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My friend, engineer Cloé Doucet, in Manitoba, on a spillway replacement job.

“The Lady Who Drives the Great Big Truck”!

Throughout my travels across Canada – purposed to interview veterans of the mining, metallurgy and petroleum sectors, one of the questions I asked was: How present (or absent) were women in the workplace? To which I would get the recurring answer: essentially none. Most rather seasoned interviewees would tell me that at the time, there were simply no women in engineering schools. Howbeit, many women found administration jobs within the natural resources world.

“… when I go to schools to talk to the kids, they don’t want to talk to me, they want to talk to the lady who drives the great big truck!”

In recent history, several companies have made efforts to increase the number of women in skilled labour positions. Eric Newell, former CEO of Syncrude, explains how the company implemented the Bridges program in the mid-90s, a program that encouraged female employees to transition from their administrative roles to the male dominated workplace. “They had two weeks to learn about the technical trades, then they would job shadow and finally, they would work a 28 day work cycle. […] None ever asked to go back. In the end, 25% of our 400 tonne truck drivers were women (as opposed to 4-5% before). And we won employer of the year award (Maclean’s) […] Now, when I go to schools to talk to the kids, they don’t want to talk to me, they want to talk to the lady who drives the great big truck!”

 

Ground-level perspective of a heavy hauler and a shovel at Syncrude. Courtesy of Syncrude Canada Ltd.

Today, women comprise 25% of the heavy truck driver workforce at Syncrude. Courtesy of Syncrude Canada Ltd.

Nowadays, women represent the majority of young university graduates, and although engineering programs are still renowned for seldom having women, registration has considerably risen. That said, women remain less likely to choose or find employment in any STEM areas. This stands in contrast to nearly all other fields of study, where women now make up the majority of graduates. What explains this phenomenon? Why are women more reluctant and less likely to find a job in natural resources?

Parents, teachers, mentors all play very important roles for a young woman.

“Somehow in the mining world, we haven’t succeeded… women have not found it very appealing,” says Dr. Samuel Marcuson, former Vice President at Vale. “When I started working in the 1970s and 1980s, in the work place you would find lots of pinup girls, naked women, pictures on the wall. And the women who joined the workforce at that time, clearly had to put up with that.” Although these kinds of actions have virtually been banned from the workplace, Marcuson explains that it took several decades for most companies to condemn it.

 

My friend, engineer Cloé Doucet, in Manitoba, on a spillway replacement job.

My friend, engineer Cloé Doucet, in Manitoba, on a spillway replacement job.

Today the workplace makes an effort to be much more inviting, but issues can still arise. Dr. Mary Wells, Associate Dean and Professor of Engineering at the University of Waterloo, explains that women can be subject to micro-aggressions. The latter are short, verbal or behavioral indignities, at times unintentional, that translate into slights. For instance, “a subtle example could be of a woman always getting a surprised reaction from others when she tells people in her field that she is an engineer,” explains Wells. “It can have a negative, eroding impact over time.” The work schedule of many jobs in the natural resources industry can also make it very difficult for any women to spend time with her family. In fact, “the drop off rate of women is much higher midway through their career […] as the work schedule is less flexible,” says Wells. On the brighter side, there are companies who offer mentorships and have become more flexible to the needs of families. “C E Zinc for example, has a company policy that all meetings must end by 4:30pm,” explains Wells. She has high hopes for the future as it has become much more common for men to be as involved as women in raising the family. As a result, responsibilities such as paternity leave or finishing work earlier to pick up the kids, have educated employers of the difficulties traditionally encountered by women.

Time will tell, but positive influence starts much earlier, says Wells. “Parents, teachers, mentors all play very important roles for a young woman.”

 

Photo courtesy of MiHR.

Photo courtesy of MiHR.

Acknowledgement:

Many thanks to Eric Newell, Sam Marcuson, Mary Wells and all other interviewees for your thoroughness and candor. A special mention to my dear friend Cloé, who is an exemplar in the field.

Header photo courtesy of the Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Sources:

Catalyst. Catalyst Quick Take: Women in Male-Dominated Industries and Occupations in U.S. and Canada. New York: Catalyst, 2013. http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-male-dominated-industries-and-occupations-us-and-canada

Hango, Darcy. Gender differences in STEM programs at university, Statistics Canada, December 18, 2013. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-006-x/2013001/article/11874-eng.htm

Marcuson, Sam. Interview with Sam Marcuson, Mining and Metallurgy Project, July 23, 2015. Toronto, Ontario, in person (William McRae)

Natural Resources Canada. 10 Key Facts on Canada’s Natural Resources, August 2014. https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/files/pdf/10_key_facts_nrcan_e.pdf

Newell, Eric. Interview with Eric Newell, Mining and Metallurgy Legacy Project. April 22, 2015. Edmonton, Alberta, in person (William McRae)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 5. Iron works in the Georg Fischer Iron Library

“Get thee to a Nunnery” : Finding the History of Metallurgy in a Monastery

Although the history of Canadian metallurgy is of national significance, our collection in this area is rather small. Before, I could decide what to collect, I needed to gain a better understanding of the subject. Therefore in June 2015, I travelled to the Georg Fischer Iron Library in the small town of Schlatt, Switzerland where I spent three weeks as a Scholar-in-Residence. I researched the history of metallurgy, and the technology transfer between Europe and Canada.

Figure 1. The Klostergut Paradies nunnery

Figure 1. The Klostergut Paradies nunnery near the town of Schlatt, Switzerland.

The Iron Library holds the world’s largest collection of books on mining and metallurgy. It is located in Klostergut Paradies, an old nunnery, established by Poor Clares in 1253 (Figures 1). In 1918 Georg Fischer AG (GF), a large manufacturer of iron, steel, and plastics purchased the monastery with its agricultural lands to grow food for the company’s workers. Inside, Fischer discovered a large library of books related to mining and metallurgy, and rather than dismount it, the company decided to invest in the collection. Today, the Iron Library’s holdings are unmatched by any others in the world (Figure 2). Surrounded by towns with rich metallurgical history, the Iron Library provides a perfect environment to study the field.

Figure 2. The Iron Library Rare Books Collection

Figure 2. The Iron Library Rare Books Collection

I had an ambitious research plan for my three-week stay. I started by consulting monographs related to the history of metallurgy in general, and the European history of metallurgy. This allowed me to place developments in Canada in a broader cultural and technological context. Next, I reviewed Georg Fischer’s archival resources to identify links with Canadian companies. Indeed the archival collection proved very interesting. It contained files on Fischer turbines supplied for Alcan’s Kitimat-Kemano projects (Figure 3), Hydro-Quebec’s Bersimis stations, and Ontario Hydro’s Sir Adam Beck No. 2. I was surprised to discover that in 1956, Professor Gerard Letendre, who according to Canadian scholarship advised Premier Duplessis against investing in steel industry in Quebec, solicited GF’s capital for a metallurgical research centre in Canada. The documents also show that, when in 1956 Gordon MacMillan, Vice-President of the Canadian Car Company asked for a tour of GF’s plants, the head of GF bluntly refused suggesting in a less than polite manner that he felt: “inclined to consider the contemplated visit devoid of the benefit (…) and think it better for [MacMillan] to cancel your coming to Schaffhausen.”

 

Figure 3. A Pelton turbine for Alcan’s Kitimat-Kemano project in British Columbia

Figure 3. A Pelton turbine for Alcan’s Kitimat-Kemano project in British Columbia

Lastly, I consulted unique manuscripts and publications dating from the fifteenth to the eighteen century containing drawings, engravings, and woodcuts, such as Jean François Morand’s L’art d’exploiter les mines and Jacob Leupold’s Theatrum Machinarum. Images that I found challenged my assumptions on the roles of women in mining and metallurgy (Figure 4), a subject that I now need to study in more detail.

Figure 4. (A) Women working in a coal mine, 1700s (B) An ivory miniature showing women forging Damascus steel

Figure 4. (A) Women working in a coal mine, 1700s (B) An ivory miniature showing women forging Damascus steel

 

I toured a GF’s iron plant in Singen, Germany and a plastics plant in Schaffhausen, Switzerland; met with GF staff and visiting scholars from as far as Nepal and Japan. Yet, in its serendipitous way, the research at the Iron Library revealed an unexpected story of ‘collecting and connecting.’ The library contained a collection of polonica, metallurgy literature published in Poland between the 1960s and the early 1980s. How did the Iron Library come to acquire such a collection? As archival correspondence revealed, in the early 1960s the Library approached the Mining and Metallurgy Academy in Krakow asking for help in acquiring publications produced in then communist Poland, which were not available abroad. One of the professors, Dr. Jerzy Piaskowski, who had a private collection on history of metallurgy, enthusiastically agreed to supply the books and magazines in exchange for material published in the Western Europe.

… in its serendipitous way, the research at the Iron Library revealed an unexpected story of ‘collecting and connecting’.

At the time, as Piaskowski explained in one of his letters, this was the only way that books from the West could make it to a scholar from the Eastern Block. Dr. Piaskowski produced handwritten bibliographies, which he mailed to the Iron Library. The Iron Library staff would make a selection and mail it back to Dr. Piaskowski. He then purchased the books and sent them to the Library with a list of publications that he wished to receive in return, of the value equivalent to his shipment. This cooperation lasted for almost two decades. At one point, in the mid-1960s, the Library invited Dr. Piaskowski for a visit. He diplomatically ̶ as not to offend any potential censors and jeopardize his future contacts with the Library ̶ replied that it was impossible for him to travel outside of Poland. As the staff at the Iron Library changed and the collecting policies become more practical in the early 1980s, the new Librarian suggested in one of the last letters to Dr. Piaskowski that books in Polish were not useful for the Library’s clientele. “Perhaps, now there are no people who can read my papers”- replied Dr. Piaskowski – “but there will be in future.” I wish, I could tell him that he was right.

Figure 5. Iron works in the Georg Fischer Iron Library

Figure 5. Iron works in the Georg Fischer Iron Library

Resources:

Iron Library Online Catalogue

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank the Georg Fischer Iron Library Foundation for their generous support of the Scholar-in-Residence programme. Many thanks to the wonderful library staff Franziska, Florian, and Uta, for making my stay truly special.

Photo:  Located at 4000 Rue St. Ambroise in Montreal, Coleco Canada was one of the few companies to have ever manufactured a video game console in Canada. Art. no. 1987.0457, CSTMC.

Going digital: crossing the physical divide?

Over a year ago, I was asked to research “Canadian” video games and suggest how we might be able to develop an artifact based exhibition opening in 2016. There was just one small problem, the Museum did not have an extensive video game collection.  Would this mean that I could start from scratch and shape a new collection?  The Museum did have a few intriguing video game related artifacts that I could use as a starting point.  My initial exploration of these objects and their history would shape the way I think about physical objects, digital objects, and the often blurred line between the two.

Photo:  Developed by Flim Flam and distributed by G.A.M.E. Ltd. in Canada.  The cabinet featured four playable games: Flim Flam Tennis and Flim Flam Hockey, Knockout and Knockout Doubles (all of which were Pong clones). Art. no. 1985.0580 CSTMC.

Photo:  Developed by Flim Flam and distributed by G.A.M.E. Ltd. in Canada.  The cabinet featured four playable games: Flim Flam Tennis and Flim Flam Hockey, Knockout and Knockout Doubles (all of which were Pong clones). Artifact no. 1985.0580 CSTMC.

The first true video game collected by the Museum was a cocktail table arcade game (1985.0580).  The first video game system in the national collection was quickly followed by the acquisition, in 1987, of the TELSTAR home system (1987.0457) manufactured by Coleco Canada.  Although, both of these artifacts are examples of video game hardware, the software, or games, are integral to the artifact.  Unlike a computer, where games can be played or not, the hardware and software in the first two video game artifacts cannot be separated.  In both cases the software, or games, is a Pong clone.

Photo:  A video of DeLuSioNaL Arcade’s restored Flim Flam cabinet gives a sense of how the games were played (English only https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVKOjKl3dPU).

Photo:  A video of DeLuSioNaL Arcade’s restored Flim Flam cabinet gives a sense of how the games were played (English only https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVKOjKl3dPU).

Many manufacturers, created versions of the smash hit Pong to capitalise on the success of Atari’s Pong.  The original Pong is regarded as the first commercially successful arcade cabinet and is also responsible for creating the home console market (whether the Magnavox Odyssey or the Atari Home Pong console). Both artifacts are important, in their own right, in the development of a video game industry and culture in Canada.  Although they were collected separately, I can’t help but think that both video games systems were always meant to be seen as a pair in the collection. When paired, they illustrate the rise and popularity of video games in Canada during the mid-1970s.  The arcade cabinet and the home console highlight the proliferation of locations where we, as consumers, were expected to play and how the gaming industry was formed by building copies of popular software rather than innovation.  The first video game artifacts act as an excellent starting point for discussions about technological uptake and the cultural/social value of video games.

Photo:  Located at 4000 Rue St. Ambroise in Montreal, Coleco Canada was one of the few companies to have ever manufactured a video game console in Canada. Art. no. 1987.0457, CSTMC.

Photo:  Located at 4000 Rue St. Ambroise in Montreal, Coleco Canada was one of the few companies to have ever manufactured a video game console in Canada. Artifact no. 1987.0457, CSTMC.

The quick analysis of these two artifacts suggested something more than the material nature of the object.  Until I started digging into the holdings of the collection I had been treating the hardware and the software of video games as discreet entities, as something to be examined on their own.  What these early video game artifacts show is that the physicality of the object is interwoven with its digital component and only by examining them together can deeper meaning be drawn.

 

cyclo camera_mod

Part 5: Canadian Contributions to Panoramic Photography

THE BACKSTORY:

Cirkut Panoramic Camera Outfit Century 46, No. 8 Century Camera Division, Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, N.Y. ca. 1908-15 Artifact no. 2013.0126

Figure 1. Cirkut Panoramic Camera Outfit
Century Camera Division,
Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, N.Y.
ca. 1908-15
Artifact no. 2013.0126

 

After our examination of the Cirkut Panoramic Camera Outfit (Figure 1), one of the first questions that came up had to do with the panoramic photographs. Were there any left? If so, where? Would we be so lucky as to find Ernest Denton’s panoramas and uncover the evidence needed to link them to the newly acquired artifact?

 

Actually…, we were! Beginning about a year and a half ago, some fact finding led me to Karen Ball-Pyatt of the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History at the Kitchener Public Library. Discussions with Karen confirmed the existence of Denton’s 100 year old military panoramas (Figure 2), well preserved, and safely stored in their collections. Our research on the cameras’ provenance, the photographer who used it, as well as careful examination of his photos by Wilhelm Nassau and Dolf Bogad led our team to conclude the links between the camera outfit and Denton’s ‘picture perfect’ panoramas were as close a match as we were going to get. Thanks to Karen’s research on Denton, our examinations of his panoramic photographs and camera, a colourful history began to emerge – the notion of collaborating on a series of blogs really took hold. It is with great pleasure that both Karen and I could actively participate in uncovering the past, reach out to Willie and Dolf, and together share our findings through our Historically Speaking and Collect-Connect blogs.

 

Ernest Denton was my Great-grandfather. We as kids knew him as Pop and he was a wonderful man.

I never knew he was so great as a photographer because he was just Pop to me”.

~ Mrs. Linda Tucker, March 2015.

 

-56th Overseas Battery, Canadian Expeditionary Forces, Petawawa Camp 1916, Denton’s Studio, Kitchener, Canada Photo reproduced with the permission of the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History, Kitchener Public Library.

Figure 2. Panoramic photograph of the 56th Overseas Battery, Petawawa Camp, Ontario, Denton’s Studio, 1916.
Reproduced with the permission of the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History, Kitchener Public Library.

 

CANADIAN CONTRIBUTIONS:

Connon's 1887 patent. Source: Canadian Intellectual Property Office, Canadian Patent Document 30143, Drawings page

Figure 3. Connon’s Canadian 1888 patent.
Canadian Intellectual Property Office, Patent Document 30,143.

 

There are some notable Canadian contributions to the development of 19th century panoramic photography, the technique used for capturing wide views of a scene on one single exposure.

 

The invention of flexible rolled film in the late 1880’s made it possible for inventors, innovators, and manufacturers to combine with a mechanism that rotated a camera about the optical axis of a lens – and this, at the same time as the film advanced passed the shutter. Two Canadians, John Robert Connon and William James Johnston, contributed to bringing the mechanical system to perfection. Advancements in the development of panoramic photography and the design of the Cirkut Panoramic camera enabled photographers to capture wide and elongated scenes on film and photos up to eight feet long that exceed the human eye’s field of view. Both Connon and Johnston obtained patents (Figure 3) for camera designs possible to take 360o panoramic photographs.

 

 

 

 

John Robert Connon (1862-1931) was from the town of Elora, in the county of Wellington, Ontario. He followed in his father’s footsteps as a professional photographer, and is largely credited with the invention of the panoramic camera. In 1887, while using his cycloramic-type camera, Connon took what was likely the first Canadian panoramic photograph (Figure 4), and in 1888, obtained a Canadian patent (no. 30,143) for the invention of the Whole-Circle Panoramic Camera (Figure 3). It is while briefly living in New York that Connon collaborated with C.P. Stirn as the designer of the “Wonder Panoramic Camera”, confirming the photographer from Elora as a true inventor and innovator. In 2007 the Royal Canadian Mint issued a sterling silver coin, ‘celebrating Canada’s technical achievements and the invention of the panoramic camera by J.R. Connon’.

 

An 1887 panoramic view of Elora, Ontario by John Robert Connon. Reproduced with the permission of the Wellington County Museum and Archives / PH 2754.

Figure 4. An 1887 panoramic view of Elora, Ontario by John Robert Connon. Reproduced with the permission of the Wellington County Museum and Archives / PH 2754.

 

Less is known of William James Johnston (1856–1941), especially of his adult life. He was born in Portsmouth, Ontario, but lived in the United States from about 1870 to 1905, first in Wyoming, then in Rochester, N.Y. (Lansdale, PHSC, 2010). While with the Rochester Panoramic Camera Co. (with Reavill et al.) he obtained two US patents for panoramic cameras, one of which is stamped on the inside of the panoramic back of this Cirkut camera (Figure 5). In 1905 Johnston returned to Canada, settled in Toronto where he founded the Panoramic Camera Company of Canada (1907). Johnston died almost penniless in a Toronto rooming house in 1941 (Lansdale, PHSC, 2010).

 

IMG_0241

Figure 5. US patent no. 776,403, November 29, 1904, for having invented “certain new and useful improvements in panoramic cameras”.

 

The take home lesson in this series of blogs has been the wealth of histories and narratives that have been revealed, especially when combining a ‘reading artifacts’ approach to an objects’ textual and iconographic records, no matter where they may be located. ‘Historically speaking’, when taken together, the multiplier effect of collecting, connecting, and collaborating becomes almost undisputable.

 

Note: The evidence found to date strongly support the case this was the Cirkut camera that took the Denton panoramic photographs. As with many historical objects, research at times uncovers more questions than answers. We welcome your comments, contributions, and any new evidence found on the camera, the photographer, and Canadian contributions to the development of panoramic photography.

 


Click on the titles to read the complete series.

 

Part 1: A Cirkut Panoramic Camera and the Photographer Who Owned It

By M. Labrecque, Assistant Curator, Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation Posted February 25, 2015  

 

Part 2: Deciphering Denton: the Kitchener Connection  

By Karen Ball-Pyatt, Librarian, Grace Schmidt Room of Local History, Kitchener Public Library Posted March 4, 2015  

 

Part 3: The Challenge of Dating Denton’s Cirkut Camera

By M. Labrecque Posted March 11, 2015  

 

Part 4: Picture Perfect Panoramics

By Karen Ball-Pyatt Posted March 18, 2015  

 

Part 5: Canadian Contributions to Panoramic Photography

By M. Labrecque Posted March 27, 2015


 

References:

1. Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

2. Connon, John Robert, Application for Patent for Photographic Instrument, Department of Agriculture, Elora, Ontario, August 21, 1888.

3. George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.

4. Lansdale, Robert, The Inventors of the Cirkut Camera and its Parts, Photographic Canadiana, Vol. 36, No. 1, May-June 2010.

5. McBride, Bill, Evolution of the No. 10 Cirkut Camera, Photographic Canadiana, Vol. 36, No. 1, May-June 2010.

6. McKeown, James M., McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique & Classic Cameras 12th Edition, 2005/2006, Wisconsin.

7. Silversides, Brock, Panoramic Photography, Photographic Canadiana, Vol. 10, No. 6, March-April 1985.

 

Acknowledgements:

Much owed to Karen Ball-Pyatt for agreeing to take on this project, for her enthusiasm, invaluable research, and reaching out. To the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History and Kitchener Public Library for sharing their collection of Denton’s work. Special thanks to Wilhem Nassau and Dolf Bogad for making the camera donation possible and for sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge of panoramic photography. Thanks to Bryan Dewalt for his expertise, review and insight, the Wellington County Museum and Archives and the Canadian Intellectual Property Office for use of photos. We would especially like to acknowledge and thank Mrs. Linda Tucker, the Great-granddaughter of Ernest Denton for sharing her memories of ‘Pop’.