The early evolution of Canada’s information age is on display at the Scott Library, with the new Portraits of Digital Canada photo exhibit now open on the first floor. The exhibit is comprised of selections from the IBM Images Archive and primarily features the work of George Dunbar, IBM’s staff photographer from 1957-1989, whose artistic vision captured a behind-the-scenes look at the emergence of digital technology.
“I think the photographs really tell the story, they’re so inspiring and engaging in telling the story of Canada’s history – it’s social history as well as the history of computing in this country,” said Joy Kirchner, Dean of Libraries. “For us, the event sparked many conversations. I heard from many participants about their own experiences with technology through the years and that’s what we hope to do with our archives. We’re enormously grateful for receiving this donation. It’s going to continue to spark many conversations with our students, in our teaching programs, and our community engagement events.”
Zbigniew Stachniak, associate professor at the Lassonde School of Engineering, is the curator of the exhibit and selected which photos would be on display on the first floor of the Scott Library.
“Portraits of Digital Canada started two years ago as an idea when I saw the IBM Images Archive at IBM headquarters in Markham,” said Stachniak. “What I saw was an incredible collection of photographs that covered many themes – not only themes related to IBM and its corporate history – but many other themes of ordinary life. Of streets and stores, factories…I was really amazed how rich the collection was. Many of these photos are of incredible artistic value…and I thought it would be a pity if these photographs remained buried in these various boxes only for a few people to perhaps see. Hence the idea of mounting an exhibit and selecting them for public viewing.”
Dunbar’s work has been featured in a number of different capacities over his career, including for public and employee relations as well as advertising and promotional purposes. His stellar shots have earned him awards from the Toronto Art Directors Club, Communications Arts Magazine, and Professional Photographers of Canada.
“When I saw [George’s] photographs the first time I was just overwhelmed with how clever he was setting up scenes, experimenting with photographs, we’re talking about the 1980s, the 50s and 60s – really the dark ages of photo experimentation,” said Stachniak. “He did all of that in his little studios with his cameras and produced some of the most fantastic images I have ever seen.”
The photos on display at the exhibit are only a small handful of the thousands of photos and film footage that comprise the entire IBM Images Archive which will be housed at the Clara Scott Thomas Archives and Special Collections in Scott Library.
“The importance of a collection like this for our community is that we provide access to our historical record. We have deep expertise in preserving the knowledge and stewarding collections like this with particular expertise in photography and media, so this has come to a very good home indeed from the perspective of how we engage with our teaching programs with these archives,” said Kirchner.
"The other aspect of having archives of photographs like this is that we also have a social contract with our donors, that we preserve and steward these collections and make them accessible to the community. We frequently display this content in a variety of ways in support of our teaching and community engagement programs. It is also in support of IBM and other companies that have entrusted us with these kinds of records that they have donated to us. We are in partnership with them, we appreciate and are deeply honoured that they came our way, and our commitment to them is that we will steward these collections well and make them accessible to the world.”
The exhibit is available for viewing on the first floor of the Scott Library and will run into the summer. For more information on the exhibit, visit the online catalogue here.