A look back at the TFN Slide Collection

TFN Slide Collection

The TFN office serves a variety of purposes: meeting space for the board and various committees, production facilities for the newsletter, and a social spot on Friday mornings to name a few. But as a quick glace at the shelves that line our walls will tell you, it is also home to the TFN Archives, a collection of walk leader reports, ravine surveys, plant & bird checklists, historic pamphlets, eight decades of TFN newsletters, and a sundry cast of other treasures. Perhaps none of these assets are quite as important or valuable as the TFN Slide Collection, two cabinets full of some 12,000+ 35-mm colour slides in archival-quality protectors, documenting decades of nature in this city.

The collection began in the early 1970s, forged from photo donations received from members who entrusted their personal slides, some dating back to the 1950s, to the care of TFN. Today it would be little more than an unseemly mass were it not for the valiant efforts of two long-standing TFN members, Helen Juhola and Pleasance Crawford. Between the call for “someone interested in working on our slide collection” issued by Pinky Franklin in the October 2006 issue of our newsletter until well into 2009, Helen & Pleasance sorted, compiled, archived, documented, and databased these assets, bringing order and accessibility to one of our organization’s most phenomenal legacies.

The collection records decades of people, places, flora, and fauna from all across Toronto. Some are photographed with a deep intimacy, like the in-the-field photos supplied by Dr. W.W.H. Gunn, once the Executive Director of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (now Ontario Nature). Others show a more clinical bent, like those by aerial photographer Lou Wise, who TFN commissioned to document the Rouge River from the air back in 1987 (only 70 of the nearly 800 slides that Wise contributed to our collection). Historic moments are captured, like the impact of Hurricane Hazel revealed in photos by Ed Waltho taken in October, 1954. TFN’s own history can be found on display, smiling faces of members since passed and many still with us today (although looking just a titch younger).

The importance of the TFN Slide Collection is incalculable, and its constitution utterly fascinating. Renewed attention will be paid to these assets in anticipation of our upcoming 100th anniversary, hopefully resulting in additional efforts to digitize the collection and make a variety of photos available online. In the meanwhile, here’s a small sampling of what’s on offer.

The Toronto Field Naturalists wish to acknowledge this land through which we walk. For thousands of years it has been the traditional land of the Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississauga of the Credit River. Today it is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to be on this land.