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Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Libraries has once again partnered with the Aga Khan Museum to develop digital installations for their current Rumi exhibition. Since 2019, the Libraries’ Information Technology (LITs) and Collaboratory teams have collaborated with the Museum on immersive projects for exhibitions, providing graduate students with real-world opportunities to work on digital installations. The first collaboration was the 2021 Remastered exhibition of Persian, Turkish, and Mughal Indian manuscript paintings, in which the Libraries developed: holographic 3-D visualizations, smartphone interactives, digital restorations and animations of artwork. The partnership has continued to grow, giving unique opportunities for graduate students to gain experience working with immersive technologies.
Last August, the Aga Khan Museum reached out to TMU Libraries to kick off discussions about their then upcoming exhibition titled Rumi: a visual journey through the life and legacy of a Sufi Mystic. The exhibition, which opened in May and runs through to October 2023, “celebrates one of history’s most famous poets on the 750th anniversary of his passing.” Dr. Michael Chagnon, who joined the Museum in 2019, curated the exhibit that explores “Rumi’s enduring impact through an examination of artifacts, manuscripts, and contemporary art.” TMU Libraries, along with a group of contemporary artists, was asked to assist in creating new ways of learning about the poet’s life and experiencing his work.
Under the direction of TMU Libraries’ Immersive Technology Specialist Michael Carter-Arlt, the partnership (and this project), has given way to the opportunity for Library Collaboratory research assistants and TMU graduate students Ava Mozaffari, Liam Gregory and recent grad Jae Seo to gain experience and expand their skills in fabrication and 3D printing, contextual video creation, and large-scale projections.
“The Libraries’ partnership with the Aga Khan Museum has allowed students and faculty to learn how XR technology can be used for museums,” says Carter-Arlt. “It’s rewarding and a privilege to work with and mentor graduate students, as they develop their own professional portfolios.”
Mozaffari, an international student and 2023 graduate of the TMU Master of Digital Media program, worked as an assistant developer on the project creating a contextual video and a portrait projection of Rumi. “This project was a fusion of my Persian roots, and digital art and technology,” she says. “It allowed me to expand my technical capabilities and also gain a richer appreciation for my own culture and its enduring impact on the world.”
The portrait, a ten by ten foot tiling animation made up of multiple images related to the poet, is seen at the beginning of the exhibit and acts as an introduction to the poet’s work and life. From a distance, visitors see the poet’s face. As they move towards the projection they discover folios, significant artifacts, statues of and poems by Rumi. The piece provides an understanding of the poet’s legacy in a single instance through a purely visual context.
Using the open-source programming language Processing, Mozaffari developed and coded the installation so it could be re-scaled, re-formatted and re-purposed for new projects. Prior to this she worked in Processing for student projects, but had not explored its use for such a large piece. This project pushed her to learn how to adapt and alter the code.
Recent computer science graduate Jae Seo had previously worked with Carter-Arlt on the Remastered exhibition and acted as a consultant for the Rumi projection portrait. Similar to Mozaffari, Seo valued the opportunity to further develop skills and explore Persian-Islamic culture. “This project allowed me to utilize AI tools to expedite the process for coding using Processing, a language I’m not very familiar with,” says Seo. “It also opened my eyes to the captivating intricacies of Islamic culture.”
In addition to the portrait, Liam Gregory, a graduate student in Computer Science, assisted with the 3D printing of three exhibit artifacts. The prints were done in collaboration with artist Simin Keramati who had also created an interactive installation for the exhibition. While knowledgeable about the 3D printing process, Gregory had not worked on a large-scale project. Through the collaboration, and working from 3D models that had been created by Carter-Arlt, he was able to gain a solid grounding in 3D printing.
“The pieces for the Rumi exhibit presented an interesting challenge in printing sturdy parts for public use. Getting such large and strange pieces to print well was a neat test of my skills and of equipment available at the Library Collaboratory,” says Gregory. “It was great to help out the exhibit and add something very different to my portfolio.”
In total, the LITs and Library Collaboratory teams developed five immersive experiences. In addition to the portrait projection and 3D printing of artifacts, the project scope included: a 13th century interactive timeline of world events, Rumi’s life and his impact on art and architecture; a contextual video depicting three folios related to Rumi’s poetry; and a touch screen application that allows visitors to engage with selections of four Rumi poems.
“Our partnership with the Aga Khan Museum has been a wonderful opportunity for our students to gain valuable experience that they can take into their career,” says Kelly Dermody, head of LITs. “We hope to explore more partnerships with organizations like the Aga Khan Museum in the future.”
Do you use streaming media and DVDs for instruction? TMU Libraries is conducting a survey to learn more about multimedia needs for teaching. Fill out our brief survey (15 – 20 mins) and let us know about your current usage, challenges, and costs.
Your feedback is greatly appreciated and will help to better inform our collection development priorities and licensing needs.
Theatre aficionado Paul Christie, who was well known in the theatre community in Toronto, amassed a huge personal collection of playbills and programs dating back to 1953, which has kindly been donated to the TMU Libraries Special Collections.
“Before Paul passed in 2021, he and I were talking one day and I asked him, ‘what would you want done with your collection when you’re gone?” says Arnie Lappin, Christie’s close friend and colleague at the Elgin-Winter Garden Theatre, where he worked as an usher for 25 years. Christie’s collection is extensive, dating from 1952 to 2020 and it includes approximately 4,000 theatre bills and programs, as well as ticket stubs, reviews and images from performances.
After extensive research and consideration, Lappin connected with the TMU Libraries’s Special Collections, where students and researchers at the School of Performance, as well as the general public, could access this extensive archive of theatre materials and dive into a great historical record of theatre in Toronto.
“It was really important that these go somewhere where they would be accessed by students and that they would be used and appreciated and have a life in research,” says Alison Skyrme, special collections librarian. She and her team at the Special Collections have been busy cataloguing and digitizing Christie’s collection, which will be ready for full access come summertime.
A theatre buff and mentor
Christie had a deep personal interest in theatre productions, says Lappin. “Paul’s knowledge of the performing arts was peerless, and he unconditionally supported the careers of generations of emerging actors, singers and writers.”
Though he worked as a court reporter professionally, he also worked and volunteered for over 25 years at various Toronto theatres, including the Elgin-Winter Garden Theatre, where he met Lappin. “All during his life he was a mentor to hundreds of aspiring performers, writers and directors – attending their shows, events, reading their books and scripts. As he neared retirement he began working at Toronto theatres as an usher and eventually worked at the Elgin-Winter Garden Theatre Centre in that capacity for 25 years.”
Christie organized his collection of about 4,000 theatre bills and programs in binders by date, and included reviews or images that appeared in the theatre section of the paper. Skyrme says the Library is keeping these materials as they catalogue everything.
“I think the history of theatre in Toronto is really held here,” she says. “There are programs from other cities as well, but it’s mainly focused on Toronto, and it’s really fascinating to see that there were theatres that no longer exist, including one called the Crest Theatre.”
Though there are databases online that contain information about theatre productions in Toronto, Skyrme says she isn’t certain how far they go back. “This collection has information that might not be available anywhere else.”
“The fact that it is so organized means that his intentions in the collection are very clear. We know exactly how he accessed them himself and how he wanted them to be catalogued,” she says. “So we tried to stay true to that and keep it as he had organized it.”
The collection will be available to view at the Library’s Special Collections this spring.
181 comic books published during the 1940s serve as a trove of research possibilities
Everyone knows Batman, Superman and Spider-Man, but thanks to a generous anonymous donation, TMU students and researchers can get a glimpse of Canada’s own comic book history and heroes.
In February 2015, TMU received a donation of 181 rare Canadian comic books from the Second World War, featuring such legends of Canadian pop culture as Nelvana of the Northern Lights and Canada Jack.
“It’s the holy grail of Canadian comics,” says TMU Professor Andrew O’Malley, who has used the collection for his own research, including his project “Comic Books, Children’s Culture and the Crisis of Innocence, 1940-1954.” Classes in the English department have also used the collection for curations.
Accomplished leader joins TMU from Brock University
From the Interim Provost and Vice-President, Academic
I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Mark Robertson as Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU)’s chief librarian effective July 1, 2023.
With more than 24 years of experience working in academic libraries, Mark joins us from Brock University where he has been university librarian since 2016. As a member of Brock’s senior administrative council, Mark developed a new strategic plan and master space plan for the library, saw the opening of a new makerspace and provided leadership for the establishment of an open access policy. Further, his work to strengthen the library acquisitions budget resulted in a significant rise in the library’s performance in the Maclean’s Magazine rankings of comprehensive universities in Canada.
Prior to Brock, Mark spent 17 years at York University, including eight years as associate university librarian for information services.
“Over the years I have had opportunities to collaborate with such talented people at the TMU libraries,” said Robertson. “I have always been struck by the spirit of creativity and innovation. I am excited and honoured to be joining as chief librarian.”
In his new role Mark will work collaboratively with more than 100 internal library staff as well as academic units across the university and the external community to facilitate new opportunities for innovation and excellence in library services. His portfolio will support a growing academic community and provide crucial academic learning, creation and research resources, programs, services and spaces to the university.
“While I’ll be new at the university,” he said, “in many ways coming to TMU brings my career full circle. My first professional job was only blocks from the campus, and I’ve always felt deeply invested in Toronto. It’s exciting to me the way that the university has carved a unique niche for itself in its mix of academic programs, commitment to innovation, social justice, and for its role in city-building. I am thrilled to be joining the TMU team.”
An active member of the board of directors for the Canadian Research Knowledge Network, Mark also chairs the Canadian Association of Research Libraries Impact Framework Working Group and is a longtime member of the Ontario Council of University Libraries and Canadian Association of Research Libraries directors.
Mark earned his bachelor of arts from the University of Toronto, followed by a master of arts in philosophy from McMaster University, and a master of information studies from the University of Toronto. He attended the Harvard Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians in 2009 before participating in the prestigious Association of Research Libraries Leadership Fellows Program.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dana Thomas, whose leadership as interim chief librarian has contributed greatly to our community.
Thank you to all committee members for their significant contributions to this successful search:
Acting Associate Chief Librarian, Teaching and Learning
Associate Professor, The Creative School; Director, Zone Learning; Research Development; Experiential Media Institute
Student, Master of Nursing
Assessment Librarian, Law Library
Associate Professor, Early Childhood Studies
Business Liaison Librarian
Computer and Data Science Liaison Librarian
Please join me in welcoming Mark to TMU and offering best wishes in his new role.
Interim Provost and Vice-President, Academic
This year, TMU Libraries, Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and the Chang School are celebrating Open Education (OE) Week, March 6-10, 2023, by highlighting work being done at the university in support of open education.
Join us for a series of OE week events. Hear from faculty who have developed open textbooks and course materials, explore the latest open educational resources in your discipline, and learn more about how to create new and innovative open teaching materials that can improve students’ educational experience.
OE Week events at the Library
Open Education Resources (OER) and treats
Date: March 7 Time: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
Students are welcome to drop by the OE Week Table (main floor of the Library) to grab a treat and learn more about Open Education Resources, including free textbooks and teaching resources that are high quality and can save students money.
Discover open educational resources (OER) to use in teaching. Learn how to search for the latest open educational resources in specific disciplines, and contribute to the online book of OER related to TMU curriculum:Now Is The Time For Open Educational Resources.
This panel discussion, moderated by Sean Kheraj, Vice-Provost Academic, brings together open champions from around TMU to share their experiences developing or supporting open educational resources (OER).
Sean Kheraj, Vice-Provost Academic
Cynthia Holmes, Associate Dean, Faculty & Academic, Ted Rogers School of Management
Nadia Prendergast, Assistant Professor, Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing
Megan Omstead, Graduate Program Coordinator, School of Nutrition
The Chang School’s Virtual Lunch & Learn: Let’s Talk OER!
Date: March 7 Time: 12 p.m. – 1 p.m.
The Chang School’s Teaching & Learning Committee and Open Education at TMU team invites you to a virtual Lunch & Learn on Tuesday, March 7 at 12:00 p.m. During this hour-long session, hear from panelists who were awarded The Chang School’s Open Education Resource (OER) Grants. These grants support creation and/or adaptation of Open Textbooks and Open Educational Resources in collaboration with students and colleagues across disciplines. The panel will share their experiences in actively creating OER, as well as their perspectives on using OER in their teaching. Please RSVP.
Exposing the complex history of data collection and the Census of Canada
Looking for data to support research on racialized people and Indigenous groups in Canada? It might be worth a long scroll through the history of the Census of Canada–its origins, practices, terminology and evolution as it defines, in part, how we view and explain Canada.
Outlining obstacles researchers face when looking at datasets, the authors review the Census’s modifications to terminology and the ways in which it has asked entho-racial origin questions, noting that “the collection of racial, ethnic, or Indigenous data has changed throughout the years and from Census to Census.”
Since 1871, the Census has been used to collect socio-demographic data, and as a tool to understand where, how and who lives in Canada. Information collected is used to help direct funding for resources and inform policy. However, who is included and how, has significantly impacted the snapshot(s) of Canada, and has created obstacles for researchers working on understanding Indigenous and racialized groups, and their experiences.
Going back to the beginning, Manuel et al., examine when and how Indigenous and entho-racial identities started to be included, and how. In 1911, the Census began collecting information on new settlers, but excluded racialized and Indigenous groups. As it evolved, data collection expanded to include ethno-racial groups and with it changes to terminology and questions. Terms, at different times, included: place of origin, racial origin, ethnic origin, ethnic or cultural group, but distinctions between these terms has not been clearly defined. While expanding, confusion regarding what that meant, remains.
For researchers looking to the Census for data specifically on Indigenous groups, understanding its history is equally important. It wasn’t until 1986 that questions related to Indigenous identities were asked separately from racial and ethnic origin questions. Previous to 1986, questions regarding Indigenous identity appeared under ‘origin’ as ‘Indian.’ A term in which immigrants from India would have also related.
Further confusing datasets, the Census required Indigenous peoples to follow ancestral lineage, but how varied from year to year. For example, in 1941 and 1951 respondents could mark ‘Indian’ or ‘Eskimo’ based on their father’s origin. Other years, ‘origin’ was based on maternal ancestry.
It is important to note that today Métis, Inuit and First Nations are recognized as Indigenous peoples.
As a data librarian, Manuel is all too familiar with the complexities and systemic racism present in collecting, finding, researching and understanding how data is organized, as well as how it varies between sources and from country to country (there are no international standards).
“It is challenging for researchers comparing Census data over time to examine Indigenous and ethno-racial data as the classifications have changed significantly from the colonial era to the present,” says Manuel.
To help address some of the issues in researching historical data, Manuel, Cooper and Orlandini created a ‘Data on Racialized Populations’ guide available publicly on the Scholars Portal.
The guide is “a curated list of datasets that include ethnicity and race variables which can be used to facilitate anti-racism research in Canada,” and is intended as a starting point for researchers.
“Our goal in developing the guide on Indigenous and ethnoracial data was to contribute to building and designing equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist data communities,” says Manuel.
While the guide provides an invaluable resource, there remains much work to be done in identifying and understanding systemic racism in data collection and bringing about change. In addition to this work, Manuel is the program co-chair of this year’s IASSIST 2023 Conference. The theme of the 2023 conference is Diversity in Research: Social Justice from Data.
In continuing to work towards building more equitable data communities, the conference’s theme intends to address issues in data collection, and shine a light on obstacles faced in searching datasets. “We hope to achieve greater inclusivity of presentations and discussions about data that is collected regarding people that are marginalized, and set a precedent for embedding more diversity in our conferences going forward,” says Manuel.
Data Librarian Kevin Manuel is hosting a presentation and discussion (Feb. 16) during Love Data Week titled: Who is counted? How to use the Census of Canada timeline to search for ethno-racial and Indigenous identities