• Women, Water, and Words: An Exploration of Visual Culture in Niagara

    A new exhibit in the Library and at the Thistle entrance to the Matheson Learning Commons features a selection of items from Brock’s Archives & Special Collections chosen by Visual Arts students in VISA 2P90 (19th Century Visual Culture).

    Each student selected an item from the collection to research and present. There is a broad range of material in this exhibit–from whimsical sketches to advertisements and tourist material to photographs of architectural monuments–but they are all connected by a focus on the history of visual culture in Niagara. 

    We invite you to visit this intriguing exhibition until April 7.






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    Categories: Archives, Featured Collections, Learning Commons

  • Community researcher letter of gratitude

    A Special Thank-you to Brock U. from a Grateful Local Resident
    Graham Segger, BA, FCA, FCPA

    I should perhaps start with a few confessions. First, I am not a Brock student, faculty member, employee or alumnus. I do, however, live less than 15 kilometres SSW of the Schmon Tower in the Town of Pelham (and former Village of Fonthill). The history of a part of that town has been the subject of a fascinating research project which has absorbed a substantial part of my spare time over the last couple of years. This brings me to my next confession. That BA listed above was not in history, or even the liberal arts, and the FCA designation simply means that I spent my pre-retirement career as a moderately successful chartered accountant. Research is research, however, and my third confession is that I have spent more time in the various Brock and other Niagara Region libraries over the last two years studying history and geography than I did through any comparable two year period during my own university days, lo those many years ago.

    This then is my letter of thanks to the many Brock faculty, staff and alumni who have generously helped me during this research project.

    My initial interaction with Brock was in the Archives and Special Collections 10th floor reading room where Edie Williams and Anne Adams lugged heavy and dusty Registry Office Copy Books out of the Archives Stacks for my perusal on numerous occasions. These books provide an incredibly detailed accounting of land transfers and other documents such as Will probates back to the 1790s. The carefully compiled Finding Aids supporting several of Brock’s other Special Collections were also helpful in my research. The Archives head David Sharron provided some leads while I was tracking down permissions for other materials incorporated into my project.

    When I was seeking information on the glacial origins, Indigenous history and early land surveys of the area the 9th floor stacks supplied a wealth of authoritative texts, and far too many rabbit holes to descend into.

    I’ve been a map geek throughout much of my life so my discovery of the treasure trove of Niagara related Historical Maps and Air Photos maintained online by the Map, Data and GIS Library was a revelation as was the collection of physical Pelham maps. The 1827 and 1840 sketch maps of a proposed military fortress on Pelham Heights contained a huge amount of data about Upper Fonthill (then called Riceville) including roads, distances, school houses, cider presses, tanneries, soil conditions, tree species and springs. The names of the 100 acre lot owners and the locations of their farm houses, fields and orchards were identified for both years allowing me to appreciate the evolution of the community during the intervening years. Sharon Janzen of MDGL also helped me navigate the new world of Open Data multi-layer map building. The result was two very informative maps she generated based upon my content wish lists.

    Dr. John Menzies, Professor of Geography and Earth Sciences, and a global authority on past glacial environments kindly read my initial glacial era chapter. He then politely explained to me how the understanding of the science has changed dramatically since most of my original source texts were written 50 years ago and more. He generously stuck with me through several more iterations of that chapter and contributed a helpful illustration. I hope he has my back when the good people of Fonthill (where he also lives) read that the huge mound of sand and gravel at the top of the Fonthill is not really a kame.

    Dr. Anna Lathrop, Professor of Kinesiology and former Vice-Provost and Associate Vice President, Students, as well as a life-long resident of Pelham, generously contributed a foreword to the book which emerged from the research, and was supportive from the beginning of the project.

    Dr. Michelle Vosburgh, Instructor in the Canadian Studies and History departments, and another Pelham resident, provided excellent insights into the early surveying of Niagara and also contributed other very helpful suggestions and edits. Many other Brock alumni also provided support and assistance, including Adam Shoalts and Robert Young in particular.

    This project has demonstrated the huge value of living so close to an excellent academic institution like Brock. Much of my research was done in the May to August periods of 2022 and 2023 at times when the campus was quiet and the parking was free, though I did make some considerable financial contributions through the Honk parking app at other times. I am forever grateful for this access to these extensive research materials, the excellent interaction I have had with hard working and knowledgeable staff and the insights provided by authoritative faculty members.

    Editor’s note: Mr. Segger’s new book The Land at the Crest of the Hill: Clues to Niagara History from Upper Fonthill is available in eBook format through the website of its publisher The Pelham Historical Society. Paperback copies are available at several Fonthill retailers. All net proceeds from the sale of the book go to charity.

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    Categories: Archives

  • Exhibit: The A. & C. Black Twenty Shilling Book Series

    Select titles from the A. & C. Black Twenty Shilling Book Series are featured in our latest exhibit in the Library and Learning Commons.  The series consists of ninety-two high-quality travel books illustrated in colour by various artists and published from 1901 to 1921. The print runs for these books were limited – typically to 3000 copies or less. Decades later, this scarcity has made the books quite collectible.

    As passionate travellers, David Murray and Elizabeth Surtees of Niagara-on-the-Lake fell in love with these books. For over 15 years, they assembled a complete collection of the 20 Shilling Book Series. In December, 2022, they donated their collection to the Brock University Archives and Special Collections with a wish to share the resource with the Brock community.

    View this very special exhibit in the Library and at the south entrance to the Learning Commons until late-July.

    Categories: Archives, Featured Collections, Learning Commons

  • Construction on floor 10 begins soon

    Construction adjacent to Brock’s Archives and Special Collections on floor 10 will begin on Monday, July 3. Noise and disruption are expected during the project which is expected to last 3-4 weeks. The floor will remain open for book retrieval, and access to the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room is not affected.

    Alternative silent study spaces in the library are located on floor 9, the silent study room on the northside of floor 5 and Classroom B in the Matheson Learning Commons.


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    Categories: Archives, Main

  • Exhibit: Letters & Correspondence from the Archives Historic Documents

    Stop by the Library Learning Commons and check out our most recent exhibit of selected letters & correspondence from the Archives & Special Collections‘ historic documents. Highlights of the exhibit include a note linking St. Catharines to the Underground Railroad, two letters from World War I, and a demanding missive from the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The exhibit was inspired by the One Book, One Niagara selection: Care Of: Letters, Connections, and Cures (Ivan Coyote), exemplifying how the written word can have lasting (even historic) significance.


    Categories: Archives, Featured Collections, Learning Commons

  • Archives & Special Collections the focus of podcast episode

    Looking for podcast recommendations? David Sharron, Head of Archives & Special Collections at Brock Library was recently a guest on Foreword, a podcast produced by Brock University’s Faculty of Humanities. David and podcast host, Alison Innes, sat down to discuss what an archive is, how to conduct archival research, and how technology is changing archives, to name a few topics.

    In the episode, David also shares some of his personal journey in the archival world and spotlights a few of the archival collections cared for here at Brock.

    Listen to the episode now. Also be sure to subscribe to Foreword on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.


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    Categories: Archives, Main

  • Brock collections from World Wars help Niagara remember

    This article written by Jocelyn Titone, Marketing and Communications Officer, was originally published in The Brock News.

    As Remembrance Day approaches, Brock University’s archival collections bring history to the forefront.

    The Brock University Library’s Archives and Special Collections houses some of the most unique and valuable records representing all aspects of Niagara’s history, including a wide range of historical items related to the First and Second World Wars.

    David Sharron, Head of Archives and Special Collections, said although each collection is significant in its own way, the records that cover the World Wars and other modern conflicts evoke a different reaction.

    “There is an immediate reverence for both the individuals who fought the battles and those who supported the war effort from home,” he said. “These records remind us of a time when people and organizations made sacrifices and pitched in to do their part. It was difficult and often tragic, but as a community, Niagara made it through.”

    Collection highlights include a letter from a father serving oversees to his young daughter; a trench helmet and rucksack used in the First World War; documents on the City of St. Catharines’ war preparations and measures; photographs of fundraising parades to support the war; oral histories from the Niagara Mennonite community; and postcards from a military training camp in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

    Sharron said with some of the wars happening so long ago, many of the people who experienced them are no longer alive to share their story.

    “Their history and voices held in these records help us remember,” he said. “It’s why we preserve them and make them available.”

    While many of the collections are digitized and available online for anyone to access, including the records Sharron curated below, there are millions of documents and artifacts housed in the physical archives.

    “The online collections are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “There is always more to the story; a fuller history unfolds as you sift through a box of documents or flip through books from that era.”

    Brock University’s Archives and Special Collections is open to the Niagara community as well as Brock students and researchers. The public is invited to access the physical collections on the 10th floor of the James A. Gibson Library in Brock University’s Arthur Schmon Tower Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Writing ahead of a visit to is recommended in case a class is occupying the space or the reading room is full. Vaccination and mask protocols are in effect.

    Digitized records related to the World Wars

    Arthur Albert Schmon
    Arthur Albert Schmon, one of Brock University’s founders and the Schmon Tower’s namesake, fought for the United States Army during the First World War before coming to live in St. Catharines.

    Laura de Turcynowicz (nee Blackwell)
    Laura de Turcynowicz was a famous opera singer from St. Catharines who married a Polish Count and was living in Poland when the First World War began. The Prussian Army occupied her home for several months before she escaped to the U.S. She wrote a book about her ordeal and raised money for the suffering people of Poland. In 1918, de Turcynowicz was instrumental in promoting the training and education of young American women of Polish descent to help with war relief efforts in Poland. The group became known as the Polish Grey Samaritans.

    Percy Carruthers Band
    Percy Carruthers Band was a decorated First World War soldier who earned the Military Cross with two bars and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm. He was also the former caretaker of the Brock Library’s Woodruff and Post Office collections. Among other records in this collection are letters from his sweetheart Margaret Woodruff from St. Catharines, photographs, military documents, a trench helmet and rucksack from the First World War, and medals he received for courage and determination.

    Samuel DeVeaux Woodruff
    The Woodruff family of St. Catharines came to Canada from the U.S. in 1795. They were an integral part of the Village of St. Davids and played an active role in the battles fought in Upper Canada. Samuel DeVeaux Woodruff was killed in action during the First World War as a member of the 116th unit of the Queen’s Battalion of the Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment).

    Niagara Camp
    Niagara Camp was a military training camp in Niagara-on-the-Lake that was used as a summer training grounds for infantry, cavalry and artillery. Postcards of Niagara Camp were common. This collection features postcards from the early years of the First World War.

    Orville James (Jimmy) Manson
    Orville James (Jimmy) Manson was an amateur photographer from Niagara who brought his camera with him while serving for the Canadian Navy during the Second World War.

    Mennonites of Niagara
    Oral history interviews of members of the Mennonite community who came to Niagara from Europe after the upheavals of the First and Second World Wars.

    Interesting parts included in large, digitized collections:

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    Categories: Archives, Main

  • Brock Library services and resources highlighted in new exhibit

    New and returning students are invited to stop by and view a new exhibit in the Library and Learning Commons display cases. The exhibit features unique items from Brock’s Archives and Special Collections, the Makerspace, and Map, Data & GIS Library. A guide to study spots, research basics, and the various ways to get help from the library are also featured.  Welcome to Brock University Library runs to Friday, September 16.

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    Categories: Archives, Learning Commons, Main, Makerspace, MDGL

  • Local nautical history highlighted in new exhibit

    Note: this post originally published by Jocelyn Titone in Seen & Heard.

    In anticipation of the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Fourth Welland Canal this August, Brock University Library Assistant Sue Sykes has created several exhibits in Library spaces that highlight some facts and history of the canals, their bridges and the ships that have passed through them.  Items were curated from Brock’s Archives and Special Collections, Archives Canada and Sykes’ own personal nautical collection. The Brock Makerspace helped create lithophanes of the Welland Canal flight locks. Items on display from her personal collection include a brass door stop and running lights from the Venitia steam yacht that was once owned by local shipping company Scott Misener Steamships; examples of shipping flags from marine carriers Algoma, Patterson and Great Lakes Towing; a model laker ship that travelled through the Welland Canal; a 1920s photo of the Port of Goderich filled with ships carrying grain; and an artifact from John A. Roebling, the Chief Engineer of the Niagara Falls railway bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge.

    The displays are located on the main floor of the Library in the Matheson Learning Commons near the Ask Us desk and in Thistle Hall next to the Library’s south entrance. Additional historical information on the Welland Canal can be found in several digital exhibits curated by Brock Archives and Special Collections: Building the Welland Ship Canal, The History of the Welland Canal — All four of Them, and The Welland Canal’s Bridges and Tunnels — The Solution to Traffic Jams for over 100 years. Ship schedules are tweeted daily by the St. Catharines Museum Twitter account, and can be found on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System Bridge Status webpage.


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    Categories: Archives, Learning Commons, Main

  • The Archives First Hashtag Party – #ArchivesBlackEducation

    The US National Archives hosts a monthly “hashtag party” that encourages archives worldwide to post an item from their collections to Twitter and Instagram. Over the past three years, diverse monthly themes have included: weather, ancestors, baking, and movies. This February, the Brock University Archives participated for the first time with the timely subject being #ArchivesBlackEducation.  We reached into our popular Rick Bell Family Fonds:

    Certificate of Admission to St. Catharines Collegiate presented to Richard Nelson Bell in 1925.

    This certificate was awarded to Richard Nelson Bell of St. Catharines, Ontario in 1925 giving him admission to attend the local high school.   Descended from former slaves who came to Canada after the Civil War, Richard was among the first of this generation of Bell family members to attend high school.

    More rich history can be discovered through the Rick Bell Family fonds in the Brock University Digital Repository.

    Keep an eye out for next month’s archives hashtag party!

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    Categories: Archives, Main