Tour the sights in the Canadiana Department

August 24, 2011 | TPL Staff

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UPDATE:  The Canadiana department closed in 2016 and most of its collections transferred to Toronto Reference Library's Humanities & Social Sciences department. The Golden Lion and North York History collections remain at North York Central in the Society & Recreation department (5th floor).


Next time you are visiting North York Central Library, you might want to ride the elevator up to the 6th floor.  The Canadiana Department contains some unique visual treats -- and some great reference resources, too!





To your right as you exit the elevator, you will meet Henry, aka The Golden Lion. He was a fixture at the hotel of the same name, which was established in 1825, and has long since departed from its location near Yonge and Sheppard.








As you face directly ahead, you will see the sign above the Canadiana Department  reference desk.   The original Canadiana Room was named in honour of Gladys Allison [1901-1979], who founded North York Public Library in 1950.  The first permanent library building  also bore her name when it opened in 1959.







If you walk past the Golden Lion, towards the south end of the floor, you will see a portrait of Gladys. It hangs above the Reading Room Map Collection.  In the map drawers you will find historical maps of York -- the town, the township and the county. As well, you can peruse old maps of other Ontario townships and counties.  An FYI for genealogists: many of these 19th century maps include lot owner information.  



 To the left of the reference desk, you will see the browsing collection for North York History.  It includes copies of Patricia Hart's landmark work "Pioneering in North York" and the index binders for the North York Photographic Collection, which includes both 19th and 20th century photos.  Of special interest are the photos taken by Ted Chirnside, who was a photographer for the North York community newspaper, The Enterprise.

You may order reproductions of photographs, or you can choose to make digital copies with your camera.

The North York History Collection also houses the 39-volume set of North York Historical Society scrapbooks, in which you will find information -- including photographs -- relating to land settlement and the establishment of schools and churches in North York.




 An additional research collection at your disposal is the set of North York History clipping files, located in the adjacent filing cabinet.

 And for a full overview of resources on this topic, pick up a copy of the Guide to North York History Resources.



 Before leaving the floor, be sure to walk towards the microfilm scanner area and look to the west.  If you gaze up you will see two  murals by Toronto artist John Fraser, painted under the artistic direction of James Sutherland, a graphic designer with Moriyama and Teshima Architects.  One mural represents a cloudscape and the other is a starry view of our galaxy. Framing the two murals are oaken mouldings with a central Maple Leaf medallion.  To quote Sutherland: "The medallion floats between the two murals almost like a sun in the sky."


Added update statement on May 12, 2022.