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Documenting a Province/Chronique d'une province

Documenting a Province/Chronique d'une province: The Archives of Ontario at 100/le centenaire des Archives publiques d'Ontario

Archivist of Ontario
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    Documenting a Province/Chronique d'une province
    Book Description:

    Ontario's rich and diverse past provides many vivid narratives for writers and historians, and since 1903, the Archives of Ontario has been the central repository for the province's history. With a collection of over 3.5 million photographs, 35 000 maps, and 150 000 architectural drawings in its downtown Toronto site, the Archives offer Ontarians extensive access to their collective history. The Archives of Ontario is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2003 with the publication of this volume.

    Showcasing a broad cross-section of items,Documenting a Province: The Archives of Ontario at 100, commemorates Ontario's heritage through promotion and explanation of the Archives' collections, which include amateur and professional photography, the Government of Ontario Art Collection, cartography, photojournalism, important government documents, and twentieth century architecture. With each chapter highlighting a specific collection, the book has more than 300 photographs, maps, and other images. With an introduction from the chief Archivist and a congratulatory note from Ontario's premier, 300 years of economic, social, political, and cultural development are being recognized in a very important publication.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7399-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Dalton McGuinty

    It is my great pleasure to present the Archives of Ontario’s commemorative anniversary book.

    Ontario is a province steeped in history and enriched by the many ancestries, cultures and beliefs that define its identity. Records gathered by the Archives of Ontario and represented in this book tell many stories of the people who have contributed to the development of our province as a democratic society.

    The Archives has provided all Ontarians with a window into history starting with the appointment of Alexander Fraser as the first provincial archivist in 1903. Since then, the Archives of Ontario has been collecting close...

  4. Honour the Past – Imagine the Future
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Miriam McTiernan
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Miriam McTiernan
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxii)

    The opening years of the twentieth century brimmed with historical importance. In 1903 alone, the Wright brothers made the first successful flight by powered airplane, Marconi completed his first two-way public wireless message between North America and England and the electrocardiograph was invented. Each of these innovations – and there were many more that year – would forever alter the shape of the world. And, in the midst of it all, the Archives of Ontario was created.

    While this may seem to be a far-fetched leap, the connection between the establishment of the Archives and larger social trends is actually...

  7. I. Images of Ourselves

    • [I. Introduction]
      (pp. 1-4)

      The first part of this book includes various kinds of material – documentary art, maps, and portraits – that can help us better understand past generations. Facts can certainly be found here in abundance – both documentary art and maps are replete with concrete details, from topographical data to information on the growth of the built environment – but alongside these facts are faces of people and glimpses of the society in which they lived. The illustrations are diverse, ranging from paintings of early Upper Canada to Toronto street scenes in the early twentieth century, from French regime maps of...

      (pp. 5-30)

      The Archives of Ontario has approximately 4,000 documentary art records created by both amateur and professional artists. The collection contains oil paintings, drawings, watercolours, and prints, with material spanning the period from the 1790s into the twentieth century. Some of the artists are well known, including Thomas Burrowes, Caroline Armington, William Armstrong, C.W. Jefferys, George Reid, Elizabeth Simcoe, Captain Hervey Smyth, Robert Sproule, Owen Staples, Anne Langton, and Dorothy Stevens.

      Paintings of Upper Canada/Ontario originated in the British military’s need for topographical surveys. Many officers were trained in draughtsmanship and watercolour sketching at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, England,...

    • 2 MAPS
      (pp. 31-60)

      Few historical documents are as intriguing as maps. Glancing at an old map, one may start by seeking out a familiar place but then notice something else. Admiration of fine detail or vibrant colouring is soon followed by fascination with the shape and texture of a different world.

      Since the mapmakers’ art reflects the spirit of their age, a careful examination of an historical map can shed light on the assumptions and values of the past. For instance, the St Lawrence River was not the gateway to the riches of the Orient, but a sixteenth-century map clearly demonstrates that many...

      (pp. 61-88)

      Portraits touch our imaginations more than any other type of archival record. We may be able to catch a glimpse of ourselves in the portrait of an ancestor, and, even if the face in the portrait is unrelated to us, that face may communicate a variety of messages – about the personal character of the individual portrayed, the social class to which he or she belonged, and the kind of society of which they were a part.

      The portrait collection at the Archives of Ontario amounts to hundreds of thousands of items and consists of sketches, paintings and photographs. Many...

      (pp. 89-124)

      The Archives of Ontario has a varied collection of government records that bear directly upon the daily lives of our ancestors, records that include land settlement and ownership documents, court proceedings, business-partnerships agreements, and registrations of births, marriages, and deaths. The collection is enormous, consisting of hundreds of microfilm volumes of vital statistics records and tens of thousands of feet of property, court, and business records.

      The most requested records of all are the registrations of birth, marriages, and deaths. The Upper Canada Marriage Act of 1831 required the clergy of most denominations to report marriages annually to a district...

  8. II. The Importance of Context

    • [II. Introduction]
      (pp. 125-128)

      In its sheer size, the Archives of Ontario’s collection of records is daunting to say the least. Besides 3.5 million photographs, 35,000 maps, 23,000 hours of audio, video, and film recordings, and more than 170,000 architectural drawings, the textual records are so voluminous that, if laid end to end, they would encircle the globe several times.

      Organizing such a mass of material into an intelligible system would be no simple task if it had to be undertaken from scratch. Fortunately, however, most of the records the Archives acquires are already organized into a system on their arrival, and we try...

      (pp. 129-160)

      Since its inception in 1837, photography has been characterized by continual innovations. Early cameras were bulky and cumbersome and were usually confined to the studio, where the photographer had to prepare his own glass-plate negatives, adjust light levels for exposure, and develop his own prints. The late nineteenth century, however, witnessed a number of developments, notably improvements in cameras and lenses, the introduction of pre-packaged glass-plate negatives and, later, film negatives on a plastic base. Another turning point was the advent, by the turn of the century, of Eastman Kodak’s ‘Brownie’ camera; one of the first ‘point and shoot’ cameras,...

      (pp. 161-192)

      The works of art now displayed in Ontario government buildings comprise a collection that was begun in 1855. The Government of Ontario Art Collection, as it is known, consists of more than 2,300 original works, including paintings, murals, works on paper, and indoor and outdoor sculpture. Found in more than thirty locations across the province, the art collection is the most widely dispersed of all the collections administered by the Archives of Ontario.

      The history of the government’s art holdings reflects the changing tastes and fashions of the last one hundred and fifty years. Egerton Ryerson, as the architect of...

      (pp. 193-220)

      The Archives of Ontario’s collection of architectural records consists of approximately 170,000 items ranging from the 1820s to the present day. It includes records both of private architectural firms and of various departments of the Ontario government.

      The architectural drawings in the collection may represent different stages of a project, from proposal to competition to contract. Genres of drawings include perspectives, sketches, site plans, specifications, construction photographs, and printed designs. The drawings may also document mechanical systems in buildings, landscape, interior design, decorative arts, and engineering works such as dams, bridges, and canals.

      The most significant private collection in the...

      (pp. 221-252)

      The government of Ontario has always publicized its new initiatives and continuing programs. Today, it does so primarily through television and government websites, but in earlier times it communicated its message to the public through printed materials such as posters and brochures and also through photographs and motion-picture films.

      The Archives of Ontario holds a large collection of records of this kind, totalling well over 500,000 items in all. Portraying such varied activities as teaching, forestry, mining, farming, highway construction, and tourism, government-produced textual and visual material performed an equally diverse range of functions: educating the public about government programs,...

      (pp. 253-272)

      Pictures are noticeably absent from the pages of nineteenth-century newspapers, apart from the occasional engraving amidst a sea of minute type. Readers of the time who wanted to see pictures along with a news story had to buy an ‘illustrated’ journal, which appeared less frequently than the average newspaper and thus had less in the way of current news, not just by our standards but even by those of the period.

      All this changed around 1880. With the introduction of small, lightweight cameras and the half-tone press (which allowed photographs to be reproduced on the same page as text), the...

  9. III. Important Events in Ontario History

    • [III. Introduction]
      (pp. 273-276)

      Certain key factors have influenced and shaped the history of Ontario. The physical environment, which includes a wide range of topographies, a system of connected waterways, and a climate that often reaches extremes, has surely played its part. So have aboriginal people, who managed to develop ways and means of coping with the physical environment that Europeans were quick to adopt. These aspects of Ontario’s early history – that period of time before the advent of written records – are the realm not of historians and archivists but of archaeologists, anthropologists, and geographers.

      Once the floodgates were opened, however, there...

      (pp. 277-310)

      This chapter focuses on some of the most important and symbolic moments in the history of Ontario from its official founding as a province in 1792 until its entry into Confederation in 1867. The subject matter is broad, including portraits of people, reproductions of private letters, government documents, and artifacts.

      The story begins with the arrival of John Graves Simcoe as first lieutenant-governor of the new colony of Upper Canada in 1792, a colony that had recently become the home of Loyalist refugees from the American Revolution. Simcoe and his immediate successors endeavoured to turn Upper Canada into a conservative...

      (pp. 311-344)

      As a province, Ontario is rich with natural resources: there is an abundance of fine agricultural land, large stores of mineral resources, and plentiful water in the Great Lakes and in the rivers that can be used for hydro-electric power. Under the British North America Act of 1867, the Ontario government gained a greater degree of control over the development of these resources, and it quickly set about using its new powers and responsibilities to encourage the economic development of the province.

      And develop Ontario certainly did. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, what was once a mainly rural, agricultural...