Welcome to Mouseland! Beware the little man with an idea…
The BC NDP Mouseland Collection consists of 45 images and two textual documents, received by the University of British Columbia’s Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) in August of 2011 as part of a large accrual to the New Democratic Party of British Columbia Fonds.
The photos were created by the BC NDP in 1979 as part of their electoral campaign for the 1979 provincial election, which despite having 44% of the popular vote, the BC NDP would lose to the Social Credit Party, becoming instead the Official Opposition. The story of Mouseland, originally written by Clarence Gillis, was popularized by Tommy Douglas in a 1944 election speech as the leader of the Saskatchewan Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (a precursor to the New Democratic Party), and lives on in the form of Douglas’ 1944 delivery. A political allegory about mice ruled by avaricious cats, the fable has since been adapted in numerous forms, including a 1979 comic first published by the United Auto Workers union in Saskatchewan (included in the collection), a 1992 video adaptation by the United Food and Commercial Workers and the federal New Democratic Party (with an introduction by Kiefer Sutherland, Douglas’s grandson), and of course, the slide show presentation prepared by the BC New Democratic Party as part of their 1979 provincial election campaign.
For the presentation, BC New Democrats created elaborate three-dimensional miniature scenes of the fable, and photographed them to produce a set of 45 slides, which were used in the presentation to accompany the reading of Tommy Douglas’ 1944 speech version of the text. Half of the slides have since been lost, but a full set of color photographic prints, as well as the accompanying script, have been digitized for this collection.
The BC NDP Mouseland Collection adds another rich layer to the unique story of Tommy Douglas, and the influence he has had on the Canadian political landscape. Widely hailed as the “father of Medicare” in Canada (Wikipedia contributors, “Tommy Douglas”, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Douglas), Douglas has been called “the most influential politician never to be elected Prime Minister,” and was voted the “Greatest Canadian” in the CBC’s 2004 contest (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “The story of Mouseland: A political allegory,” http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/politics/parties-leaders/tommy-douglas-and-the-ndp/the-story-of-mouseland-a-political-allegory.html). The Story of Mouseland lives on as one of his most memorable speeches, and became a touchstone in New Democratic Party rhetoric for the next 50 years.