Dr. Richard Virr announced recently that he is retiring on February 2nd, 2018. Richard joined Rare Books and Special Collections in the Fall of 1984 after a short time in the McGill University Archives where he was the final editor of A guide to Archival Resources at McGill University. In 1985 he was named curator of manuscripts, a position he continued to hold when appointed Chief Curator in 2006. The latter position he held for 10 years.
Throughout his time at RBSC Richard left his mark in a number of areas. He curated numerous exhibitions that were extremely helpful in raising the visibility of the collection, including the recent one on the memorialization of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Richard organized colloquia and other events that allowed for a scholarly analysis not only of material held in RBSC but of books in general. The proceedings of the recent Meeting with Books: Special Collections in the 21st Century was published by the library with additional material about special collections at McGill. His sharp wit and depth of knowledge of the collection developed over years of erudite thought, was of great benefit to the many students and scholars with whom he worked. He also authored several works, such as Apud Aldum: Aldines in the Libraries of McGill University, published in the Marginalia monograph series in 2000. For many years he was co-editor with Hans Möller of Fontanus: from the Collections of McGill University.
One of his professional passions has been collection development. Richard focused on building on strengths, so he acquired a number of important writers from the Enlightenment era, including securing Patrick Lee’s significant Voltaire collection and numerous works by David Hume. He also added significantly to the Canadiana holdings. He taught Descriptive Bibliography in the McGill School of Information Studies for many years. The course was very popular. Many of his students later went into the field and appreciated the positive impact this course had on their professional development.
Richard has also been active outside the University. He was editor of the Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society, and organized the 2007 Anglican Libraries in Canada Conference held at McGill. He is the Archivist for the Anglican Diocese of Montreal, and a governor of the Montreal Diocesan Theological College.
Although Richard’s last day at work will be December 1, he will continue to be active in a number of professional projects, including co-curating an exhibition of medieval books of hours at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in September 2018.
We all thank Richard for his many years of service and wish him well.