Saturday, November 6, 2010

Heritage: Films from the Archives of Ontario

Stewart Boden (right) of the Archives of Ontario received recognition from the West Toronto Junction Historical Society after a presentation in Toronto, Ontario on 4-November-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - In April 2009, the Archives of Ontario moved to a new location on the Keele campus of York University. As the new purpose-built facility is less accessible to many than the previous location in the core of Toronto, the archives have tried to do more outreach, and Stewart Boden of the archives provided one such experience with a talk at the West Toronto Junction Historical Society on Thursday night.

The presentation focused on some of the films from the archives, and they were quite a cultural tour. The first clip came from an early provincial production called "Her Own Fault" which showed two independent women, one of which was a very proper and good employee with hygienic habits and the other who did everything wrong. The latter ended up with tuberculosis (though was well cared for by the provincial health care system, of course)--can one imagine such a message being delivered by the government even a generation ago?

Probably my favorite public health clip from the presentation, though, featured a borrowed character. Apparently "Murphy the Molar" was the mascot of the Ontario Dental Association, and the province adopted him for a series of spots on dental hygiene. A particularly amusing example showed Murphy recommending the use of a mask when playing hockey, complete with music from the famous Canadian folk group The Travellers.

Another great set of ads, somewhat more modern in origin, warned motorists to respect snow plows that moved slowly with their blue beacon lights on while removing snow. While the sample shown on Thursday was rather amusing, featuring a sports car snow plow, there was apparently a spot produced that featured a snow plow that fired upon any cars approaching too close. That one apparently didn't last very long on the air.

Of course, no summary of Ontario government-produced films could be complete without the only one that actually won an Academy Award. I had heard many things about "A Place to Stand," used as a promotional film by the province at Expo '67 in Montreal, Quebec (a short clip is here). However, I had never actually seen more than a brief snippet of the film with its famous lyrics, "A Place to Stand, A Place to Grow, Ontari-ari-ari-o" and then-innovative split-screen visuals. That wasn't the case for the rest of the audience on Thursday. Once it started, everyone else started to sing along.

I can't think of a reason why I will need to go to the Archives of Ontario in the future, but with 15,000 feet of year of new documents being added, maybe someday I will. After the presentation on Thursday, I certainly view it as more than a repository of genealogical information for the province of Ontari-ari-air-o.

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