Spring 2008 Meeting Report

APRIL 2008
Spring Meeting   April 25, 2008
Ryerson Library, Ryerson University
Toronto, Ontario

The Librarians at Ryerson University welcomed us for a business meeting followed by special events that they graciously organized for us. After lunch we enjoyed presentations and tours that focused on current ambitions for the University as well as the features of Special Collections managed by the Library. It was a perspective on the University that was both wide and specialized: a great combination for a program.

Dr. George Kapelos, a professor in the School of Architectural Science, spoke passionately about the team he has worked with to devise a Master Plan for Ryerson University. The land-locked University has taken an honest appraisal of its place in Toronto and has created a vision for how it can proceed, how it can grow for its community of students and faculty and how it can function within the urban fabric.

Dr. Kapelos’ illustrated lecture touched on ideas that indicate that his visionary team, which includes KPMB Architects – is based on the human scale. As he says it, this vision ‘engages the public realm, a core for people’ and takes the University’s urban setting as an advantage, with its opportunities for commerce, social, transportation, housing, parks, entertainment and public places. As the University grows and transforms, the Master Plan can ensure that each change resonates with the whole.

Ryerson is buying up land as it becomes free in its intended plan for growth as well as following the lead of institutions like Concordia by constructing a vertically oriented campus. A prized acquisition is the former location of Sam the Record Man. This is the intended location for an expanded Ryerson Library. The iconic sign for the former retail business featuring double discs is designated and comes with the property. Envision a future Ryerson Library with the neon sign blaring, ‘This is Sam the Record Man!’ pulsing on the wall that faces Yonge Street. Dr. Kapelos hopes that details like this will inspire people to say, “If you’re visiting Toronto, make sure you see X [and] Y and don’t forget to go to Ryerson.”

After Dr. Kapelos’ lecture, Beth Knazook, the Photographic Curatorial Specialist for the Library’s Special Collections presented – visually – numerous highlights. Ryerson offers an M.A. in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management, which seems to be a timely course of study for a world desiring expertise for its aging photo collections.

Ms. Knazook described the evolution of her collections that includes the Kodak Canada Archives (est 2005) and the Heritage Camera Collection. This facility grew out of a practice of hands-on learning and traditional photography, and the Masters students of this new and innovative program carry this intent forward with explorations into experiential learning based on the collections.

Alana West, the Media Collections Assistant of the Mira Godard Study Centre, described the impetus for this resource center, which provides access to an incredible 250,000 slides. A faculty photo collection initiated in 1969 was significantly advanced with a gift of 57 historic photographs in 1995 by Mira Godard, for whom this centre is named. This collection is now comprised of 2224 objects, and continues to grow. It also houses artist files (comprised of clippings, videos, DVD’s and other ephemera) as well as other photo archives. Ms. West impressed on us the importance of viewing the original photograph. She is so right: we always view photos in reproduction.

Ultimately, a gallery on campus will house the the April 2005 donation of 291,049 black and white photographs from the Black Star Agency in New York. The Black Star Historical Black and White Photography Collection (that does include a few colour NASA photographs) is a significant resource for faculty and students in Ryerson’s School of Image Arts. From its roots in Europe during World War I to 1980’s photojournalist works, this collection holds great promise for Ryerson. While original works in the collection are stored offsite until optimum conditions for preservation are met by new construction at Ryerson, large-scale scans from the Black Star Collection are periodically exhibited in public settings. For example, gripping images that focus on people who have experienced World War I and II are currently displayed in the nave of BCE Place, Toronto until May 27th, 2008.

We would like to thank Librarians Barb Parsons, Zita Murphy and Susan Patrick for their teamwork in putting this day together for our Chapter!