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Cameras beyond Kodak

The Kodak Canada Corporate Archives & Heritage Collection cameras are still on display in our summer exhibit on the 4th floor, but in today’s post we’re thinking outside the little black box. Although Kodak was easily the most popular camera manufacturer of the 20th century, and their products form the bulk of our camera collection, there were and are still other mass-market brands. One such company was Ernst Leitz, GmbH, located in Wetzler, Germany.

Leitz opened for business as an optical manufacturer called Ernst Leitz Optische Werke, an appropriate start for a brand that would become known for producing photographic lenses that rendered even small negatives sharp and clear. Their improved lenses allowed the Leica camera to use 35mm film, then the common gauge for motion picture film. Although 35mm stock was readily available to be chopped up as still film, the Leica was the first camera to make enlarging those small frames with clarity possible. Most consumer film cameras today use some variation of the Leica camera body design, spreading rolled film across the camera horizontally, from left to right and rewinding from right to left when each frame has been exposed. Add to these innovations a self-capping shutter that ensured an even exposure and it is easy to see why this portable, professional camera brand became the gear of choice for documentary photographers.

Leica IIf, ca. 1953-55, Heritage Camera Collection (2005.006.13.02)
Leica R4, 1981, Heritage Camera Collection (2005.006.13.01)

References:

Leica illustrated guide / by James L. Lager. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. : Morgan & Morgan, [1976, c1975].

Jason Schneider on camera collecting : a fully illustrated handbook of articles originally published in Modern photography. Des Moines, Iowa : Wallace-Homestead Book Co., c1978-c1985.

Disney, Michael (2001). The Leica and the development of the modern 35mm camera. Retrieved July 22, 2011 from Eight Elm Photo & Video website:

Feature from the Collections: Summer Fashions

Special Collections staff recently stumbled upon this gorgeous photograph of a lady relaxing in a hammock during a late 1890s summer and wanted to share. Knowing how warm our Ontario summers can be, we can’t help but feel thankful for our own more comfortable options for summer attire.

This unidentified amateur snapshot showing a woman relaxing outdoors illustrates how helpful it can be to have changes in clothing trends to consider when attributing a date to an image. In this case, the large puffed sleeves are a clue to the date of this photograph. According to the historical fashion online resources provided by the Vintage Fashion Guild:

“[In 1890-1900] with the decline of the bustle, sleeves began to grow and the 1830s hourglass revival was well underway. Sleeves ballooned to proportions never seen before or indeed since – reaching their height in 1895-96.”

The size and shape of the photograph itself can also help narrow down a time period for an image. In this case the somewhat rectangular shape of the print rules out the very early circular images produced by the No. 1 Kodaks, and the popular Brownie models produced in the 1890s tended to make square pictures that were a bit smaller. Our best guess is that the 10.3 x 12.9 cm picture might have been produced by the No. 4 Bullet Special Camera, produced between 1898-1900 and thereby giving us our “circa 1898” attribution.

Woman Reclining in Hammock, ca. 1895 (2008.001.212)

References:

Dressedforthephotographer : ordinary Americans and fashion, 1840-1900 / Joan L. Severa. Kent, Ohio : Kent State University Press, c1995.
http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b1235603~S0

Vintage Fashion Guild. (n.d.) Fashion Timeline:1890-1900. Vintage Fashion Guild Resources. Retrieved July 22, 2011 from http://vintagefashionguild.org/fashion-timeline/1890-to-1900/

No. 4 Bullet Special Kodak Camera at Historic Camera’s History Librarium. Retrieved July 22, 2011 from http://www.historiccamera.com/cgi-bin/librarium/pm.cgi?action=display&login=no4bulletspecial

Feature of the Week: Communist Leader Nesting Dolls

Russian nesting dolls (matrioshka) are hand-crafted, hollow wooden dolls of increasing size that fit inside one another. The name originates from the Latin root word mater (mother) and it is generally accepted that the dolls were originally a symbol of motherhood and fertility, with the smaller “children” fitting inside the outside mother doll. While the concept seems to have originated in China, they have been a craft tradition in Russia since the end of the 1800s. The Russian version of the dolls were introduced to the world at the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris and have been symbolic of Russia in the global mindset, and a popular souvenir, ever since.

Gorbachev, with Brezhnev nested inside. Leniniana Collection, Special Collections (2008.005.104)

The form of the nesting doll has been used to market figures from pop culture, including the Beatles and Star Wars characters, and not surprisingly, it has also used the likenesses of political figures. This week’s feature is a distinct cultural form of the matrioshka, depicting the leaders of the Communist Party in the U.S.S.R.

Stalin & Khrushchev. Leniniana Collection, Special Collections (2008.005.104)

Propaganda was used in virtually every aspect of life in the U.S.S.R. and visual representations of party leaders appeared on all manner of materials. As evidenced from Special Collection’s Leniniana artifacts, heroic likenesses of party leaders were reproduced on posters, plates, sculptures, toys and even embroidered onto looms.

Gorbachev, Brezhnev, Khrushchev, Stalin & Lenin.  Leniniana Collection, Special Collections (2008.005.104)

The matrioshka photographed for this blog appears to have been produced in the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and may be taken as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Communist cult of personality rather than an example of heroic leader imagery. Whatever its context, the style of this matrioshka would not have been out of place among the earlier artifacts in the collection.

It all comes down to Lenin. Leniniana Collection, Special Collections (2008.005.104)

For more information or to see more artifacts from the Leniniana Collection, contact asc@ryerson.ca to make an appointment, or drop by our reading room on the 4th floor of the library.

Sources:

DeLaine, Linda. “Matryoshka – Soul of Russia.” Russian Life. N.p. 2007. http://www.russianlife.com/article.cfm?Number=196 . 20 April, 2011.

Feature of the Week: The Titanic underwater

In 2005, Ryerson Library Special Collections received a substantial donation of audiovisual material from Dr. Joe MacInnis.  For 30 years, the Canadian physician and explorer has studied the human effects of working deep underwater and has organized dives in the Great Lakes, the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Arctic Ocean.

In addition to being a medical consultant to the US Navy, contributing to the development of Canada’s first ocean’s policy, working with the construction team on the world’s first undersea polar station (the Sub-Igloo) and leading the team that discovered the HMS Breadalbane and filmed the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, MacInnis helped lead the filming of history’s most famous shipwreck, the Titanic.

MacInnis made two dives to the bow and stern of the Titanic between 1985 and 1991, and was co-leader of the two million dollar project to film the ship in IMAX format.  In 2005, he joined James Cameron on a dive that produced a 90 minute live broadcast from some of the last unseen rooms of the ship.

The donated collection includes; 804 videocassettes, 144 sound recordings, 11 motion pictures, and 3 video reels.  As the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic approaches, Special Collections has been working on digitizing and cataloguing the collection to preserve the many hours of original raw footage, and newscasts about the pioneering dives.

To view some of the digitized files, make an appointment at Special Collections by sending an email to: asc@ryerson.ca. For more information on MacInnis, check out these library sources:

MacInnis, Joe, 1937- Title Breathing underwater : the quest to live in the sea / Joe MacInnis. Publisher Toronto : Viking Canada, c2004.

MacInnis, Joe, 1937- Title Fitzgerald’s storm : the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald / Joseph MacInnis. Publisher Toronto : Macmillan Canada, c1997.

Sources:

Still images from: “Titanic d edit left #2 [unedited]” Invisible Media, c. 1991 MacInnis Audiovisual Collection, Toronto Metropolitan University Library Special Collections.

Dr. Joe MacInnis: Physician, explorer, motivational speaker and author. Dr. Joe McInnis, n.d. http://www.drjmacinnis.com/. 17 Mar. 2011.

Feature of the Week: Cameras for the Masses, Kodak & the snapshot

Taking photographs is like second nature to us now; we can snap a quick shot on our computers, laptops, cell phones, and with increasingly small and inexpensive digital cameras.  It’s cheaper and easier than ever before to preserve special moments and with no film or processing to worry about anymore, every moment can be documented and remembered. How many photos did you take on your last holiday?

A No. 2A Brownie point and shoot camera from the Historical Camera Collection in Archives and Special Collections (2005.001.7.005)

It’s difficult for us to imagine a time when most people could only have photos taken at a professional studio. In the 19th century, amateur photography was time consuming, often dangerous, and always very expensive.  Some images were taken directly on metal or glass and only one copy could be had.  Photographic “film” that allowed copies consisted of glass plates or paper soaked in chemicals.

When the Eastman Kodak Company introduced the first personal use camera in 1888, it was the beginning of the amateur snap shot.  The Kodak Camera cost about $25 (that may not sound like much, but that would be about $550 today) and came pre-loaded with 100 shots.  When the film was done, the customer packaged up the camera and sent it back to the Kodak Company in Rochester, NY for developing.  The pictures were mailed back, along with a newly loaded camera for the price of $10 (about $235 now).  Kodak had made photographs easier, but they were still expensive.  To really make money, and make sure the Kodak name was in every home, they had to make it cheaper.

The “Baby Brownie” (1934-1941) from the Historical Camera Collection in Archives and Special Collections (2005.001.7.033)

A brilliant entrepreneur, George Eastman challenged his designers to come up with the cheapest camera possible; something that was economical to make and easy to use.  The Brownie Camera was born.  First sold in 1900, the Brownie cost $1.00 (less than $25 today) and was a simple box design with few moving parts.  Ads claimed “Any school-boy or girl can make good pictures with one of Eastman Kodak Company’s Brownie Cameras!”  With a product cheap and sturdy enough for a child to use, Kodak aimed its marketing campaigns at kids, opening “Brownie Camera Clubs of America” and enticing budding photographers to get snap happy.  Nearly 250,000 of the first Brownies were manufactured.  The Brownie evolved over the years, becoming sturdier, smaller and eventually including flash.

The Brownie Hawkeye camera (c. 1949-1951) from the Historical Camera Collection in Archives and Special Collections (2005.001.7.126)

Ryerson Library Special Collections holds an extensive Heritage Camera Collection, including many popular models Kodak cameras.  Make an appointment (asc@ryerson.ca) or drop by the fourth floor to have a look!

The Brownie Flash camera (1946-1954) from the Historical Camera Collection in Archives and Special Collections (2005.001.7.451)

For more information on the history of the camera, check out these Ryeron Library Resources:

Camera : a history of photography from daguerreotype to digital / Todd Gustavson. Publisher New York : Sterling Pub., 2009. http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b1933405~S0

History of Kodak cameras. Publisher Rochester, N.Y. : Photographic Products Group, Eastman Kodak Co., / 1987. http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b1812462~S0

The art of the American snapshot, 1888-1978 : from the collection of Robert E. Jackson / Sarah Greenough and Diane Waggoner ; with Sarah Kennel and Matthew S. Witkovsky. Publisher Washington [D.C.] : National Gallery of Art ; Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 2007. http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b1780308~S0

Sources:

Kodak. “The Brownie @ 100 : A Celebration.” Kodak. N.p., n.d.  http://www.kodak.com/US/en/corp/features/brownieCam/ Accessed 16 Feb. 2011.

Kodak. “Building the Foundation, Kodak”Kodak. N.p., n.d. http://www.kodak.com/ek/US/en/Our_Company/History_of_Kodak/Building_the_Foundation.htm Accessed Feb. 16 2011.

Feature of the Week: Map of Ryerson in 1923

Ever wonder what your campus may have looked like 100 years ago? What were the older buildings used for before they were part of the University? What kinds of structures were here before the new facilities appeared?

Charles E. Goad, Atlas of the city of Toronto and suburbs, 1910, 3rd ed. (revised to 1923), Plate 13

A wonderful historical resource was recently donated to Special Collections from the collection of Edward Koshchuk:  The Atlas of the city of Toronto and suburbs was published in 1910 in 3 volumes, expanded from the original 1890 edition because “the City has increased so rapidly, and the area is now so much more extensive.” The atlas contains maps of the city of Toronto including the land now occupied by the Toronto Metropolitan University campus, and was revised using small pasted-in bits of paper and handwritten notations, so that the current view is actually more accurate to 1923.

The area identified as St. James Square in the detail below is now bordered on all four sides by the endless tunnel known as Kerr Hall, and all that remains of the Upper Canada Normal School, founded by Egerton Ryerson as a Teacher’s College in 1852, is the thin façade marking the entrance to our underground gym (the RAC). These buildings survived to the 1950s, just hitting the 100 year mark before they were removed for the construction of Kerr Hall. The Archives has a diorama of the Square and the buildings shown on this map in their reading room, and more information about Ryerson campus history is also available on this website.

Of note are the many different religious houses in the area, including a Catholic Church where Lake Devo is now, a Synagogue, Lutheran Church and a Congregational Church at Bond and Dundas. The Synagogue is now a Greek Orthodox Church and the Lutheran Church is still standing, hidden behind the construction for the new Image Arts building.

Other landmarks that have changed include a former public school where the Victoria Building stands, and the O’Keefe Brewery occupying the space now filled by the Bookstore, a parking garage and a Tim Hortons. Sadly, we have to count the Empress Hotel (more recently known as “the building that Salad King was in”) as a former landmark.

If you would like to take a look at the atlas yourself (Vols. 1 & 2 only), or one of the earlier atlases of the area such as The Illustrated historical atlas of the county of York and the township of West Gwillimbury & town of Bradford in the county of Simcoe, Ont, 1878 and The Topographical and historical atlas of the county of Oxford, Ontario, 1876, please make an appointment by sending an email to asc@ryerson.ca or phone 416-979-5000 x7027.

Ryerson Catalogue Entry: http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b2025645~S0

Feature of the week : Making an Exhibition, Finding the Library’s Next Top Model

This week’s feature is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the FACES exhibition in Special Collections, which ran from December 1, 2010 – January 21, 2011. (You can still see the display through to January 31st when the next scheduled change happens, but the contest is over and the names of all the Famous Faces have been revealed!)

Setting the stage
Take one Image Arts student working in Special Collections as an Exhibitions Assistant through the Summer Work Study program and ask her to re-imagine a contest timed for the winter break…

2009/10 Holiday Photo Contest announcement
2009/10 Holiday Photo Contest announcement : Past winter contests have asked for users to contribute holiday-themed photos

This student decides that a guessing game would be fun, but how do we personalize it for Ryerson? A call goes out to our staff for help!

Library staff recruitment ad : not what you’d typically see

Following through
We had 4 volunteer models from our happy group: a Librarian, two Library Technicians and an Administrative Assistant. We couldn’t have asked for a better mix!

Now that we had our volunteers, we looked for some inspiration (think you can guess the staff members we were picturing?):

Our Exhibitions Assistant narrows down the results to two options and edits the photos:

Making it Happen
Working with another student in the Library employed by the Work Study program, our Exhibitions Assistant and Graphic Design Assistant come up with a look for the contest form online using the final poster girl:

Final poster for the contest

Voilà, a successful competition was born! Thanks to Exhibitions Assistant Elaine Chan-Dow and Graphic Designer Alicia Russano (who also came up with the look for our new website). And thanks to our volunteer models!

Feature of the Week: The Oakham House Dogs

Remember the film “The Incredible Journey”? Much like the fabled animals in that movie, our featured archive items have been on quite the voyage.

Oakham House dogs (RG 114.38)

Designed by architect William Thomas to hitch horses in front of his residence, which he named Oakham House, these two handsome canines guarded the home until Thomas’ death in 1860.  In 1899, the house, along with the dogs, was sold to the Society for Working Boys; a home for disadvantaged youth in Toronto.  When Toronto Metropolitan University purchased the building in 1958, the dogs, originally located at the building’s Church Street entrance, were no longer there.  They had been removed to the new location of the Boys Home.  When Ryerson retrieved the dogs in 1982, the Toronto Historical Board wanted the pair to be mounted in their historical place in the front of the house.  In the interest of protecting them from vandalism, however, they were placed inside the house.  Since 2010, the Ryerson Library Archives has had the pleasure of their company.  Drop by and pay them a visit if you’re on the third floor of the library!

Feature of the week : American Burlesque

Welcome to the first in a series of blogs highlighting interesting and unique objects we come across in the Toronto Metropolitan University Archives & Special Collections. There’s a lot of amazing objects in our stacks, and here are just a few….

AMERICAN BURLESQUE PHOTOGRAPHS IN SPECIAL COLLECTIONS.

Special Collections number : 2008.001.1637

The Lorne Shields Historical Photograph Collection was donated to Special Collections in 2007 and includes many albums, professional portraits and amateur snaps as well as an interesting series of Cigarette Cards and Cabinet Cards featuring popular American Burlesque performers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Not the famous Gypsy Rose Lee, but just as sassy! Special Collections number : 2008.001.1650

In America, Burlesque began as a bawdy form of theatrical entertainment, popular from the 1870s to the 1920s, that borrowed from the British Music Hall format of combining comic skits and musical performances, but evolved into a risqué variety show focusing on dirty jokes and (most familiar) sexy women.  As it was considered unseemly at the time for “decent” women to perform in the theatre, even the most serious of female thespians could find a home performing in the suggestive, and often ill-reputed Burlesque shows where the performers were mainly female and the audience was mainly working class.

These actresses could gain quite a following from the general public however, and their comings and goings (and divorces and affairs) were often reported in the daily papers.  Seeing the potential gain, Cigarette cards and collectible photographs featuring the women in seductive poses (is that an exposed ankle? Gasp!) were produced by enterprising photographers.

Special Collections number: 2008.001.1634

Following are some of the stars of the bygone days of Burlesque found in the Lorne Shields Historical Photograph Collection. To see more, check out the Special Collections Flickr account (see right) or visit us on the Library’s 4th floor.

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For more information on Burlesque and the American theatre, check out these book resources in the Library:

“No legs, no jokes, no chance” : a history of the American musical theater / Sheldon Patinkin. http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b1817103~S0

A chronology of American musical theater / Richard C. Norton. http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b1695595~S0

The American musical : history and development / Peter H. Riddle. http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b1672071~S0