Monday, March 19, 2012

Oh, the Things You’ll Find When You Dig Into Special Collections

 Photo Credit, breahn, Flickr
I was recently discussing the Thomas Mawson Collection at the Canadian Architectural Archives with a friend. This conversation got me thinking about all the neat special collections and archives around Calgary.

So, here’s a brief - and woefully incomplete list - my favourite local special collections.

Vienna on the Bow

A personal favourite is the collection of drawings by Thomas Mawson, envisioning early Calgary as “Vienna on the Bow”. This is one of several great digital collections presented by the Canadian Architectural Archives.

The story behind this collection is fascinating. Particularly, how these images came to the CAA:
... in 1976, Cary and Louise Lehner, of 629-9thA Street NW in Hillhurst, began renovating their garage. As Cary Lehner tore down the walls, he realized they had old drawings on the inside.
The boards supporting the drawings had been nailed up with the images facing inward and the space filled with wood chips for insulation.

After restoration of the found drawings at the Canadian Conservation Institute, the collection came to the CAA.

Catalogues: More than Fun Fashions from the 1970s

10 years ago, I was able to extensively explore The Glenbow Museum Library’s collections while on a practicum. I discovered all sorts of nifty things in the stacks: newspapers, art catalogues, directories, school books and more!

However, it’s the thousands of sale and trade catalogues, that still stick in my memory. Flipping through department store catalogues to see the changes in fashion across the decades certainly has its appeal - when are zoot suites coming back? - but, what really struck me was the breadth of services, machines and materials available to people living on the Prairies, via mail order.

I wonder if anyone has done a comparative study of early 20th century mail order and 21st century Internet buying?

SAIT and Community History

When you look at the growth and development of SAIT, you’ll also see the growth and development of Calgary. The SAIT Archives holds material detailing the history of Calgary’s oldest post-secondary institution: student newspapers, year books, academic calendars, lots of photographs and more neat stuff.

Among that neat stuff: a photo in a student paper showing Joni Mitchell when she was attend the college and a giant slide rule.

Currently, there is just a small sample of photographs available online from the SAIT Archives. Be sure, however, to watch for an extensive photo archive to be launched early in the new year.

Just One More

The Panda Collection of architectural photographs, also at the CAA, occupies a special place in my memory. I got to work with this collection while doing a Museum Studies practicum a few years ago and loved the photos of mid-twentieth century Canadian buildings and communities.

by Kristian McInnis

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