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Special Collections: Celebrating 10 Years


2015 marked the 10 year anniversary of Special Collections at the Toronto Metropolitan University Library and Archives. It seems like a good time time to have a look back at where we came from, and where we are headed.

Kodak Canada Heritage Collection

The Special  Collections department at the Toronto Metropolitan University Library was founded in 2005, with the acquisition of the Kodak Canada Corporate Archives and Heritage Collection after the Mount Dennis campus shut down. The collection includes the history of the company in Toronto since it’s arrival in 1900, and the contents of Kodak Museum that had recently opened at the Mount Dennis campus.

Small room with shelves of archival boxes, tables of albums and a computer workstation.
7th floor Special Collections

At that time, Special Collections occupied a small storage space on the 7th floor of the library, big enough for the two PPCM students working on the collection, but with no public research space.

By 2006, we’d moved to a larger space, and our collections had grown to include book collections, acquiring the Michael Mitchell collection and the Nicholas and Marilyn Graver collections. Students were able to visit the collection, and internships were created to process the large collections.

Office with many shelves containing albums, books and archival boxes. People moving boxes on carts.
2006: Moving in, a new space for Special Collections

Though safe and secure, the new space was difficult to access by researchers. This was solved in 2008, when a more permanent, accessible space was completed on the 4th floor of the library. The new space featured more storage, exhibition and display space, as well as a research area and student work station. A modest exhibition program was instituted, and researchers gained an accessible reading room to explore the growing collections. These included the Leniniana propaganda collection, the Lorne Shields Historical Photography Collection. We also integrated the library’s existing rare book collection, and the acquisition of the Canadian Architect Magazine collection was underway.

Research Area in Special Collections at the Ryerson Library
The current research area in Special Collections at the Ryerson Library

The future of Special Collections at Ryerson looks bright and includes an expansion of our space, and integrating with the Archives department, which will allow more accessibility to our researchers and more space for our collections.

We will continue to grow our collection, in line with our revised mandate to support teaching and research at Toronto Metropolitan University.

Help us celebrate! Drop by to see a small selection of items from our most popular collections, now on display on the 4th floor of the Ryerson Library. For more information or to view the collections call or email to make an appointment.


Location: 4th Floor, Ryerson Library, LIB404
Hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Phone: 416-979-5000 ext. 7027

The Top 8 Odd and Outstanding Artist’s Books in Ryerson’s Special Collections

Ryerson’s Special Collections is filled with all kinds of unique and unusual material. Here is our list of the top 8 odd and outstanding artist’s books you can find in our collection!


  1. Scratch by Christian Boltanski

This thin artist’s book allegedly contains ten duotones of forbidden images. However, what the reader will see when browsing this book is a stiff book with five silver coloured pages. That’s because Boltanski has coated each image in a scratch-card like opaque substance. So, the only way to view the hidden images is to physically scratch off the surface of each page. In this way, the artist is making a statement about the responsibility of viewing images of disaster, forcing the reader to make a decision – either peek and look, or stare and wonder at what lies beneath the surface.


  1. Cock Fight Dance by Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt was one of the artists spearheading the Conceptual movement in the 1960s. While he was most well-known for his painting, drawing and sculpture works, LeWitt also published multiple photographic artist’s books. This odd little book contains a photographic narrative of two roosters fighting. With a simple layout and premise, this book of photographs light-heartedly hints at dance and performance. Because the whole event is not completely recorded, LeWitt’s book suggests multiple readings and multiple endings.


  1. See by Marcia Resnick

See by Marcia Resnick contains 34 black and white portraits. Each portrait shows the subject in the center of the frame in front of various landscapes. However, instead of looking at the camera, each subject has their back to us. This simple little book from 1975 can actually be read as a deeper exploration of looking and being look at, of seeing and being seen.


  1. Rainbow in Your Hand by Masashi Kawamura

It won’t take long for you to read this book cover-to-cover, and it’s definitely one you’ll want to peruse again! At first, this artist’s book seems a bit underwhelming – each of its pages are completely identical with small coloured squares on each side of a black page. However, everything changes once the reader realizes it is actually a flipbook – and not a conventional flipbook either. Instead of creating an illusion of movement on the pages, this book creates a three-dimensional illusion. When this clever little book is flipped though, a rainbow appears in the space between the pages!


  1. Hide by Fred Escher

This book is a great example of the type of unconventional book that was published by conceptual artists in the 1970s. The book contains black and white photographs, each of the artist hiding in plain sight. Part-performance, part-photography, the work Escher creates in this book shows the landscape and artist as merged, and can be seen to the reader as a sort of grown-up version of Where’s Waldo.


  1. Mountain Dream Tarot by Bea Nettles

This collection of images firmly resides outside of the traditional form of artist’s book. Instead of bound pages, this work consists of 78 individual tarot cards. The deck from 1975 is the first known photographic tarot deck, and is one of the most collectible tarot card decks in the world. Using herself, as well as family and friends as models, the artist created the multicoloured photographic cards over the span of 5 years. A lot of skill and technique went into each image. There was no Photoshop at the time, so Nettles used darkroom tricks to create special effects in the images – collaged photographs, multi-layered images and hand-drawn symbols are some of the processes she employed.


  1. Octogonal Houses of Maine by Carol-Lynn Rössel Waugh

This curious book is by far the smallest in the collection – in fact it measures just 2 centimeters by 2.5 centimeters! The book chronicles the history of the eight-sided homes in the state of Maine. The author appears to have also written multiple books on the subject of teddy bears, and is a self-proclaimed “teddy bear artist”. In addition to being the smallest book in our collection, we consider it to be one of the oddest little gems in the stacks!


  1. Every Building on the Sunset Strip by Ed Ruscha

This rare and fragile artist’s book is one of the most iconic to come out of the 1970s. For Every Building on the Sunset Strip, the artist mounted a motorized camera to the back of a truck, photographing every building he passed. Ruscha then created a bound accordion-style book from one continuous folding strip that extends approximately 25 feet. Though now the book might make us think of Google Street View, the book revealed at the time a new form of topographical map-making study. Ruscha is known for spearheading a new genre of artist’s book, favouring a cheap and conceptual approach over the typical livre d’artiste of the day. Ryerson’s Special Collections is also home to various other original seminal Ruscha books, including Business Cards, Royal Road Test and Crackers.

Contact us to come have a look at these odd and outstanding artist’s books!

Happy Holidays from Ryerson Library Archives and Special Collections

As the Holiday season approachs, Ryerson students are making their final mighty push to get assignments done and exams written before the winter break.

Featured from our collections are some Holiday and Winter scenes from around campus and beyond for a little light viewing during this busy time of year.

Quadrangle in the Snow (RG 395.121.01.216)
Black and white photograph of young men and women playing a hockey style game with brooms on an ice rink
Howard Kerr Hall, ca. 1965, decorated for the holidays. (RG
3 storey academic building at night with red, green and white twinkle lights decorating the outside
Ryerson Students participating in a massive broomball tournament in the Quad. Tournament was part of Ryerson’s Winter Carnival held in January 1969. Part of the Quad was turned into the ice rink. (RG
Canadian Architect photograph file “Country Homes in Winter” (2009.002.2883.004)
Holiday Card from the 1950s.
Ryerson Snoball advertisement (RG

A reminder that the Library, and the University as a whole, will be closed from Thursday December 24th, until Wednesday January 6th, reopening on Thursday January 7th. We wish you a safe and happy holiday season and look forward to seeing you in the New Year!

First Edition Book Award 2015

Exhibition of the winning 2015 books on now

First Edition Book Award 2015

We are thrilled to announce that 2015 marks the first annual awarding of the First Edition Book Awards, sponsored by Toronto Metropolitan University Library Special Collections. The awardees this year are  Evan Hutchinson, Lodoe Laura, Lucy Lu, Emily Pleasance, Kristina Smith, Imogen Wallis-Mayer, and Rebecca Zynomirski. Their books are currently on display in Special Collections, on the 4th floor of the Toronto Metropolitan University Library on Gould Street.

As part of MPS507, a required 3rd year Image Arts class in The Photographic Book at Ryerson, students are to conceive of and create their own photobook featuring their original work.

Double page spread with a portrait of a woman and text telling her story
Stateless, by Lodoe Laura, foreward by Tashi Wangdi, 2014. Lodoe Laura’s first photo book, Stateless, attempts to tackle the notion of identity of the stateless Tibetans in Northern India.

Two page spread of a photo book, black and white abstract photo on right hand page and white hard cover book with black numbers on the cover.
43.7000 79.4000, by Evan Hutchinson, 2014. Departing from straight photography to more of a multi media approach, Hutchinson’s photos discuss and address the idea of identification, perception and self-reflection. Hutchinson strive to challenge the viewer’s perspective, allowing them to question what they are seeing and how they define what they are observing.

Double page spread, beach scene with blue sky and a woman in a bathing suit holding an elaborate cocktail and cover of the book, a photographs of the water in a blue swimming pool
Sheila’s Tropical Vacation, by Rebecca Zynormirski, 2014 “This project began with the realization that I had never gone on a tropical vacation before. I felt strongly like I had experienced one but the truth was, the closest I had gotten to this experience was though images. Images found in magazines and through friends. I wanted to experience this first hand but I didn’t have the resources. Instead, I created a fictional lady named Sheila who I would send off to experience the Tropical Vacation that I was familiar with. Using appropriated familiar Tropical Vacation imagery I created backdrops which allowed me to construct a new reality, one that I had experienced though the repetitive, monotonous imagery that I often saw in magazines and on the Internet. I played the role of Sheila performing in front of these tableaus combining truth and fiction, narrative and reality.” –Page 4.

Cover and spine of a book entitled Memories of Nowhere and double page spread with two cyan photographs, a portrait of a shirtless man wearing an animal mask.
Memories of Nowhere, by Lucy Lu, 2014 There is one distant set of images in mind from my childhood, perhaps it is my first memory, or perhaps it isn’t one at all. It had become so obscured that sometimes I am convinced that it’s actually a dream I’m remembering all along. It is strange to consider how the mind reconstructs and recalls the past, whether it is actualized history or fleeting narratives of the subconscious.” — page 66.

The Library will purchase the top five books in the class each year, as judged by the professor, Christopher Manson, and the Special Collections Curatorial Specialist, Alison Skyrme. The books are judged at an exhibition of the books at the end of the semester. For evaluation, particular attention will be paid to design, sequencing, and integration of images and text. The books are catalogued and held in Special Collections. They are available for reference by students and the public for research.

The Award was established to honour Ryerson photography students who have made exceptional achievements in photobook production. It provides incentive for them to achieve early recognition that will have a lasting legacy in our collection.

Double page spread, 2 black and white photos of abstract figure studies
An Ambiguous Form, by Imogen Wallis-Mayer, 2014 “In this series of photographs of the female body has been redefined; it has been contorted, lit, and manipulated to form juxtaposing images ranging from vast rounded landscapes to detailed macroscopic views. Both techniques force the viewer to disregard their previous understanding of the body as a physical structure, including the bones, flesh, and organs, of a person and instead observe the body as an ambiguous form, comprised of shadow and light, curves, and lines.”– cover page.

Open portfolio, title page reading My Relative LIfe , a small booklet titled My Relative Life The Archives, colour photograph of a family portrait projected on a backyard fence
My Relative Life: A Mapping of Memories, by Emily Pleasance, 2014
Emily Pleasance’s work explores themes of memory, time, identity, perception and the archive. Her introduction to art and art culture was primarily classical mediums such as paints, pastels, and sculpture. This background allows her to approach photography in a unique way. She recognizes light as the true medium of photography in the same way as paint is the truest form and medium in a painting. Having this type of awareness makes light itself her biggest visual inspiration.

Hardcover book, abstract orange background with the title Orillia and Double page spread, urban scene of a sidewalk, lawn and metal staircase on the left, cardboard box and garbage bags on the right
Orillia : A Photographic Exploration, By Kristina Smith, 2014 Orillia is a book documenting the smaller details of everyday scenes often unnoticed on routine journeys throughout the city. The photos lend a truthful eye to the place; mundane scenes with a quirky appeal that often go unnoticed. The interaction between the natural environment and urban developments are a common throughout. With over sixty photographs and captions the book offers an opportunity to pause and see banal everyday scenes in a different light.

“It is most strange to know that the invasion has begun…” Remembrance Day 2015

In 2011 the Ryerson Archives received the Wellesley Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association Archives. Among the boxes and files was a scrapbook kept by Alumnae President Grace Bolton. In the scrapbook were letters home from the front during World War II. The Association had been sending Christmas boxes and care packages to their Nurses and Doctors serving in Europe and South Africa.

Perhaps the most poignant letter was sent from a Nursing Sister enlisted with the R.C.A.M.C (Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps) from an undisclosed hospital in an undisclosed place in Europe. The letter was written 3 days after D-Day, when Allied forces stormed the Beaches of Normandy.


“This is a bit disjointed, but the mess is crowded and noisy, radio blaring, and so difficult for me to concentrate. The censors will not allow me to tell you what I am doing or where I am, but at a later date I will write you about what has taken place when it’s no longer any secret.”

She continues talking about staying overseas instead of going home (she was injured by shrapnel) and discusses the horrors of war on the land and the people.


“It is a great privilege to be in the thick of things in these days. I often think I was foolish not to come home, when I could have done so quite easily, but I know I should never be quite satisfied to be back, before it is finished at least over here. Life in the country is peaceful and very beautiful this time of year. It is most strange to know that the invasion has begun with all its horrors, heartaches and destruction of humanity and cities and buildings, whilst living here. Soon however we will begin to see the results in some of our grand boys who will be coming back to be patched up by us. They are simply magnificent in the way in which they accept the loss of legs and arms.”

Take a moment to pause and remember. Ryerson has a ceremony every November 11 in the Howard Kerr Hall quad by the flag pole.

Looking back – celebrating the classes of 1950, 1955, 1960, and 1965.

This Saturday October 3rd, Ryerson is hosting is annual alumni weekend activities. This year the feature years are the classes of 1950, 1955, 1960, 1965, 1975, 1990, and 2005. In celebration of this the Archives decided to look back at those years and see what was happening on campus.


In the school year 1949-1950 Bud Evans and “Honest” John Vail were the SAC presidents, and Ted Toogood was appointed as the Athletic Director. There were 390 day school and 1355 evening school student were enrolled. The first “At Home” dance was held.

Ryerson’s First “At Home” Dance held in the gymnasium (Ryersonia yearbook 1950)
List of Faculty members (Ryersonia yearbook 1950)
Ryerson Faculty and Staff, circa 1949. (History Documentation file, 1949)

RIOT was held for the first time on March 3.

RIOT 1950 football sketch featuring Ted Toogood as “Coach Nogood”. (Ryersonia Yearbook, 1950)

CJRT began broadcasting on November 1st, and the first live T.V. show in Canada was broadcast from Ryerson on November 14th.

First live Canadian Television Broadcast at Ryerson, November 1949. [Ryersonia Yearbook, 1950)

Most significantly Ryerson graduated its first class of 212 graduates on Friday May 12. Click here for Principal Howard Kerr’s commencement address.


In the school year 1954-1955 the Blue and Gold Ball was held on February 16th at the Royal York Hotel, and RIOT ’55 was titled “Ghouls and Dolls”. The Ryerson Opera Workshop (ROW) staged Mademoiselle Angot in the Bloor Collegiate auditorium.

Blue and Gold Ball, 1955 (Ryersonia Yearbook, 1955)
ROW ’55 – Mademoiselle Angot (Ryersonia Yearbook, 1955)

“The Ryerson Story” – a CBC TV film presentation directed by Rollo Gamble of the NFB and commentated by Lloyd Bochner – was filmed at Ryerson. It featured many Ryerson students and highlighted Ryerson’s various programs. It aired on February 20th.

Ryersonian article, dated January 19, 1955, about the filming of the Ryerson Story. (History 1955 documentation file)
Photograph of Lloyd Bochner with Ryerson students. Clockwise from top left: Margo McGregor, Gerry Farkas, Vicky Jory, Lloyd Bochner, and Bill Burrows RTA ’56. (RG 95.1)

And on May 6th, 1955 Ryerson graduated 365 students from the following programs: Architectural Technology; Business Administration; Secretarial Science; Electrical Technology; Electronic Technology; Radio and Television Arts; Fashion; Furniture and Interior Design; Journalism; Printing Management; Instrument Technology; Research Technology; Public Health Laboratory Technology; Laboratory Technology; Hotel, Resort, and Restaurant Administration; Home Economics; Childhood Management; Mechanical Technology; Metallurgical Technology; Tool Design and Technology; and Photographic Arts.

1955 Convocation program of event

In the school year 1959-1960 Bruce Dobbs was the SAC President. RIOT 1960 was held at the Riverside Auditorium November 18th-21st.

Photographs from RIOT and ROW. (Ryersonia Yearbook, 1960)

The Blue and Gold Ball was held on February 5th, crowning Joan Fujimoto as Miss Ryerson and Papa and Mama Wycik as Mr. & Mrs. Ryerson.

February 11th, 1960 edition of the Ryersonian newspaper.

The second unit of Howard Kerr Hall was taken over by Ryerson.

March 9th, 1960 edition of the Ryersonian Newspaper.

Convocation for 516 graduates was held May 6th at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church.

Graduation at Yorkminster Church (Ryersonia Yearbook, 1960)

The Graduation banquet was held on the evening of May 5th. The Gold and Silver medalists were presented with their awards during the dinner.

Awards Night programme (RG
Lynn Fournier, Molly Copus, Howard Kerr, and Bruce Dobbs at the graduation banquet after receiving their medals. (Ryersonia Yearbook, 1960)

The school year 1964-1965 saw some major changes at Ryerson – the first being its name.

A 1963-1964 and a 1964-1965 course calendar showing the change in the school’s name.

Open House held October 24 – the same weekend as Homecoming.

Wednesday October 14th, 1964 edition of the Ryersonian newspaper.

The clock tower on South Kerr Hall get carillon bells. Wayne Detcher played the bells for the first time during a Christmas Carol concerts over the lunch hour in December.

Carillon bells in Kerr Hall Clock Tower. January 12th, 1965 edition of the Ryersonian

Ryerson’s annual graduation banquet was held April 8th

Graduation banquet menu and programme of events (RG

Ryerson also changed its coat-of-arms late in the year.

Old coat of arms
New coat of arms, adopted in March or April of 1965

And finally graduation was held May 7th with a morning and an afternoon ceremony.

Convocation programme, Friday May 7th, 1965 (RG
Convocation photographs (Ryersonia, 1965)

Feature from the collection: Canadian Kodak Suggestion Book

The Kodak Corporate Archives and Heritage Collection, acquired by Ryerson Library in 2005, includes many insights into the unique corporate culture of Eastman Kodak and its affiliates. One of these is a group of employee suggestion books, used by the company to record suggestions submitted by employees from 1915-1959.

Ledger sized book with columns of suggestions along with employee name, date and money awarded.
Employee Suggestion Book. 1915-1954 (accession number 2005.

Along with the suggestions and the name of the employee responsible, is a record of the amount of money awarded for suggestions that were implemented. The highest award during this time was in 1923, to W. Coldwell for suggesting a change the Japanning process on box camera components, as well as adding a safety feature to punch presses in the factory.

Detail of Employee Suggestion Book, showing a $500 award. 1915-1954 (accession number 2005.
Detail of Employee Suggestion Book, showing a $500 award. 1915-1954 (accession number 2005.

Kodak Canada valued employee input quite highly; the $500.00 bonus awarded to Coldwell in 1923 would be worth about $6,900.00 today.

If you would like to view these artifacts in person or do other research in our collections, make an appointment or drop by the 4th floor of the library building. To search our collection online, check out our newly launched collections database.

What is that THING in Special Collections?

If you’re been up to the 4th floor of the library and peered into Special Collections, you may have seen this funny creature sitting in the corner and wondered: “What the heck is that?”

Large yellow plush Kolorkin in the Special Collection stacks
Max, the Kodak Kolorkin (Special Collections, 2005.001.04.058 )

Well, that’s Max, a larger version of the plush Kodak Kolorkins toys, produced by Kodak from 1988 until the later 1990’s. Beginning in 1988, Kodak Canada began giving away the tiny, stuffed promotional toys away in exchange for mailed-in points that customers collected from film and batteries. The promotion was wildly popular, and by the time the first promotion was over, they had given away 225,000 toys and were recognized as runner up in the Council of Sales Promotion Agencies’ first “Awards of Excellent”.

There were three series of Kolorkins, and our friend Max (along with his friends Click, Zoom, Check and Digit) was part of the last series, produced in 1999 as part of Kodak Canada’s centennial.

5 small plush toys (yellow, black, blue, green and red) in a cardboard box that reads "Caution this box contains living color"
Group of small Kodak Kolorkin, in original box (Special Collections, 2005.001.04.057 )

If you’d like to visit Max, or explore more of our collections, please drop by Special Collections, located on the 4th floor of the library building, or make an appointment by emailing


“The Awards for Excellence.” Adweek’s Marketing Week 12 June 1989: p12+. Academic OneFile. Web. 30 July 2015. URL

“Kodak unveils promo series.” Chain Drug Review 17 June 1991: 158. Academic OneFile. Web. 30 July 2015.

“MARCH OF THE KOLORKINS.” Toronto Star, Feb 20, 1989.

Points of Interest from the Collections – The Creation of the Archives part deux

To round out the month looking back at the creation of the Archives, We have discovered the first Archives report dated June 29, 1971.

It was interesting reading for Archives staff as it answered questions about the collection and how it was filed and stored.  It also delves into the beginning of the retention of objects as a way to preserve Ryerson’s history along side the textual and published materials.

To view the report click on the picture below:

A report of the Ryerson Archives by James Peters Archivist for President Donald Mordell June 29, 1971

We encourage you to stop by Archives and Special Collections and take a walk through Ryerson’s history.

Points of Interest from the Collections – The Creation of the Archives

For the month of August, Archives and Special Collections will blog bi-weekly with points of interest from our collections.

This week we look at documents connected to the birth of the Archives at Ryerson.

In 1970 Ryerson Polytechnical Institute invited Professor D. McCormack Smyth to conduct a study of the structure of government at Ryerson.  The Smyth Commission Report was published and its 7th recommendation was the creation of an institutional Archives.

Page from report stating that an Archives be established to preserve historical documents.
Recommendation No. 7 – Smyth Commission report (RG 149.58)

On November 11, 1970 Ryerson President Donald Mordell sent out the following memo to all Deans, Chairmen, and Department heads.

On November 17, 1970 Mordell sent the following memo to Jim Peters, a professor in the Department of English:

Donald Mordell memo to Jim Peters - thanking him for his suggestions and asking him if he would be interested in taking the position of Archivist.
Memo from Donald Mordell to Jim Peters

The Archives was officially established in 1971 as a special new department associated with the Library. Jim Peters was appointed Ryerson’s first Archivist.

Technikos magazine article announcing the establishment of Ryerson's Archives within the Library with Jim Peters as the Archivist.
Technikos magazine, Spring 1971 (RG 4.26)

To learn more about Ryerson’s History – visit Archives and Special Collections.