Royal Bank fetes its history

Client: Royal Bank of CanadaExhibit Builder: Convex SystemsCategory E1: Special projects under $100,000Winner of the Volvo Canada 1994 Exhibit Excellence AwardDescription:This special project consists of five custom exhibits, each displaying historic artifacts and photographs exploring particular themes, in celebration of the...

Client: Royal Bank of Canada

Exhibit Builder: Convex Systems

Category E1: Special projects under $100,000

Winner of the Volvo Canada 1994 Exhibit Excellence Award


This special project consists of five custom exhibits, each displaying historic artifacts and photographs exploring particular themes, in celebration of the first 125 years of the Royal Bank, from 1869-1994.

Client objectives:

To coincide with the release of a book called Quick to the Frontier, written by Canadian historian Duncan McDowall, the bank wanted to feature artifacts from its beginning as the Merchants’ Bank of Halifax on Bedford Row, Halifax, in 1869 to its present-day status as the largest bank in Canada with more than 2,000 branches worldwide.

Determining the right approach and what to exhibit was an enormous task, with more than 30,000 photographs, 800 artifacts, and in excess of 1,000 pieces of print advertising from the Royal Bank archives available for display.

Like the book, Quick to the Frontier, the exhibits were meant to illustrate the romanticism and adventure of the bank’s history, not simply trace a chronological sequence of events.

The exhibits were introduced last January at the Royal Bank’s annual general meeting in Halifax – the first time the bank’s annual meeting had been held there since its move to Montreal in 1907.

Objectives achieved:

Five exhibits were designed and made, with content unique to each of their chosen themes:

- The Employees of Royal Bank

- Reaching out to Customers

- Quick to the Frontier

- Tools of Banking

- Growth by Amalgamation

Custom modular walls were designed as the main structure, finished in a burled dark-blue laminate, consistent with the richness of the blue-and-gold corporate colors of the Royal Bank.

A nine-foot central tower, common to all five exhibits, featured the gold Royal Bank ‘Leo’ logo on all sides and the booth title in both official languages on the front face. This tower also featured slide shows in two of the exhibits.

Showcases featured artifacts ranging in size from a small stamp to a full-sized accountant’s desk and even the original boardroom table.

Photographs reproduced in all processes from sepia, to black and white, to color, were displayed primarily on the back walls visible above and behind all fully secured glass showcases framed in a polished brass metal.

Halogen light fixtures were chosen for maximum inconspicuous illumination, and because they were least likely to harm fragile artifacts.

Artifacts that would create the most interest, and that would travel well were carefully chosen to complement various exhibit sub-themes.

For example, The Employees of the Royal Bank featured Women in Banking, the Bank Boys, Sports Teams, The War Years, and Protocol, plus a slide show of photographs from an employee’s photo album to illustrate bank life in the 1890s.

Reaching out to Customers featured a second slide show illustrating the evolution of advertising print media. Four original posters were displayed with artifacts ranging from pins to stuffed Leo the Lions.

Quick to the Frontier featured the newly-published book, as well as Canadian and world maps produced in stained wood finishes, illustrating the technological and geographical frontiers conquered through the years.

Tools of Banking featured an original accountant’s desk accessorized with table-top writing and calculation implements, plus various office apparatus such as adding machines, coin-sorters and scales.

The fifth and final exhibit not only featured the bank’s Growth by Amalgamation through the acquisition of five banks from 1910-25 to the present day Royal Trust, it also highlighted the founding and regional history of the Merchants’ Bank of Halifax in 1869, displaying the original boardroom table (a mere 80 inches in width) complete with brass filigree blotter, mail-opener, stamp and ink wells.

For special functions, each of the displays are staffed by Royal Bank retirees in full period costume.