On a weekly basis Archives and Special Collections gets asked the question “What do you have stored in all those boxes”. In answer to this query, we introduce our “Thinking Inside the Box” exhibit and blog series. The series aims to showcase what we have stored away on shelves and in boxes out of the public eye. “Thinking Inside the Box – Photography” is the first in this series.
Ryerson Library’s Special Collections was founded in 2005 with the donation of the Kodak Canada Corporate Archive and Heritage Collection. Since this time, donations of photography and film-related materials have grown Special Collections exponentially, making up a major part of its holdings. Books, periodicals, photography and developing equipment are just some of the items we house. The camera collection boasts almost 800 cameras ranging in dates from the late 1860s to the early 2000s and include examples of miniature, instamatic, panoramic, and enlarging models.
The exhibit in the Archives and Special Collections reading room features some of this large collection of materials. The exhibits showcase a variety of cameras including: miniature; novelty; movie; flash; Polaroid; twin lens; and varied format. The exhibit also features other camera and developing equipment. The following images showcase a few of the artifacts on display
The Ryerson 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.
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).
By the 1960s, the student association evolved into an elected self-governing body which 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.
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.
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.
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 improve the condition of students on campus.
Stay tuned for next month’s blog when we explore the history of student housing at Ryerson!
The Ryerson University Archives has created an exhibit, running June 1 – October 31 2018, 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 July’s blog – let’s explore the history of Student Groups and Clubs at Ryerson.
In the late 1940s, there were only a handful of student groups and clubs. The “Hi Ho” Riding Club gathered approximately 40 students every Saturday at the Three Gaits Riding Club in the east end of Toronto. More than just horsing around, the afternoon of riding lessons also included a time to socialize with refreshments and dancing.
The Circle K Club at Ryerson was founded in 1952 as part of the Kiwanis community service organization. The club organized creative fundraisers such as dance marathons, car rallies, movie nights and blood drives to provide funding for first year students with financial difficulties. The RyeHam Amateur Radio Club was established in 1953 to provide a space for Ham Radio enthusiasts to improve their skills. The club’s station VE3RIT was located in the basement of Kerr Hall. RyeHam gathered amateur radio contacts from over 150 countries, and offered a radio messaging service to both international and out-of-town students. The club’s activities included sponsored auctions, antenna-fixing parties and a portable operations set up during student orientation on the Toronto Island. By 1956, the club had 42 members, 12 of whom were licensed amateur radio practitioners.
By the 1960s, there were over 30 student clubs and societies organized by undergraduate students. The Ryerson Ski Club had one of the largest memberships on campus. The purpose of the club was to promote skiing as either pleasure or competitive sport, through the use of guest speakers, films and workshops. A typical club meeting included a slide show from the previous year’s fun weekend on the hills and a demonstration by a certified ski instructor on a synthetic slope.
In the 1970s, Ryerson International Student Club (RISC) was one of the most progressive and largest social groups on campus. It was established to support the interests of international students, which was approximately 1 out of 10 students attending Ryerson at that time. One of the club’s major accomplishments was removing the mandatory attendance of student police at dances. RISC organized debates, tours, dances and had a reception committee to welcome international students to Ryerson and support their arrival to Canada.
Student groups also include religious, political and cultural-based associations. Two of Ryerson’s largest cultural student association are the Chinese Student’s Association and the Caribbean and African Student’s Association.
In the 1980s, the Ryerson Women’s Centre was finally recognized as an official student organization, with the goal to improve the status and condition of women at Ryerson through education and action. The Women’s Centre is the student union’s oldest community service. In 2012, the organization changed its name for The Centre for Women and Trans People. This pioneer student centre led the way for other student equity service groups such as RyePride and the Racialized Student Collective.
Today, the Ryerson Student Union funds and supports over 200 Student Groups, Course Unions, and Graduate Student Associations. Stay tuned for next month’s post where we will look at the evolution of Ryerson’s student unions.
Have you ever wondered what people watched at home and in theaters before Netflix and the invention of cinema? This exhibition hopes to demystify one aspect of pre-cinematic technology: magic lantern projectors. These early optical devices used oil or gas light sources to project glass slide images onto a screen. Some say magic lanterns are the precursors to Powerpoint presentations!
The first report of the construction of a magic lantern is generally considered to be referring to the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens in 1659. It was inspired by precedent optical inventions such as the camera obscura (which was a room containing a pinhole that a scene was projected through onto the opposite wall), and magic shadow shows which used puppets and hands to recount stories.
By the eighteenth-century, the magic lantern was “openly displayed” for public events by traveling lanternists in public venues. Several showmen used the lanterns to produce horror shows, popularly known as “Phantasmagoria” shows. These presentations projected ghostly images onto smoke screens to create the effect of conjuring evil spirits.
Initially lanterns were illuminated by candlelight or oil lamps, but this did not produce enough light to project a clear image from afar. Lanternists began to use limestone in the early 1800s, as they could successfully be used for projection in large theaters. Limelight is produced through the combustion of hydrogen and oxygen directed at a piece of lime (calcium oxide). This method was quite complex and potentially hazardous, since at the time putting gas under pressure was achieved by sandwiching rubber bags filled with gas between two pieces of wood.
By the mid 1800s, a huge variety of magic lanterns became available to the professional and home market. On display in the exhibit, we have lanterns with varying functions, from a decorative circular lantern meant to be placed above an oil lamp at home, to a large biunial (or double lens) lantern that could be used in large halls for theatrical presentation or educational lectures.
Slides also varied in their typology, becoming more detailed and elaborate with each new iteration. Initially they were rectangular strips of glass with hand painted imagery and a mahogany wood border. When separate wooden slide carriers were developed, the wooden border attached to the wood slides themselves was removed from the design. Then, the illustrations featured on the glass portion went from being hand-painted to mechanically produced, and by the mid 1800s photographic slides came into production as well.
Magic lantern projection also demonstrates the aspiration to present not only static, but moving images to an audience. Lanternists would use panoramic slides, which when passed in front of the projector’s lens would create the illusion of movement. This quickly progressed into animated images which came about with creation of ingenious mechanical slides. This included rack-and-pinion slides where glass discs were rotated using a handle (and which were often astrologically themed), lever slides, or single pulley slides which used a rope pulley system.
Items on display are part of a recent donation of magic lantern projectors and slides from John Tysall. Stop by the Archives and Special Collections Department on the 4th floor of the Ryerson Library to see the new exhibit located in the display case by the 4th floor reading room doors. The exhibition is designed and curated by Jocelyn Oprzedek and Olivia Wong.
Over the course of its 106-year presence in Toronto, Kodak affected more than just the history of photography in Canada. In satisfying its need for cutting edge photographic manufacturing facilities, the company contributed several ambitious architectural projects to the cityscape. Through these contributions, Kodak left an indelible mark upon the city, the traces of which are still visible today.
The following history documents Kodak’s presence in Toronto from 1899 to 2005, focusing on its three central facilities on Colborne Street, King Street, and at Kodak Heights. This history was constructed from documents and artefacts contained within the Kodak Corporate Archives and Heritage Collection at Ryerson University (Accession #2005.001). These items and more are currently on display on the 4th floor of Ryerson Library. For more information, visit Ryerson Archives and Special Collections.
Kodak’s early days in Canada
In 1888, George Eastman founded the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, NY. In 1899, after successfully operating on the American market for over a decade, Eastman set his sights north, dispatching Kodak employee John G. Palmer to Toronto to determine the viability of establishing a subsidiary in Canada. Palmer discovered a robust market for photographic products and, on November 8, 1899, Canadian Kodak Co., Limited was incorporated under the Ontario Company’s act. The nascent company established headquarters in downtown Toronto, embarking on a relationship with the city that would last more than a century and would constitute the heart of the company’s manufacturing operations in Canada.
Colborne Street (1899 – 1901)
Following Canadian Kodak’s incorporation in 1899, the company established premises in an existing building at 41 Colborne Street, Toronto. The property was intended to serve as an assembly and distribution centre, rather than a site of manufacturing: the fledgling company imported bulk film and photographic paper, as well as completed cameras, from Rochester for packaging and distribution in Canada. The property was leased to Canadian Kodak Co., Ltd. for 3 years at $840 per year. Consisting of four floors and a cellar, 24 ¼ x 71 feet each, the site housed the entire Kodak plant and its staff of ten. A further 7-year option on the property was offered by the owner but never taken. Largely unchanged from its original structure, the Colborne Street building still stands today.
King Street (1901 – 1917)
The Colborne Street premises soon proved insufficient to house the rapidly growing Canadian subsidiary. With its lease set to expire in 1901, the company set out to find a new site for its operations in what was then Toronto’s manufacturing district. In September of that year, Canadian Kodak purchased an empty lot at 588 King Street for $70 per foot and hired Toronto architects Chadwick & Beckett to build a new plant. Over its 17-year tenure at this facility, Canadian Kodak began its transition to a manufacturing operation, producing its own photographic film, paper, and mounts. The company also began to import camera parts—rather than completed cameras—from Rochester for assembly and distribution in Canada. Like the Colborne Street site, the King Street premises quickly proved too small to house the growing business and two additional buildings were constructed in an adjoining lot. By 1908, the King Street factory had expanded to its full capacity and the company had grown to 108 employees. Like Kodak’s Colborne Street plant, the King Street facility still stands today, now part of a busy retail strip in downtown Toronto.
Kodak Heights (1913 – 2005)
By 1912, Canadian Kodak had outgrown its King Street facilities. That year, George Eastman visited Toronto to establish a sustainable plan for expansion. The result of his visit was the purchase in 1913 of 25 acres of farmland at Eglinton Avenue and Weston Road, Toronto, for $5,000 per acre. Soon after the deed was signed, construction began on the original seven buildings at Kodak Heights. The property was nicknamed Kodak Heights by company executive S.B. Cornell.
Meeting the Plant’s Power and Transport Needs
To meet its massive energy needs, Canadian Kodak built and maintained its own Power House (Building 1) at Kodak Heights. Upwards of 50 tonnes of coal were burned every day, the smoke from which was released through a 200-ft chimney constructed by the Custodis Canadian Chimney Co. The structure soon became a local landmark.
Canadian Kodak also contracted with the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. to extend tracks into the Kodak Heights property, allowing easy delivery of supplies and coal. The tracks ended inside the Power House, reaching the building via a custom-built trestle.
Architectural Design Challenges
The manufacture of film was a complicated multi-step process that required equally complex facilities. The sensitivity of film and paper to their environment required extreme cleanliness and climate control. Many steps of this process were performed in dark rooms lit by safe lights. In addition, the production and storage of cellulose nitrate film required safety precautions that impacted the plant’s design.
A New Home for Kodak
By 1916, the original seven buildings of Kodak Heights were complete and the company began its move from the King Street premises—a move that would finish in 1917. Kodak Heights was a source of pride for Canadian Kodak. The facility was often opened for tours and played a significant role in the company’s marketing. The property would become Canadian Kodak’s headquarters until its closure in 2005.
Kodak Heights Expansion
Kodak Heights grew steadily over its lifetime. In 1939, construction began on the Kodak employees’ building (Building 9). This 4-storey building was designed to accommodate the activities of the Recreation Club, the Department Managers’ Club, and the Kodak Heights Camera Club. It housed an auditorium, cafeteria, gymnasium, club room, locker room, and camera studio and had an adjacent lawn bowling green. The building opened in 1940. Expansion at Kodak Heights continued until the late 20th-century. By 1987, the property housed 18 buildings.
Kodak Heights Demolition and Remains
On December 9, 2004, Kodak Canada announced the closure of its manufacturing operations. June 30, 2005 would be the last day of operations at Kodak Heights. In the subsequent months, most of the plant was demolished. Today, only the Employees’ Building remains.
An Equity Service Group of the Ryerson Student’s Union, RyePride has been raising awareness LGBTQ rights and promoting inclusivity on campus for nearly 40 years! The group offers advocacy, education and an annual memorial bursary named for Christopher Skinner.
In anticipation of World Pride 2014, coming to Toronto this June, Ryerson Library and Archives has put together a display using items from RULA and the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives to highlight just some of the campaigns and events they’ve spearheaded since their beginnings in 1977. Drop by Special Collections on the 4th floor of the library and learn more about the history of RyePride at Ryerson University.
Visit the RyePride website or contact them for more information on the programs and services they offer: firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a look at the RyePride Timeline for more information on the groups history.
“Computing will most undoubtedly prove to be the most significant development to technology in the second half of the twentieth century. The extent to which Ryerson students graduate with a firm understanding of this new and exciting field, will greatly affect their ability to contribute to society.”
– L.B. Moore, Director of the Ryerson Computing Centre, 1973.
Ryerson University began as a polytechnic institute devoted to the training of students in applied technology. This technical history has informed Ryerson’s identity and culture, playing a significant role in the way the University defines its relationship to the digital age. As we enter an era of ever changing technology and a digitally-connected society, a look back at the early days of computing at Ryerson highlights the development of a digital campus and its impact on the Ryerson way of life.
Always at the forefront of innovation, Ryerson’s early use of computing technology began in the 1960s when Ryerson was one of the first institutions to acquire a general purpose computer, an IBM Model 360-30, affectionately nicknamed “DAISY” (Direct Access Information System).
It’s difficult to imagine a world without smart phones or even personal computers, but the early days of computing at Ryerson involved the use of one centralized system that students would line up to use. Eventually this changed to include the addition of terminals throughout campus that would connect via Bell phone lines to the main computer. The main functions were academic and administration assistance, including student registration, payroll, scheduling, grades, library circulation, and the occasional selection of Miss Ryerson.
DAISY was not without its quirks. Nearing the end of its life-cycle the first model would confuse library punch cards and harass students with overdue notices on books that had been returned. In 1975 DAISY took the initiative of creating a brand new Journalism class consisting of three surprised students.
DAISY would be upgraded three times, 1967, 1969, and up to an IBM Model 360-65 in 1973, which contained 256 kilobytes of core memory and cost the annual amount of $404,000.
The process of running a “job” or task included manually typing programming instructions into a “punch” card, feeding the card into the computer terminal, which would then process the program and data, and print out the results. This process was called “batching”, and would continue until the 1980s, when the University realized the technology was quickly becoming obsolete. The ever-increasing rate of change and the resulting obsolete formats is a factor which would continue to define digital technology into the twenty-first century.
In 1974 the Joint York-Ryerson Computing Centre established the first cooperative computing centre in Canada with the objective of sharing expertise and reducing costs. This resulted in the end of DAISY, which was dismantled and returned to the American company from which it was leased. The first of its kind in Canada, the YRCC operated with the main computer at York and connected terminals at Ryerson.
A MODERN COMPUTER CENTRE
In the late 70s, the demand for more computers and processing capabilities gave rise to student protests over the lack of computer resources. The computer centre was so overwhelmed that they implemented restrictions and quotas on accessing the computer mainframe. Each department would receive an allotment for its students to use throughout the semester; if a student ran out of credit, then they would have to petition for increased time. In 1979 the situation escalated to the point of violence, in which a student was stabbed in the arm with a pen when he attempted to use someone’s punch-card terminal.
In 1983, IBM donated $3.7 million worth of computer hardware and software to Ryerson, at the time the largest single donation to the institute. The equipment, an IBM 3033 processor, 300 terminals, five personal computers and advanced software, created an on-line interactive system and established the Ryerson Computing Centre.
TECHNOLOGY IN THE LIBRARY
Ryerson Library was an early adopter of computer technology on campus. The early days of libraries consisted of card catalogues and handwritten entries signing out books. In the second half of the 20th century, this rapidly changed to an electronic format that would alter the way knowledge was organized and retrieved.
For Ryerson Library the shift to digital began in 1968 when the library converted the author, title and catalogue data for all books to machine-readable form, implementing an electronic circulation control system to keep track of books. Students would no longer sign out books, but punch out computer cards.
In 1978, Ryerson library became the first library in North America to operate its circulation system on-line using DOBIS/LIBIS, a computerized library system developed by IBM in Europe. DOBIS (Dortmund Bibliotek System) replaced the dated Mohawk punch-card circulation system.
The circulation function involved the first-time use of barcode labels affixed to books and ID badges read by an IBM optical scanner. Throughout the 80s and 90s technological advancement in the library would continue, including the establishment of its first computer lab in 1982, as well as developments in subject indexing and electronic resources.
In the last quarter century Ryerson University has paved the way for technology-driven learning. This can most clearly be seen with the new Student Learning Centre, which promises to provide an interactive environment employing the latest in digital technology. Projects such as the Digital Media Zone act as an incubator for Ryerson students to collaborate in the design and implementation of digital tools and apps. Accessible technology has placed students at the centre of e-learning, furthering the role students have in shaping their education and campus environment. These developments would not be possible without the small but significant steps taken in the 1960s towards a progressive, digital future.
Bringing together diverse artifacts and historical materials from the Ryerson Archives, #WIRED is an exhibition that highlights pivotal moments in the digital evolution of Ryerson University. To learn more about the early history of computing at Ryerson and view the artifacts on display, please visit the Ryerson Archives during our office hours, Monday – Friday, 9 -5pm.
As part of the on campus events commemorating Jack Layton’s legacy at Ryerson university and his lasting impact on Canada, the Ryerson archives have installed a display featuring items from his recently donated archival collection. The display is open for viewing during the archive’s regular hours, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.
In addition to the archival display, a new website has been created. The site features a collection of images and student newspaper clippings, digitized copies of some of Layton’s personally annotated books, audio visual clips, and memories from his teaching days at Ryerson. You can help celebrate Jack Layton’s life and legacy by visiting and consider sharing your own stories of how Jack had an impact on you.
The Heritage Camera Collection more than doubled in size this past January thanks to the generous donation of approximately 500 cameras and pieces of camera equipment from Wilfrid Laurier University. The collection improves the holdings in European and Japanese manufacturers, and provides a greater selection for research in early camera designs. These cameras are on display inside Special Collections.
Architectural models breath life into otherwise straightforward ideas on paper; they easily and quickly communicate complex design schemes, embellishments, finishes and details, and they facilitate an easier dialogue between architect and client. Well-crafted architectural models even win competitions. While these models are very rarely preserved once building is begun, the realized design in miniature form represents the very essence of the architectural practice.
From January 4th- February 13th, 2012, photographs of models taken for Canadian Architect magazine will be on display in Special Collections on the Library’s 4th floor. These images were originally captured for project announcements, and today they give us as much to discuss as the finished buildings themselves. See the process that the architect goes through when bringing his or her idea to the public, and consider some of the challenges the architect faces in communicating with that audience. Is it useful to see the detailed model superimposed onto a photograph of the existing landscape, as with the Toronto Eaton Centre image? Why do some architects choose to put contextual detail in the model itself, making tiny trees and cars on the adjacent streets? Every model has a purpose and an audience, which is perhaps even more apparent in the scenic model taken from the set design for a CBC television special [borrowed from the Robert Hackborn collection for comparison’s sake]. With this model, the purpose is to show the interior to the cameras – not the exterior to a client.
Whatever the goal with these miniature worlds, either to emulate a real three-dimensional building as closely as possible or three walls that merely suggest one, the model serves as a stepping stone to the final idea. Here the idea of architecture is on display – judge for yourselves whether the real lives up to the imagined.