Law, which the university itself has funded in Lord Beaverbrook’s name since the late 1960s; and the Beaverbrook Scholars Awards, which have been endowed by Beaverbrook Scholars. In 2003, the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation gave a total of $115,000 to UNB in matching funds for the Beaverbrook Scholars Award and the UNB library acquisitions programme.

Beaverbrook Art Gallery

Lord Beaverbrook's passion for art led him to pull together an eclectic collection, and his bond with New Brunswick led him to build the art gallery in which they were to be housed.

It is the mission of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery to maintain and develop a collection that is relevant provincially, regionally, nationally and internationally; to provide hig-quality exhibitions and programmes, and to promote the visual arts in the province and region to a broad spectrum of current and potential users.