Trinity College Archives Awareness A to Z

Posted: April 29, 2022

Message from the John W. Graham Library and Trinity College Archives:

April 4, 2022: Launched during Archives Awareness Week (April 4 to 8, 2022) in Ontario, and the Trinity College Archives wants you to be more aware…of archives! To that end, we’ll be participating in the Archives of Ontario #ArchivesAtoZ social media campaign, where each day we post one word related to Trinity’s Archives or archives in general – visit the John W. Graham Library on Instagram or see below to view the posts and descriptions for #ArchivesAtoZ!

April 4, 2022 | A: The first word is…Access!

The Trinity College Archives is located on the lower level of Trinity College, accessible by elevators near the Chapel. Our beautifully renovated space is full of nods to our architectural heritage – but bright, warm, and clean! We are open 9:00 am – 5:00 pm on weekdays, by appointment or chance, and can be reached at

Another aspect of access to account for is the processing of accessing our records. Unlike library resources, accessing archival material must be mediated by an archivist, since the records cannot be browsed and are held for safe-keeping in a secured vault. We strive to be as quick and as helpful as possible in facilitating your research, though, and love to help visitors in accessing our collections!

April 5, 2022 | B: The second word is…Blueprint!

The Trinity College Archives stores blueprints and architectural drawings from the college’s many buildings, including both our current location near Queen’s Park as well as the original location on Queen Street West. The first image is of Giles Gilbert Scott’s (most famous for designing the iconic red telephone box in the U.K) plan for the chapel; the second image is the doorway of Strachan Hall, as seen from the inside.

April 6, 2022 |  C:  The third word is…Conservation!

Conservation is the use of techniques, tools and methods to treat damaged items and extend the longevity of our collection. Some of the things people donate to us have been stored in less-than-ideal conditions for a very long time, and we must take measures to ensure records and objects will not continue to deteriorate over time. For example, we protect photographs and prepare them for handling by encasing them in plastic, as demonstrated by these photographs from Old Trinity. We also have several panoramic photographs that were rolled up, as seen in the second image. This will need to be carefully flattened before it can be used or displayed.

April 7, 2022  |  D:  The fourth word is…Discover Archives!

Discover Archives is a portal by which researchers can access and explore archival collections across the University of Toronto. The Trinity College Archives uses Discover Archives to create publicly accessible finding aids, so anyone anywhere can see what we have. You can browse the records of archival institutions, or search across all descriptive records for what you want to find.

April 8, 2022  |  E: The fifth word is…Exhibit!

Not everyone is going to conduct archival research, but that doesn’t mean the archives doesn’t have something to interest you! We are very fortunate that our facility has four large display cases, which lets us arrange exhibits on different eras of Trinity’s history, or highlight some of the treasures in our collection, like our selection of sweaters and blazers.

April 9, 2022  |  F: The sixth word is… Finding Aid

A finding aid is a document containing detailed metadata and other descriptive information about a collection of records. Researchers use finding aids to…aid them in finding things! The Trinity College Archives’ finding aids are organized according to the Rules for Archival Description and can be accessed on Discover Archives (see our post from Apr. 7). Consulting a finding aid is the first step in accessing archival material.

Most archival finding aids are organized from broad to specific, meaning the top level will generally describe an entire fonds or collection, the next level down may discuss a smaller portion of the whole, or a series, of records that can be grouped together, and often the bottom level describes an individual file, which can be a group of documents very specific and narrow in focus.

April 10, 2022  |  G: The seventh word is…Genealogy

Genealogy is the study of family history and lineage, and often includes tracking marriages, birth and death dates, and ancestors’ names. We receive a lot of research inquiries from people researching their family history, better known as amateur genealogists – although there is very little that is amateur about their research ability or knowledge. The images depict two examples of family trees in our collection: the Worsley family tree (in F2008) is written on starched linen drafting paper, also known as ‘sized linen’ (image shown); the second tree is for the Boultons, who were early settlers in Upper Canada and related to Mabel Cartwright, second Principal of St. Hilda’s and first Dean of Women at Trinity.

April 11, 2022  |  H: the eighth word is Hollinger box!

Hollinger boxes are the acid-free, industry standard for keeping documents safe over long periods of time. They are light enough to lift when full and fit tightly on our shelves, maximizing space. They can be fit letter- or legal-size paper, and be full or slim, and use an integrated top hinge on the lid to keep themselves closed. Walking through our vault, one would see row upon row of these grey boxes on our shelves.

April 12, 2022  |  I: the ninth word is Instruction!

The archives is a great place for a class field trip! We love having instructors bring their students to the archives, where we can introduce them to the use of archival primary source material in their research and explain how finding something in the archives is VERY different than finding something in a library. We hope to renew our on-site instruction in the fall, depending on pandemic restrictions.

April 13, 2022  |  J: the tenth word is Journal!

The journals depicted belonged to Edward Marion Chadwick, a prominent lawyer in early Toronto, and John Corbett, a traveler throughout eastern Europe on the eve of the First World War (last two images). Journals provide information not only about what was happening at the time, but how people felt about their day-to-day lives. Since they were rarely intended for a wider audience, the reader often provide an unvarnished and revealing look at how someone viewed the world.

April 14, 2022  |  K: the 11th word is King’s College

King George IV issued a royal charter in 1827 for the creation of a university in Upper Canada, to be known as King’s College. Bishop John Strachan, a vocal proponent of the new university, was its founding president, and ensured it adhered to Anglican doctrine. In 1849, the government of the Province of Canada decided to secularize King’s College, renaming it the University of Toronto. Strachan’s reaction to this was to form a second, independent Anglican university in Toronto – Trinity College. Shown here is the King’s College charter.

April 15, 2022  |  L: the 12th word is Letters

Archives often hold correspondence, and ours is no different. It can be a valuable historical source – being the only form of distance communication, people put anything and everything in letters. The example is several Victorian-era letters from the Graeme Patterson fonds, which detail arrangements made for orphans or poor children brought to Canada as farm labourers (known as Home Children). To economize on paper and postage, it was not uncommon for people to write crossed letters, where the lines of text are written at right angles to each other, as shown in the first photograph.

April 16, 2022  |  M: the 13th word is Manuscript

A manuscript literally means something written by hand – and we have many things that can be classified as such. The more familiar meaning of the word is a text or draft that is yet to be published. Manuscripts often come with an academic or writer’s personal papers and provide us insight into their creative process, where researchers can see how ideas evolved from inception to publication. The Milton Wilson fonds contains letters and draft poems from many Canadian authors, including this one by renowned poet Al Purdy.

April 17, 2022  |  N: the 14th word is Newspaper

Trinity students have been publishing newspapers since the early days. The Rouge et Noir, named for the colours worn by our early sports teams, was our first student publication, chronicling student life and events at the College. It was eventually renamed the Trinity Review and over time has morphed into an annual literary journal. Others, such as the St. Hilda’s Chronicle or the Salterrae, retained a focus on the current events of the College, and provide a snapshot from different eras with their op-eds, advertisements, and cartoons.

April 18, 2022  |  O: the 15th word is Oral History

Oral histories are collections of audio recordings of interviews with people who have knowledge of or experience with a specific historical events or topics. They are particularly valuable to historians because they allow individuals to directly tell their story in their own words. They are an established form of archiving, with set guidelines and best practices about privacy and consent. Élise, our student archives assistant, has been working on an oral history project documenting the Queer history of Trinity College. In addition to the audio file, we ensure a transcript is produced for every interview, aiding findability through full-text searching.

April 19, 2022  |  P: the 16th word is Photograph

The Trinity College Archives has a large collection of photographs depicting the life and activities of its students and faculty. Here are some examples of nineteenth and early twentieth century photographs, produced by a variety of technologies. The first two images are tintypes of Trinity’s 1902 production of Aristophanes’ The Frogs. The daguerreotype (third image), which comes with its own case, is a portrait of a medical student taken in 1894. The last images are of a Victorian carte de visite, stamped on the back with the name and arms of the subject. Cartes de visite could be used as calling cards, to be left at the home of someone you went to visit but was out or given to friends and family as mementos.

April 20, 2022  |  Q: the 17th word is Questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions archives staff are asked:

What do you have that might be useful for my project?

Our holdings contain the administrative records of the College, records documenting student life and teaching at the College, and the private papers of a select few individuals connected to Trinity in some way. Many early records pertain to the Anglican Church, but more recent donations reflect the College’s international relations program and the papers of diplomats. Depending on the nature of your research, there may be something in our collection that would interest you. If you come to us with a specific question or topic, we can tell you if our holdings can further your research.

My assignment is due tomorrow/on Monday. Can I borrow the material for the night/weekend?

Archival material is unable to be loaned out to researchers for any reason. Most records deposited in archives are by nature unique, meaning we have the original and only copy and cannot risk them being damaged or lost – even if you promise to be really careful. If you require access to archival material for a period longer than the archives is open, arrangements can be made, on a limited and case-by-case basis, to have the material available in the John W. Graham Library for consultation.

Do you have records that my family member went/was married here?

If you have an exact or narrow date range, we have several places we can search to confirm your relative’s time at Trinity College, including yearbooks, class composites, alumni directories, the matriculation registry, and the chaplain’s wedding registry. That said, if you come to us saying your great-great grandfather went to the University of Toronto sometime in the ‘20s or ‘30s, we may not be able to help you. If we had a nickel for every person we spent hours searching for who actually went to Victoria College…

April 21, 2022  |  R: the 18th word is Research

The Trinity College Archives is open to anyone wishing to consult our collections, including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, visiting scholars, independent researchers, genealogists, alumni, or curious members of the public. The archives staff will not only facilitate your access to our material but can provide direction to your research and suggest other avenues you might explore. We have ample space for researchers at our reading room table, lockers to store your belongings, and carrels for scholars who intend to spend a significant amount of time in the archives and would like a more private space. We just ask you follow a few rules:

  • please leave the documents in the order in which they were found
  • please avoid bringing any food items or beverages into the archives
  • researchers are asked to take notes either on a laptop or with a pencil, not a pen
  • please refrain from removing any records from the archives – we’ll probably see you doing it, and then it’s just awkward for everyone

April 22, 2022  |  S: the 19th word is Scrapbook

The Trinity College Archives has many scrapbooks, often put together by students to keep an official record of their year. These scrapbooks contain items like menus, event or theatre programs, newspaper clippings about the college, and photographs. Our collection of student scrapbooks documents the early twentieth century through to the 1960s.

April 23, 2022  |  T: the 20th word is Textiles

We don’t just have paper! Over the years, Trinity College has produced a colourful range of clothing and other cloth item, and we have many of them! Blazers, scarves, ties, beanies, cardigans, gowns, flags, and more! Archives fashion show, anyone?

April 24, 2022  |  U: the 21st word is Underground

The Trinity College Archives is located on the lower level of the main building, directly beneath the main corridor. Archives are commonly (although certainly not always) located below ground. This eliminates the issue of trying to determine if the floors higher up in a building can physically support the weight of our shelves and records, and it makes it easier to keep stable the temperature and humidity of our climate-controlled vault. It also means that archivists are extra appreciative of the sun…when we get to see it.

April 25, 2022  |  V: the 22nd word is Volunteering

The Trinity College Archives relies on a dedicated group of volunteers to complete certain tasks and keep things running. From students interested in the College’s history, alumni looking to help, or staff wanting to try something new, we’re grateful to our volunteers for their service and the excellent work they complete. Here’s one task everyone’s always eager to volunteer for: polishing the silver!

April 26, 2022  |  W: the 23rd word is Wax Seal

Wax seals have been used for millennia to authenticate and protect documents. When considering wax seals, one may think of a costume drama where a character uses melted wax, stamped with their signet ring, to seal a document, letting the recipient know if the letter was opened or tampered with in transit. That is an applied seal, which sits physically on the document to close it.

Here are two examples of pendant seals, where the stamped wax hangs from the document by string or ribbon. A practice started in mediaeval Europe, these were typical for formal legal documents or letters patent, where the contents were public. The first is on an land deed granted to The Rev. John Strachan in 1804 – the seal is notably dry and cracked. The second image is of Trinity College’s royal charter, granted by Queen Victoria in 1852. The green circle at the bottom used to depict the royal seal, but at some point over the last 170 (before it got to the archives, we promise!) the wax melted, leaving a rather large, round crayon in its place.

April 27, 2022  |  X: the 24th word is eXtracurricular

The Trinity College Archives is available for more than just your academic research; we also support the extracurricular activities of our students. The Archives is linked with the Trinity College Historical Society, a group of students interested in the College’s past and telling its story to the present. Historical Society members often help us out with different projects, from digitization projects to exhibit preparation to Wikipedia edit-a-thons. If you’re a Trinity College student looking to learn more about the institution’s history, contact the TCHS.

April 28, 2022  |  Y: the 25th word is Yearbook

Trinity College’s yearbook, The Stephanos, has been in print since the 1982-83 academic year. It’s a fantastic guide to contemporary student life and culture and it is always amazing to see what’s changed and what has stayed the same. The name, The Stephanos, is Greek, meaning “crown” or “wreath”, taken from Trinity’s motto: “Met’Agona Stephanos” or “After the Contest, the Crown”.

In addition to The Stephanos, we have many copies of Torontonensis, the University of Toronto’s yearbook from 1898-1966. Trinity College students, as members of the University of Toronto, were featured in this campus-wide publication.

April 29, 2022  |  Z: the 26th and last word is Zitner

The Trinity College Archives houses the private records of many individuals connected to the College, especially its former faculty. One such individual is Sheldon Zitner, English professor, Renaissance scholar, and poet. His fonds includes published and unpublished poetry, correspondence relating to his career as a poet, drafts of academic essays, and an audio recording of an interview for CBC Radio from 2000. Zitner’s fonds, as varied as it is, it representative of the kind of private record collections we hold. If you have records that relate to our mandate of documenting the history of Trinity College, or support our teaching subject areas, please contact the Archives for a consultation.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this archival trip through the alphabet (visit the Trinity College Archives webpage here)! Come visit us sometime!