York University Libraries | Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections online exhibits

Browse Exhibits (11 total)

Hellenic Students' Association


The Hellenic Students' Association of York is a student run, non-for-profit Hellenic council, which promotes Hellenism within the university's setting. The council organizes an array of events throughout the academic year, such as a general meeting for members, academic nights, Greek nights on the Danforth, and as annual Semi-Formal. The council also looks for other ways to give back to the Greek Community, whether it be with Greek Schools, or singing carols for the Hellenic Hope. With our new and exciting collaborations with the Greek Canadian History Project and York University Libraries Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, the HSA is now able to share a history of the celebration of Hellenism in the Greek Community of Toronto. 

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

John H. Warkentin

Featuring the work of renowned Canadian historical geographer John H. Warkentin (b.1928-), this exhibit is a sample of his aerial, topographical, architectural, and cultural photography of select urban and rural regions in Manitoba between 1957 and 2000. The images were originally captured on 35 mm slides, which have since been digitized.

Born in Lowe Farm, Manitoba, Warkentin received a Bachelor's degree from the University of Manitoba in 1948 and a PhD from the University of Toronto in 1961. In 1987, he received an honourary LL.D from the University of Brandon. He was an Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Manitoba, engaged in research on the settlement and regional geography of Western Canada, and also taught briefly in Newfoundland and Greenland. In 1963 he became an Assistant Professor at York University, until he retired as Professor of Geography in 1993.

Warkentin received the Massey Medal from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and the Award for Scholarly Distinction from the Canadian Association of Geographers. Honourary president of the Champlain Society, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Officer of the Order of Canada. He is author of several books including, The Western Interior of Canada; A Regional Geography of Canada: Life, Land, and Space; and, The Mennonite Settlements of Southern Manitoba. He co-wrote Canada Before Confederation and the Manitoba Historical Atlas.

, , , , , , ,

Letters Home: a selection of wartime correspondence from the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections

Stepler 1998-037-02-01_portrait.jpg

Based on a 2009 exhibit of wartime correspondence held by the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, "Letters Home"  highlights some correspondence exchanged by soldiers with their parents, siblings and friends during the First and Second World Wars.

This online exhibit would not have been possible without the generosity of family members who, over the years have donated their family records for the benefit of students and scholars of York University.  In particular, archival staff would like to thank Dorothy Stepler, John Lennox, the late Bettie Lennox Locke, and Nick Aplin.  A special thanks must be made to Vicki Ryckman. She found the letters of Charles Shore in an old barn in Prince Edward County where she grew up and donated the letters to the archives in 2008.



, , , , , , , , , ,

Mariposa : celebrating Canadian folk music


Mariposa has been described as “a state of mind somewhere between backwoods fiddling and B.B. King.” Although the festival has hosted the likes of Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, it has also fostered the developing talents of many of Canada’s up-and-coming artists, as well as the vibrant folk and indigenous music performers of North America.

Mariposa : celebrating Canadian folk music documents the first two decades of the festival, and by extension, the folk music movement of the 1960s and 1970s. 

Here you will find spotlights on recording stars that rose through the ranks of Canadian performers, but attention is also given to working artists who found their niche at the festival.

Music is at the core of this story but other facets of folk culture are highlighted : traditional dance, craft-work, and story-telling. The importance of the First Nations community and children’s programming in the history of the festival will also be emphasized, particularly as it relates to the successful MITS (Mariposa In The Schools) program.

In many ways, we hope to recreate for users a sense of the excitement and energy of the festival, the interaction of artists and audiences, the role of workshops, artisan booths, and children’s programming in the fermentation and dissemination of creative ideas. 

Rather than a glossy coffee table tome, think of this exhibit as a well-loved family scrapbook, rich with texture and creativity.


On parle du festival de folklore Mariposa comme un état d’esprit situé quelque part entre la musique campagnarde et B. B. King. Bien que le festival ait accueilli des musiciens tels Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young et Bob Dylan, il a aussi encouragé des musiciens canadiens plein d’avenir  ainsi que des artistes des traditions populaires et autochtones de l’Amérique du Nord.

Mariposa : Celebrating Canadian Folk Music vous présente les deux premières décennies du festival, et comme tel,  le mouvement de la musique traditionnelle des années soixante et soixante-dix.

Vous y découvrirez  des documents consacrés aux musiciens qui ont atteint les sommets de l’industrie de la musique canadienne. Nous consacrons aussi de la place aux artistes professionnels moins connus que le festival Mariposa a chaudement accueilli. La musique est au cœur de cette histoire, mais nous soulignerons les autres aspects  de la culture traditionnelle aussi  : la danse traditionnelle,  le travail artisanal  et l’art du conteur. L’importance de la communauté autochtone  et de la programmation pour la jeunesse dans l’histoire du festival  sera également mise en relief, vu à travers le programme Mariposa In The Schools (MITS) . Nous espérons recréer pour les internautes l’enthousiasme et l’énergie de ce festival, l’interaction animée entre les artistes et leur public, souligner le rôle des ateliers, des kiosques d’artisans et des programmes  pour la jeunesse dans la l’effervescence et la dissémination des idées créatives.

Imaginez cet exposition, non comme un livre grand format, mais comme un album de famille riche en apparence et en créativité.

We acknowledge the generous financial support of the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Archival Community Digitization Program. | Nous tenons à souligner le soutien financier du ministère du Patrimoine canadien par le biais du Programme de culture canadienne en ligne.


, , , , , , , ,

Portuguese Canadian History Project | Projeto de História Luso Canadiana

100thKickOff_flyer 2.jpg

The Portuguese Canadian History Project | Projeto de História Luso Canadiana (PCHP | PHLC) is a community outreach initiative that started in 2008, and is directed by Gilberto Fernandes, Susana Miranda, Raphael Costa, and Emanuel da Silva. We are committed to locating historical sources in the hands of private individuals and organizations in the Portuguese-Canadian community and placing them in the care of the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, York University Libraries. Our goals are to preserve, democratize and disseminate the history of immigrants in Canada, particularly those of Portuguese descent.

, , , , , , , , , ,

Scholarly Resource: Children's Literature Collection at York University Libraries

CLC 0022 cover.jpg


Introduction to the Collection 

Cheryl Cowdy

“A study of Canadian children’s books, therefore, can throw some light on the nation itself…. They show what Canada and Canadians are like, what values we respect, how we look at ourselves today and at our past”

(Sheila Egoff, The Republic of Childhood 1967).


Fifteen years before Confederation united the British colonies of Upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia into one Dominion of Canada in 1867, Catharine Parr Traill articulated her vision of a racially, ethnically, and culturally harmonious colony in her Robinsonade, Canadian Crusoes: A Tale of The Rice Lake Plains (1852). Addressed to “the children of the settlers on the Rice Lake Plains,” the novel narrates the survival of three children lost in the wilderness for two years with only the family dog for protection: fourteen-year old Hector Maxwell, the “industrious” son of Scottish settlers; his twelve-year old sister, Catharine, already in possession of a “thoughtful and well-regulated mind,” and their fourteen-year old French neighbour and cousin, the “reckless” Louis. During their adventure, the children encounter a Mohawk girl, whose knowledge of the land and its resources helps them to survive the dangers of the Canadian wilderness. In exchange for her assistance, the children undertake the civilization and domestication of the Iroquoian girl, asserting their colonial and linguistic privilege by naming her simply and symbolically “Indiana.”  By the novel’s end, the children are returned safely to their pioneer homestead, where they encourage their families to adopt Indiana, “to whom they all owed so much.” The final sentences of the novel project the child settler-reader into an idyllic future of civilized domesticity: the racial and ethnic harmony of the new colony is secured by the union of settler and Indigene, French and English. Hector and Indiana, Catharine and Louis are joined together in a double wedding, “and often by their fireside would delight their children by recounting the history of their wanderings on the Rice Lake Plains.”[i]

Canadian Crusoes encapsulates key tropes that dominate English-language settler children’s literature from pre-Confederation British North America to early twentieth-century Canada and its function in the colonizing project. Many of the books in this exhibit both challenge and reinforce such tropes as: the tension between wilderness and civilized domesticity; the conflation of the wilderness landscape with the figure of the Indigene; the enculturation of boys into the masculine project of nation-building and colonization, with its gendered coding of traits such as strength, valour, industriousness and vigor; and the confinement of female children in spaces of settled domesticity (and the surprising escape of the odd resourceful girl into the wilderness adventures typically reserved for her brothers). As Elizabeth Galway argues, “What remains apparent throughout much of the literature from Confederation onwards is the sense that the Canadian child, male or female, holds the key to ensuring the nation’s future, and that both boys and girls must learn the roles they can play in this undertaking.”[ii]

Books in the Children’s Literature Collection highlight the repetition of these tropes as the master narratives – or “hegemonic commonplaces,” to borrow a term used by Gail Edwards and Judith Saltman – reinforced by British, Canadian and American authors in the stories they tell young readers about Canada. That these hegemonic commonplaces are also wrapped up in the core myth of childhood as a time of innocence and experience is evident even in some of the scholarship on Canadian children’s literature: “The true image of Canada is a composite of savagery and sweetness—like literature, like childhood.”[iii] Such hegemonic commonplaces of a possible and impossible Canada are contested and reinforced by many of the books featured in this exhibit of Canadian settler children’s literature, and that are included in the Children’s Literature Collection of the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections.

[ii] Galway, 9.

[iii] Waterson, 11.




Seeking that acre and a cow: The 3,000 Family Scheme settlement experience


This exhibit explores immigration and farming in Canada through the experiences of Herbert William Hunt, a British World War I veteran who settled in Saskatchewan for ten years during the Great Depression. Hunt’s migration was facilitated by the 3,000 Family Scheme, a joint settlement effort by Canada and the United Kingdom to populate the Canadian West with people of Anglo-Saxon descent, while also addressing postwar unemployment and civil unrest.[i] Though the program offered Hunt and his wife, Jessica, a venue for the independence that they craved, settling on a farm north of Spruce Lake and east of St. Walburg in Saskatchewan, their time in Canada was fraught with adversity. Hunt’s records, including diaries, account books, correspondence, and photographs, were donated to the archives by his nephew, A. Godfrey Hunt. The entire digitized collection can be found in the York University Libraries Digital Repository

[i] Rebecca J. Manusco. “Three Thousand Families: English Canada’s Colonizing Vision and British Family Settlement, 1919-39,” Journal of Canadian Studies 45 (2011): 9-10, doi: 10.1353/jcs.2011.0030.




, , , , , ,

Sheila Thibaudeau Lambrinos Collection

Literature for children, most often written to educate and indoctrinate, as well as entertain, has longed served as a useful means to examine the ideological concerns of an age. The Lambrinos Collection, which houses over 650 children’s textbooks, teacher’s manuals and novels (published between 1843 to 1992), is a rich source of insight into a distinctly Canadian, colonial and post-colonial, understanding of the world.

Sheila Thibaudeau Lambrinos (1934-2011) donated her collection to the Clara Thomas Special Collections and Archives so that a snapshot of Canadian history might be preserved and made available to researchers. Lambrinos was a graduate in Canadian Studies from Atkinson College, York University, a former teacher and Trustee on the North York Board of Education and an avid heritage campaigner for the Grey County Historical Society. Researchers interested in education and curriculum, women’s studies and children’s literature will find a wealth of resources in this collection.

, , , , , , , , ,

The Jean Augustine Political Button Collection

What we collect tells a story. The objects we collect tell stories and the collector of the artifacts can tell a story. Political buttons are ephemeral artifacts created for a specific purpose and usually for a short-time period. Their function may include commemorating an event or conveying one’s support of a cause, movement or political candidate.

This exhibit explores some of the narratives behind selected political buttons from the Jean Augustine collection housed in the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections at York University. The Honourable Jean Augustine, originally from Grenada, was the first African-Canadian woman elected as a Member of Parliament in Canada. There are over 500 political and social activism buttons collected by Jean Augustine from the 1960s to the early 2000s.  These political buttons are great tools to understand the socio-political history of Canadian society.  Jean Augustine was interviewed about selected political and activism buttons found in her collection on April 24, 2014. Several themes explored in the exhibit include:

 Hear the stories of Jean Augustine’s political button collection.

, , , , , , , , , ,