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.

Final Fluffs to the TFS Fonds

Simon Rogers

The Toronto French School description project is very close to being complete. The arrangement and most of the description work has been done and we are now finalizing the last file levels and affixing labels to the boxes and files. Simon Rogers is the contract archivist who was hired to complete all of the descriptive work. He commenced this project in July and should be done by the end of October.

While the labels for the boxes were quite easy to assign and stick onto boxes, the file labels have taken far more attention, care and time due to the eclectic nature and volume of files involved. We were fortunate to have three volunteers assist with this

Katie, Heather and Stacey at Work

Process. They included Katie, Heather and Stacey. Two of them are recent graduates of Masters programs and Heather is in the process of finishing her undergraduate degree this year. Without their support, it is unlikely that we would have been able to meet our deadline this month. Their help was therefore indispensable.

TFS launches new virtual products

This summer the Heritage Professionals team worked on several digitization projects to support TFS’ anniversary initiatives. This work involved liaising with the Anniversary Committee, selecting content for the products, scanning the photographs and documents and producing descriptions for each item. We also converted some of the VHS tapes in their holdings which captured key events to digital format and produced short clips.

The first product involved the digitization of the TFS yearbooks entitled Reflection(s), from the first volume produced in 1973 to 2011.

This project involved liaising with Internet Archive, an international organization mandated to publish historic documents and works and make them available to the public on the Internet. Internet Archive scanned the volumes at their location within the University of Toronto’s Fisher Library using an overhead scanner and produced PDFs for each issue. The PDFs were then transferred to Eloquent, who made them fully searchable using TFS Archives’ Eloquent database. Now that the project is completed, the staff and stakeholders will be able to quickly search for entries documenting specific individuals and events and locate the information that they need immediately from the yearbooks. This should prove to be indispensable research tool for some of the department such as Alumni Relations and Advancement.

The second project was in the form of a slideshow that includes over 100 images, primarily from the TFS Archives, which capture the 50 year history of TFS.

The intent of the initiative was to select images that capture student life within TFS as well as the key milestones and events and to ensure that the coverage was as representative and comprehensive as posssible.The slideshow is now posted on You Tube and is highlighted on the TFS website. It will also be featured within each of TFS’ 4 branches or schools on the monitors in the entrances. The Anniversary Committee packaged this product and IT produced the slideshow and mounted it on You Tube.

The third product that Heritage Professionals supported was a virtual timeline project created by the Marketing Department to document the history of the school. The timeline captured a huge and diverse array of archival and museum related material from the TFS Archives ranging from documents, photographs, video clips, artefacts and ephemera. Over 200 items in fact were incorporated into this product, rendering it one of the more ambitious undertakings that the school has taken on in recent years. It is mounted on the TFS’ 50th Anniversary website which is used to highlight events that have been organized to commemorate this event in 2012 as well as the historic products created to support the anniversary. Some viewers will be tempted to scroll down the timeline slowly in order to review the materials year by year, while others will click on the timeline in a random fashion and select the years that pop up, or alternately, deliberately focus on the years that correspond to their association with the school. No matter how visitors approach the timeline, it should be a fun way for the TFS community to explore their rich history.

TFS Archives in Ship Shape

After two months or hard work conducting selection, arrangement and processing the TFS Archives has been transformed into an orderly and cohesive fonds. This work would not have been possible without the support of the almost 20 volunteers who took part in this phase of the project. All of the records have been placed in acid-free files, envelopes and boxes and transferred to proper shelving units within the designated archival room in the TFS Administration Building. We have also installed a data logger to ensure that the environmental conditions are monitored and controlled.

The next stage of the project, which will commence next week, will be to have a contract archivist describe all of the materials from the fonds to the file level and enter them into the archival database. We recently selected Eloquent for this purpose. This product is a Gencat system that has been used by many archival institutions, including the City of Toronto Archives, as well as a number of other Canadian private school archives. It’s a very sophisticated system that will enable the TFS to place the descriptions of their holdings as well as images of records on-line in order to make their collection more accessible to their stakeholders and the public.

As an archivist it is always very satisfying to create order out of chaos and transform a disorganized body of records into a fonds. We are so grateful to our volunteers and would like to thank them for all of their hard work. Most of them were recent archival and library graduates. The majority of the group have moved on after securing paid employment in their fields. We wish them all well and hope that this project served as a valuable learning experience. It was certainly a wonderful model for teamwork, since it involved a sizeable group of individuals with diverse skills who came together to achieve a remarkable goal in a short period of time. Their contributions will always be appreciated. Thanks everyone!!

The Mysterious Vinyl Album

As we were going through the Toronto French School’s archival holdings at the end of the project in order to locate non-textual and photographic materials, we came across an old vinyl album by Heik and the Shakes entitled Citizen Kane Whiteout Dub. The musicians involved in the album were Heiki Sillaste (vocals), J.C. Cutz (machines) and Mark Harrington on guitar.It was released in 1988 by the record company Shadow Canada, which was situated on Admiral Road in Toronto.The first question that came to mind was whether the band members were former students of the TFS or if the record was retained because students at the time enjoyed the music performed by this band and it just remained in the school since then. If they were alumni the record would be worth retaining as part of the TFS Archives. Hence,  some research was required to unravel this mystery and determine if it possesses archival value as part of the TFS fonds or not.

The first step was to check the Internet to see what details could be discovered about the band. The first hit located was on YouTube where one of the songs on this album was made available. Here is the link: The band was formed around the time that this album came out and the music they performed, which was extremely popular at the time, was electro-industrial pop. Heiki Sillaste was in fact the founder of the Shadow Record label that produced this LP.

The next step was to consult with the Toronto French School Alumni Relations staff to see if any of these musicians attended TFS. I was informed right away that two of the band members — Heiki and Jean-Claude — graduated from the TFS in 1887. They therefore put out their first album and formed the record company at the young ages of around 19. Photos of the two lads were located in the school yearbook, Reflections, for that year.

All three musicians went on to lead successful careers. Mark left Heiki and the Shakes in 1989 and began performing on his own. He co-founded the record label Toronto Experimental Artists. Heiki (alias Mouth 392) and Jean-Claude (Pupka Frey) continued to collaborate and were both part of Toronto’s Digital Poodle. Jean-Claude later performed with Rational Youth, Kinder Aton and DIN during his career.

Rational Youth

Heiki produced around 45 albums. He co-founded Nice and Smooth Ultramedia, an independent electronic music label, in 1995. He took part in other groups like Kinder Atom and has worked with major Canadian artists such as Snow, Leahy and reggae stars Michael Rose and Musical Sniper. He has also produced music for TV shows such as CSI Miami as well as commercials. His last release entitled Sauna Porch Recordings was composed and recorded in 2009 at his father’s sauna cabin located in the Georgian Bay area. Here is a link to a few of the songs:

Heiki Sillaste, 2009