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Celebrating Black History with Photography Books & Catalogues

Special Collections has a variety of books related to the history, production and exhibition of photography. In honour of Black History Month, we are featuring exhibition catalogues and books centering Black photographers, artists and curators. Although this is a small sample from the collection, all of these works highlight the importance of self-documentation in photography as a way to celebrate communities and counter the historical misrepresentation of Black people.

In the 1948 book “Camera Portraits : the techniques and principles of documentary portraiture” Gordon Parks shares insight into how he photographed 40 individuals with his unique style of photography. He recounts his interactions with the subjects and analyses his overall approach to the portrait. Parks also includes valuable technical elements for each photograph, such as the camera model, exposure, film stock and light source.

Cover of the book Imagining Families: Images and Voices. Two photographs are shown, one depicts a while family with a young Black boy, the other is a similar portrait but heavily scratched out.

“Imagining Families : Images and Voices” is the catalogue for the 1994 inaugural exhibition at the National African American Museum at the Smithsonian Institute. It was shown at the Anacostia Community Museum, years before the Smithsonian established a permanent building for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016. 

Deborah Willis and Claudine Brown curated the works of 15 artists who examine roles played within families and communities. The catalogue recounts how the exhibition was created when the Smithsonian was contemplating the need for a dedicated museum to preserve African American history. They were unsure if they would receive enough donations to build a museum collection and some believed that African American material culture was already preserved in other museum branches.

The exhibition served as an inspiration for underrepresented communities to self-document their stories and validated personal narratives as a key part of history.

Front book cover with the title "A Portland Family album: Self-portrait of African American Community" with a black and white photograph depicting two Black women in front of a house

The 1995 exhibition “A Portland Family Album : self-portrait of an African-American community.” was developed using archival photographs. The images were donated by several local families and new prints were created for exhibition purposes. The works were shown at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland.

Cover of book with the text "Contact Sheet" and "Embracing Eatonville". The cover has a black and white image of a house with a large tree in front.

The 2003-2004 exhibition “Embracing Eatonville : a photographic survey” presented works by Dawoud Bey, Lonnie Graham, Carrie Mae Weems and Deborah Willis. Eatonville, Florida is one of the oldest Black towns to be incorporated in the United States. In 2002, the four artists were tasked to capture the spirit of this historical city through documentary photography. Each photographer brought their unique approach to this exhibition to provide a snapshot of the community and its landscape. The exhibition was shown at Light Work in New York and the Robert B. Menschel Media Center in Eatonville.

Special Collections books can be searched through the Library’s catalogue. The Library also has access to fantastic documentaries on the topic, including Through a Lens Darkly which is based on the book “Reflections in Black : a history of Black photographers, 1840 to the present” by Deborah Willis. The documentary explores the significance of family photo albums and examines the depiction of Black subjects throughout history.

Our book collection is constantly growing! Keep an eye for the announcement of the winners of this year’s First Edition Book Award.

War Efforts at Kodak Heights

Kodak is most likely known for its photography related wart efforts, such as their advertisements encouraging citizens to send images to soldiers or the Vest Pocket camera sold as “The Soldier’s Kodak.”1 Nevertheless, they were also supporting wartime demands through employee initiatives and by shifting their manufacturing plants at Kodak Heights in Toronto.

A Kodak advertisement titled "Send Him Snapshots Every Week" with a soldier holding photographs
2005.001.03.2.001.10 1944 Kodak Advertisement

A group of employees organized the Kodak War Efforts Club to send packages overseas with sweets, knitted goods and magazines. In addition, they partnered with the Red Cross to host a weekly Kodak Blood Clinic and rewarded employees with badges for recurring donations.2

Kodak War Efforts Club featured in the May 1945 edition of KODAK magazine

In 1941, Kodak Heights was approached by the Department of Munitions and Supply to manufacture compasses. They had previously built tools and parts for combat airplanes, but this was their first venture in producing instruments for the armed forces.3 As seen in many sectors, women stepped into manufacturing positions during the war, and Kodak was no different in finding new roles for women to support the production of compasses.

  • Black and white image of a women inspecting with a magnifying glass a piece for a compass
  • Black and white image of a group of women in an assembly line building parts for compasses
  • Black and white images of a women using an industrial machine
  • Black and white images of a pile of boxes with compass material

In their internal employee publication, the company celebrated this endeavour and shared positive feedback received from the U.S. War Department as well as their own employees who were redeployed in the war fronts and recognized the C.K.C engraving (Canadian Kodak Company) on a compass.4

Kodak Heights even exhibited images of the compass in the Employee Building cafeteria to promote the initiative among staff. These images may have remained on the walls as a memory of their war efforts, because by fall of 1945 Kodak had already pivoted back to its regular production of cameras and photographic material.

Two Kodak compasses on a white background
2005.001.06.03.327 Kodak Mark III Compass

Kodak had several internal magazines which provide incredible first hand accounts of the day to day life at the company. Running from 1936 to 1955, “KODAK: A Magazine for Kodak Employees” was a bimonthly internal publication designed to communicate the activities of Canadian Kodak and its employees. For more information on war efforts at Kodak Heights, explore the publications in our database or on the Internet Archive for online versions.

  1. Roger, Andrew C. ‘Amateur Photography by Soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force’. Archivaria, vol. 26, no. January, 1988, pp. 163–68.
  2. ‘Kodak Meets the Wartime Challenge (Part 1)’. KODAK: A Magazine for Kodak Employees, vol. 1, no. 3, Apr. 1945, pp. 1–2.
  3. ‘Kodak Meets the Wartime Challenge (Part 2)’. KODAK: A Magazine for Kodak Employees, vol. 1, no. 4, May 1945, pp. 1–3.
  4. Ibid.

COVID-19 Community Archive Contest Winners

Thank you all for participating in our COVID-19 Community Archive submission contest!

The COVID-19 Community Archive seeks to preserve and make accessible content that was captured and created by students, faculty, staff and alumni about their lived experiences during the pandemic. Our goal in developing this digital portal is to serve as a repository for those of us who may be documenting this historic moment.

We received incredible submissions throughout the summer contest. Here are the three randomly selected winning submissions:

Although the contest is closed, you can still submit your work to the University’s COVID-19 Digital Community Archive Project by using our online submission form. We accept all types of works: photographs, audiovisual recordings, artworks and written content reflecting your experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. Join us in this collaborative project to document these unprecedent times!

Archives A to Z: Part 4

We’re joining the Archives of Ontario in their #ArchivesAtoZ month-long campaign. The aim is to increase the public’s awareness of archives and their collections. We’ll be sharing four blog posts throughout the month showcasing items and collections from our holdings or archival concepts related to each letter of the alphabet.

  • March 1: A to F
  • March 8: G to M
  • March 15: N to S
  • March 22: T to Z

Truth and Reconciliation

In its final report in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called on museums, archives and educational institutions, among other groups, to respond to 94 Calls to Action. These calls provide a path for Canadians and institutions to begin to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.”

Although our holdings do not have extensive material that can supports these Calls to Action, the team at Archives & Special Collections has compiled a list of internal and external resources related to Egerton Ryerson, Residential Schools and Indigenous Peoples. Toronto Metropolitan University’s Aboriginal Educational Council has also created a document focused on Egerton Ryerson, the Residential School System and Truth and Reconciliation with detailed sources on the topic.

University Status

Opened in 1948 as the Ryerson Institute of Technology, Ryerson has been granting degrees for 49 years – the first of which were handed out on May 26, 1972 to graduates in Interior Design, Business Management, and Geodetic Sciences. Nineteen years later, almost to the day, on May 27, 1991 the Ryerson Board of Governors and Academic Council (Senate) gave their support to the proposal the the school seek full university status. Two years later on June 1, 1993 the dream was realized when Ryerson Polytechnic University was recognized by Royal Assent. The oversized letter and the T-shirt in this picture are housed in Archives and Special Collections (RG 122.12)

Photograph of Terry Grier stands beside the oversized letter announcing Ryerson’s full University Status (RG 76.14.723). Click on the photo above to read the announcements published in the University’s Forum Newsletter.

View-Masters

The Bass Stereoscopic Photography Collection has 162 pieces of stereo viewing equipment, including 44 View-Masters. These stereoscopic viewers first appeared at the 1939 New York World Fair. View-Masters, a name trademarked by Sawyer’s Inc, use circular “reels” with seven stereoscopic images made from 16mm Kodachrome transparencies. Unlike the original wooden stereoscope viewers, View-Masters are usually made of plastic or metal.

Our collection has a variety of different types of viewers, such as the GAF Talking View-Master, which incorporated an audio record that synchronized sound with the stereoscopic slides. The Big Bird camera-shaped 3D viewer, a staff favourite, has a built-in reel of 7 diametrical, 16 mm colour transparencies of Sesame Street characters teaching the alphabet.

World War II

Did you know Toronto Metropolitan University had a connection to World War II? The original building on campus Ryerson Hall, whose façade is the entrance to the Ryerson Athletic Centre in the Kerr Hall Quad, housed both the Royal Canadian Air Force Initial Training School No. 6 and the Dominion-Provincial War Emergency Training Program between 1941-1945. To learn more about the Royal Canadian Air Force’s training facilities visit their web page At the end of World War II, the building would house the Training and Re-establishment Institute (TRIT), a place for veterans to learn a trade. TRIT ran between 1945-1948, and Ryerson Institute of Technology, which opened in September 1948,  evolved out of that organization – offering the same courses in the first couple of years of our existence. Take a look at RG 58 Vocational Training Schools and Training and Re-establisment Institutes, F 183 James A. Moore fonds and F 858 Michael Zabinsky fonds to see more records we have related to the Training and Re-establishment Institute.

Interior view of the Electronics Department of the Training and Re-establishment Institute (RG 58.18)

XV Winter Olympic Ceremony

The Paddy Sampson Fonds consists of textual records and audiovisual material related to television shows and specials intended for broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC). Sampson joined the CBC as a stage hand in 1952, and later became a producer and director for the broadcaster. Some of the notable programs he worked on include “Program X” and the renowned hour long 1966 music special, “The Blues”. The Fonds also contains research material related to Sampson’s independent productions, such as the 1988 opening and closing ceremonies for the XV Winter Olympics in Calgary.

Young Readers

Special Collections’ book holdings include the Children’s Literature Archive. The collection was established through the Centre for Digital Humanities in 2009 and was transferred to Special Collections in 2017. It contains over 2200 books published between 1701 and 1940 and continues to grow. Its particular strengths are adventure stories, fairy tales, and Canadiana, but also includes strong holdings in poetry, picture books, and pedagogical works such as science texts and primers, along with biographies of notable authors and other scholarly studies. Explore the collection through the Centre for Digital Humanities’ exhibition website or through the Library catalogue.

3 book covers from the Children's Literature Archive
3 book covers from the Children’s Literature Archive

Zeiss Ikon

Our Heritage Camera Collection has over 677 pieces of photographic equipment, including several cameras by the company Zeiss Ikon. Zeiss was initially an optical workshop in Germany during the mid-1800s, and started building camera lenses in the 1890s. Zeiss Ikon was created in 1926 by the merger of four camera manufacturers: Contessa-Nettel, Ernemann, Goerz and Ica. The newly founded partnership combined thousands of cameras patents held by the individual companies. Explore the Zeiss website for more information on the history of the camera company.

We hope you have enjoyed our Archives A to Z blog post series. Explore the hashtag #ArchivesAtoZ to see what other repositories have shared online!

Archives A to Z: Part 3

We’re joining the Archives of Ontario in their #ArchivesAtoZ month-long campaign. The aim is to increase the public’s awareness of archives and their collections. We’ll be sharing four blog posts throughout the month showcasing items and collections from our holdings or archival concepts related to each letter of the alphabet.

  • March 1: A to F
  • March 8: G to M
  • March 15: N to S
  • March 22: T to Z

News on campus

For the past 73 years, Toronto Metropolitan University Media and Ryerson Student Media outlets have been telling the University’s stories, and stories about the larger community to which the school belongs. Before the age of social media and online streaming – Ryerson got its stories out there in printed newspapers, newsletters, and magazines. Archives and Special Collections houses the archives for many of the campus media publications including Ryerson’s student newspapers – The Ryersonian and The Eyeopener, and University publications like the Forum Newsletter and Ryerson Magazine. We also have a robust collection of publications created by different student groups, faculties, and programs. You can read more about Ryerson’s news publications in the blog “All the news that’s fit to print

First edition of the Forum Newsletter (RG 4.10). It was published in hard copy between 1975 – 2005 and in an online format between 2006-2009 when it was replaced by Ryerson Today

Octagonal Houses of Maine

Archive and Special Collections houses a wide selection Artists books in its stacks. The smallest of these is “The Octagonal Houses of Maine” by Carol-Lynn Rössel Waugh and illustrated by Patrick H. Higgins. It measures just 2 cm by 2.5 cm, but the text and images are fully legible.

Peter Di Gangi Papers

The Peter Di Gangi Papers contain records on historical, legal and cultural research related to Indigenous governance in Canada. Di Gangi has been working with Indigenous communities across Canada for ever 35 years and has worked extensively with Anishnaabe communities on the North Shore of Lake Huron and Manitoulin Island, and with the Algonquin communities of the Ottawa Valley. The collection includes published and unpublished materials, created by Di Gangi and his research firm Sicani Research & Advisory Services, such as policy papers on Indigenous laws, government reports and statistics and research documents prepared for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and Assembly of First Nations.

Image of a paper report by Peter Di Gangi titled "AFN - Aboriginal Strategic Initiative: Comprehensive Research Proposal Jurisdiction"
2018.008.006.008 – Assembly of First Nations Aboriginal Strategic Initiative Research Report

Quadrangle

Hidden from view in the Centre of Ryerson’s campus is the Kerr Hall Quadrangle or Quad. Surrounded on four sides by Howard Kerr Hall, the quadrangle is a welcome green space on campus, and a favourite lunch and relaxation spot for the Ryerson students and staff. When originally constructed, the quad was home to campus parking around the perimeter with a fountain in the centre. Spring graduates would convocate through the door of the Toronto Normal School building facade. Now the quad features the Ryerson Athletic Centre below its grass covered centre and is bordered by gardens and mature trees. The photograph of convocation is just one of thousands of photographs that we house in Archives and Special Collections that show the evolution of the Quad and Ryerson’s campus as a whole.

Convocation, circa 1979, in the Kerr Hall Quadrangle (RG 76.06.01)

Ram

Ram or the Rams is the name of Toronto Metropolitan University’s Varsity Athletic teams. Our textile collection contains numerous hockey, volleyball, soccer, and basketball uniforms that were donated to us as the materials and cuts of the uniforms changed over the years. We also have a programs, photographs, team rosters, and a wide variety of other memorabilia tied to Ryerson’s 73 year history of Athletics and Recreation. Want to know more? Read our blog “Ryerson 7025 – Athletics and Intramurals“.

Variety of Rams Athletics memorabilia on display during Alumni Weekend, 2013

Stereographs

Stereographs, also known as stereocards or stereoscopic photographs, are an early form of 3D photographs. The two almost identical images mounted on a rectangular card or piece of glass create the illusion of a three-dimensional photograph when used with a stereoscope viewer (see our next post under V for more information on the viewing devices). Our Bass Stereoscopic Photography Collection contains approximatively 8000 stereoscopic photographs depicting various geographic locations, activities and people. Stereographs were created in the early 1850s, and gained popularity when a stereoscopic viewer was displayed at the London International Exhibition (Crystal Palace) in 1851. A decade later, stereocards were mass-produced and widely distributed by publishers and amateur photographers. They were often sold as boxsets on a certain topic, for entertainment or educational purposes, or as a souvenir while visiting a tourist destination.

Image of a stereograph (two similar images side by side on a rectangular card stock) with Yosemite Valley
2018.09.04.07.35 – Underwood & Underwood (Yosemite Valley, 1902)

Next week, in our final March post, we’ll highlight items and archival concepts for the letters T to Z!

Archives A to Z: Part 2

We’re joining the Archives of Ontario in their #ArchivesAtoZ month-long campaign. The aim is to increase the public’s awareness of archives and their collections. We’ll be sharing four blog posts throughout the month showcasing items from our collections and demystifying archival concepts related to each letter of the alphabet.

  • March 1: A to F
  • March 8: G to M
  • March 15: N to S
  • March 22: T to Z

Green Roof

Ryerson’s first unofficial green roof was created over the Ryerson Athletic Centre (RAC), which opened in 1987. The RAC was constructed underneath the Kerr Hall Quadrangle, it’s roof covered by just 15 cm of top soil, sodded over and trees planted around the perimeter. Ryerson’s first official green roof was constructed a top the George Vari Engineering and Computer Centre in 2004. To learn more about Ryerson’s Green Roof initiatives read more here – How the Ryerson Community is shaping Urban Culture.

Forum newsletter (RG 122.04) Click on the photograph to read the whole story.

How-to

Archives and Special Collections staff embarked on a project this past year to create a series of “how-to” videos. The project was initiated in response to our move to online research help and working from home. The videos are a digital version of what we would normally relate in person to our researchers. You can view the videos, including “Searching the Ryerson Archives and Special Collections Database“, “Archives 101: How Archival Records are Organized and Why“, and “Archives 101: Archival Records Descriptions and what to look for when you research“, on the Ryerson Library Youtube channel. Staff is currently working on more videos to add to this collection.

Opening shot from Introduction to Archives and Special Collections video – click on the image to watch the whole video, Olivia Wong, 2020

Instruments

The Toronto Metropolitan University Archives was founded in 1971 with the idea that it could also reflect the polytechnic roots of the school and the “hands-on” emphasis of the school’s curriculum at the time – a kind of hybrid Archives and Museum of Technology. A large percentage of our early donations were objects as opposed to the traditional textual and photographic nature of Archival materials. As a result we have a wide selection instruments and equipment in the collection that were used by Ryerson students in early Science and Technology (Engineering) courses.

Microscope with case and instruction manual (RG 0.04.11)

Jorgenson Hall

Jorgenson Hall, named for Ryerson’s first President Fred Jorgenson (1966-1969), was completed in 1971. The 14 story tower anchors the north end of a building complex, which includes the Podium Building and the Library building, on the west side of Nelson Mandela Walk. The brutalist building was designed by WZMH Architects and constructed by EllisDon Corporation. The photograph is one of thousands that are housed in Archives and Special Collections that document the evolution of the campus. We also have the architectural model of the building complex in our collections.

Construction of Jorgenson Hall (RG 122.10.98)

Kodak

The Kodak Canada Corporate Archives and Heritage Collection was the first collection acquired by Special Collections in 2005 and continues to be our most researched material. It includes extensive documentation of Kodak Heights, the 25 acres of farmland near Weston Road and Eglinton Avenue where the company established a photographic film manufacturing and camera assembly plant. Kodak purchased the land in 1912, and by 1925 there were over 900 employees working in seven buildings at Kodak Heights. To learn more about the Kodak collection see our various blogs on the history of Kodak in Toronto, insights into the corporate culture, women in Kodak advertising, Blackface in the Kodak archive and the early days of Kodak.

Black and white photograph of two women sitting at desks processing 8mm film (ca. 1955)
2005.001.06.03.304 –  Women processing 8mm film (ca. 1955)

Lenin

Special Collections’ holdings include the Leniniana Collection, which consists of more than 800 items featuring the image of Vladimir Ilych Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. The collection includes pins, sculptures, books, posters, postcards, 35mm film, as well as two sets of nesting or Matryoshkas dolls. The collection was assembled by Dr. Ron Vastokas between 1989 and 2003 in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Vilnius and Kaliningrad.

Painted wooden nesting or Matrioshkas dolls of Russian Communist leaders. Mikhail Gorbachev is the first and largest doll, inside which in succession are the leaders: Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Five dolls in total.
2008.005.11.005 – Set of Matryoshkas painted with Soviet political figures

Magic Lanterns

Developed in the 17th century following the creation of the camera obscura, magic lanterns are the earliest form of slide projects. These optical devices used candles, oil and later limestone as a light source to project glass slides onto screens. This large biunial (or double lens) mahogany and brass magic lantern has two optical systems which allows for transition effects between slides. There are a wide range of magic lanterns models, from small toy lanterns for children, to large projectors for theatrical presentations or educational lectures. Explore our database to see the wide variety of magic lantern projectors and slides in our holdings.

A wooden Biunial Magic Lantern projector in front of a white background
2017.017.01.004 Biunial Magic Lantern

Next week we’ll highlight items and archival concepts for the letters N to S!

Archives A to Z: Part 1

We’re joining the Archives of Ontario in their #ArchivesAtoZ month-long campaign. The aim is to increase the public’s awareness of archives and their collections. We’ll be sharing four blog posts throughout the month showcasing items from our holdings and demystifying archival concepts related to each letter of the alphabet.

  • March 1: A to F
  • March 8: G to M
  • March 15: N to S
  • March 22: T to Z

Archives & Special Collections

The Ryerson Archives was founded in 1971 on a recommendation by the Smyth Commission on Ryerson Polytechnical Institute’s governance and organization. Its mandate is to preserve and makes accessible the records essential to the understanding of the University’s purposes and operation or having other historical or archival value. Special Collections was founded in 2005 with the donation of the Kodak Canada Corporate Archives and Heritage Collection. Its purpose is to support the learning and teaching needs and facilitate the scholarly, research and creative activities of the Ryerson community by acquiring and preserving photography, film and cultural history objects. The two came together in 2012 and moved to a shared space in 2017. Open to the public, we provide research help for the Ryerson Community and beyond. We also offer a variety of different educational experiences for staff and students at Ryerson. Learn more about us here.

5 students working in the Archives & Special Collections reading room
Ryerson Archives & Special Collections Reading Room located in Room 404 of the Ryerson Library

Button Collection

Ryerson’s button collection houses hundreds of buttons from all different departments, events, and campus groups. The buttons are stored together, but belong to different record groups in the repository. Here is a small sampling:

An overhead image of about 20 colourful buttons with Ryerson logos and slogans
Toronto Metropolitan University Archive’s Button Collection houses buttons of all shapes and sizes. You can see our smallest and largest ones in this image.

Comic Books

The Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection consists of 181 comic books, produced in Canada, mainly during World War II, after the War Exchange Conservation Act (WECA), on December 2, 1940 classified American comics as “luxury goods” and limited their importation. These comics are generally referred to as the “Canadian Whites” due to the fact that the illustrations were black and white, except for the covers.

Triumph Comics comic book cover
An online version of the comic book is available: Triumph Comics No. 12

Dogs of Oakham House

The Oakham House dogs, Archives and Special Collections official mascots, were donated to the Archives in 2010. They originally graced the front entrance to Oakham House, a former private home built by Architect William Thomas. Upon their arrival to Archives and Special Collections, a university wide name the dogs contest was held. The pups were named “Daisy” for Ryerson’s first computer and “RISIS” for the Ryerson created “Ryerson Integrated Student Records System”. They currently stand watch over our reading room and greet visitors from their spot in front of our reference help desk.

Two cast iron dog sculptures
The Oakham House dog sculptures are made from cast iron and weigh about 100 lbs each.

Eaton’s Centre

Our holdings include several images of the Eaton’s Centre as part of the Canadian Architect Magazine Fonds. This collection contains thousands of negatives and photographs taken for the publication. The magazine reviewed and documented both public and private structures, including churches, homes, businesses, airports, government offices and public spaces. The subjects of the photographs are generally modern Canadian structures, but images of some International sites and early 20th century Canadian buildings can be found in the collection as well.

Fraggle Rock

The Robert Hackborn Fonds contains extensive documentation of the creative processes for Jim Henson’s television show Fraggle Rock, including on-set images, sketches of set designs and correspondence. Robert Hackborn was a Canadian set designer and art director. He started working at the CBC in 1955 as a scenic paint artist and later progressed to the Set Design Department where he would produce versatile special visual effects incorporated in years of Canadian film and television programming.

Next week we’ll highlight items and archival concepts for the letters G to M!

Remembrance Day: Student Voices from 2000

Twenty years ago, Jennifer Kwan published “Voices from the Trenches” in The Eyeopener, one of Ryerson’s student newspapers.

Kwan interviewed students about their relationship to Remembrance Day and their traditions to commemorate the event. The article provides insight from students who had recently immigrated to Canada and their connections to war and conflict.

One of the perspectives featured in the article is a first-year information technology management student who is a Kosovar Albanian refugee. The student and her family fled to Macedonia just days before the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombing. The student discusses her relationship to war since leaving Kosovo and immigrating to Canada in the fall of 2000. Kwan wrote,”… young people approach her with questions about Kosovo, and while she thinks they should be aware of what’s happening in the world when it comes to war, she says people shouldn’t let it consume them.” 1

A business student from the United Arab Emirates interviewed in the article believes we should be spending more than one day reflecting on our history of war. The student shares his family’s experience during the 1991 Persian Gulf war and the emotional impact of living near a conflict zone. “It has happened before and it can happen again. It shouldn’t be a distant memory.” 2

Another student describes how every year her grandfather recounts stories of the Second World War and discusses his past as a commander for the Polish underground resistance. Kwan wrote, “Even though she’s heard these stories before, she sits beside him and listens, knowing that he wants her to remember them and learn the lessons.” 3

To read the full article, click on the image above and select “view full-size.”

The newspaper article included in this blog post was taken from the Toronto Metropolitan University Archives Remembrance Day Clipping File. The Archives preserves students’ experiences and serves as the institutional memory of the Ryerson community. For more student perspectives on Remembrance Day, click on the images below.

1Kwan, Jennifer. “Voices from the Trenches.” The Eyeopener, November 8, 2000.

2Ibid.

3Ibid.

A Comic Book Collection… from the 1940s!

Did you know Ryerson Special Collections has a large selection of World War II comic books? We have a collection of over 180 Canadian Whites comics

These are referred to as the “Canadian Whites” since only the front and back cover were printed in colour, while the pages inside were kept in black and white.

Active Comics (February 1942) front cover from Library and Archives Canada

In 1940, the War Exchange Conservation Act (WECA) deemed American comic books non-essential luxury goods, which could not be imported during World War II. Canadian publishers responded to this demand for comics by creating their own national superheroes with local storylines.

Front cover of comic book featuring Nelvana of the Northern Lights
Triumph Comics cover page from Library and Archives Canada

They introduced iconic characters such as Johnny Canuck, a Canadian hero who fights Nazis without superpowers but with his own strength and patriotism, and Nelvana of the Northern Lights, a superhero tasked to protect Northern Canada. Nelvana was one of the first female superheroes to be featured in comic books, and even predated the creation of Wonder Woman. Her character was possibly inspired by an Inuit elder that the Group of Seven painter Franz Johnston met during a trip to the Northwest Territories.

Inside cover and first page of a Triumph Comics
Triumph Comics – inside cover and first page from Library and Archives Canada

The Canadian Whites comics are incredible resources to read, research and analyze. There are several facets to explore, from the character’s stereotypical depictions and the Canadian propaganda storylines to the type of ink processes used to print the comic books.

If you’d like to view these comics from your home, Library and Archives Canada has several issues digitized and available online. Browse through their finding aid to locate the links and view the comic books.

Check out these resources for more information about Canadian Comic Books:

Ryerson 7025 – Student Government

The Toronto Metropolitan University and Archives has created an exhibit, running June 1 – October 31, looking back at the history of the school. For each month the exhibit is open we will feature in our blog one of the 5 themes of the exhibit: 5 pivotal moments in Ryerson’s history, Student Groups and Clubs, Student Government, Student Housing, and Athletics and Intramurals.

For August’s post – we will delve into the history of student government on campus.

The Ryerson student union has held many names since the inception of the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. In 1948, the first iteration of the student assocaition was called the Students’ Administrative Council (SAC).  In 1970, it changed its name to the Students’ Union of Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (SURPI), and between 1989 and 1996 it was know as Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU). In the mid-1990s, the union was renamed the Ryerson Students’ Administrative Council (RYESAC), and in 2006 it became the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) as we know it today.

Ryerson’s first Student Administrative Council (RG 95.1 SAC)

Initially, the student council’s budget was set by the Institute’s administration and the treasurer position was filled by an instructor. At the time, the student union’s main goal was to organize social and extracurricular activities for the student body. They organized Homecoming Weekend, Open House, the annual student comedy show called RIOT and The Ryerson Opera Workshop (ROW).

Ryerson Opera Workshop’s Alice in Wonderland (RG 718.03, Photographer: Jerry Davey)

By the 1960s, the student association evolved into an elected self-governing body that administered its own funds and became a platform for student activism. In 1966, Janet Weir, a secretarial science student became the first woman elected as SAC president. Weir organized a student-led protest called “Booxodus” to advocate for a larger book collection in the new library building. On November 20, 1967, students were asked to borrow six books from the library to demonstrate the limited resources available at Ryerson. The protesters borrowed 3,000 books from the library, representing almost a third of the overall holdings. The campaign was successful, and funds were allocated to increase book purchases when the new library would be completed in the 1970s.

Ryerson Library Booxodus (Photo montage from the book Together for Change by Ronald Stagg)

The Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) was founded in 1979 to represent the large proportion of students enrolled in part-time and evening courses. Through the years, CESAR has collaborated with RSU on campaigns such as pedestrianizing Gould Street, eliminating the use of bottled water on campus and stopping tuition hikes. The organization also focuses on issues specific to Continuing Education students, such as daycare service and full financial credit for part-time studies.

Night Student News June 30th 1981 (RG 24.1)

In the early 1990s, the student council lobbied Ryerson to first install recycling bins on campus, and eventually to make them available campus-wide. By the mid-1990s, they organized several student demonstrations in protest of tuition hikes. The president at the time, Victoria Bowman, brought 30 bags of ice to the President’s office as part of a tuition freeze protest.

RyeSAC SoapBox Newsletter Fall 1997 (RG 79.59)

Ryerson’s student government has certainly changed through the years, but it has and will continue to undertake three major roles for the Ryerson community: provide free or affordable services to students, organize social and community-oriented events, and the role of an advocacy group dedicated to improving the condition of students on campus.  

Stay tuned for next month’s blog when we explore the history of student housing at Ryerson!