As one of the McGill University Libraries' Special Collections, the John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection is an important resource for architecture and urban planning research. Its mandate is to document the work of architects who have studied and/or taught at the McGill University School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Through photographs, drawings, and corollary documentation, the CAC also seeks to represent the evolution of the McGill campus, the City of Montreal, and the architectural heritage of Quebec and Canada.
In addition to supporting the teaching and research requirements of the McGill Schools of Architecture and Urban Planning, the CAC staff assists other departments within McGill, as well as the architecture and art history departments in the region. The CAC also provides a service to practising architects, art and architecture historians, and independent researchers.
The John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection was established by Professor Emeritus John Bland, Director of the McGill School of Architecture from 1941 to 1972. Since the inception, an effort has been made to document and publicize the CAC fonds through a series of published guides and more recently electronic publications and websites. Researchers interested in exploring the fonds held by the CAC are encouraged to use the general guide to the fonds available on-line at the CAC.
The CAC contains over seventy fonds and currently consists of over 157,240 drawings, 25,000 photographs and 11,780 slides, 190 models, 300 maps, 35 three-dimensional objects as well as 400 linear metres of related professional and personal papers of 19th and 20th century Canadian architects. Vertical files contain material on McGill buildings, and biographical information on Canadian architects. As well, the CAC serves as a repository for 770 student papers prepared in the last 30 years for the course History of Architecture in Canada. The CAC supports the teaching and research requirements of the McGill School of Architecture, and its material is used regularly as a teaching aid.
Students also use CAC material as the basis for their term projects. The CAC prepares its own exhibitions, loans material to museums and other qualified institutions, and sponsors public tours and lectures related to the archives.
The John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection has been awarded numerous important research, exhibition and publication grants from the federal, provincial and municipal governments. The CAC's most challenging initiative has been the acquisition, organization, description and digitization of the largest archive, representing the first half of Moshe Safdie's professional career. The archive currently consists of over 120,000 drawings, 120 sketchbooks, 190 models, 1,100 presentation boards, 360 linear metres of project and office files, 14,000 photographs, 4,625 slides and 190 units of audio-visual material. The project was supported by a three-year research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The close relationship with the School of Architecture is demonstrated by the continuous employment of students and alumni in all CAC special projects.