The Early Shopping Mall as Community Centre

This posting will offer up a more historic examination of the Yorkdale Mall collection in contrast to the earlier postings which were more archival and technical in nature. After reviewing thousands of images and documents, it became quite apparent that Yorkdale was much more than a place to shop during the early years. In many respects, it was like a community centre that offered up a myriad of different attractions that were intended to draw in large audiences from different backgrounds, demographic groups and geographic areas.

British Week - 1967For instance, during the 1960s and 1970s, Yorkdale held many different international events that celebrated just to name a few — British, Japanese, Italian and German — culture, food and fashion. The image to the left captures Ray and Eileen Sonin engaged in a radio broadcast during British Week at Yorkdale in the fall of 1967. The images below feature a Japanese tea ceremony (Oct. 1969), a window display showcasing Italian fashions (Oct. 1970) and traditional German dancers (Oct. 1972).

14 - 1970016Tea Ceremony - Japan Week - 196984 - 1972087

In addition to introducing its customers to many different exciting and exotic cultures, Yorkdale also held a number of cutting-edge attractions at the time that one wouldn’t expect to find at a mall. These included cultural displays, sport, car and boat shows and other unique attractions.

The three images below document displays from the ROM, the AGO and the Antique Show, which were held at Yorkdale in 1971,1974 and 1977 respectively. These types of events served in making art, artifacts and antiques accessible to the general public and exposed these audiences to history and avant-garde culture.  While the ROM and Antique Shows were successful, Yorkdale customers were not ready to embrace the AGO’s modern art. According to an article published in The Mirror on 24 July, 1974, the modern pieces were widely criticized by the obviously more traditional audience at the time.

50 - 1971052AGO Exhibit - 1974Antique Show - 1977

Other more sporty events that were held at Yorkdale during the early decades included57 - 1971059 sports shows, car and boat shows and horse shows. These attractions took considerable time and effort to set up and certainly the audiences must have appreciated the magnitude of the events involved. The image to the right reveals a ski demonstration from the Sports Show (1971) and those below include huge sailboats from the boat and plane show (1971) and a horse stall from the Carlsberg Horse Show (1976).

46 - 1971048Carlsburg Horse Event - 1976

The final group of events that were quite unique were the Yorkdale anniversaries that were held for many of the milestones during this period and the Circus Vargas event, the latter of which included a big top set up in the parking area and wild animals. The photos below feature highlights from these events. The first is a trampoline artist performing at Yorkdale’s 10th anniversary in 1974 and the second is a bear act under the big top at Circus Vargas in 1977.

Trampoline - 1974 - 10th anniversary Summer 74 Circus Vargas - 1977

One can see that the mall during the 1960s and 1970s was more than a teen hangout. Yorkdale’s cutting-edge programming served as a cultural magnet for Torontonians and tourists alike. The myriad and unique experiences that it offered were often both educational and entertaining and appealed to a broad demographic. Yorkdale certainly embraced the optimism of the era and created cutting-edge events that set it apart from the competition.





































































































































































The Digitization Phase of the Yorkdale Anniversary Project

After the voluminous Yorkdale materials were arranged and processed, it was time to start the digitization project. The first step involved selection. Working with the client, we were able to devise a selection criteria that encapsulated their priorities and goals in regards to this initiative. The criteria was applied to the records and we were able to select and digitize 1000 items which included documents, ephemera, newspaper clipping, posters, photographs, slides and AV materials. This posting will highlight the technical aspects of the initiate.

DSCN0087The first materials that were digitized were the photographs and slides. Approximately 60 percent of the scans were composed of these media. We relied on a high-end Epson scanner to digitize these records. The unit came with special attachments for the negatives and slides. The photograph to the right is an image of Jessica using the light board to arrange and prepare the slides for scanning.

The photographs were scanned at a mid-range resolution and the slides at 700 DPI, in order to ensure that they hold their appearance once the images are enlarged. Although the Epson came with a feature to take out dust, we dusted each one before scanning them. Additional work using Photoshop, however, was required to fully eliminate specs and age-related damage to some of the graphic materials.

Another challenge that we addressed was the digitization of images and items that were glued to scrapbooks, along with oversized materials such as transparencies and posters. This category of materials was therefore not appropriate for the flat bed scanner.

Poster - October 1986

Yorkdale Poster – October, 1986

DSCN0085As a result, we relied on digital photography to accommodate these records. One of the assistant archivists, Katie, is a trained photographer in this area and was able to deftly photograph these tricky items. The photograph on the left provides a visual of the work involved in digitizing the items in the scrapbooks. Katie also relied on a tripod and easel to tackle the oversized ephemera such as the poster featured above.

The final group of records that we tackled were the audio visual materials. These included audio cassettes and VHS recordings. We relied on a small device to convert the cassettes to MP3 and a Magnavox VHS/DVD machine to convert the VHS to video. Once the items were digitized it was still necessary to rely on a software ripping device to convert the videos to AVI and then a film editing program to produce short video clips of each event or TV news program. Here is a gem of a piece that was converted from a news show which has hosted by Lucy Zilio who was covering Ricky Martin’s visit to Yorkdale on 9 October 1997. This was an era when many young stars made appearances at malls to greet and entertain their teen fans. Just click on the hypertext link above to see the video.

Now that the items are digitized, Yorkdale is planning to rely on this material as part of their social media anniversary initiative. They have also secured a web design company to produce an Infogram to showcase these rich materials that document the five decade long history of Yorkdale Mall.

















The HP Archivists: Transforming Old Records Into Gold

While some people know about the ancient alchemists who magically transformed lead into gold, the general public likely hasn’t seen or been exposed to the wizardry a good archivist employs to transform old records into valued treasures. This posting will reveal the expertise and tools the Heritage Professionals team relied on when processing the Yorkdale Mall records that document its amazing 50 year history.

IMG_0805We started off by taking all of the slides and photographs and organizing them chronologically by event. They were then placed in acid-free envelopes and folders, described, labelled and placed in archival boxes. Two of the staff, Katie Shoemaker and Jessica Silverman, both of whom are photo experts, tackled this work.

IMG_0804One of our seasoned archivists, Simon Rogers, took on the 35 boxes of textual records. The documents were mostly organized in binders by event. We implemented the same arrangement scheme as with the graphic materials and disposed of the old binders. After the multiple copies and non-archival materials were culled, we were left with 20 boxes of filed documents.

IMG_0808At the end of the arrangement and processing exercise, we were left with an extremely attractive and well organized collection of materials. Not only will the records have a much extended life span, but they will be far easier to access and digitize in preparation for the next phase of the project. To the left is an image of photographs that have been placed in acid-free envelopes, folders and boxes.



Phase I of the Yorkdale Mall Project

The first phase of the archival project involved identifying and retrieving the records produced by Yorkdale Mall staff from the past 50 years and preserving them according to archival standards. The majority of materials were stored in a storage room below store level. The room was quite dark, overcrowded and slightly damp.


We identified the boxes that should be included in this initiative and had Yorkdale’s Housekeeping staff move the designated records to a holding room situated next to the large processing room that we are using for this project. The purpose of the holding room (see photo to the left) has been to provide the team with a separate and safe space for us to conduct an evaluation of the records in order to determine if any of them have been contaminated by mould, attacked by insects/vermin or possess other problems that require special treatment by a conservator.

Box with shredded newspaper in corner

Box with shredded newspaper in corner

During this exercise, we spotted 8 binders containing textual materials from the 1970s that had mould. We subsequently contacted a paper conservator to review the binders and provide us with an assessment and quote. There were also a couple of boxes that had some shredded newspaper shavings on the bottom that were likely generated by mice to serve as a den.


 One box appeared to have burn marks on the side. Thankfully the records inside seemed to be safe and intact. Overall, the collection consists of around 60 boxes of analogue and digital records in all media — paper, photographs, slides, VHS & Beta tapes, films, posters, CDs, ephemera etc… — that date from 1964 to 2003 that possess extremely high archival value.

In the end, besides the binders with textual records, only a couple dozen slides and photographs had to be removed due to humidity or water damage. We also had to recycle the newspapers that had been attacked by mice. Despite these discoveries, we were very pleased to find that the vast majority of the records were very good condition and ready to move on to the next stage involving archival processing.

Yorkdale Mall’s 50th Anniversary Initiative

This January we were hired by Oxford Properties Group to assist with Yorkdale Mall’s 50th Anniversary which will take place this year.Early Yorkdale Postcard

When it opened on February 26th 1964, Yorkdale was the largest indoor mall in the world.  Situated close to the 401, the intent of the developers was to attract and accommodate the growing number of people who resided in the suburbs, along with urbanites eager to venture to this shopping mecca that  boasted air conditioning, two Interior Yorkdale - 1960smajor department stores and 6500 parking spaces.

The anniversary campaign will feature a number of prominent personalities, such as Coco Rosha, who is captured in the promotional materials and will take part in the main anniversary event scheduled for February 26th.


Here is a link to the anniversary page that was set up recently by the Marketing Department. This site will provide information about all of the upcoming anniversary events as well as provide access to the virtual and social media products developed during the course of the year. Some of these products will highlight the rich heritage materials that we have been hired to process, describe and digitize. Regular updates will be posted on this site documenting the progress of this exciting initiative along with stories relating to specific archival treasures that were unearthed by the Heritage Professionals team.

Beth Torah Anniversary Gala

The Beth Torah Gala was held last week on Sunday April 28th. It was an evening soiree with the selected 60s Mad Men theme called “An Affair to Remember: Drink, Dance and Games of Chance”. Close to two hundred members attended the Gala. The refreshments were catered by the Park Hyatt as well as the drinks, including the signature cocktail the “Golden Gimlet” selected by the Anniversary Committee. We also had a retro candy table, a live band called Oui B Jamon and the Magen Boys provided the DJ services. The music was in keeping with the theme and really helped set the tone.

The main attraction, however, were the casino game tables and slot machines courtesy of Superior Events. We had professional dealers at each of the tables and the guests really threw themselves into the gambling all night. Many of the tables drew large crowds and one could hear lots of enthusiastic shouts whenever there were big winners.

casino photo 2 - reversedOnce the gamblers were finished playing they were able to cash in their chips for tickets and could put them in boxes in front of the prizes they wanted to win on the prize table. There were about 20 enticing prize baskets up for grab, each assigned the name of a song from the 1960s that reflected the theme of the prize. There was also a big auction at the end of the evening with several exciting prizes available including a night for two at the Park Hyatt and a weekend in Vegas.

Other attractions at the Gala included a special Bar/Bat Mitzvah display that was produced by Heritage Professionals called “Fifty Years of B’nai Mitzvot”.

bar mitzvah exhibitimg_7349

One of the highlights of the event was the photo booth. The photographer, Francine Birkin, set up a booth with the Beth Torah 50th Anniversary branding and had fun retro 60s props for guests to wear while taking their portraits alone, as a couple or with friends. Here are couple fun images that were taken during the event.

DFI_03DFI_88x2The Gala ended with a Beth Torah Anniversary Video produced by Heritage Professionals. Click the link above to view it on Vimeo. At the end of the night each guest was given the special anniversary booklet that features a special heritage section. Finally, a photo album was created and posted on the Beth Torah Facebook site after the Gala.

The Anniversary Committee did a tremendous job making the event the success that it was. We also were fortunate to have Fern Cohen, our event planner from Relax, coordinate the evening. Our catering consultants were Sari Gorman and Iain McIlveen from Gorman McIlveen Associates. Finally, the staff contributed so much supporting the committee, setting everything up and overseeing the evening activities.

Beth Torah’s 50th Anniversary

mad men bar scene 2

My team has been working to support Beth Torah’s 50th Anniversary this year. The gala is taking place on April 28th and the theme is the swinging 60s Mad Men style. The gala will feature a signature cocktail from that era, casino games, live music and a dress up photo booth. It should therefore be an extremely retro and fun event.

As Chair of the Anniversary Committee it has been great working on everything from the invitations to the development of a web page, Facebook presence and exhibit to promote the event. photo of promo exhibit - cropped

The remaining projects involve completing another exhibit that focuses on 50 years of bar and bat mitzvahs at Beth Torah. We will also produce a heritage booklet to feature approximately 50 archival photos and text as well as the greetings from politicians and members and ads. Everything is well on course and the committee has been doing a wonderful job working together and injecting creativity and energy into everything they have tackled thus far.