Hi there. My name is Asiya and I am a Special Collections Project Assistant at the Rare Book Room. I am currently in my second year in the Urban Planning program here at the University of Waterloo. Though I am limited in my knowledge of archival practices, I have learned quite a bit over the past couple of months.

When I began, I was fooled by the front desk area. I thought to myself, “How can this tiny space be home to thousands of books?” Of course, after a brief behind-the-scenes tour, I discovered that the stacks are home to countless documents.

My short time here has given me the chance to figure out what drives archivists to immerse themselves with documents. It has to be the stories that are found within the old “stuff.” Whether it be the photographs once cherished by a family over one hundred years ago, or the advertisements found in a women’s magazine in the 1960s – it’s fascinating to see what people find important. Part of what I take home from my job is simply contrasting my world today with what the world was like back then.  

Projects that I am part of include the Kitchener-Waterloo Record negatives, William Dendy’s “Lost Toronto” accruals, and my personal favourite, Robert Dorney’s slides.

I had the opportunity to describe and file Robert Dorney’s collection of slides. Dorney was an ecologist who was also a professor for the School of Urban Planning at the University of Waterloo. While his slides mainly focused on mini-ecosystems and course materials, Dorney also captured breathtaking shots that can stand alone as art.

 The first photograph is one of unidentified red flowers. Second, a black and white photograph of geese flying in the sky. Third is an aerial photograph of Scarborough’s Bluffers Park taken for the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. The last slide is a black and white aerial view of strip fields in the United Kingdom.

Clockwise from top left: The first photograph is one of red milkweed flowers. Second, a black and white photograph of geese flying in the sky. Third is a black and white aerial view of strip fields in the United Kingdom. The last slide is an aerial photograph of Scarborough’s Bluffers Park taken for the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

I discovered that Dorney and I have something in common – a love for gardening. Of the 4500 slides, the interesting ones have to be those that document the mini-forest that he maintained on the front lawn of his home at 124 Amos Avenue in Waterloo. The urban planner in me can also relate to his commitment to improving the design and ecological function of urban space. Robert is an inspiration.

On a final note, while taking down our Southey display, I came upon a beautiful ending quote. Two Love Stories from the Doctor Etc. is a rare book written by English poet Robert Southey. While I have not had the time to read the entire book, I can appreciate the expressive words he uses to describe the admiration that a man has for a woman on his last page.

A quote from Robert Southey’s book Two Love Stories that states, “…and so truly did he admire the gifts with which Nature had endowed her, -- her sweet humour that was easy as a calm and peaceful; All her affections, like the dews on roses, fair as the flowers themselves, as sweet and gentle.”

A quote from Robert Southey’s book Two Love Stories that states, “…and so truly did he admire the gifts with which Nature had endowed her, -- her sweet humour that was easy as a calm and peaceful; All her affections, like the dews on roses, fair as the flowers themselves, as sweet and gentle.”

That is all I have to share for now. I look forward to discovering more neat stuff. There’s a rumour here at the Rare Book Room that Doris Lewis still lurks around. We’ll see. The rumour certainly feels true when the doors suddenly close on us, or even when the air pressure in the stacks whispers. You can’t help but question, “Doris, is that you?”

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