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York University Libraries (YUL) Advancing SDG 11

Sustainable Cities and Communities

11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

The world’s population is constantly increasing. To accommodate everyone, we need to build modern, sustainable cities. Goal 11 is about using new, intelligent urban planning to create safe, affordable and resilient cities with green and culturally inspiring living conditions.


Expanding the Historical Record of Marginalized Communities 

YORK UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES’ CLARA THOMAS ARCHIVES & SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (ASC) is well known for its community engaged archives. The importance of preserving community heritage and providing avenues for the community to tell its story is the cornerstone of York University Libraries endeavours. Much of this activity is centered on empowering the community with new skills to build accessible repositories of knowledge with our help. Our work through the archives at York University Libraries aligns directly with UNSDG Target 11.4 which aims to strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage, and lies at the heart of our community collaborations.

To improve the discoverability and expand the historical record of marginalized communities, dedicated attention was placed on processing archival donated collections involving Black and Greek Canadians over the last few years. Completed projects include the fonds of Inez Elliston, a Jamaican-born educator, a leader in community volunteerism, and first coordinator of the Multiculturalism and Race Relations Committee for the Scarborough Board of Education with 9.2 metres of textual records, and George Papadatos, a political activist, community organizer and music promoter who lived in Toronto before returning to Greece in 1974 with  5.4 metres of textual records, photographs, and video and audio tapes. 

Photo credit: Woman and children dressed in traditional clothing walking in the annual Greek Independence Day parade on Danforth Avenue, ca. 1995-2005. ASC, Greek Community of Toronto fonds, 2005-009/001.

Archives and Special Collections also announced the completion of the finding aid for the fonds of Kenneth Shah, a founding member of Caribana and the Caribbean Cultural Committee who was involved for more than thirty years with the festival celebrating Black emancipation from slavery. 

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Shah moved to Canada in 1965 to pursue a career in petroleum engineering. He eventually left this profession to focus on carnival arts, costume design and production, taking a leadership role in programming from the first festival held in 1967 until his death. The work to rehouse and describe almost four metres of textual records, 4,000 photographs, and 51 sound and moving image recordings was completed in 2023 by archivist Emma Thomas.

Photo credit: Kenneth Shah in costume for the Caribana parade, 1970. ASC, Kenneth Shah fonds, 2020-002/021 (15).

Partnerships played by a key role in ASC’s collection development and outreach activities to bridge divides of language and culture so that there was greater diversity of perspectives preserved in Canadian public memory. The Archives continued its collaboration with the Regent Park Film Festival on the Home Made Visible project, enhancing the documentation for over 300 video clips uploaded to the York University Digital Library. The partnership was shortlisted for the Governor General’s History Award in November 2022. 

Collaboration between the Libraries and the Greek Canadian History Project began in 2012 to support the research of graduate students in York University’s Department of History. The Project identified unique documents and significant book collections held by members of Toronto’s Greek community and coordinated the donation of this material to York so that it could be preserved, described, and shared with scholars and the public. The Project ensures that the Greek community plays an active role in shaping its cultural heritage. Thanks to a major donation to York in 2021, the project has been renamed the Hellenic Heritage Foundation Greek Canadian Archives with funding to hire a director and archivist to continue building the collection, select material for digitization, and encourage an awareness of the community’s cultural heritage. 

Photo credit: A large mas costume, 1972. ASC, Kenneth Shah fonds, 2020-002/021 (14).

The Regent Park Film Festival (RPFF) Home Made Visible (HMV) project, in partnership with York University Libraries and Charles Street Video, was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation. Learn more.

Funding for the Hellenic Heritage Foundation will highlight the experiences of Greek diaspora in Canada, expand the existing physical archive, and establish a digital archive of images, documents, video and other assets that are related to Greek Canadian history. Learn more.


YUL provides free, public access to libraries, including books and publications. Learn more.

At its meeting on June 25 2019, the Senate of York University approved an Open Access Policy, reinforcing York’s commitment to the democratization of knowledge by making its research widely accessible to citizenry and the global community. The policy establishes the expectation that York University researchers will submit their scholarly articles to the open digital repository at York University (Yorkspace, Osgoode Digital Commons) or its equivalent. Learn more.

YUL provide an electronic journal hosting service for York-affiliated journals. This service is called York Digital Journals.

YUL's Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections is well known for its community engaged archives and our community outreach partnerships. The importance of preserving community heritage and providing avenues for the community to tell its story is the cornerstone of our endeavours. Much of this activity is centered upon empowering the community with new skills to build accessible repositories of knowledge with our help. Learn more.

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