This thesis explores what is at stake when changes are made to artworks after Canadian public institutions have accessioned them. It argues that the materiality of an art object matters, and together with the narrative or history of the artwork, contributes to its interpretation. Changes at the object level can have an impact not only on the history of an artwork, but also on an artist’s larger practice and on an institution’s collection. Using case studies of photographic works by Michael Snow (1929), Gabor Szilasi (1928), and Arnaud Maggs (1926-2012), this thesis investigates alterations made to artworks as a result of preservation concerns, curatorial input, and shifts in an artist’s thinking. Identifying the various subjectivities involved, this thesis examines how artists and institutions have responded to changes that affect art historical,
curatorial, and collections management decisions and records.