Caribana’s Golden Anniversary: An archival research guide

Image of an opened file folder with three documents, two yellow, on Caribana.

Caribana records from 1984 in the Jean Augustine fonds. 2007-022/005(6)

Fifty years of celebrating Caribbean culture, playing mas, and dancing to the beat of the steel pan are preserved in archival records across Ontario. Over the years, the cultural event has grown from a community’s centenary gift to Canada to North America’s largest cultural event!

As gifting gold is a tradition for fiftieth-anniversaries, our gift to celebrate five decades of festivities is an archival guide on the nuggets of information preserved in Caribana’s documentary evidence. Insights within these records hold a wealth of information that provides an opportunity to interpret and analyse Caribana’s historical, sociopolitical, and cultural narrative.

Quick introduction to archival research

While this guide can be considered a starting point to identifying institutions with related material, an understanding of archival operations and procedures will facilitate locating documents of interest.  Just like digging for gold, you'll have to sift through a lot of material to find a golden nugget. It may be long and tedious, but it’s ultimately rewarding.

Image of a meeting agenda for the Granada Association with scribbled notes on the document.

Caribana on the Grenada Association agenda in 1977 in Jean Augustine’s fonds. 2007-022/002(3)

Material of interest will not be grouped by subject, but by creator.  A list of potential record creators and important dates can be gained by reading secondary sources.

For example, material (such as the document to the left) from the Jean Augustine fonds would be overlooked if a researcher only reviews the twenty-three files with Caribana in the file name.

To learn more about archival research, please visit our research guide, the Peel Art Gallery Museum’s FAQs and Facts posts, and Active History’s Archives Theme Week posts.


List of archives with Caribana material

York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections

In support of research and learning, the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections preserves the Jean Augustine fonds (which includes meeting material and notes, speeches, photographs of Caribana including the first parade, and ephemera such as pamphlets, buttons, posters, and programs), the Toronto Telegram fonds (which contains runs of photographs of Caribana events from 1968 to 1971 and a sample of photographs are accessible at the York University Digital Library), and a collection of Contrast issues  between 1977 to 1990 that covers community topics and events.

Item consists of one round, white, metal button. In black, uppercase, the text reads: "Caribana at Varsity".

Caribana at varsity button in the Jean Augustine fonds. ASC17634

Image of three women smiling under an umbrella with Toronto City Hall in the background.

Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC41155

Image of three newspapers with caribana headlines.

Contrast, 28 July 1977, FC 106 B55 C66

Toronto Public Library

Within the holdings of Canada’s largest public library system, the Toronto Star archives contain early photographs of Caribana and a small selection of digitized photographs is available online.

Trinity College Archives (University of Toronto)

Private fonds at the Trinity College Archives include the records of David W. Nicholls, which contains over five hundred slides of Toronto scenes and events from 1954 to 1993 including Caribana.

Multicultural History Society of Ontario

Collecting, preserving, and making available records of histories of migration and ethnicity, the Multicultural History Society of Ontario’s repository holds oral history interviews with two founders (Romain Pitt and Charles Roach), a donation from Carl Thorpe containing Caribana-related ephemera, and a collection of ethnic newspapers.

Library and Archives Canada

Library Archives Canada aims to build a collection that represents the shared documentary heritage of all Canadians. Within its private holdings, the Globe and Mails fonds has graphic material covering Caribana and the third accession of the Joe Rosenthal fonds contains 40 drawings depicting Caribana produced in 1975.

Harriet Tubman Institute Resource Centre

The Harriet Tubman Institute, which is dedicated to capturing, studying, and telling the story of the migration of African peoples around the globe from centuries ago to the present day, maintains forty boxes filled with personal photographs, meeting notes, film footage, posters, pamphlets, and newspaper clippings from the early days of Caribana to recent times. [Edit: 10 February 2023. The Kenneth Shah fonds was transferred to CTASC.]

City of Toronto Archives

Records produced by the municipal government are preserved and available at City of Toronto Archives. Toronto City Council and Committees meetings, agendas, and minutes since 1998 are available online. While material from Exhibition Place, which has hosted the Grand Parade since 1991, can be found at the City of Toronto Archives, additional material is located within its own archival holdings.

Private records, such as the Jano Buda fonds, a photographer with a series focused on parades and street festivals (particularly Caribana), are also available at the Municipal repository.

Archives of Ontario

The second largest archive in Canada holds the province’s governmental records created during interactions between  Caribana organizers and the Cultural Liaison Branch, Department of Trade and Development, Ministry of Industry and Tourism, Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation, and the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration’s Legal Services Branch. While records related to Ontario Place, which has hosted De Caribana Lime since 2009, can be found in the Ministry of Tourism fonds, recent reports are available on its website.

The Archives of Ontario also holds the fonds of Alvin Curling, Chair of the Advisory Board of the Caribana Cultural Committee and a Member of the Jamaican-Canadian Association, and photographs in the recently acquired Globe and Mail fonds.

Please note: This guide is not a comprehensive list of  fonds or institutions with material related to Caribana.




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