Friends of the Library

RSC Meeting at McGill October 22-26, 2018

Library Matters - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 17:19

By Joseph Hafner, Associate Dean, Collection Services

The McGill University Library is pleased to be hosting the RDA Steering Committee (RSC) for one of their fall in-person meetings.

RDA (Resources Description and Access) is

Kathy Glennan’s presentation cited the 2015 statement from the Committee of Principals for RDA, asserting that the standard is “more than just cataloging rules.” (

The publishers are the American Library Association, the Canadian Library Federation, CILIP: Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (UK). The members of the Committee come from institutions including: Library of Congress, Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Guelph Public Library, National Library of New Zealand, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, University of Maryland, Library and Archives Canada, etc. 

Throughout the week the Committee will be holding open sessions for the local library community who are interested, along with some people traveling to Montreal to take part in the meetings during the week.

In advance of the meetings at McGill, the RDA Steering Committee (RSC) and Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) are hosting an event on Monday, 22 October 2018 called “The Redesigned RDA Toolkit: What You Need to Know to Get Ready.”  This outreach event will be held at the Auditorium of the Grande Bibliothèque, BAnQ from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

The program will include a brief orientation to the IFLA Library Reference Model (IFLA LRM), which will set the context for an overview of the 3R Project (RDA Toolkit Restructure and Redesign Project). There will be a demonstration of the beta Toolkit, as well as presentations on some important changes in RDA content. The role of NARDAC, the North American RDA Committee, will be explained.

For more information about these events, please feel free to contact JosephHafner, Associate Dean, Collection Services, McGill University Libraries, or Linda Barnhart, RSC Secretary at

Book annotations as witness to the Dutch influence in Japan during the Edo period

Library Matters - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 18:27



The rare illustrated work, Geko shuko zushiki (Surgical Bandaging Illustrated, 1813), accompanies the Japanese abridged translation of Lorenz Heister’s Heelkundige Onderwijzingen.



During the Edo period, from the mid-17th to the mid-19th century, Japan adopted an isolationist policy. At this time, the only Westerners allowed access to the country were the Dutch, who were permitted to trade from their outpost on the manmade island of Dejima, in Nagasaki Bay. Along with the trade of goods came the exchange of knowledge.


Among the books recently purchased for the Osler Library is one that provides a compelling visual representation of the influence of Dutch learned medicine in Japan. Together with the two-volume Japanese translation of Lorenz

Dutch annotations within the Japanese text.

Heister’s work on surgical bandaging (Geka shuko, 1814) is a third but earlier volume, Geko shuko zushiki (Surgical Bandaging Illustrated, 1813). It is this third volume that features here.


The illustrated edition contains fine woodcuts depicting various types of and techniques for bandaging. What is particularly remarkable is that this work contains annotations in both Dutch and Japanese, demonstrating the communication of surgical knowledge that took place in Dejima. The contents are practical, for instance depicting different types of bandage that can be employed to treat different wounds. The techniques for bandaging that are displayed include those for the face, the head, the limbs. Thus, the text demonstrates not only the sharing of knowledge between the Dutch and the Japanese, but also provides detailed information about surgical bandaging, much of which remains relevant today.


Detail of descriptions written in Dutch, accompanying the Japanese text.

Manuscript notes relating to facial bandaging.



Further reading

  • Hiki, Sumiko. 2001. “Surgeons Who Contributed to the Enlightenment of Japanese Medicine.” World Journal of Surgery 25 (11): 1383–87.
  • Mishima, Yoshio. 2006. “The Dawn of Surgery in Japan, with Special Reference to the German Society for Surgery.” Surgery Today: The Japanese Journal of Surgery 36 (5): 395–402.
  • Van Gulik, Thomas M, and Yuji Nimura. 2005. “Dutch Surgery in Japan.” World Journal of Surgery 29 (1): 10–17.

From the Beagle to the Bookshelf: Darwin at McGill Library

Library Matters - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 17:42

A ROAAring congratulations to McGill biologist Dr. Ehab Abouheif and his team of researchers on their study of ants, which led to the discovery of a solution to an evolutionary conundrum that made Charles Darwin question his own theory of natural selection.  Dr. Abouheif recently stopped by the Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) reading room to admire a first edition copy of Darwin’s famed work, On the Origin of Species.  ROAAr’s Darwin holdings don’t stop there, though – far from it.  We thought we’d take this opportunity to highlight some of the exciting Darwin works in our collections (though this is not an exhaustive list – contact us if you’d like to know more!).

Blacker Wood Natural History Collection

“The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, under the command of Captain Fitzroy during the years 1832 to 1836.” London: Smith, Elder, 1839-1843. Blacker Wood folio QH11 Z66 1839.

The Blacker Wood Natural History Collection, which Dr. Abouheif describes as having been a vital resource during his postgraduate studies, includes a number of publications by Darwin.  A few of the highlights from our holdings include:  The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle (1839-1843), which contains hundreds of striking full-colour illustrations documenting the specimens collected by Darwin during his time aboard the Beagle; his two major publications documenting his research on barnacles; first editions of landmark works such as The variation of animals and plants under domestication (1868), The descent of man (1871), and The expression of the emotions in man and animals (1872), along with many of his works on species variation in plants.

“Letters and autographs of zoologists with biographies and portraits.” [S.l. : s.n., 19–?]. Blacker Wood Manuscripts QL26 W66, v. 1-12.

These published works are supplemented by a number of handwritten letters, sent by Darwin to geologist Henry Woodward, which were later compiled in a scrapbook by Woodard’s wife, Ellen.

Perhaps most significant, however, is the fact that the Blacker Wood collection holds not only the first edition of On the Origin of Species (1859), but also the third, fourth, and sixth editions of this milestone work in the history of science.

When the first edition of a scientific work is published, it immediately invites critique, and is often followed by a re-examination of experiments and data. As a result, when subsequent editions are published, they often include large amounts of new information.

“On the origin of species by means of natural selection: or, The preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.”  London: J. Murray, 1859. Blacker Wood QH365 O2 1859.

Darwin’s Origin of Species provides a fantastic example of this process.  Between the publication of the 1st edition in 1859, and the 6th edition in 1872, a whopping 379 sentences were dropped, 5,612 sentences were altered, and 1,529 sentences were added, along with new addenda, tables, and prefatory material.  It wasn’t until the 5th edition that Herbert Spencer’s phrase “survival of the fittest” was even used, and it wasn’t until the 6th edition that Darwin chose to include the word “evolution.” (Our thanks to Richard Landon for this remarkable bibliographic analysis).

Looking at multiple editions of the same work allows students and researchers a unique and fascinating view into the gradual development of Darwin’s theory.  Tracing the changes in these early editions can also shed light on the publication history of the work, the life of the author, on the printing and editorial process, and on the political circumstances surrounding a work’s publication – details that go far beyond what one might find in a general biography.

Manuscripts and Archival Collections

Charles Darwin Folio, Autograph Letter Collection, Manuscript and Archival Collections

Darwin was a supremely thorough researcher, who famously spent eight years solely examining the barnacle. He was also known for graciousness in his dealings with colleagues. This charming combination of qualities shines through in letters penned by him and housed in ROAAr’s Autograph Letter Collection. In one, he writes, “Forgive me for asking… Do you chance to know if the male woodpecker takes a share in incubation?” before signing off with characteristically effusive gratitude. In another, he writes, “Very many thanks for your attempts to find out about the mandrills”. Nearly all of the letters start and end with some variation on the theme of “many, many thanks”.

Elsewhere in the Autograph Letter Collection, there is a letter penned by Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus, a colourful Enlightenment thinker who, amongst many other things, wrote epic poems about Linnaeus’s taxonomic system. In the letter, he advises a friend trying to recover from an opium habit. “Onions might be a good article of food for you”, he writes.


Osler Library of the History of Medicine

Osler Prints Collection, number OP000349.

A history of medicine library might not be the first place one would think to look for materials relating to Darwin and debates about evolution, but the Osler is home to many works that are generally regarded as forming the intellectual foundation of Western science and medicine. Thus, among its books are several editions of books authored by Charles Darwin and his critics. Among those is On the tendency of species to form varieties: and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection, the 1858 precursor to On the origin of species (of which the Osler has editions from 1861, 1872, 1885). Another – arguably more closely related to the Osler Library’s strengths in the history of neurology and psychology – is a first edition (1872) of Darwin’s The expression of the emotions in man and animals.

In addition to Darwin’s own writings are several works from his contemporaries, such as responses to On the origin of species by Samuel Wilberforce (1860) and Richard Owen (1860). Coming a few decades later and presenting the French perspective are volumes by Armand de Quatrefages de Bréau: Darwin et ses précurseurs français (1892) and Les émules de Darwin (1894).

Besides books, the Osler Library holds an extensive prints collection, in which there are a few images of Charles Darwin and several of his physician grandfather, Erasmus Darwin. The library also has archival holdings, including the S.C. Simpson Collection of Darwiniana. Dr. Simpson was working in England at the time of the centenary of Darwin’s birth in 1909 and collected newspaper clippings, programs, dinner menus, and other commemorative items.

McGill University Archives

McGill University Archives, Dawson-Harrington families fonds (MG1022), 0000-2211. and 0000-2211.

Although John William Dawson (1820-1899) – geologist and former principal of McGill University –  spoke against Darwin’s theory of evolution in many of his publications, that did not prevent the two of them from exchanging ideas on many science subjects, including geology and what would become palaeobotany. In this letter from Charles Darwin to John William Dawson, Darwin thanks the latter for his work on the fossil plants of the Silurian and Devonian rocks of Canada, that he wrote for the Geological Survey of Canada.

McGill University Archives holds several archival fonds of geologists of this era, including John William Dawson’s eldest son George Mercer Dawson (MG1022), William Edmond Logan (MG2046), and Joseph William Winthrop Spencer (MG3038).

This is but a brief sampling of ROAAr’s extensive Darwin-related holdings.  Please contact any of the following staff for more information:  Elis Ing (Archival Collections & Manuscripts, RBSC), Lauren Williams (Blacker Wood Collection, RBSC), Mary Hague-Yearl (Osler Library of the History of Medicine), and Frédéric Giuliano (McGill University Archives).

Center for Contemporary Islam

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 17:17

The Center for Contemporary Islam (CCI) is part of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town. CCI was founded in 1995 in response to the Department of Religious Studies’ mission to understand and study various aspects of religion in contemporary African society.  Many projects have been completed at CCI, whether independently or in collaboration with other scholars and institutes from all over the world. Projects  cover a wide range of topics related to Islam and Muslim society such as: Islamic Law in Africa; Religion, Culture and Identity in post-apartheid South Africa; Muslim Publics in Africa; Islam, Gender and Sexuality; Islam and Manuscript Cultures in sub-Saharan Africa; and Muslim Intellectuals in the Lake Chad Transnational Space.

One of the CCI’s objectives is to provide a platform from which researchers can share and reflect their ideas and thoughts about Islam and Muslims. This has led to the creation of two publications both with a focus on Islam in Africa:

  • The Journal for Islamic Studies (JIS) – a peer-reviewed publication accredited by the Department of Education (South Africa)
  • The Annual Review of Islam in Africa (ARIA) – a forum for young and established researchers to publish their findings in a shorter and accessible format.

JIS can be accessed through McGIll Library from here.

ARIA is also accessible online from 1998 to 2016 click here.

2018 Library Ice Cream Socials: a Delicious Success!

Library Matters - Thu, 10/04/2018 - 14:34

I scream, you scream, we all scream for the Library’s Ice Cream Socials! On August 30 (Downtown Campus) and September 6, 2018 (Macdonald Campus), Library staff gathered outdoors to answer questions and share a frozen treat with new and returning McGill students.

The events offered the McGill community a warm welcome to the Library while providing the opportunity to interact with staff from different branches and departments on topics as wide-ranging as interlibrary loans, Library collections, electronic resources, branches and much more. After visiting two stations, students received a free ice cream. What fun!


Library Abuzz With 2018 Homecoming Tours & Resources

Library Matters - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 14:15

McGill Library has planned a fun mix of tours for McGill Homecoming (Thursday October 11 – Saturday, October 13). Discover (and interact with!) our extraordinary collections. From rare books and special collections to archives and visual arts, it will be a feast for the senses. All activities are listed below in chronological order. They are FREE and some require registration.

We look forward to welcoming you back to McGill and the Library!

Tour | One-hour tour of Rare Books and Special Collections, Osler Library Collections and McGill University Archives

From historic manuscripts to artworks and photographs, don’t miss this amazing opportunity to see McGill’s unique treasures up-close with experts on-hand to provide history and context.

Friday, October 12 from 10:00 to 11:00am

Meet in the lobby of the McLennan-Redpath Library Complex
3459 McTavish Street
Montreal, Quebec
H3A 0C9

No registration required

Tour | Public Art at McGill

Join us for a one hour tour of the public art on McGill’s downtown campus. See works by renowned Canadian and international artists from our permanent collection. Come rain or shine!

Friday, October 12 from 11:00am to noon

Meet at the information desk of the McLennan-Redpath Library Complex
3459 McTavish Street
Montreal, Quebec
H3A 0C9

Click here to register









Tour | One-hour tour of Rare Books and Special Collections, Osler Library Collections and McGill University Archives

From historic manuscripts to artworks and photographs, don’t miss this amazing opportunity to see McGill’s unique treasures up-close with experts on-hand to provide history and context.

Saturday, October 13 from 1:00 to 2:00pm

Meet in the lobby of the McLennan-Redpath Library Complex
3459 McTavish Street
Montreal, Quebec
H3A 0C9

No registration required









Library services for alumni

  •  Alumni can sign up for a FREE McGill Library Borrowing Card*. Register now to borrow books and other print materials from the McGill Library.
  • Access special e-resources through a searchable catalogue dedicated specifically to alumni. Start exploring McGill Alumni E-Resources* now!

Learn more about other exciting events and initiatives for alumni here.

*restrictions may apply

Online offerings

Can’t make it to Homecoming in-person? No worries. We’ve got tons of electronic resources to help you stroll down memory lane from wherever you are!

  • New! Horae: Collection of Books of Hours: Features Books of Hours in both manuscript and printed form, spanning several centuries from Rare Books and Special Collections at the McGill Library. In the 1920s and 1930s, Gerhard R. Lomer, one of McGill University’s first librarians, launched an innovative project to create a small museum of the book inside the library open to the general public, to present a brief history of manuscript and printed books as well as the iconography through the centuries. A number of Books of Hours were acquired for this museum as were single leaves and miniatures. Later donations of several Books of Hours added to the Library’s holdings.The launch of the collection coincides with Resplendent Illuminations: Books of Hours from the 13th to the 16thCentury in Quebec Collections, an exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts co-curated by our recently retired Rare Books and Special Collections colleague, Dr. Richard Virr. 
  • Old McGill Yearbooks: A rich resource for family researchers and historians alike, this slice of McGill’s history provides a unique view of student life, learning and research. Browse through the years (1898 – 2000) or enter a name. Explore Old McGill memories and stories told through photographs, drawings, letters, poetry, song, and so much more. Access them at
  • Highlights from the McGill Library these and dissertation collection: Did you know that 135 years of McGill graduate scholarship is available to be viewed online? Explore highlights from our theses and dissertation collection at to read work by notable McGill graduates. Do you know someone who wrote a thesis at McGill? More than 41,902 theses are now available for viewing at We invite you to go search and lose yourself down the rabbit hole. Found something cool? Connect with us to share and you might just find it featured on the website!
  • Student Publications: With 140 years of student produced content, covered in 9,868 issues in eighteen unique papers, the student publications at McGill has a rich history. Student publications include widely disseminated student newspapers written and published by students on both the downtown and Macdonald campuses, covering the events, daily life, and opinions of students. From lofty intellectualism of nineteenth century McGill publications, to the anti-war resistance of 1960s The McGill Daily issues, the student papers at McGill shifted greatly in content and scope. However, what these publications do share is the virtue of revealing not only the lives of McGill students, but also that of a young residents of Montreal, Canada, and the larger world. All issues are available to search and download through the Internet Archive You may also want to access this great blog post written by guest contributor and student Annelise Dowd for a brief history of student publications.
  • McGill Rare Instagram Account: Started by four McGill librarians in February 2016, the McGill_Rare Instagram account now has a following of over 5,000 individuals and institutions who love the behind-the-scenes glimpse at all things rare and beautiful. The collective makes it their mission to share a diversity of materials that represent many subjects and collections at McGill. From Islamic calligraphy to tiny children’s books, the Instagram posts generate user questions about the library’s rare holdings and digital collections, a dialogue that benefits both the librarians and the audience. The posts are thoughtfully curated to match themes, events, anniversaries, and collective Instagram hashtag “challenges” such as #ManuscriptMonday, #Canadiana150 and #styleinthestacks.

What’s the Big Deal with Professors’ Fonds?

Library Matters - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 11:00

You would believe a professor’s life ends at our school’s doorsteps

Some of us students have this funny idea that professors are bound behind thick round glasses and pile upon pile of corrections due in a week or so. And while this statement is not exactly untrue, it is not entirely correct as well. In fact, their institution actively encourages them to leave the school as much as possible!

But let us take a small step back and ask ourselves what is a professor: is it not the same as a teacher? Well, it goes this way: Quebec is in Quebec, but not the other way around. Let me phrase it otherwise: the city is in the province, but not the other way around. Following this logic: a professor is a teacher, but a teacher is not necessarily a professor. While the value of a teacher’s duties should not be lessened by the following distinction, it is important to note the difference if we are to go forth in this path.

In the course of their lives, professors usually travel around a lot, meet with a variety of people from all across the country and the globe, publish impressive amounts of material like books or articles.

But after their retirement, what do all these accumulated records amounts to?

I believe that in explaining what the value of a professor fonds is, two lessons can be learned. Firstly, that they are vast and varied in their shape and content, which allows researchers for a much broader understanding of their complicated lives; and secondly, that the professor who will be teaching your next class is probably an international superstar without you even realizing it.

It Rains Archives

William G. Watson, May 1985. By Van Dyck & Meyers Ltd.

For the sake of this exercise, one must only look at one of our most recent acquisitions: the William Watson fonds. The titular creator of the fonds has taught economics at McGill Economics for 40 years and wrote countless articles for the Financial Post and the Ottawa Citizen. Those are the surface level details you will find, but if we go deeper, we will soon see how full a professor’s life can actually get.

If we take a year at random, say 1990, we will find that Mr. Watson, according to our holdings, published 2 articles and 1 paper; attended to 2 lectures, 2 forums, 6 meetings and 2 seminars; gave 10 interviews and 3 presentations; taught 3 courses at McGill; was part of a series of boards and committees; and received 3 cm of correspondence. These may seem like small numbers, but one has to consider the work it takes to prepare a course, a paper, a presentation, etc. Imagine if, by next year, you had to prepare at least 20 oral presentations, to compose 3 written works, to build up enough material for 3 courses and be an active member of at least 5-6 committees or boards. Added to all this work, you must also keep a healthy correspondence with colleagues and friends alike. This represents a good 32 files of content for a single year!

A pile of records cumulated by Mr. Watson during 1990

On some years, professors such as Mr. Watson are so invested in their work, they can double or triple those numbers (and, in some cases, go even further than that). This obviously means that the archives material related to these different occupations keeps piling up, file by file, and centimetre by centimetre. When we receive a professor fonds, it is like witnessing the

result of a rain of records that could not be stopped for decades on end.

But Archivists Have Raincoats

While processing what can sometimes be great volumes of professor archives, a question arises immediately: how can I make sure I won’t erase the initial complexity of their lives? Still, with Professor William Watson fonds, answers could be found for that question.

The McGill University Archives (MUA) received 16 boxes from the fonds’ creator, which amounted to a total of 5.05 linear meters of archives. The length of kept archives is impressive, to say the least: 2.23 linear meters. That represents only 44% of the original donation!

Why is that so?

8 boxes of rejected material, along with some rejected housing material

Simply because of our “raincoat” or, as we call it, sorting criteria.

Now, creating criteria for private fonds has been a scholarly debate for at least three decades, and while the MUA built its own answers to the problem, it did not solve the issue entirely; it only made processing these records easier and less threatening. In fact, many American universities have done the same, having built adapted sorting criteria. Adapted is the keyword here, since the goals of one archival centre do not necessarily correspond to those of another archival centre. For example, we, at the MUA, accept records of all formats (as stated in our terms of references), but other archival centres might not be so lenient.

There is a saying that states that if we were to suddenly lose all Christian texts except one, only the Sermon on the Mount would be necessary. With that in mind, an archivist’s duty in processing an acquisition is to keep only the strict minimum. When it comes to a professor fonds, one fundamental goal comes to mind: after the processing, researchers should be able to tell anyone, with only the help of a simple glance, who was that person and their profession.

10 boxes of kept material

The sorting criteria, in such cases, are an essential tool built from two sources: the archival team’s judgment and the MUA’s mission, the latter certainly governing the former. But another factor comes into play: the donor. Some donors who retire and gift their archives to the MUA work closely with the service in order to make sure that no crucial archives are rejected. After all, nobody knows their own life better than themselves. In that regard, a note could be added to the saying: archivists get to say what is history or not, in which we could state that the donor, a professor who has influenced the history of its field, can also influence its own prosperity through his archives and through how they are handled during the processing. A collaboration of this sort not only, as stated earlier, saves archives that would have been lost otherwise, but makes finding aids more complete and accessible.

The Complex State of Professors Fonds

Exactly what archives can we expect from a professor fonds? The list is very long, but if we review Mr. Watson fonds, which is typical of professors fonds, we can see that all book, article or paper drafts occupy 29.4% of the fonds; material related to public addresses such as speech notes, prepared papers, promotional material, amount to 8.6% of the fonds; course material related to his teaching career at McGill, such as syllabi, lecture notes, examinations and so on, makes up 30.8% of the fonds; and correspondence, which is mainly built from letters and postcards, represents 16.7% of the fonds. This is not the entire picture, but you can already see that there are many different types of records an archivist has to consider carefully during the processing phase.

Original PhD thesis titled The Age of Entitlement, 1980.

Course material for the first course Watson taught at McGill in fall 1977

A Final Word on Status

It is an unquestionable fact that professors are the living proof of the establishment’s quality. Men and women alike, reunited under three martlets for the advancement of all sciences. They made history and they will keep being part of it. Truly, professors might retire, but their presence, in the form of archives fonds, remains.

In fact, they never actually leave our school’s doorsteps.



All original material used for this blog entry was pulled from MG4281 – William G. Watson fonds.

Written by — James Gobeille, Archives Assistant (Young Canada Works program) —

“Happily Scottish and Proudly Canadian” : The Sons of Scotland at ROAAr

Library Matters - Fri, 09/28/2018 - 10:55

By Olivia Kurajian, Rare Books and Special Collections Summer Intern, August 2018


Sons of Scotland Benevolent Association realia.

Our community is beholden to the Scots. James McGill, a Scottish immigrant, formed McGill University’s precursor, McGill College, and is the namesake of the current institution. Now, Scottish-Canadians have once again contributed to the University with the generous donation of archival material from the Sons of Scotland Benevolent Association (S.O.S.B.A).

In 1876, the Sons of Scotland Benevolent Association was established as a male-only fraternal association aimed at supporting Scottish immigrants in Canada. The Association emphasized the importance of retaining a sense of Scottish culture amongst immigrants and their descendants. Through a focus on Scottish dress, customs, sports, history, music and literature, the Association helped maintain a Scottish spirit in the Dominion of Canada.

Originally comprised of three “camps”, or groups of members, the Association grew to incorporate dozens of camps throughout Canada. At the Association’s height, there were five district camps in Montreal. The original three camps (Robert Burns #1, Robert the Bruce #2, and St. Andrew #3) united to form a “Grand Camp” that still serves as an administrative head for all other district camps.

Plaque presented to the Sons of Scotland Grand Camp in British Columbia, 1991. Depicting a ‘Thunder Bird’, it was carved by W. Stevenson, a local Wolf Clan artist.

Originally a fraternal association, the Association was also beneficial to the Scottish community in other ways.  For example, it provided various types of insurance policies to Scottish newcomers. Furthermore, insurance plans were created to aid the sick, poor, widowed, and orphaned members of the Canadian-Scottish community. These plans served as a level of economic security for Scottish communities in the case of the death of loved ones. The plight of immigrants was often partially alleviated through these programs. As widows or mothers, women were particularly supported through these plans.

Scottish-Canadian women were granted official membership in 1909, though they played a peripheral role in the Association since its beginning. Interestingly, the first initiation of “lady members” did not occur until 1919, a decade following the permission to join.

Sons of Scotland Benevolent Association plaque.

Since 1919, some of the predominantly-male positions in the Association have been held by female members. These positions include Chief, Chieftain, Past Chief, Chaplain, Recording Secretary, Financial Secretary, and Treasurer, amongst others. Women have made extraordinary contributions to fraternal organizations in Montreal, and the Sons of Scotland has surely benefited from their actions and commitment.

The Sons of Scotland have organized an abundance of social activities for the public and for its members. These events range from barbecues to traditional Scottish Burns suppers. Members and nonmembers are encouraged to celebrate Scottish dress, customs, food, music, history, and sports.

The Sons of Scotland Benevolent Association, throughout its nearly 150 years of existence, has touched other communities apart from its Scottish-Canadian base. Now, McGill University’s Rare Books and Special Collections is the fortunate beneficiary of this unique collection, which will soon be processed and made available to researchers.

“Fraternally yours”,

Olivia surrounded by some unique items in the Sons of Scotland collection

Olivia Kurajian

The Sons of Scotland fonds (MSG 1205) and the Scottish Centre of Montreal fonds (MSG 1206) are both available to researchers by request.

Related links:

Sons of Scotland official website

Sons of Scotland fonds at Simon Fraser University


The Memory of Modern Egypt Project مشروع ذاكرة مصر المعاصرة

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Thu, 09/27/2018 - 10:20

The Memory of Modern Egypt project is an attempt to create the largest digital library of materials of cultural and historical value related to the contemporary history of Egypt, beginning with the reign of Muhammad Ali in 1805 to the end of President Sadat in 1981.

The digitized collection is composed of materials drawn from collections of various libraries. Items include materials from senior politicians and Egyptian writers, as well as materials from many institutions and private collections related to the history of modern Egypt during the past 200 years, in addition to the historical archives of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The Digital Library aspires to be the main source of historical material related to the history of Egypt, and has thus been designed in a way that allows the addition of new materials as they become available.

Searching for materials is simply a matter of clicking on the desired topic (rulers, prime ministers, events, topics or public figures). From there, icons appear on the left half of the page indicating the number of available materials for the desired topic, which can be further searched by clicking on the icons.

The timeline at the bottom of each page follows the contemporary history of Egypt beginning in 1799 and ending in 1981. This timeline helps the researcher to determine the time-frame for research. For example, when moving from the right side using the mouse until 1860 and from the left until 1900.  It reduces the number of materials available to coincide with the selected 40 years. This is shown by changing the number of available materials indicated by the icons on the left side of the page, which match the chosen time-frame.

Here are some of the FAQ that may be of interest

What is the purpose of this website and who created it?

This site documents the history of modern Egypt from the rule of Muhammad Ali Pasha in 1805 until the end of the presidency of the late President Mohamed Anwar Sadat in 1981. There are numerous articles related to the history of Egypt during the past hundred and sixty-seven years. These materials include digital photographs of documents, photographs, coins, stamps, audio and video recordings, among others. The establishment of this site was a concerted effort between the International Institute for Information Studies (ISIS), a specialized research institute at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and the library’s project management, which was responsible for collecting the content of the site and passing it on to the International Institute for Information Studies On the past to be available to future generations in a digital format.   

Q-Will this site be available in other languages?

Thus far, there are no plans to translate the site into other languages ​​and a large proportion of the original material is available in Arabic.

Q-Can I upload pictures, movies, documents, etc., from your site?

Copyright is held by the contributors to this project, who gave the Library of Alexandria the right to display these materials only for public benefit. The library does not have the right to make these materials available for printing, so one cannot download or print any of the materials available on the site.



R. Tait McKenzie: Bridging the Gap Between Art and Science

Library Matters - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 13:16
Written by Davin Luce, Museum Database Assistant at the McGill Visual Arts Collection

In honour of Science Literacy Week, the Visual Arts Collection is highlighting the work of physician, physical education pioneer, and artist Robert Tait McKenzie (1867-1938). While a student at McGill, McKenzie (B.A. 1889, M.D. 1892) made a name for himself as an accomplished athlete. After graduating, he joined the Faculty of Medicine as a lecturer and demonstrator in anatomy. His dedication to athletics would become key to his pedagogical project, which advocated for the inclusion of physical education as a science in McGill’s course curriculum.

Fig. 1: R. Tait McKenzie, Four Masks of Expression, 1899, sculpted plaster with bronze paint. McGill Visual Arts Collection 1987-043. On view at Davis House.

During his early career at McGill, McKenzie also began sculpting the human form as way to create tangible teaching tools. From this, McKenzie’s passion for and talent in sculpture blossomed; he would go on to create hundreds of sculptures, many of which are now held in museums and public art collections worldwide, including here at McGill’s Visual Arts Collection.

Sculpted in 1899, The Four Masks of Expression (Fig. 1) are now on display at Davis House, home to the Faculty of Medicine’s School of Physical and Occupational Therapy. McKenzie sculpted the masks in plaster, later painting them to look like bronze. The four masks demonstrate the involuntary effects on the athlete of the various stages of stress, progressing from Effort (Fig. 2) through Breathlessness (Fig. 3), Fatigue (Fig. 4), and, finally, Exhaustion (Fig. 5) –sentiments that will be familiar to all University students, not just athletes! The masks were exhibited at the McMaster Museum of Art in 1987 as part of “Art in Medicine: Medical Illustration 1520-1987,” indicating their significance in Canadian medical and art history. Writing about the masks, Major James F. Leys notes that “these characteristics expressions are universal because they are influenced by involuntary muscles common to us all.”[1] Through his sculpture, R. Tait McKenzie was able to bridge the gap between science art to communicate a universal message.

The Falcon (Fig. 6) is another of the notable sculptures by R. Tait McKenzie in the McGill Visual Arts Collection. Sculpted in 1934 and located outside of the McLennan Library building, this work is just one of many highlights on our weekly Public Art tour. Brothers of the Wind (1925), also by McKenzie, graces the entrance of the Currie Gymnasium (Fig. 7). All of these sculptures transcend simple medical models, speaking to us more broadly and meaningfully about community, commonality, and comradery.

Like R. Tait McKenzie, the McGill Visual Arts Collection is committed to bridging the gap between disciplines, displaying individual artworks and creating curated spaces in all of the University’s schools and faculties and across all of its campuses (Downtown, Macdonald, and Gault).

[1] Major James F. Leys, C.M., C.D., “Tait McKenzie and The Mill of Kintail,” in Exploring Our Heritage: The Ottawa Valley Experience: Proceedings: A Heritage Festival, ed. Vrenia Ivonoffski and SandraCampbell (Arnprior: Arnprior and District Historical Society, 1980), 124.

Fig. 2: R. Tait McKenzie, “Effort,” from the Four Masks of Expression, 1899.

Fig. 3: R. Tait McKenzie, “Breathlessness,” from the Four Masks of Expression, 1899.

Fig. 4: R. Tait McKenzie, “Fatigue,” from the Four Masks of Expression, 1899.

Fig. 5: R. Tait McKenzie, “Exhaustion,” from the Four Masks of Expression, 1899.

Fig. 6: R. Tait McKenzie, The Falcon, 1934, bronze. Presented to the University by Gordon Lewis in memory of Eva Maud Lewis. McGill Visual Arts Collection 1975-025. On view on the McLennan-Redpath Terrace.











Fig. 7: R. Tait McKenzie (1867-1938), Brothers of the Wind, 1925, plaster copy of an original bronze frieze. Gift of the artist. McGill Visual Arts Collection 1986-014. On view at the Currie Gymnasium.













Anatomizing Thomas Rowlandson’s representation of William Hunter’s dissecting room

Library Matters - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 21:13

Guest contributor: Margaret Carlyle, Ph.D.
U Chicago, Institute on the Formation of Knowledge
2018 recipient, Dr. Edward H. Bensley Osler Library Research Travel Grant


Thomas Rowlandson, “Dr. Wm. Hunter’s Dissecting Room, Windmill St., Haymarket.” Osler Prints Collection, image number OPF000075.

Thomas Rowlandson’s original watercolour drawing of William Hunter’s (1718–1783) London anatomy school on Great Windmill Street captures the multifaceted nature of bodily inquiry in the eighteenth century. It presents the increasingly integrated approach to anatomical research and pedagogy, and especially, the hands-on experience of dissecting for which the school became famous across Europe.

The centre of the image depicts Hunter presiding over an anatomy lesson in which his students are dissecting a male cadaver draped across a table. Paravisual elements provide clues as to who these students might be. Handwritten on the back of the image are the names of several medical practitioners present, including Hunter’s friend and fellow Scotsman, Tobias Smollett; another Scotsman, the military surgeon, William Cruickshank; and the reputed surgeon, William Hewson. Written in pencil in another hand just below the image title on the front is: “The others were probably [David] Pictairn [sic: Pitcairn], [Matthew] Baillie, Howe & [John] Sheldon. ” In other words, this is an imagined scene that brings together Hunter’s dearest friends, family, and colleagues under one roof.

Of these, John Sheldon (1752–1808) warrants a special note. He was a trained surgeon and sometimes lectured at Hunter’s anatomy school. He was also an eccentric whose fascination for the macabre was reported to French audiences by the traveller and naturalist, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond (1741–1819), following his sojourn in Britain. Saint-Fond was transfixed by the embalmed body he encountered on display in Sheldon’s home, which he described as:

a type of mummy, remarkable in two respects; first, by the subject […] and second, by the remarkable cares and procedures undertaken in its preparation […] the mummy occupies pride of place in the room where the celebrated anatomist, who infinitely adores this subject, normally sleeps. (Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, Voyage en Angleterre, en Écosse, et aux Iles Hébrides (Paris: Chez H.J. Jansen, 1797), tome 1, 50)

As it happened, the beautiful female subject with brown hair was Sheldon’s mistress whom he had enshrined “in a state of nudity, laid down and sleeping as if on a bed” on an elegant oblong mahogany table positioned in the centre of the room under a glass frame. If nothing else, Saint-Fond was shocked by her remarkable state of preservation, noting her unseemly supple arms, elastic breasts, and glowing cheeks.  Sheldon had prepared the mummy using a laborious process of injections and skin tanning, with the assistance of submerging spirits. He had then laid the prepared corpse to rest for five years in a juniper box lined with a calcinated chock designed to absorb humidity. (Ibid., 52)

Sheldon’s ‘mistress mummy,’ as she might be called, is not present here, but there is another cadaver. To the right of the central anatomy lesson is another tabletop dissection of a corpse. The seated figure is engaging with the middle venter of the corpse, while the man standing to his left appears to be pondering what he sees. The standing figure might be William’s brother John, his long-time collaborator and an accomplished anatomist in his own right. Such an interpretation suggests these are colleagues who are dissecting the cadaver together. Alternatively, this scene could be the depiction of the private anatomy lesson that was increasingly popular in this period—at least, for those, like the potential student seated here, who could afford the fee. This method of intimate, hands-on experience with the cadaver was highly prize and came to be known as the “Paris manner of dissection.”

A wash basin in the bottom right corner below the second dissection may have been filled with spirits for rinsing surgical tools—though the objective was not strictly speaking to disinfect them, given this is the pre-microbial age. Such an interpretation is supported by the two tools, including a saw for cutting through bone, lying on the ground to the right of the basin. Additionally or alternatively, this metal tub may have served as a receptacle for capturing bodily fluids during the dissecting process.

Several posters are hanging above this two-man dissecting scenario. The poster to the immediate right indicates “Prices for Bodys,” which no doubt serves as a reminder of the difficulty faced by anatomists like Hunter in procuring cadavers for dissection. Body snatchers, or ‘resurrectionists,’ as they came to be known, illicitly obtained cadavers from graveyards before selling them to local surgeons’ colleges. Trafficking in bodies was also a semi-official part of the ritual of the public execution, with the expectation that the surgeon offering the highest fee would be able to make off with the fresh corpse for imminent dissection. The reference to “prices” in this poster also tells us that the human body had achieved a new and potentially morally compromising status as a commodity of the increasingly regulated medical marketplace.







Anatomists like William Hunter would not have been directly involved in obtaining bodies at executions or otherwise, not only because he had many other duties to perform, but also because body snatching was frowned upon in this period. The social profile of the anatomist brings us to the wall poster to the far left, which reads: “Rules to be observed by Gentlemen who dissect.” This guideline highlights the aspirational nature of Hunter’s school: to normalize the dissection of bodies as part of enlightened, gentlemanly science in an age when polite sociability was an integral part of professional practice. And indeed, observing gentlemanly etiquette reflected on the anatomist’s credibility in making new claims about the body and its place in the larger natural world.

Anatomy was nonetheless a gruesome, messy business, which might explain the absence of genteel women from this scene, as well as the presence of touches of satire that the draughtsman, Thomas Rowlandson, infuses throughout. From the smiling cadaver at centre stage to the grin of the pair of skeletons lurking to the left, the scene is not without a sense of unease with—if not outright critique of—anatomy as a discipline worthy of gentlemanly pursuit. The scene may also be a satire of the brand of chaos and spectacle that some social commentators believed to have overtaken London around mid-century.

The human skeletons pictured in front to the left and in back to the right were omnipresent ‘figures’ in dissecting theatres in this period and had been since at least the Renaissance period. The skeleton-as-teaching-prop was no doubt the innovation of the great sixteenth-century Flemish anatomist, Andreas Vesalius, who was known to carry his real articulated human skeleton from lecture to lecture. There are also animal skeletons in this image dangling from the rafters to the right. The cohabitation of both human and other animal skeletons in this space reveals the growing interest in studying comparative osteology. That is, the science of comparing both male and female human skeletons with a view to charting their differences, and to comparing the bones of humans to those of other animals, in order to enhance knowledge of the human in the great chain of being and to better understand their relationship to each other, as parts of the animal kingdom.

Credit: Margaret Carlyle


In the first case, the female skeleton depicted in Mme Thiroux d’Arconville’s Traité d’Ostéologie (1759) is indicative of the impulse in this, the Enlightenment period, to ‘gender’ the human skeleton, with the attending ideological goal of tying features of human anatomy to one’s ‘destiny’ in the social realm. Studies of women’s accentuated hip-to-waist ratio and allegedly smaller crania, like the female skeleton presented here, meant that women were perfectly suited to assume the domestic role of child bearing and motherhood, while keeping out of apparently more cerebral activities, like politics and business. The

Credit: Margaret Carlyle

naturalization of sex differences using human osteology as a starting point may have entrenched cultural perceptions of women’s roles as mothers. The study of the specificity of the female body nonetheless allowed new branches of anatomy to flourish. In particular, William Hunter’s dissections of pregnant patients who had died in or before childbirth allowed him to capture in haunting detail the development of the foetus in utero. His Anatomia Uteri Humani Gravidi Tabulis (1774) provides an almost x-ray vision of the gravid uterus in detailed naturalistic engravings.


In the second case, the seeds for comparative human-animal anatomy evidenced in this eighteenth-century image were sewn in the time of Vesalius. The lavish frontispiece of Vesalius’ magnum opus, De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (1543), depicts, among other novelties, living animals at the foot of the throngs of viewers gazing at the female corpse on the dissecting table. In particular, the Barbary ape to the bottom left of this image sheds light on the prohibitions against human dissections in Vesalius’ time and his attempts to dissect animals like apes with a view to better understanding humans by way of analogy. The presence of dogs in dissecting rooms—whether for dissection, vivisection, or as domestic companions to anatomists—can be seen in both Vesalius’ frontispiece (see bottom right corner) and that of his contemporary, the celebrated Bartholomeo Eustachi’s Tabulae Anatomicae (Osler edition, 1769).

Frontispiece to Andreas Vesalius, De fabrica humani corporis, 1543


Detail from the frontispiece, Bartholomeo Eustaci, Tabulae Anatomicae, 1769.
Credit: Margaret Carlyle












Returning to Rowlandson’s watercolour, below the pair of skeletons in the bottom left of the image is an aproned dissector removing the entrails from a recently obtained cadaver. Given the problem of putrefaction in the absence of modern-day refrigeration, the turnaround time for dissecting was brief, with winter months being most favourable for more extensive studies of the corpse. However, this was no obstacle for William Hunter, who ensured a steady supply of fresh corpses for students to dissect with their own hands. For this reason alone, he is considered a pioneering teacher of human anatomy.



Islamic Paleogaphy and Codicology workshop: a Summary

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 13:35

From Monday September 11th to Friday September 14th, the Islamic Studies Library had the pleasure to host an Islamic Paleography and Codicology workshop co-organized with the Institute of Islamic Studies, and the McGill Islamic Studies Students Council.

Participants had the opportunity to listen to inspiring lectures, some of which involved the display and manipulation of manuscripts and rare books from the McGill collections.

Day 1 of “Islamic Paleography and Codicology Workshop”: An Introduction to the Arts of Bookmaking

Guests lectures were delivered by internationally renowned scholars in the fields: Professor François Déroche from Collège de France and András Riedlmayer, bibliographer at the Aga Khan Program Fine Arts Library at Harvard. Professor Déroche’s presentation focused on a research he has been conducting on three mammoth Qur’ans from the Ommeyad and Abbasid periods. Andras Riedlmayer’s lecture focused on the arts of illuminating and illustrating manuscripts, and concluded with a fascinating section on the fake illuminated manuscripts market.










Other lectures covered various aspects of the production of manuscripts in the Islamic World (such as writing supports, scripts, illuminations and illustrations, covers and bindings), as well as some challenges that arise when working with manuscripts (such as identification, location, attribution, etc.). And all sessions of the workshop were very well attended by members of both the McGill community and the wider community.

Day 3 of “Islamic Paleography and Codicology Workshop”: The Persian Manuscripts Tradition

Special thanks go to the Institute of Islamic Studies, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society, McGill Libraries and Archives  and the Dean of Arts Development Fund for making this event possible.

Practicum Pause: An interview with Heather Rogers & Jean-Sébastien Sauvé

Library Matters - Sun, 09/16/2018 - 11:00

Every year the McGill Library welcomes graduate students into the Library to work on various projects for a semester as a part of their studies. This year Digital Initiatives hosted two students: Heather Rogers from the McGill School of Information Studies and Jean-Sebastien Sauvé from Université de Montréal École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’information.

Library Matters took a pause with both students to talk about their work at the McGill Library and how their experience may help to inform Library units as they move forward with related projects.

As a part of the McGill School of Information Studies masters of Information Studies program, Heather Rogers opted to do a 100-hour practicum with Digital Library Services and the John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection (CAC) doing research in support of digitization priorities.

Heather Rogers looking at architectural plans in the digitization lab as a part of her practicum. Photo by Sarah Severson

LM:   Tell us a little bit about your background. What made you want to study information studies? 

HR: I majored in International Relations and Japanese with a plan to pursue journalism after I graduated. After a one-year internship in New York, I realized that it wasn’t for me and decided to spend a year teaching English in Japan on the JET Programme. I realized that I loved being in the classroom and my life in rural Japan and so one year turned into three. I wanted to get more involved in the community, so I decided to volunteer at a local public library on Saturdays. I got my first experience doing shelving, reader’s advisory, and story time with children. I always knew that I wanted to go to grad school but wasn’t sure what I wanted to study. I started researching how I could get the best of both worlds (teaching and working in a library) and discovered library and information studies master’s programs.   

LM: Can you briefly describe your practicum? 

HR: My practicum was centred on the Canadian Architecture Collection (CAC), one of the special collections at McGill. The CAC consists of architectural plans, drawings, and photographs that document how McGill’s campus and the city of Montreal have developed. I was tasked with researching collections within the CAC and collecting information on copyright, past usage, and potential research value to help in for assessments using the new digitization priority matrix.

LM:     What do you wish you would’ve known before starting the practicum? 

HR: Coming in with more familiarity with archives would have been helpful at the beginning, but it was a good learning opportunity and both my supervisors were incredibly supportive. I loved looking at architectural drawings but didn’t know about the different materials they were drawn on or had handled them before. However, spending time in the CAC with librarian Jennifer Garland at the beginning of my practicum was a lot of fun and gave me a great introduction to the work of architects I would be researching later.

LM: What skills, lessons and learning moments did you take away from this practicum? 

HR: The ability to research materials within a collection and pull from different sources to provide a collection assessment was the biggest takeaway from this practicum. It’s such an incredibly important skill that I know I can continue to apply to my work as an academic librarian. Using a digitization priority matrix really guided my research and helped me to look at the different things to consider when assessing a special collection. The biggest lesson that was specific to my practicum that the creation of architectural plans and drawings can be attributed to the firm and not just a single architect. Looking at who the creator was and the date it was done was always step one of whether or not to go through with the full collection assessment. I learned a lot about Canadian copyright and how to determine whether something was in the public domain.

LM:   Did you have an “aha!” moment? 

HR: The biggest ‘aha’ moment was going from just researching the collections to looking at collection assessments as a way to find links to the collections in other cultural heritage institutions. For academic libraries, special collections can be used to create partnerships with other universities that have related materials so once I got into the mindset of how to look for those links, it informed how I conducted my research for the collection assessments and thought about how the materials within the CAC can be digitized not only for the McGill community but for other cultural heritage institutions.   

LM:     Anything else you want to mention? 

HR: This practicum was such a great experience working with a special collection and learning about the different ways a university can make unique materials available and accessible to students and faculty. It also cemented for me the plan that working in an academic library was the path I wanted to pursue.  


Jean-Sébastien Sauvé approached Digital Initiatives in December of 2017 to work with us for his internship to complete his Masters in Information Studies. When we heard of his interest in Digital Humanities it was a perfect fit with a pilot project we’d been wanting to do with the crowdsourcing platform Zooniverse

LM: What made you want to study information studies?

Jean-Sébastien Sauvé. Photo by Sarah Severson

JSS: Information studies came into my life after a long journey! I first did my BA and MA at McGill before being awarded a SHHRC scholarship to move to Germany to get a PhD in Architectural history. After eight years in Germany, I came back to Montreal for an SSHRC-funded postdoctoral fellowship at the Canada Research Chair on Urban heritage at ESG-UQAM with Prof. Luc Noppen.

As a researcher, I enjoyed handling and appraising precious material and sharing discoveries.  Through these contacts, I became more and more interested in libraries and archives as cultural and educational institutions. I, therefore, decided to enrol in the MISt program at EBSI (Université de Montréal) to further explore these issues.

I am thrilled seeing all these possibilities offered by working as a librarian. I would have never expected this. This is enormously gratifying since, in the end, you help people going further in their research or study.

LM: Can you briefly describe your practicum?

JSS: Since I wanted to further explore issues related to the Digital humanities and Open Access, I met Sarah Severson and Jenn Riley from McGill Digital Initiatives. They gave me the mandate to set up a crowdsourcing project on the platform Zooniverse ( to see if this sourcing model is efficient for faculty members and students in their research projects or if it can be used to appraise and disseminate objects from the library collection.

With the collaboration of librarian Jennifer Garland, Rare Books and Special Collections, we selected a set of black and white photographs from the John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection taken in the first half of the 20th century by Ramsay Traquair (1874–1952) who was a professor at McGill School of Architecture. These photographs depict old silverware from different churches and institutions in Québec, and include written captions that were not fully transcribed in our existing database, and selected silver mark drawings that were as yet unidentified. We thus decided to create the project The Old Silver of Québec  (after Traquair’s 1940 book title) to ask volunteers to help us transcribe the captions and identify silver marks with the help of Traquair’s book.

Screenshot of Zooniverse transcription workflow

Each picture would be shown to 3 different volunteers and their answers would be compiled, and the best transcription/identification would be then proposed to the cataloguing librarians to help enhance their records in our archival collections catalogue.

Since this was a pilot to help us learn, we went through the testing phases that made us change the tutorials, the overall content or even the tasks. Through all the observations I have done, I wrote a technical report as well as a list of good practices and guidelines while undertaking a research project.

LM: Your practicum was one semester long. Was it enough time to accomplish what you had hoped for?

Most of it, fortunately! We were able to test the platform with the library staff, McGill students, and Zooniverse volunteers (it was sent to more than 1,000 people) to get feedback about the workflows and the interest towards the objects. As for now, more than 90 volunteers have fulfilled more than 50% of all tasks. 70% of all captions have been transcribed, while 33% of the silver marks have been identified. This is a huge success since the project remained not publicly visible.

LM: What do you wish you would’ve known before starting the practicum?

JSS: Since it was an intensive 35-day practicum, I made full use of the experience with research project management from my previous life as an architectural historian! But I wish I had a better knowledge of the institutional culture prevailing within an academic library. I know university libraries from a user’s perspective or from my work as a reference librarian at ÉTS. But throughout my studies, we rarely had the opportunity to talk about university libraries, their structure, and their special needs.

LM: Did you have an “aha!” moment?

JSS: Setting a crowdsourcing project remains very abstract until one gets the data produced by the volunteers. As I downloaded the data spreadsheet from Zooniverse and saw how that answers were on the sheet (messy data), I felt that the project was fulfilling its mission. It became even more obvious as I started to clean the data and extracted the elements of answers we were looking for. But as I looked further at those answers, I saw some flaws that I have never expected: some people wrote words in different sequences, typos were made, and, most of all, some answers were impossible to compare!

LM: What was the feedback like from Library staff? Will the work you focused onbecontinued?

JSS: I think the project generated a genuine interest among members of the library staff: many people have tried to transcribe captions and to identify the silver marks. I have also received very useful comments and feedback.

According to my Digital Initiatives supervisors, there is still interest to explore crowdsourcing projects further. I am very happy to see that my contribution to the project is useful and that crowdsourcing will be carried on at McGill!




Casey A. Wood’s Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology

Library Matters - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 13:30

By Sarah Adams, a McGill Master of Information Studies student and Young Canada Works Summer 2018 Archives Intern

Dr. Casey Albert Wood and his wife Emma Shearer Wood, a portrait. From the Casey Wood: the Birdman of McGill Digital Exhibit.

I have enjoyed working on the Casey Albert Wood archival collection (MSG 1203) and working with the staff in the Rare Books and Special Collections department of McGill University Library.

One aspect of the collection I’ve appreciated and been touched by is Casey Wood’s dedication to the things and people he loved. Wood showed this dedication through the creation of the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology. This library brings together Wood’s love of birds, book collecting, his pet parrot John III, and especially for his wife Emma.

It seems that Wood’s close friendship with Sir William Osler inspired him to build his own library collection at McGill University, much like Osler did. Wood decided to start a library focusing on ornithology around 1918. Around this time, Wood was working as an ophthalmologist for the U.S. War Department. After he retired in 1920, and until the late 1930s, Wood embarked on a second career studying and writing about birds in their natural habitat. Much of the archival material I’ve been working with was donated to the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology and the Blacker Library of Zoology during this time, most of it by Casey Wood. He also spent these years collecting books, artwork, and other materials related to ornithology and zoology for these libraries.

Along with naming the Emma Shearer Wood Library after his wife, Wood also had their pet parrot John III illustrated on the the library’s book plate. The book plate went through various designs over the years and one book featured in the collection shows these changes. The book includes the first original drawing from 1918, along with three other versions of the first design by U. S. government engraver G. F. C. Smillie.

E. S. W. Library Book Plates, 1918-1922 | Casey Albert Wood Collection, MSG 1203-4-1

First Design Drawing, E. S. W. Library Book Plates, 1918-1922 | Casey Albert Wood Collection, MSG 1203-4-1


E. S. W. Book Plates, 1918-1922 | Casey Albert Wood Collection, MSG 1203-4-1

E. S. W. Book Plates, 1918-1922 | Casey Albert Wood Collection, MSG 1203-4-1


























E. S. W. Library Book Plates, 1918-1922 | Casey Albert Wood Collection, MSG 1203-4-1






However, from this note in the book it seems Wood wasn’t overly happy with the first design in the end.










So another bookplate was made by Bumpus of London designed by M. P. Barrett, which also went through its own evolution; however the illustration still included Wood’s beloved companion John III.

Second Design Proof, E. S. W. Book Plates, 1918-1922 | Casey Albert Wood Collection, MSG 1203-4-1

Second Design Print, E. S. W. Book Plates, 1918-1922 | Casey Albert Wood Collection, MSG 1203-4-1













Second Design Print version 2, E. S. W. Book Plates, 1918-1922 | Casey Albert Wood Collection, MSG 1203-4-1

Second Design Final Book Plate, E. S. W. Book Plates, 1918-1922 | Casey Albert Wood Collection, MSG 1203-4-1













According to former Blacker Wood Librarian Eleanor MacLean’s presentation, “Building the Blacker Wood,” after a while Emma decided that since she didn’t have much to do with the library, its name should be changed to the Wood Library of Ornithology. This presentation was given at the 2018 colloquium “The Eyes Have It: A Re-appreciation of Casey Wood.

Working with the Casey Albert Wood Collection has also made me curious about who Emma was and what she did during Wood’s research trips. She must have been a strong and dedicated woman to travel with her husband all over the world while he conducted his research.

Muslim Heritage: Discover the golden age of Muslim civilization

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Wed, 09/05/2018 - 17:30

Muslim Heritage is a web portal launched by the “Foundation for Science and Technology and civilisation” (FSTC) in 2002. This is one of its major projects in the study of Muslim heritage with the purpose of advancing human civilization. It is an online education community of Muslims and non-Muslims, which aims to raise awareness on the relevance and importance of Muslim heritage. The portal contains thousands of peer reviewed articles, numerous reports and essays, as well as news on Muslim heritage related topics and events.

The portal is well organized and materials are classified based on main subjects (i.e. Science, environment, culture and people, etc.) and then sub-classified (i.e. Astronomy, chemistry, Medicine, Architecture, Art, Agriculture, Geography, etc.). Moreover the searching features helps to retrieve information in different formats faster and easier.

The idea for the founding of the FSTC was initiated by a professor of Mechanical engineering at the University of Manchester, with the hope to establish an organization to research inventions and the cultural roots of early discoveries that originated in non-western world and which still affect our world. This organization is a non-political, non-sectarian and non-religious in approach and its mission is stated as:

  • To foster an accurate understanding of the thousand years of exceptional advances in science, technology, medicine and the arts made by men and women within the Muslim World from the 7th century onwards.
  • To generate social cohesion, cultural awareness and respect through the exploration of Muslim and World heritage and how it is woven into our global society and civilization so that we all share and benefit from this heritage.
  • To promote science and learning as an alternative to negative or extremist behavior.

This academic channel aims to discover and shed light on Muslim civilizations and heritage and therefore is designed to study most Muslim countries and cultures. The diversity in their approach is reflected by the various gathered resources all made accessible through this portal. For example, the Architecture and Art section covers geographical locations from China to Syria, Turkey and Iran.


Muslim Heritage can be find on social media via : Twitter Facebook Email

A Sublime Sense of Artistry and Sentimentality in Archives

Library Matters - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 10:58

By Nikolas Lamarre

Nothing says Romanticism more than the inevitable connection between a man and his love for flowers: Nature’s very own living souls.

McGill University Archives, MG1022, c.21, “Illustrations de Biography”, John William Dawson, pp.5, 9 and 43.

“To the Myrtle”:

Sweet emblem of all that is loving and true,

Fair child of the seasons who all claim their due;

May the Springtime of life give fair promise like thine

That our manhood with honour and virtue may shine

(McGill University Archives, ‘To the Myrtle’, MG3044, c.1, “Album of Sketches”, p.39)

McGill University Archives, MG3044, c.1, “Album of Sketches”, Eliza and Charlotte Mountain, pp. 2, 138, 149.


Let me introduce you…

This poem from the Mountain Family fonds is offering a taste of British Romanticism at its finest to the likes of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads. In the peak of the Romantic Age, it was encouraged for young men to go forth and discover the depth of their character by grounding themselves in Nature, which mostly involved quite a fair amount of brooding reflections on life. Nothing more to expect when one ‘wanders lonely as a cloud’. Artists were then aware that “there [was] a feeling in the heart of man, above fancy’s power that [could not] be perceived by outward sense; Nor taught by imitative arts pretense. When faced with this transcendental Nature, the sublime power [was] felt and known and measured in its inward growth alone (McGill University Archives, “Family Poems”, MG3044, c.1, p.46). One could only hope for the spark of genius which would properly encapsulate the grandeur of their surroundings.

Similarly, in the era of exploration in a pre-confederation Canada, men of these times would keep thorough records of their journeys either through notebooks, diaries, letters, or even scrapbooks. One of these pioneering figures, both documenting the country’s evolution as a geologist, and supervising the expansion of McGill University as an educator and principal, is John William Dawson (1820-1899) who looks exactly like any proper mid-Victorian you will encounter: a strong faced and bearded man with a concerned look in his eye. Nothing less for a burgeoning scientist constantly at odds with an equally flourishing Charles Darwin.

With a career spanning over the latter half of the nineteenth century, William Dawson, as his family called him, helped introduce some of the key threads of McGill’s fabric such as the education of women, the Redpath Museum and Library, the Normal School (now the Faculty of Education), and much more. No wonder the Dawson-Harington Family Papers was probably the most requested fonds this Summer, being one of the biggest (over a hundred containers!) and most well detailed, it does not surprise me that it sparks interest in many.

McGill University Archives, MG1022, c.21, “Illustrations de Biography”, John William Dawson, p.113.

The Dawsons’ tender side

The careful archiving of this extensive collection really makes one rethink about writing single-lettered text messages in the future… Amongst the numerous correspondence of Principal Dawson is hidden his most personal possessions; most notably a collection of various sketches, drawings, and watercolours. One timeless item is kept inside his “Illustrations de Biography”: a piece of Lady Dawson’s wedding veil jauni par le temps. It is hard to tell if it was put together post-mortem by his relatives, or if he kept it himself for some time, though it does not take away from the particular attention that went into its production.

Though Principal Dawson did not necessarily write poetry in his spare time, his son did. Here is an excerpt from George Mercer Dawson’s time in the McGill Literary Club:


McGill University Archives, MG1022, c.21, “Illustrations de Biography”, John William Dawson (top) and Unknown print (bottom) pp. 15, 87.

“A group of poets!!! Hard at work

Who ‘cool the air with sighs’

Searching for rhymes that will not come

For thoughts that will not rise. […]

Our eyes with ‘frenzy fire’ may roll

But not poetic fire

Our hair in all confusion fall

And still no muse inspire […]”

(McGill University Archives, MG1022, c.56, f.17)

A nice nod to Shakespeare’s The Tempest as this tongue-in-cheek ballad aligns with his father’s own lighthearted nature. A stark contrast to the rest of his less than optimistic poetry—surely these were hard times.

Speaking of another George, from another time

George Jehoshaphat Mountain (1789-1863) has a familiar face reminiscing of a young poet, or a philosophe with his feathery hair and doctorate in Divinity. One that I cannot quite put my finger on…neither did everyone I asked. Et pourtant, as the first Principal of McGill College—for a mere nine years— Bishop Mountain oversaw its concrete establishment as an institute of higher education though not without its fair share of trials and tribulations regarding the future of James McGill’s controversial estate. The typical outcome when family and money are mixed together. He then went on to establish Bishop University as well and became first archdeacon of Quebec (or Lower Canada back then). As Mountain’s mighty legacy is partly held in the official records of McGill University, his more ‘private’ belongings are contained within one small box housing only two items: his daughters’ album of watercolours and sketches (1825-1851) and a manuscript book of ‘Family Poems’, which most were penned by himself as he was also a poet à ses heures.

McGill University Archives, MG3044, c.1, “Family Poems”, George Mountain, p. 52.

“Ode to Disappointment”

Come, Disappointment, Come

 Not in thy tenor clad

Come in thy […] saddest guise…

“Lift your veil of familiarity/Show your true nature” definitely should have been the follow-up.

Of course there ought to be, in a collection of poems, at least one personification of powerful feelings (as he is lamenting his state of being in this one) recollected in tranquility (as many were also composed at sea…)


McGill University Archives, MG3044, c.1, “Family Poems”, George Mountain, p. 5.

“The Message to the Dead” 

Thou’st passing hence my Brother!

Oh! My earliest friend farewell!

Thou’st leaving me without thy voice

In a lonely home to dwell:

And from the hills and from the hearth

And from the household thee,

With thee departs the lingering mirth

The brightness goes with thee.

Ah, isn’t this “the way of the soul”?


Nowhere Lands

Most of Bishop Mountain’s works are tightly related to the beauty of the Canadian landscape, as well his daughters’. Their sketchbook is even introduced by Susanna Moodie’s “Ode to Canada” from her Roughing It in The Bush: or, Forest Life in Canada (1852).

McGill University Archives, MG3044, c.1, ‘Album of Sketches’, p.1.

McGill University Archives, Top Left/Right: MG3044, c.1, “Album of Sketches”, Sophia Simcoe (copy) pp.15,20,32, 99, 137. Bottom Left/Right: MG1022, c.21, John William Dawson, p.20, 71.

These verses very much encapsulate the essence of the sketches found both in the Mountain and Dawson sketchbooks. With the multiplicity of social scenes in the midst of the long nineteenth century, this envy for nowhere lands free of civilization–though gravely fallacious–is a recurrent trope in Romantic landscape art. Canada acted as a lieu de prédilection with its abundance of idyllic scenery. With one of the era’s favourite medium: watercolour, this quick and portable kit for traveling men gives many of their paintings a certain simplicity retracing their penchant for a sense of the picturesque reminiscent of Constable and Turner. It is through these works that Bishop Mountain and William Dawson expressed their ever growing love for their terre d’accueil.

Progress that transcends time

By trying (or not) to read between these well-conserved sepia-toned cursive lines, you realize that Bishop Mountain and Dr. Dawson were simply men of their times. The former, whose solemn profile does not do justice to his bright youthful locks, and the latter who goes from a young Dorian Gray to an old Walt Whitman in his lifetime. A true testimony to the hard work they put in their careers with a care for education and somewhat liberalism which was deemed majorly progressive for the era.

McGill University Archives, MG 1022, c.21, “Illustrations de Biography”, Unknown artist (left and center), M. Brooks (right), pp.101, 105, 107.

Bishop G.J. Mountain by William Notman, McGill University Archives, PR008093.

Nevertheless, amongst the decades-old and quite fairly eerie stacks, these deeply personal possessions filled with artistry and sentimentality make our archives standout––hautes en couleurs––inside McLennan’s concrete walls. It even makes us ponder: who would have thought a bishop and a scientist could be so romantic?





To discover more…

Frost, Stanley Brice. McGill University : For the Advancement of Learning, 1801-1895. Volume I. Montreal : McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1980

Moodie, Susanna. “A VISIT TO GROSSE ISLE.” Roughing It in the Bush or Life in Canada, edited by Carl Ballstadt, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995, pp. 12–25. JSTOR,

–Written by Nikolas Lamarre, Student Archivist & Senior undergrad in English Literature and History–

New Exhibition: Nahum Gelber Law Library: 20 Years

Law Library Blog - Tue, 08/28/2018 - 16:23

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the current home of the McGill Law Library. This spectacular building named after one of our alumni and generous donor, Nahum Gelber, opened its doors for students 20 years ago, in September 1998.

To celebrate this occasion, we offer to our visitors a new exhibition featuring original plans, documents, students’ survey from 1997 on what they wanted to see in the new library, and a maquette of our famous staircase.

The exhibition was curated by Svetlana Kochkina and Sonia Smith.


Qatar Digital Library

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Mon, 08/27/2018 - 16:55

Qatar Digital Library (QDL) is a growing repository for over 500,000 historical and cultural records of the Gulf and wider region. The Archives is available online and includes wide range of materials: maps, manuscripts, sound recordings, photographs and much more, complete with contextualized explanatory notes and links, in both English and Arabic.

The QDL was made possible through a Memorandum of Understanding on Partnerships between Qatar Foundation, Qatar National Library and The British National Library. The aim of this partnership is to make a world-class resource freely available for everyone, for general audience and academic researchers.

The site was launched on 27 October 2014. According to Cogapp, an industry-leaders in producing software for online archives and museums who designed and developed the software; the interface is user friendly and it is accessible across multiple devices, including mobiles, tablets and desktops. Everything is shareable on social media. All items can be zoomed to explore incredible details. It also allows the user to conduct a highly filterable search; 150 facet options are available to refine the search. The site and content meet archival standards and accessibility criteria.

The repository also include 147 articles to explore, all grouped under Articles From Our Experts which can be filtered by topic, geographical location and time period. Switching from Arabic to English is possible through the language tab located on top of the page.

“This is going to result in a whole new generation of historians, a boom in the historiography of the Gulf. This is profound; this moment right now is a milestone in the history of the region.”— Dr James Onley, Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern History, University of Exeter “Students, scholars – whether here, in the Gulf region or indeed anywhere on the planet – will be able to explore this material, find new learnings from it, make new connections and make new discoveries.”— Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library





Art in Classrooms across McGill

Library Matters - Fri, 08/24/2018 - 14:34

Last Wednesday, staff from McGill’s Visual Arts Collection got on the 8:30 a.m. shuttle bus to Macdonald campus, where we installed five artworks across two classrooms in the Raymond Building. This installation was the most recent in our Art in Classrooms initiative, an ongoing collaboration with Teaching and Learning Services. The Art in Classrooms initiative is itself a part of the Visual Arts Collection’s larger Curated Spaces initiative, which seeks to enliven the McGill campus through the public display of art. Other installations of Art in Classrooms can be found on the downtown campus in both the Leacock and Education buildings.

The artworks installed in the Raymond Building’s classrooms feel, in some ways, like they belong at Macdonald campus. The works all interpret nature in one way or another, bringing the outdoors in through art. Roses and Trogir (Fig. 1) by Canadian printmaker John Snow, recall, for example, the beautiful gardens just south of the Raymond Building, near McEwen Field. In Heart, a colour etching by Joseph Drapell (Fig. 2), the Czech-Canadian artist offers an abstract interpretation of the interior of a tree stump, a subject which I’m sure many students at Mac campus know well.

All of these artworks beautifully represent subjects in the natural world that are themselves beautiful. This beauty is readily accessible at Mac campus, where students and staff need only step outdoors and walk around. Even if you don’t have classes at Mac campus, it is worth the shuttle trip out, both to see these artworks and to enjoy the beautiful grounds. I especially recommend going during the upcoming apple picking season, so that you can enjoy all the fruits that McGill’s Macdonald campus has to offer!

Written by Rosalind Sweeney-McCabe, Museum Database Assistant, Visual Arts Collection

Fig. 1: Installation in Raymond 3-011, Macdonald Campus. From left to right: Gael Eakin, “Rural Landscape No. 2” (1997), McGill Visual Arts Collection 1998-042, gift of the artist; John Snow, “Roses” and “Trogir” (1972), McGill Visual Arts Collection PG2017-014 and PG2017-015, promised gifts of the estates of Arnold and Blema Steinberg.


Fig. 2: Installation in Raymond 4-048/48, Macdonald Campus. From left to right: Joseph Drapell, “Heart” (1984), McGill Visual Arts Collection PG2017-021; Richard Lacroix, “Cascades” (1962), McGill Visual Arts Collection PG2017-019. Promised gifts of the estates of Arnold and Blema Steinberg.


Egyptian Caricatures Archive / أرشيف الكاريكاتير المصري

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Thu, 08/16/2018 - 08:18

In May 2018, the French Centre for Economic, Legal, and Social Study and Documentation (CEDEJ) based in Cairo, Egypt, launched in association with Bibliotheca Alexandrina a new portal to host its rich collection of Egyptian caricatures.

Egyptian Caricatures Archive/أرشيف الكاريكاتير المصري makes available 12,000 humorous drawings published in Egyptian newspapers between 1970 and 2010. This invaluable collection of primary source materials now available in Open Access to researchers and the general public.

The caricatures have been catalogued by the CEDEJ Library allowing for the database to be searched by different fields:

  • title of caricature
  • date of publication
  • title of newspaper where it was published
  • topic (drop-down menu)
  • author
  • keyword.

Images are provided in JPEG, and can easily be downloaded and saved.


At the time of our visit the interface was only accessible in Arabic, but according to the official announcement made by CEDEJ, the implemention of the English and French interfaces is scheduled for Octobre 2018.