Expanding Access Through Collection Building

ACQUIRING MATERIALS that meet the research and creative needs of the community is an important part of the Libraries’ work. Over the past 18 months, York University Libraries have acquired notable collections that provide access to range of voices. Some examples across different areas are the following: African Diaspora 1860-present; Ebony Magazine Archive; Jet Magazine Archive; Gender: Identity and Social Change. In areas of political, social, and philosophical thought, York University Libraries has acquired Socialism on Film: the Cold War and international propaganda; Encyclopedia of Political Thought; Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment; in the sciences, York University Libraries have gained access to Oxford Research Encyclopedia – Neuroscience; and Wiley Monographs Evidence-Based Acquisition collection. There are many more collections York University Libraries have purchased covering both print and electronic access.

Our Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections continue to be a place to enhance the learning of York University students with unique resources, collections and programming. The most recent acquisitions reflect York University Libraries emphasis on giving expression to marginalized communities. Examples of some of those donations include the following: literary papers of M.G. Vassanji, an award-winning author who writes on topics of South Asian and Canadian identity; the research of Professor Pat Armstrong who has written extensively on long-term care facilities for the elderly, pay equity for women in health services, and the undermining of Canadian health care; oral histories for Egypt Migrations: a Public Humanities Project collected by Dr. Michael Akladios; the records of the York Region Alliance to End Homelessness, a community-based initiative with ties to research on homelessness at York University; and the research files of the late Professor Gabriele Scardellato regarding the Italian diaspora in Canada, including internment, fascism, and political activity, 1900-1950.

For those who enjoy antiquarian and fine press books printed between the late 16th and early 21st centuries, York University Libraries acquired 569 antiquarian and fine press books from 28 booksellers and artists in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe.

ASC acquisition by numbers as of 2023:

  • 212 GBs (56,824 files) of digital records
  • 38 linear metres of textual records
  • 264 engineering drawings
  • 2,053 optical discs

In May 2023 the archives hosted a graduate-level class, taught by York English faculty member Natalie Neill, a Bronte expert, to examine several first-edition texts of Victorian literature. In particular a newly purchased acquisition of Charlotte Brontë: A Monograph by T. Wemyss Reid (1877). While copies of this particular text are now available online and in our circulating collection, our copy in special collections is one-of-a-kind. This is because it includes additional pieces of ephemera and notes pasted into the book by its former owner, John Charles Dent, who had interviewed the author of the book and was a Charlotte Bronte aficionado and contemporary. These added materials found here, including original handwriting by Charlotte Bronte herself, make our copy of this book materially and informationally valuable.

“Because we acquired this unique, one-of-a-kind, rare text for special collections, one of our faculty members was able to design a whole lesson around that text in our space and provided her students with a learning opportunity that they couldn’t have anywhere else,” says Jennifer Grant, archivist, Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections. Archivists in the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections are also active instructors teaching. In 2021 ASC hosted 16 sessions involving almost 300 students, and in 2022, 580 students enrolled in 31 courses making 88 visits to the archives. Courses ranged from first-year courses in English and Education to graduate seminars in Communications and Culture, History, Humanities, and Music. Instruction included presentations on archives and archival research, providing students an opportunity to work with archival documents and antiquarian books, and selecting special collections to support seminars led by faculty in History and Children, Childhood, and Youth Studies.

Originally published in the York University Libraries Impact Report (2021-2023).


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