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Effective March 17th, the Ryerson Archives and Special Collections will be closed until further notice. See our update for more information.

Feature from the Collections: The Model Slide Rule

The Model Slide Rule, hung on display at the Ryerson Archives
The Model Slide Rule (RG 221.10)

One of the Archives longest artifacts (when fully extended it reaches 18 feet), this model slide rule was donated by the Mathematics, Physics, and Computer Science Department. It was used for demonstration purposes in the classroom. It served as a useful visual aide by instructors who would need to explain concepts on the chalk board to a classroom of students. The students could then follow along with their respective slide rules.

The slide rule was developed in the 17th century and was used for calculations in science and engineering before the advent of the pocket calculator.

Donald Mordell, Ryerson’s President from 1970-1974, also donated his personal slide rule and case. He was a distinguished international engineer and academic.

Donald Mordell's slide rule and case. (Artifact 563, shelf 642)
Donald Mordell’s slide rule and case. (F 422.42)

Special Collections: Celebrating 10 Years

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2015 marked the 10 year anniversary of Special Collections at the Ryerson 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 Ryerson 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.

Graver
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.

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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 Ryerson 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.

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

Phone: 416-979-5000 ext. 7027
Email: asc@ryerson.ca

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!

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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!

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  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.

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  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.

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  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!

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  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!

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 2005.001.08.06.03)

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 2005.001.08.06.03)
Detail of Employee Suggestion Book, showing a $500 award. 1915-1954 (accession number 2005.001.08.06.03)

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?”

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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 asc@ryerson.ca.

Sources:

“The Awards for Excellence.” Adweek’s Marketing Week 12 June 1989: p12+. Academic OneFile. Web. 30 July 2015. URL http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA7694025&v=2.1&u=rpu_main&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=c3942ee28e69dc4ec3ca77e9effae9a0

“Kodak unveils promo series.” Chain Drug Review 17 June 1991: 158. Academic OneFile. Web. 30 July 2015. http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA10958413&v=2.1&u=rpu_main&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=d90584f76f2719b2adfdc837671b8318

“MARCH OF THE KOLORKINS.” Toronto Star, Feb 20, 1989. http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/435873367?accountid=13631.

Days Gone By: A Summer Guide to Toronto

With the first day of summer quickly approaching, the people of Toronto are flocking outdoors to enjoy the many events and activities taking place across the city. And although there are endless ways to take advantage of such a lively time of year, the pages of a Toronto family scrapbook may help to determine how best to enjoy the season.

The following is a list of activities to consider this year, recommended by Torontonians circa 1913:

Enjoy a promenade through Allan Gardens, one of Toronto’s oldest parks founded in 1858. While you’re there you may want to drop into Allan Gardens Conservatory, built in 1910, just a few years before these photographs were taken.

Scenes from Allan Gardens. [ca. 1911]
Scenes from Allan Gardens [ca. 1911]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

Visit one of North America’s largest fairs, taking place annually at Exhibition Place.

Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?])
Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).
First held in 1879 to celebrate the best in Canadian agriculture and technology, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) has become a major city attraction. These photographs were captured in 1911, the final year the fair was known as the Toronto Industrial Exhibition before changing its name to CNE in 1912.
First held in 1879 to celebrate the best in Canadian agriculture and technology, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) has become a major city attraction. These photographs were captured in 1911, the final year the fair was known as the Toronto Industrial Exhibition before changing its name to CNE in 1912. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

Venture out to the Scarborough Bluffs and explore a unique geological feature of the city’s landscape.

The first side of a spread in the scrapbook dedicated to a trip to the Scarborough Bluffs. 1913.
The first side of a spread in the scrapbook dedicated to a trip to the Scarborough Bluffs, 1913. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.
The second side of the scrapbook spread featuring images from a trip to the Scarborough Bluffs. [ca. 1911]
The second side of the scrapbook spread featuring images from a trip to the Scarborough Bluffs, 1913. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

Gather some friends and head to one of Toronto’s many parks and beaches.

Taken at Kew Beach, summer 1911. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.
Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).
Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

The waterfront is at its best this time of year. Venture out on the Toronto Harbour and hop aboard a boat cruise, or take out a canoe. Maybe pay a visit to the Island.

Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).
Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).
The S. S. Cayuga, launched in 1906, sailed from the Toronto Harbour to the Niagara Region transporting passengers and cargo until 1960. Photos taken circa 1912.
The S.S. Cayuga, launched in 1906, sailed from the Toronto Harbour to the Niagara Region transporting passengers and cargo until 1960. [ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.
[ca. 1912]
[ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.
Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).
Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).
Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).
Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

Bike along a trail or through your favourite neighbourhood.

'Some boy' posed in front of a bike. [ca. 1911]
‘Some boy’ posed in front of a bike, [ca. 1911]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.
Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).
Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

Wander over to your favourite store or market.

Moore's Ltd. would have been located at the North West corner of Yonge and Gerrard.
Moore’s Ltd. would have been located at the North West corner of Yonge and Gerrard [ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.
Shoppers at the crosswalk between Eaton's and Simpsons. [ca. 1905]. Image from: "The Simpsons Century." (Toronto, Ontario: Toronto Star Limited, 1972).
Shoppers at the crosswalk between Eaton’s and Simpsons. [ca. 1905]. Image from: “The Simpsons Century.” (Toronto, Ontario: Toronto Star Limited, 1972).

Embrace local history and check out how the city has evolved.

Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).
Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).
Scarboro Beach Park was an amusement park located near the present site of Beaches Park. It operated from 1907-1925.
Scarboro Beach Park was an amusement park located near the present site of Beaches Park. It operated from 1907-1925, [ca. 1911]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

If the city has become too overwhelming, maybe it’s time to get away and take a weekend or day trip to the surrounding area.

“Dingle near Simcoe” [ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.
“Summer time in ‘Johnstown'” [ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.
Put-in-Bay, Ohio, is a popular recreational attraction during the summer months.
Put-in-Bay, Ohio, is a popular recreational attraction during the summer months, [ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

So long as there are friends and family, there are no shortage of ways to appreciate summer in and around Toronto.

[ca. 1912]
[ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.
[ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.
A family posed in front of a monument at the corner of Sherbourne and Carlton Streets, with St. Luke's United Church in the background.
A family posed in front of a monument at the corner of Sherbourne and Carlton Streets, with St. Luke’s United Church in the background, [ca. 1914]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

This blog features items from the Historical Collection, the Robert MacIntosh Collection on the History of Toronto, and the Rare Books Collection held at Ryerson’s Special Collections on the 4th floor of the library. Drop-in and see what else these collections have to offer. Call 416-979-5000 ext. 4996 or email asc@ryerson.ca to make an appointment.

All the news that’s fit to print – a brief history of Ryerson’s news outlets

In the age of social media there are many ways for news to be communicated. Faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the general public can find out what is going on around campus through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and many other sources. How did Ryerson get the word out there before the internet and smart phones – let’s take a look.

University Media

Ryerson has had various departments and offices responsible for getting the official news out to the community and the public. The Office of Information Services, the Department of Community Relations, the Office of University Advancement, and now University Relations  were/are responsible to spreading the official word of Ryerson.

What’s Happening around Ryerson

What’s Happening around Ryerson (1971-1977) was published once a week as an events calendar by the Department of Information Services. It was replaced by On Campus this Week (1977-1986). The Office of University Advancement published Campus News (2004-2009) which was emailed out to the Ryerson Community announcing individual events, campus notes, and other related information. This was discontinued in 2009 with the creation of Ryerson TodayThe Office of University Advancement, and now the Department of Communications, Government, and Community Engagement periodically send out news releases about significant Ryerson occurrences and events.

The FORUM newsletter

The FORUM was a newsletter of information and opinion first published by the Department of Information Services September 12, 1977. The FORUM continued to be published by the Department of Community Relations, and the Office of University Advancement changing styles and formats. It went to a digital only format in 2006 and continued on until 2009 when it too was replaced by Ryerson Today.

The Ryerson Rambler

The Ryerson Rambler (RG 151.01) was first published in June of 1962, was Ryerson’s alumni magazine. It was published initially by the Students’ Union. According to then Ryerson Principal Howard Kerr, “It is hoped in time that the Ryerson Alumni Association will be sufficiently strong to assume the responsibility involved in the financing of this project…”. It would appear that the Alumni Association took over publication in 1967. The Rambler continued publication until 1972, when it was replaced by Technikos as a source of information for Ryerson Alumni.

Technikos and Ryerson Review

Technikos the news magazine for Ryerson Polytechnical Institute was first published in the Spring of 1971 by the Department of Information Services and according to then Ryerson President “it would be mailed to the home address of each undergraduate…Copies will also be sent to potential employers…high schools, colleges, universities, and Ryerson alumni…”. It was published twice yearly until Summer 1977 when, according to the Ryerson Rambler, “…the costs have caught up with us and a quality magazine like Technikos cannot be produced economically enough to enable us to send it to you regularly…” so publication was cut down to one magazine per year sent out during the summer months. In 1978 the name was changed to The Ryerson Review. Its last publication was Summer 1980.

The Rambler redux

The Rambler returned in February of 1978 when the cost of producing Technikos became economically unfeasible. It was published 3 times per year. In 1994, the winter issue of the magazine was discontinued – replaced by What’s On, a newspaper-style newsletter. In 1997 they discontinued What’s On and started publishing the winter edition of the magazine again.

Ryerson Magazine

With the spring 1997 edition the name changed to Ryerson Magazine (RG 395.07.02)and began publishing only twice a year. In 2001, it changed its name to Ryerson University, the magazine – reflecting the name change of the University from Ryerson Polytechnic University to Ryerson University. It changed its name again in 2002 to Alumni Magazine, with a final name change in 2011 to Ryerson University Magazine.

Student Media

On the student side of the School, Ryerson has had student created publications since its inception in 1948.

The Ryersonian

The School of Journalism began publishing a newspaper called the The Ryersonian (RG 95.05) in 1948. The first paper was published in December of that year. Starting in January of 1949 until April of 1951, the paper was published on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. In the 1951-1952 school year the paper began being published on a daily basis. It continued this way for many years, until they began publishing Tuesday – Friday, and then only on Wednesdays and Fridays. During the 1993-1994 school year it started its present schedule of weekly publication on Wednesdays. The paper is also available online at www.ryersonian.ca/.

Ryerson Daily News

In June of 1949, the School of Graphic Arts,  and the Journalism program started printing Ryerson Daily News. It was a one page leaflet with Canadian and International news stories.

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Ryerson Daily News (RG 95.25)

The Little Daily

It was replaced in September 1950 by The Little Daily. A one page information leaflet with news about Ryerson.

The Little Weekly

Starting in 1950 they also published the Little Weekly, a larger format newspaper style publication. Both the Daily and the Weekly ended publication in January of 1951.

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The Little Weekly ((RG 95.29)

The Blue, The White, and the Gold

To replace The Little Weekly, Journalism students started printing three different small newspapers on three different days – The Blue (RG 95.31) on Tuesdays, The White (RG 95.28) on Wednesdays, and The Gold (RG 95.30) on Thursdays. They were produced between February and April of that year. In March and April of 1951 Journalism also printed The Blue Review (RG 95.33).

The Campus Week and TY-PI

The Campus Week also was created to replace the Little Weekly. First printed February 3, 1951, it was written and edited by Journalism students and printed by the the School of Graphic Arts. It had a four page format – mirroring that of The Ryersonian. It does not appear that this continued to be published in the 1951-1952 school year. There was an independent publication created in 1951 called “TY-PI”, created by first year students in the Graphic Arts and Journalism programs.

The Eyeopener

In 1967 the Eyeopener Newspaper (RG 146.1) – at first called the Eyeopener Magazine took its name from the Calgary Eye Opener, newspaper published by Bob Edwards 1902-1922. It was created because, as its first editor Tom Thorne stated, many students felt that the Ryersonian was not representative of all of Ryerson’s students. Published on Tuesdays by the Students’ Administrative Council on a weekly basis, it was a member of the Canadian University Press. During the 1968-1969 school year it began being publishing on Thursdays and starting in September 1990 it changed to its current schedule of publication on Wednesdays. The Eyeopener is available online at theeyeopener.com.

All of these publications contain valuable information about the life and times of Ryerson and its students, staff, and faculty. They have been an invaluable resource for many research projects.

They are available for viewing in Archives & Special Collections. Please call (416) 979-5000 ext. 7027 or email asc@ryerson.ca for an appointment.

Did you know – Collections beyond our walls

Did you know that the collections in the Ryerson Archives & Special Collections sometimes are shown outside the University? Ryerson Associate Professor Marco Polo and Chair of Architectural Science Colin Ripley have curated a wonderful exhibition titled “Architecture and National Identity: The Centennial Projects 50 Years On” on view at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, PEI.

Catalogue cover for the exhibition Architecture & National Identity

On view until January 11, 2015, the exhibition examines a range of public architectural projects created throughout Canada to commemorate the Centennial of Confederation in 1967. Several photographs from the Canadian Architect Magazine Image Collection, held in Special Collections, are featured in the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue, available at the Ryerson University Library.

Forgotten Amusements

Living in an image saturated world, it is easy to forget that photography is still a relatively new invention. Less than two hundred years ago, people saw extremely detailed and realistic images of the world captured in a permanent photograph for the first time. Needless to say, the invention of our favourite past-time, the motion picture, is even newer still. It is human nature to seek entertainment, yet we rarely consider what our great-great grandparents did for leisure. There has always been a desire to learn and discover new parts of the world, but long-distance travel was much less feasible during the 1800s, thus substitutes were made in a variety of forms of amusement. Before film and television, at a time that was full of innovation and creativity, there existed a number of forgotten optical spectacles involving the use of light and movement that have since disappeared from our generation.

Magic Lanterns

The magic lantern existed in many different formats for thousands of years and was based on the idea of projecting images with light onto a wall or surface. In fact, this idea is still one that is in popular demand, most familiarly with the projectors that are used for PowerPoint and other presentations in many classes here at Ryerson. However, this is by no means a new idea. The fascination with projection dates back to drawings made by Da Vinci that look similar to a Bull’s Eye lantern. First described in 1646 by Anthanasius Kircher, a German scholar, for use in science and philosophy, the magic lantern was quick to become a form of public entertainment.

Hand-painted lantern slide with a circular image, circa 1890.
A reflective and transparent image of a hand-painted lantern slide with a circular image, circa 1890.

Although first limited to small audiences because of the strength of its illuminants, throughout the nineteenth century significant improvements were made to the technology, such as advances in lenses, illuminants and the use of mirrors that allowed for bigger, indoor shows and more fanciful and detailed slides. Magic lanterns were eagerly adopted as a form of entertainment and were used for shadow puppet shows, to illuminate engravings and create apparitions, and with hand-painted and photographic slides.

Hand-painted lantern slide circa 1890 illustrating the 1782 poem, “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” by Robert Burns.
Hand-painted lantern slide circa 1890 illustrating the 1782 poem, “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” by Robert Burns.

Especially during the nineteen hundreds, new types of magic lanterns began to appear. There were projecting microscopes, which were used in the field of biology, and magic lanterns that were used in pairs or sets of 3 that, with the aid of a fan-like device, were capable of creating dissolving views and other special effects. With the advent of photography and cinema, magic lanterns began to appear on the mass market under numerous names in a variety of formats. The Lumière Brothers used the technology for their first film screening in 1895. The 1950s saw the opto-mechanical advancements that began the popular trend of the slide projector, which was often used as a form of entertainment to show photographs to family and friends.

A motion picture projector circa 1950.
A motion picture projector circa 1950.

The idea behind them all was the same and they were actively used to tell stories, to educate, and to show audiences views of faraway places. Here in Special Collections we have a number of more recent examples of both slide and motion picture projectors, as well as photographic and hand-painted slides in a variety of formats.

More about magic lanterns can be found on The Magic Lantern Society webpage.

Panoramas

Today when we hear the word “panorama” a 180 to 360-degree photograph is likely what comes to mind. However, the first patent for a panorama was issued in 1787 to Robert Barker, over 50 years before the invention of photography around 1839. It was one of the most popular forms of entertainment during the nineteenth century, yet something we rarely hear about today. Translated from Greek, the term panorama means ‘see all’ and that is exactly what they aimed to do. To really understand what the term panorama meant during the late 18th and 19th centuries, try to imagine walking through a dark corridor into a large, circular, naturally lit room in which, constructed from floor to ceiling, is a continuous representation of a distant land, a battle scene, or an escape from the industrializing city landscape that completely surrounds you. The painting has been made to appear as realistic as possible: the top edge has been masked by a veil or roof, and the bottom edge is concealed by a fence which you can walk up to. The average size of a panorama was 15 by 20 metres and took an immense amount of teamwork to build, but the results always attracted a crowd.

Hand-painted lantern slide. Panoramic slides such as this could be moved through a magic lantern to create a moving panorama type of effect.
Hand-painted lantern slide. Panoramic slides such as this could be moved through a magic lantern to create a moving panorama type of effect.

As the popularity of the panorama took off in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the term began to take on other meanings, and new formats of the medium began to be created. Any sort of large or oversized painting began to be considered a ‘panorama’ as well as huge paintings that would only cover a semi-circle rather than 360-degrees.  Another popular format of the panorama was the moving panorama. Spectators of the moving panorama were seated in an auditorium and instead of being surrounded by the panorama a long roll painting was moved across a window, often set up with curtains similar to a typical theatre stage. A mechanical cranking system was used to pull the painting across the audience’s view. Often, music, lecturers or sound and light effects would accompany the presentation of the work. Unlike the circular panorama, the moving panorama used a transportable format that could tour to new cities and towns, saving on the costly operation of construction and making it more accessible. The panorama, in any sense of the word, was truly a spectacle that gave viewers a chance to experience the world without having to travel far from home, some of which still exist and can be viewed today.

Black and white glass lantern slide in a wooden frame circa the 1890s. Handwritten on the frame is “Panorama of Cairo” suggesting the use of magic lanterns to create panorama-like effects.
Black and white glass lantern slide in a wooden frame circa the 1890s. Handwritten on the frame is “Panorama of Cairo” suggesting the use of magic lanterns to create panorama-like effects.

For examples of full panoramas still existing today:

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/52.184

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/interactives/cyclorama/

Dioramas

If you have taken a photography course at Ryerson, it is likely you have heard of L.J.M. Daguerre and his infamous diorama. The diorama often competed with the panorama and used a combination of ideas from both the panorama and the magic lantern to create a theatrical experience for the audience. The diorama consisted of an exhibition of enormous transparent paintings under changing lighting effects. With these effects, audiences could witness changes in mood and scenery, such as the weather. The illusions immediately got attention for their ability to transform paintings into three-dimensional renderings that many claimed could not be distinguished from large-scale models that used real objects. Similar to the panorama, the viewer was walked through a dark hallway into an auditorium that could hold close to 350 people, where they were kept stationary with the illuminations revolving slowly around them, only visible through screen tunnels that created depth and hid the edges of the paintings. The pictures measured close to 22 metres wide by 14 metres high and were situated 13 metres back from the front row. The viewer was kept in very dim lighting until the start of the show when the curtain was drawn up and the image was revealed. Effects were rendered through use of transparent and opaque painting techniques and coloured screens that altered the daylight passing through the back of the picture.

Information and images about Daguerre’s recently restored diorama at Bry-Sur-Marne can be found here:

A more modern colour slide from the 1960s.
A more modern colour slide from the 1960s.

Conclusion

Hence, our enjoyment of light, image and motion did not begin with the photograph or the motion picture. Multiple forms of entertainment experimenting with these elements existed from the 1400s through the 1800s and were very popular with audiences. Although here we have only discussed the panorama, the magic lantern, and the diorama, inventions for optical entertainment were not limited to these, and often shows would use a combination of each. If you are still curious about these forgotten forms of entertainment, visit Special Collections to find out what kinds of materials we have to facilitate further research into the subject, including books, slides and projectors. We are located on the 4th floor of the Ryerson University Library and Archives. Call us at 416-979-5000 ext. 4996 or send us an email at asc@ryerson.ca

Kodaslide Merit Film Projector. Manufactured from 1951 to 1956.
Kodaslide Merit Film Projector. Manufactured from 1951 to 1956.

References:

Balzer, Richard. Optical Amusements: Magic Lanterns and Other Transforming Images – A Catalog of Popular Entertainments. Watertown, MA: Richard Balzer, 1987.

Chadwick, W.J. The Magic Lantern Manual. London: Frederick Warne & Co., 1878.

Comment, Bernard. The Panorama. Translated by Anne-Marie Glasheen. London: Reaktion Books, 1999.

Daguerre, Louis Jacques Mandé. An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Various Processes of the Daguerreotype and the Diorama. Paris: Béthune et plon, 1839. Reprinted with illustrations and an introduction by Beaumont Newhall. New York: Winter House, 1971.

Greenacre, Derek. Magic Lanterns. Princes Risborough, Bucks, England: Shire, 1986.

Huhtamo, Erkki. Illusions in Motion: Media Archeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013.

Souvenir of Toronto: Announcing the Robert MacIntosh Collection on the History of Toronto

Ryerson University Library and Archives is pleased to announce the donation of the Robert MacIntosh Collection on the History of Toronto to the Special Collections department.

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A few of the souvenir booklets in the collection, featuring photographs of the major sites to see in the city.  These early keepsakes often included views of Casa Loma, the Canada Life Assurance Company building, the CNE, and Sunnyside pool.

The collection of 141 books was carefully curated by collector, author, and longtime Toronto resident, Robert M. MacIntosh. Ranging in date from 1807 – 1988, topics include historical accounts, biographies of notable Torontonians (including John Toronto himself, Bishop Strachan), tourist keepsakes through the years, maps, centennial publications, and TTC brochures.  

An economist by trade, MacIntosh authored “Different Drummers, Banking and Politics in Canada” in 1992 before focusing his research on the early history and formation of the City of Toronto and publishing “Earliest Toronto” in 2006.

Browse all books in the collection.

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Books from the MacIntosh collection focused on significant individuals in Toronto history. Bishop John Strachan (often called “John Toronto”), was a staunch Tory, the city’s first Anglican bishop in 1839, and superintendent of schools.  An ideological rival to many of Strachan’s views, Jesse Ketchum was a representative in the 10th Parliament of the then Upper Canada. A writer and artist, Elizabeth Simcoe was the wife of Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant Governor John Simcoe and her diary is an important account of life in early York (Toronto).
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Some of the volumes that detail the history of specific streets in the City of Toronto.  Yonge Street, the major artery through Toronto and once the longest street in the world, began construction in 1793 to link the new capitol of Upper Canada to Lake Simcoe.  Jarvis street, now home to the only reversible lane in Toronto, was once one of the most affluent areas of the city.  Taking it’s name from the original 1818 manor belonging to Dr. William Baldwin, Spadina now houses Toronto’s Chinatown, one of the largest in North America.

To view this or any of our other collections, give us a call and make an appointment: 416-979-5000 ext. 4996. Or email us at asc@ryerson.ca.

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Some examples of celebratory publications and reports in the MacIntosh Collection.