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Browse Exhibits (4 total)

A Brief History of Toronto Encampments

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This exhibit explores the history of informal settlements in Toronto, beginning with those on Toronto Island in the late nineteenth century, moving to those in the Don Valley in the early twentieth century, and ending with the spread of tent cities in the twenty-first century.

Through a combination of text, YouTube videos, images from the city's archives, and newspaper clippings, visitors will gain insight into the lives of those who lived in these communities, and the struggles they faced in their quest for adequate housing and shelter.

The exhibit starts with a display of historical photos of Toronto Island in the late 1800s, when it was home to a community of squatters who built their homes from the materials they found on the island. Visitors will learn about the challenges that this community faced in establishing a settlement on land that was considered to be public property, and how the city eventually sought to remove them.

Moving forward in time, the exhibit will explore the history of informal settlements in the Don Valley during the early 1900s. Visitors will learn about the residents of this area, who built shacks and shanties in the valley in order to escape the high rents and poor conditions in the city's tenement housing. 

The final section of the exhibit focuses on the spread of tent cities in Toronto in the twenty-first century. Visitors will learn about the growing problem of homelessness in the city, and the ways in which people have come together to create their own communities in the absence of affordable housing. It will also focus on the more recent entwinement of encampments with protest movements, and the weaponizing of police violence to evict encampment residents, setting the stage for the Covid-19 encampment closures. 

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Canadian Law and Canadian Identity

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This Exhibit explores the intersection between Canadian law and Canadian identity (understood broadly to include dimensions such as culture, language, geography, race, ethnicity, and religion).  We consider how Canadian law has shaped conceptions of what Canada is and what a Canadian looks like, thinks, and says.  We also consider how Canada's history, geography, culture, and demographics have shaped Canadian law.

As Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we offer you a tangled set of stories about how law has shaped a country and how a country and its people have shaped law. We are unable to say with any certainty or authority what it means to be "Canadian". Perhaps the most important pattern to note is a general willingness in this country to have difficult conversations and to leave room for disagreement, even disagreements about what it means to be Canadian. 

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In All Of Us Command: Story of an Anthem


Intended to instill a sense of communal national pride, “O Canada” occupies a significant place in the Canadian public’s imagination. Played in schools and sung at sporting events nationwide, many Canadians know the melody and lyrics by heart. However, few are aware of the national anthem’s colourful history.



In the following exhibit, you will discover the compositional context of “O Canada” and examine different versions of the piece from our library’s extensive Canadian Sheet Music Collection. A historical narrative of the anthem will be traced, delving into the nineteenth century French Canadian origins of the piece and the struggle for English lyrical uniformity. The exhibit concludes by scrutinizing the issues facing us as twenty-first century Canadians, as we strive to establish a version of our national anthem that better reflects the rich diversity of our country, its people, and environment.


Please stop by the University of Toronto Faculty of Music to see the physical exhibit, which begins in the lobby and continues downstairs in the displays outside the library.


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Pinning Down the Union: The Button Project

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The Button Project is an online exhibition by the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources Library that will explore labour history through pinback buttons. We will focus on Canadian examples in order to examine protests, boycotts, unions, and movements through material culture.

The IRHR Library is grateful to Rahna Moreau for her donation of pins and buttons.

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