Before the creation of the Curatorial Services of the House of Commons in 1989, a considerable amount of knowledge had been lost regarding the history, or provenance, of many objects in use within the Parliamentary Precinct. This was particularly true of furnishings designed for the new Centre Block by architect John A. Pearson.
Extensive research by Commons curatorial staff at the Library and Archives Canada uncovered a great deal of valuable information regarding the construction, decoration, and furnishing of the Centre Block. Further research on the furniture, however, was hampered by a loss of key information. To begin with, all of the original drawings had been lost in a March 1941 fire at Pearson's Toronto office. Reconstruction of his remarkable body of work thus rested on documents related to the Parliament Building's construction, as well as historical photographs and a small number of furniture drawings prepared by the Department of Public Works.
Pearson designed over 150 distinct types of furniture for the Parliament building. Some 6025 individual pieces were ultimately produced, ranging from simple telephone stands to ornate pieces used in the Commons or Senate Chambers. The utilitarian but stylish furniture was Canadian-made: produced by approximately 20 different cabinetmakers from Quebec and Ontario.
It is indicative of the quality and utility of Pearson's designs that most of his furniture remained in use in the Centre Block until the 1960s. The last few decades have taken their toll, however, as changing tastes, along with functional changes in many rooms, have resulted in damage, alterations and disposal of some of the original Pearson pieces.
Included in this selection of furniture from the heritage collection are: