The National Archival Development Program (or NADP ) is administered by the Canadian Council of Archives and it – and it’s previous incarnations- have been vital in the completion of a number of projects here at the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections. One of the strongest examples is the survival of the Toronto Telegram photographic archives despite the challenges of preservation and a serious case of vinegar syndrome.
The delicious smell of fish and chips: harbinger of photographic doom
Photograph of Del’s Fish & Chip Shop in Toronto, 24 June 1964 for an article on teenage gangs. Photographer: Browne. Image number: ASC04605.
The majority of modern photographic film is cellulose diacetate, which is an inherently unstable material. Over time, fluctuations in humidity and temperature can lead to spontaneous decay with the photographic image detaching from the chemical base and eventually becoming illegible. This chemical process results in an acidic odour very similar to vinegar, hence the term vinegar syndrome (or VS). A proactive approach is essential as VS is a contagious process: once one photographic negative begins to degrade, there is a cascade effect on adjacent materials.
Our shared documentary heritage: saved with the help of the CCA
From 1995 to 1998 archivists at York University applied for a combined $13,390 in funding from the CCA to purchase preservation supplies and conservation services to protect the photographic negatives of the Toronto Telegram. This initial investment (matched by $15,825 direct and $8,075 in-kind investment from the archives) has ensured that the photographic record of the Toronto Telegram has been preserved for researchers, publishers and scholars now and in the future.
Long-term outcomes of short-term investment in archival preservation
In the past year alone, the following publications and projects have drawn on images from The Toronto Telegram, including:
- a textbook on educational psychology;
- a true-crime publication on the life and death of Donald “Mickey” McDonald;
- glass tabletops for a new cafe in the Maple Leaf Gardens flagship Lowblaws store;
- heritage panels in the new Maple Leaf Gardens renovations;
- an exhibit on the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario;
- a publication on the environmental history of Canada;
- a speech given at Massey College;
- article on death of Ângelo Nóbrega in 1969, published in Senso Magazine;
- a textbook on human geography;
- a blog post on Ryerson University’s mascot Eggy (the second of his name);
- an exhibition at the City of Toronto Archives celebrating the 90th Season of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra;
- Margaret Conrad’s A concise history of Canada published by Cambridge University Press;
- Donald Smith, Richard Jones and R. Douglas Francis’ Destinies: Canadian history since Confederation;
- Andrew Burtch’s Give Me Shelter: the failure of Canada’s Cold War Civil Defence;
- Carol Bishop-Gwyn’s The Pursuit of Perfection: A Life of Celia Franca.
That’s just the projects in the past year. Over the past twenty years, the Toronto Telegram has been used in documentary films, history monographs and television programs. The newspaper’s holdings have inspired student plays, have been used in undergraduate and doctoral research, gallery exhibits and art projects.
The Toronto Telegram is one of our largest archives and it is by far the most heavily used in our department. From undergraduate students to international scholars, local historical societies to big corporations, there’s something for everyone in the Telegram. Without the funding the Canadian Council of Archives twenty years ago, there’s no telling how much of this unique documentary heritage would have been lost to vinegar syndrome.
Above are a selection of photographs from the Toronto Telegram, including:
Three workers removing an item from a hurricane-destroyed home on Raymore Drive from 1954. Photograper: Nelson Quarrington.
Two women in Resolute Bay sewing kamik in 1958. Photographer: Ward.
HRH Princess Elizabeth exiting the Legislative Assembly of Ontario after a tour of the building in 1951. Unknown staff photographer.
You can browse over 5,000 photographic prints and negatives from the Toronto Telegram on our institutional repository YorkSpace here.