Gordon Webber – Rare Film Reels

One of the largest special collections under the stewardship of Rare Books and Special Collections is the architectural collection named after its founder, the John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection (CAC). This collection attracts attention from a wide array of scholars, students, architects, heritage artisans and urban planners who are interested in consulting architectural plans, or photographic prints, (many times the single remaining copies) or the original sketches and presentation watercolours dealing with architectural subjects in Montreal, mostly dating around the first half of the 20th century.

The CAC continues to astound us for the surprises that turn up in any one of the 100 archival fonds and which do not fit into the usual categories of materials mentioned above. One recent example are the four film reels created by artist-photographer Gordon Webber (1909-1965), a former Professor at the McGill School of Architecture. These reels were discovered in the Webber fonds by an Arts Curator, Stébastien Hudon, while he was preparing for an exhibit on Quebec avant-garde photographers of the 1940s. As it turns out, one of these reels is a hand-painted 35mm film, described as being one of the oldest examples of experimental film-making in Canada, and it comes with exceptional provenance, being that of Norman McLaren (1914-1987), who possibly gave the film stock to Webber.  This item became the focus of attention in RBSC for its potential as an outstanding historical artefact, and the perfect context for inter-institutional collaboration and exchange of expertise. Soon, Jean Gagnon, Director of the Cinémathèque Québécoise (CQ) in Montreal, became an enthousiastic partner in an endeavour to review the contents of the fragile reel, evaluate its importance and restore it to its original form. Only the CQ had the expertise, equipment and facilities to restore this kind of film. The McGill University Library is grateful to all those involved for their efforts in making this project a success. In fact, the CQ, represented by Marco de Blois, had the occasion to celebrate this restoration in April 2012 in Beijing, China, at the International Federation of Film Archives Conference. Today for the first time, a “low-resolution” copy reformatted onto DVD is available for consultation at the CAC, while the “high-resolution version is viewable by appointment at the CQ.

Joe Beef – 19th century Montreal broadsides

This month there are two new acquisitions in the Canadiana collection.

Joe Beef of Montreal, the Son of the People.

Broadsides issued by Charles McKiernan, nicknamed Joe Beef, the proprietor of Joe Beef’s Canteen in Montreal, at a time when he was defending himself against a campaign to discredit him led by John Redpath Dougall, owner of the Montreal Daily witness, who deplored the sale of alcohol at the Canteen, although this helped raise money for McKiernan’s extensive charitable work. Cf. DCB, v. 11, p. 563-565.

1. Printed on wove paper, on both sides; this broadside includes 5 illustrations and text, in a satirical, humorous vein. Published [Montréal : C. McKiernan, 1879 or 1880] . The text consists largely of a long list of client types willingly served at Joe Beef’s Canteen; the content also alludes to McKiernan’s defense against attacks by John Redpath Dougall, and shows McKiernan’s criticism of clergy uncaring of the needy, and of police constables.

Rare Books/Special Collections, McLennan Bldg, 4th floor elf FC2947.35 J643 1879

2. Printed on wove paper in 3 columns; this broadside includes 13 illustrations and text. Published [Montréal : C. McKiernan, 1879 or 1880]. The content, with a satirical, humourous bent, refers to McKiernan’s defense against attacks by John Redpath Dougall, to McKiernan’s attack on Henry Ward Beecher, who was tried in N.Y. for adultery, to James Ward Bennett, publisher of the New York herald, which opposed Irish Home Rule, and includes a long list of client types willingly served at Joe Beef’s Canteen, and criticism of an uncaring clergy and of police constables.

Rare Books/Special Collections, McLennan Bldg, 4th floor elf FC2947.35 J64 1879

Both broadsides have been digitized and are available on the Internet Archive.

For more information about these works, contact Ann Marie Holland, Liaision Librarian, Canadiana Collections ann.holland@mcgill.ca .

More from the RBSC Canadian Olympic Collection

In 1997 the RMichael Snow Poster, Montreal Olympic Games, 1976are Books and Special Collections acquired the Canadian Olympic Collection, after the closing of the Information and Resource Centre located in Olympic House, Montreal. The collection, consisting of copies of publications of the Organizing Committees, Canadian Olympic Association (COA) and the National Olympic Committee, provides a very complete historical record of the modern Olympic Games including the following: Olympic Games, Olympic Winter Games, Pan American Games and the Commonwealth Games. Rare Books and Special Collections is now the custodian of a significant portion of the collection.

A selection of this material may be explored through the online exhibition:
The Olympics: an historical perspective