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2014 These 2 Groups Show You How to Live Operatically

August 26, 2014 | Brent | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

New Music Template

The Toy Piano Composers and the Bicycle Opera Project are at the forefront of a playful (and entrepreneurial) wave of new contemporary music in Toronto. The two groups kick off the fall New Music 101 series on 7 pm  Monday, September 8 at the new Hinton Learning Theatre on the third floor of Toronto Reference Library.

Both groups have pushed composition and performance into new territories with the stories they tell, and the way the music is presented. Together, they are among the most vivid representations of the expansive energy of Toronto’s music scene.

Here's a clip from founding composer Elisha Denburg's "The Hipster Grifter":


In six seasons of concerts, the Toy Piano Composers have built a cult following: They have a passionate audience that grows each year (Anytime folks show up at your concerts wearing your merch you know you are doing something right!)

Led by Artistic Directors Monica Pearce, Chris Thornborrow, and Elisha Denburg, the collective brings together distinct voices. Their upcoming season begins with Pandora’s Box, an evening of inventions, oddities, and hidden treasures in collaboration with visiting American composer Anthony T. Marasco.

They follow up with a new edition of their successful To Be Announced project which pairs five emerging composers with the Toy Piano ensemble. Here are some clips from last year's show:


In addition, the collective is writing music for two exciting Toronto groups: TorQ Percussion Quartet, and Cellophone (a cello and  saxophone duo).

Bicycle Opera Project on Stage
Members of the Bicycle Opera Project on stage.

The Bicycle Opera Project has just wrapped up its third Ontario tour. As the group's name suggests, the trip was made with all performers biking between cities. (There is also an excellent CBC profile.) Soprano, and Artistic Director Larissa Koniuk has taken great strides in bringing Canadian opera to new audiences, and doing it in a way that challenges the performer, invites new listeners, and plays with the medium of opera itself.

The Bicycle Opera Project (or "BOP" ) has also set the standard for environmentally conscious touring: they had audience members use a stationary bike to generate power for the projector used during performances!


The Bicycle Opera Project has collaborated with memebers of the Toy Piano Composers before, with scenes that capture the operatic quality of everyday life. Imagine what these two groups will accomplish together!

Please join us for this FREE program at the Hinton Learning Theatre on the third floor of the Toronto Reference Library on Monday, September 8, 2014.



This is just the first of three exciting events this season. Visit the New Music 101 Facebook page for more news and upcoming concerts:

Laughter in the face of death: the trench newspaper, The Wipers Times

July 28, 2014 | Alyson | Comments (8) Facebook Twitter More...

So much has been written on World War I, more so now that the 100th anniversary of the war is upon us at the end of July. But, it's not often that humour and the Great War are discussed together.

The Wipers Times is the best-known of the trench newspapers that were written by soldiers during the First World War.  The story goes that Captain Fred Roberts from the 12th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters found a printing press among some ruins in Ypres, and out of that discovery, a trench rag was born. 'Wipers' was army slang for the town of Ypres.  The paper was published intermittently between 1916 and 1918 and often changed its name as the unit moved along the line.  It was also known as The New Church (from Neuve Chapelle) Times, The Kemmel Times, The B.E.F. Times, The Somme Times and after the Armistice, The Better Times.

Platton commander Wipers TimesThe tone of the paper is humourous overall, although sometimes it is dark and subversive. It's full of in-jokes, of course, because it was written for other soldiers, not the civilian population. It says a lot about the open-mindedness of Captain Roberts that some of the humour was written at the expense of officers. In one often-repeated cartoon, a chinless platoon commander asks himself, "Am I as offensive as I might be?" 

However, Ian Hislop who wrote the foreword to the volume of compiled issues of The Wipers Times says that the paper often alluded to “the shadow of the censor."  So, some army brass must not have found it very funny. It does make you wonder what was marked too dangerous or offensive for publication.     


Here is a cynical ad for a remedy for optimism written in July 1916 just after the Battle of the Somme had begun.


         Optimism wipers times         

How about these advertisements for a new toy and a terrific real estate deal?


Flammenwerfer wipers timesSalient estate - Wipers Times


Or this promotional piece for a play at the Ypres Cloth Hall?


                                    Wipers Times Cloth Hall play 

The Flammenwerfer, or flamethrower, was a new and devastating weapon developed by the Germans.  The Ypres salient, location of at least five of the ugliest, muddiest and deadliest battles of the war, was commonly considered the most hated piece of ground in Europe at the time.  The Cloth Hall in Ypres, bombed almost to oblivion by 1917,  is often mentioned as the venue for various fake musical reviews and plays, and is noted in The Wipers Times for its "lifting  roof and perfect ventilation."  The play, Pilkem's Progress, refers to the Battle of Pilckem Ridge in July and August of 1917, a battle for which General Haig took a lot of criticism.

To me, what is most striking about the humour is how much of it still resonates today.  It reminds me of Private Eye, the British satirical magazine, or the The Onion.  Unlike other soldiers' writing about their war experiences, trench newspapers were spontaneous. Reading them all these years later you get a feeling for what was on their minds at the time.  

 Ian Hislop also wrote a screenplay for a film dramatizing the story of Roberts and the newspaper. He had this to say about the post-war fate of its editors:

"Both Roberts and his sub-editor Pearson fought right through to the end of the war, survived some of the fiercest fighting and doggedly kept going until they could optimistically retitle their newspaper The Better Times. But they found that peacetime Britain was “no place for heroes” and, sadly, no place for them. Roberts tried to get into journalism but was disappointed and turned to prospecting, ending up in Canada. Pearson went to Argentina and worked on the railways before marrying a local woman and inheriting a hotel. Pleasingly they both made it to a ripe old age and died in the 1960s, though neither received an obituary or any recognition of their achievement."

Amidst death and ruination, The Wipers Times was life-enhancing. We're fortunate that copies survived the war to be read today.  There are other trench journals and newspapers, including some Canadian ones.  You can view original copies of The Listening Post and Another Garland from the Front as part of the Toronto Reference Library's Special Collections or at North York Central Library's Canadiana Department.   You can read digitized versions of several Canadian trench journals at Early Canadiana Online.


More World War I humour

Good soldier svejkThe good solder Svejk and his fortunes during the World War

Jaroslav Hasek's bumbling dogcatcher wages his own war on the nationalism and idealistic piety of his superiors simply by trying to follow their orders.






 Oh what a lovely war DVDOh! What a lovely war DVD

The satire is too sharp and bitter to make you laugh out loud in this lampoon of a music hall review, but oh, does it bite!





Blackadder goes forth dvdBackadder goes forth DVD

Blackadder and his sidekick, Baldrick, good-naturedly suffer the incompetencies of those in power and make the best of life in trenches. Hilarious until the very end which will knock you off your feet, it's so terribly sad.


Toronto Time Warp and Weft: Textile History

July 23, 2014 | Muriel | Comments (6) Facebook Twitter More...

"The history of the world can be traced in textiles - the rise and fall of civilizations, their
world views and systems of belief are woven into each warp and weft."
~ from "The Eternity Code" exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada

I really felt as though I was travelling back to the time of the Incas and Coptic Egypt
when I went to see the exhibition, "The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation," on now at the Textile Museum of Canada until September 21st.

Made for kings and highranking nobility, a Peruvian rainforest feather tunic, still

stunningly vibrant with its yellow, orange and blue feathers from tropical birds, is
one of the most extraordinary garments I have ever seen.  Also on display at the
exhibition are many examples
of Peruvian weaving, and I was amazed to learn
that every known weaving
technique was used in pre-Hispanic Peru.

Peruvian Featherworks      Peruvian Four-Selvaged Cloth      Coptic Egypt

Heartbreaking, though, were the children's linen and wool tunics from Coptic Egypt. 
These tunics have survived because they were also used as burial shrouds, and
since the soil they were buried in was so dry, it preserved the textile.  I read an article in
the Toronto Star recently about a "perfectly preserved" 2,000-year-old shroud that
has been returned to Peru from Sweden.  It is so intricate and colourful that, "experts
still do not fully understand how the shroud's creators achieved the combination of
sewing techniques and pigments."

Textiles really are, as the exhibition says, "among the most vulnerable sources of
archaeological knowledge." When they do survive, and there is evidence of woven
textiles dating at least as far back as 27,000 BCE, they are remarkably revealing.
New technology enables researchers to even discover what the diet of a llama
or alpaca in Incan times was, based on the yarn spun from their fleece!

5000 Years of Textiles            World Textiles           Textiles
Eager for some more textile time travel, I went up to the fourth level of the Michael
Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum to see the exhibition on display there,
"Cairo Under Wraps: Early Islamic Textiles."  There are some rare examples of clothing
on display, many
intended for the royal household, and the decoration on them consists
mainly of Arabic inscriptions. 

Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto shall be my next destination, to see an outdoor
quilt exhibition, "Quilts at the Creek," 
which will be on during August 16th and 17th. 
I shall also be sure to look at the pioneer spinning and weaving techniques, which the Peruvians had already perfected so many years ago.

   Textiles of the Islamic World     Fashioning Fabric     Repair Cafe

This summer, for free, you can go on your own or take a friend or your family, to
the Textile Museum of Canada,
the Royal Ontario Museum and Black Creek Pioneer
Village, with a Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass
, available at Toronto Public

If you would like to learn how to repair and extend the life of your own clothing for
the future, you may be interested in going on August 9th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
to the Repair Caf
é at the Toronto Reference Library.






A Canadian Love Story in WWI Silk Embroidered Postcards

June 28, 2014 | Bill V. | Comments (12) Facebook Twitter More...

Come with me gentle reader and admire some silk embroidered WW1 postcards as they tell the love story of Vernon and Beatrice. The Toronto Reference Library owns a small collection of these postcards, three of which a soldier sent back home to his Toronto girl. 


Silk WW1 embroidered postcard - flower design with insert and longer letter on back


Open up the lace flap on this card and see the small printed insert "To my dear friend". 


WW1 Silk embroidered postcard with insert. Flowers on front longer letter on back


"Dearest B,  Love from far away. Bombardment now on which makes a terrible noise. Love Vernon X."


To my Dear Friend printed and then in handwriting  Dearest B Love from far away. Bombardment now on which makes a terrible noise. Love Vernon.

                     To My Dear Friend - Souvenir de Glorieuse Memoire

How poignant that Vernon wrote his loved one during a German bombardment. I imagine him in a trench or hut and writing by candlelight with his pencil - he was possibly afraid for his life and thinking of home.

The back of the card is below and has a more commonplace practical tone.


WW1 Silk embroidered postcard flowers on front with pouch and insert card  message on back starts dear Beatrice  A razor would be very handy
"Dear Beatrice - A razor would be very handy to me as the army razor is no good and I lost all my personal belongings but Mother can buy me one and send it to me out of my money which is going home. Your father and the boys will need theirs. Love yours as always Vernon.

This is the Christmas card that Vernon wrote Beatrice.

WW1 Silk Postcard Happy Christmas with flags of France and England and holly and with insert May the next one be with you
WW1 Silk Postcard "Happy Christmas" with flags of France and England and holly. Printed insert "My Christmas Wishes"  and handwritten note "May the next one be with you"


Below is the back of the card:

WW1 Silk Postcard Happy Christmas back message Dear Old Top    I wish you all the joys that one can have and hope that next year will be ours - Love from your own Vernon xxxxxx....
WW1 Silk Postcard "Happy Christmas" back message "Dear Old Top, I wish you all the joys that one can have and hope that next year will be ours - Love from your own Vernon xxxxxx...."


This is another Christmas card Vernon wrote Beatrice.  It's dated Belgium November 29 1915 and has her Toronto address. Through the combination of her name and address we were able to more fully trace their story.

WW1 Silk embroidered postcard Christmas Greetings (with pine cones and Church scene) November 29 1915. Mailed to Miss Beatrice Thornton at 93 Bellwoods Ave in Toronto.
WW1 Silk embroidered postcard Christmas Greetings (with pine cones and Church scene) dated on back Belgium November 29 1915.

The back of the card has a lovely Christmas message from Vernon but the address and name are faint. 

WW1 Silk embroidered postcard Christmas Greetings with pine cones and Church scene November 29 1915.  Dear Beat, with love and best wishes for a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year - your affectionat
WW1 Silk embroidered postcard Christmas Greetings (with pine cones and Church scene) Belgium November 29 1915. Dear Beat, with love and best wishes for a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year - your affectionate Vernon

I asked our Digitization and Preservation Department at the Toronto Reference Library to scan the back and enhance the name and address. Through the wonders of technology, and much like CSI, they did and it became very clear that Beatrice was Miss B. Thornton of 93 Bellwoods Ave in Toronto.  

Christmas Greetings Silk embroidered WW1 postcard 1915 with Beatrice Thornton's address and message Dear Beat With love and best wishes for a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year your affectionate Vernon
WW1 Silk embroidered postcard Christmas Greetings (with pine cones and Church scene) Belgium November 29 1915. Mailed to Miss B. Thornton at 93 Bellwoods Ave in Toronto.

With her family name and address I used the Might's City Directories on the 2nd floor of the Toronto Reference Library (part of the Genealogy Collection).  I discovered the Thornton family, including Beatrice and her brothers,  living at this address. These directories are helpful for family research as they are arranged by both name and address.  They are also available online if you want to use them from home.  Here's the 1913 Might's Toronto City Directory.

From there I used Ancestry Library Edition /, a genealogy research tool, that is available free for use only on Toronto Public Library computers. 

Beatrice Thornton married a Hugh V. Spence July 19, 1919. Searching his name I found V stood for Vernon. The mystery of who Vernon was suddenly became much clearer.  

Library and Archives Canada has an online tool where you can look up Canadian WW1 soldiers by name and I found a great deal of information about him.

His attestation papers showed he enlisted at the beginning of the war on September 26 1914 when he was 24 years old.   He had also served in the Queen's Own Rifles (QOR) for six years prior to his enlistment.   He stood 5'10 1/2 inches and had dark complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. He had a scar under his chin.  His unique service regiment number was 9068.

Very unusually, Hugh Vernon Spence's entire military service file has been digitized as a pdf by the Archives and there are 56 pages of military documents relating to him.  He joined the 3rd Battalion, Infantry, Canadian Expeditionary Force and started the war as a private and ended in 1918 as a sergeant. He was awarded several medals including the Distinguished Conduct Medal on January 1916 ( the second highest award for gallantry (after the Victoria Cross), awarded to non-commissioned officers and soldiers for acts of distinguished conduct in the field). He was mentioned for outstanding service in dispatches.  He suffered shell shock concussion and gas on June 17 1916 and was admitted to the No 2 Canadian Field Ambulance service. 


Libraries and Archives Canada has online versions of the period War diaries of this unit (and others). When Vernon wrote Beatrice in November of 1915 his unit was at Dranoutre Belgium and also in the trenches. On November 6 - "Mud very bad, dugouts fallen in" according to the unit diaries and November 18 - "Considerable artillery activity on both sides." 

On November 24 1915:

  • 9 a.m. Guns opened on trenches and wire opposite D section and other places. Fire continued intermittently till 1:30 p.m., and from then heavily until 3:30p.m. German wire cut in many places and trenches wrecked, large heads blown in parapet and many casualties caused. Germans who bolted from the shelled section over the open were badly caught by machine guns. One of the “Towers” of MESSINES CHURCH demolished, the other hit but not destroyed.
War Diary November 24 1915 of 3rd Battalion from Archives and Libraries Canada digitized copy.
War Diary 3rd Battalion Canada November 24 1915 (pg 9 of Nov 1915)


The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada Museum and Archives has transcribed all the war diaries of the 3rd Battalion on their own site arranged by year. This labour of love and respect is very helpful for research purposes as you can search them looking for specific names. In the transcribed 1918 war diary I did a search for Spence and found this:

  • The Belgian Government has awarded the CROIX DE GUERRE to No. 202001, Private A. Colvin, (deceased); No. 9068, Sergt. H.V. Spence (Stretcher Bearers)


In 2012 the British auction house DNW sold off Hugh Vernon Spence's medals.  

Hugh Vernon Spence WW1 medals from DNW auction site
A Great War D.C.M., M.M. group of eight awarded to Sergeant H. V. Spence, 3rd Battalion, Canadian Infantry.Hugh Vernon Spence was a pre-war member of the Canadian Militia, being an N.C.O. in the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, but it was for his gallant deeds in the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Infantry, that he was awarded his D.C.M. and M.M. He was also mentioned in despatches in Field Marshal Sir John French’s despatch dated 30 November 1915, and awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre (London Gazette 12 July 1918 refers).

Today, June 28 2014, is the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria which was the spark that lit the tinderbox of Europe that became World War I, the Great War, the war to end all wars.  The War that pulled Vernon from Toronto and Beatrice over to Europe and then back home.  

Vernon was demobilized in late April 1919 in Toronto and married Beatrice in July of 1919. We don't know how Vernon's medals ended up for auction in England. Nor do we know how we got his and Beatrice's postcards.  But now we know a bit more about their history and his military record.


Marat/Sade in the Toronto Reference Library’s Arts Department

June 26, 2014 | Jessica | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

My husband and I fell in love over a production of Marat/Sade.


MaratSade Peter Brook production LP


The work, which originally premiered in Berlin in 1964, is the play with the longest name in history: The persecution and assassination of Jean-Paul Marat : as performed by the inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the direction of the Marquis de Sade. The title is usually shortened to Marat/Sade for obvious reasons.   


The Toronto Reference Library’s Arts Department has the play in various formats:

  • The original playscript by Peter Weiss.
  • The vocal score by Richard Peaslee.
  • A CD recording of two productions: Marat/Sade and US.  
  • A DVD of Peter Brook's motion picture version of the production.
  • A vinyl recording of the Royal Shakespeare company’s production.


The Arts Department also also has a number of books discussing the significance of the play and its various incarnations. Here are a couple of them:


                                   Oxford to Orghast by Peter Brook    The American Stage


The play centres around the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat, a well-known figure in the French Revolution. In 1793 French painter Jacques-Louis David was called upon to memorialize martyrs of the French Revolution, including Marat. The famous painting, known as The Death of Marat, is pictured below.


Image from from Wikimedia Commons


Want to learn more about Jacques-Louis David and his this famous painting? Check out these and other great books about the artist:


        JLD3           JLD2          JLD5

Antiques and Collectibles Price Guides

June 21, 2014 | Valentina Ciric | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Your collection may be valuable and in need of appraisal. The world of antiques and antique shopping is a deep one with droves of various antiques throughout the world. Aged objects with a stuning degree of craftsmanship, attention to design, a variety of marks and details...but what is it, and more importantly, what is worth? These books can help you find the information you need.


         Warman's Antiques and Collectibles 2014 Price Guide          Kovels' Price Guide 2014                    


  • Kovels' Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide by Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel. Revised annually.
    Written for the average collector, Kovels is one of the more extensive price guides. It lists items in alphabetical order and cites actual asking prices. You can also view prices at, but the site does require registration.
  • Warman's Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide. Revised annually.
    More than a price guide, Warman's provides other important information about the items it lists— bit of history, collectors' clubs, auctions and resources for future research. Values are estimates based on actual prices.


Miller's Antiques and Price Guide 2014


  • Miller's Collectibles Handbook. Revised annually.
    This photograph-rich volume covers items such as: dolls, toys and games, vintage fashion, pens, sports memorabilia, advertising, character collectibles, and much more! Like Kovels, Miller's also allows you to look up pricing information at The site also requires registration.


Many factors may affect actual prices and people selling to dealers will often get prices below market value. These sources can only give you a general sense of an item's worth.

Silk Embroidered World War I Postcards

June 20, 2014 | Jessica | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

My favourite part of the Toronto Reference Library's postcard collection are its silk embroidered WW1 era postcards.

Tous Unis WW1 silk postcard

With the 100thanniversary of WW1 upon us, they are very timely reminders of earlier times. These unique postcards were sent home by soldiers to their loved ones. Instead of regular post mail, many of these WW1 silks were sent back home via military mail pouches, eliminating the need for postage stamps.

The delicate nature of silk embroidery stands in contrast to the gruesome realities of the First World War.

Greetings From France WW1 sillk postcard Forget me not WW1 silk postcard

Within TRL’s postcard collection, there is a series of embroidered postcards written to a Miss Nellie Earl of 576 Pape Ave. in Toronto. Two of these greetings were sent from France by an individual named Geo in 1918.  Geo, short for George, may have been a relative, a friend, or perhaps more.

Nellie WWI silk postcard blue diagonal overlay

Nellie WWI silk postcard blue diagonal overlay backside

Above is a third postcard addressed to Nellie, and dated May 1917, but this time signed by Reg, a soldier stationed at Witley Military Training Camp in Surrey England.  Could this be the same Nellie? It’s hard to say for sure, but we like to think so.

  A Kiss From France WW1 silk postcard with opened envelope Home sweet home WW1 silk postcard

Some of the silk postcards in our library’s collection also have pouches in front, containing either small printed greetings or handkerchiefs within them. I was excited to see these kinds of embroidered handkerchiefs featured on the popular BBC WW1 drama Crimson Field. In one particular episode, the matron of a field hospital embroidered one for a patient awaiting a court martial trial – a simple gesture which for me helped to drive home the personal nature of these kinds of artifacts.

Good luck black cat WW1 silk postcard with closed envelope

    Good luck black cat WW1 silk postcard with opened envelope

There are many websites that feature collections of WW1 silk postcards. I feel fortunate to have the chance to handle them in person at the Toronto Reference Library. If you have any interest in viewing these, or some of the other gems of our collection, please drop by the Arts Department on the 5th floor to inquire.

Want to learn more about TPL’s extensive and unique postcard collection? Below is a list of blog posts highlighting some of the other items in the Arts Department’s postcard collection:

A Kiss From France WW1 silk postcard   Home sweet home WW1 silk postcard closed
R.I.R. WW1 silk postcard with closed envelope  Happy Christmas WW1 silk postcard


Coin Price Guides and The Toronto Coin Expo

May 30, 2014 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

A man came to the Toronto Reference Library today looking for some coin price guides.  I asked him if he knew about the Toronto Coin Expo and he said yes and pulled out the auction catalogue. The Toronto Coin Expo is open to the public and is held at the Appel Salon of the Toronto Reference Library May 30 - 31th, 10-5 pm. It includes 30 dealers, various lectures and buying and selling opportunities. Admission is $6.00 for adults and children 16 and under are free with an adult. 


World Coins 1801-1900


The man was very outgoing and reminded me of my Dad.  We had a good talk about coins,  price guides available at the Library and his coin collecting past as a young teen in Rotterdam. I showed him how to use the computer and search Ebay for coins (this has some advantages over traditional reference books) and he was very pleased. 


2014 North American Coins & Prices  A guide to US, Canadian and Mexican Coins


He mentioned he's part of the North York Coin Club (there's also a Toronto Coin Club).  Like many collectors he was happy to share his passion and knowledge.





If you're interested in identifying your own coin collection then you will find many of these books useful for research and pricing.  The books below are especially useful for Canadian coins and tokens. The Canadian Numismatic Journal is a very helpful magazine about Canadian coins.


A Charlton Standard Catalogue Canadian Coins 2013 Numismatic Issues Canadian Coins Vol 2 Collector & Maple Leaf Issues

Coins of Canada by JA Haxby - Unitrade Press


Canadian Colonial Tokens - 8th Edition - W. K. Cross - Charlton Press


Coin collecting can be a very affordable and exciting hobby. Below are a couple of Canadian coins / tokens I bought for just a couple of bucks at the Sunday St Lawrence Flea Market. Individual banks and even stores could issue tokens as there were serious shortfalls of copper coins during the early 1800s.  Neither is valuable but I find them both really interesting considering they are over 150 years old!

The smaller one is from Lower Canada dated 1837. It's a half penny / un sou Province du Bas Canada "Habitant Token" from the Quebec Bank (name on ribbon - various Lower Canada banks used the same design varying their names on the ribbon). The reverse side shows the arms of the City of Montreal.    The other coin is a Quebec Bank Token from 1852 - one penny / deux sous.  One side again shows the familiar Habitant and the reverse side shows the coast of arms of Quebec City.


Canadian Tokens 1837 half penny and 1852 one penny

Canadian Tokens 1837 half penny and 1852 one penny habitant side



Annie MacDonell Performance: The Bird and the Cup

May 17, 2014 | Brent | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...



On Saturday May 31st, Artist Annie MacDonell in collaboration with Maïder Fortuné will share her findings from a month long project using the Toronto Reference Library Picture Collection. This multi-media event will take place on the new Hinton Learning Theatre on the Third Floor of Toronto Reference Library.


Part of the ScotiaBank CONTACT Photography Festival, MacDonell's ongoing project includes a  photo-mural on the 3rd floor and a display on 5th floor. Visitors to Toronto Reference Library can see both displays change as the month progresses.


And make sure to visit Annie MacDonell performance in the new Hinton Learning Theatre on the third floor, part of the ongoing renovations at Toronto Reference Library. Here's a brief exerpt from Annie's previous collaboration with Maïder "The Dreamlife of Objects":





Toronto Reference Library has a generous supply of CONTACT catalogues to help you catch all of the exiting photography events happening throughout the month.

Contact catalogue

Annie MacDonell Performance:
The Bird and the Cup
3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.  Saturday May 31
Hinton Learning Theatre, Toronto Reference Library




Annie MacDonell at Toronto Reference Library

May 1, 2014 | Brent | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...


Artist Annie MacDonell will present a photo-installation at Toronto Reference Library throughout the month of May, in partnership with the 2014 ScotiaBank CONTACT Photography Festival. Her exhibit "Pictures Become Objects, Objects Become Events" uses the library’s Picture Collection, a huge collection of over a million images taken from magazines, calendars, books, and other media. The images in the collection have been hand selected by library staff for almost 100 years.

During her month long residency at the library, MacDonnell will edit and recombine images from the collection to ask questions about how we organize visual knowledge.

How does the subject coverage in this collection differ from results obtained from Google Image search?

How much does the Picture Collection tell us about the building it occupies and the people who made it?  What does it tell us about the people who assembled the collection?

Is it significant that these selections were mainly done by women? 

          4735_Macdonnell_scans021_med[1]   4737_Macdonnell_scans031_med[1]

MacDonell’s installation will include a continuously changing display on the fifth floor Arts Department, and a collage mural reassembling scanned images from the collection on the third floor Business Science and Technology Department. She will be working in the Picture Collection on Monday through Friday from 10am to 3pm. At the end of the month she will present a performance with French artist Maïder Fortuné based on her experiences with the collection.  A book produced with the Library’s own Espresso Book Machine will follow.

One of the people who inspired the project was the art historian Aby Warburg who created a vast image library he called the Mnemosyne Atlas.  By selecting and recombining images, Warburg attempted to trace how certain ideas spread themselves across time and cultures.  In one way his work anticipates work by comparative religion scholars like Joseph Campbell. In another it’s like an incredible early version of Pinterest.


Warburg has been getting a lot of attention by art scholars. Here are some recent books:

           Art History as Cultural History        Aby Warburg and the Image in Motion      Memory, Metaphor

Both the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star have selected MacDonnell's exhibit as one of the CONTACT Festival's must sees. Over a thousand photographers are appearing at more than 175 venues throughout the Toronto Area. Here are just a few books on this year's featured artists:

      51k90ENHgVL._SL500_     00002021   Position As Desired

          21[1]        Cultivated View

Annie MacDonell: Pictures Become Objects, Objects Become Events

May 1-31 201

Toronto Reference Library

789 Yonge Street






The library's blog devoted to the discovery of diverse artistic and cultural works in the library and Toronto. For more information on what the library has to offer please see our Theatre & Performing Arts page

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