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05/21/2010

Inside the secret vaults of the TDSB!

Steve Russell - Staff Photographer

When the iPhone vibrates in the morning and I open that the first assignment of the day, the words jump out at me, "secret", "confidentiality agreement", ""artifacts", vault" and "archives" I wonder if I should bring my passport to work as I drive in I dreamingly think of the Vatican Archives depicted in "The DeVinci Code"

And although the vaults did not have the high tech look like those depicted in the movie, they did have items that captivated my interest, others had great value and others evoked emotion.

The archives of course were the Toronto District School Board's and while there were no letters from King Henry VIII or demands for payment from Michelangelo, the treasures were no less impressive.

Typewriters, computers, rulers, students artwork, Group of Seven artwork!

The trip into the secrets vaults launched me through memories of my school days and helped me understand those of my parents.

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One of the gems in the collection, Tom Thompson's "Autumn Scene" painting that was purchased by the board in 1917. It is hidden away in a secret location where the Toronto District School Board house their Archival, Artifact and Fine Art Collection in Toronto. The board plans to bring more of these artifacts into the classroom to learn.

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The collection has over one million objects that range from "Cranberry Lake" by Franklin Carmichael to the dreaded strap to jubilee medals to a spittoon to a document that show that Norman Bertume was enrolled in school in Toronto.

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Media get a tour of the the hidden vaults that have everything from furniture to trophies to student artwork.

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A Norval Morrisseau painting, upper left and others are part of the Toronto District School Board's Fine Art Collection.

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Aaron Lynett of the National Post photographs Emily Carr's "Young Pines in Light"    

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Trophies in one of the vaults.

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A great collection of rulers!

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Dave Wakabayshi looks for a ledger that recorded corporal punishment in the documents vault.

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When Toronto amalgamated all the documents from the six different boards were brought to the one vault.

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This book that was donated to the school board bore an unexpected treasure as postcard cancelling a trip was tucked in it. The postcard was from Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.

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While the monetary value of this violin is small, the educational value is great, the violin was donated to the Board after its owner, a high school student committed suicide. The suicide was in part precipitated with bullying, that can be seen on the back side of the violin, scratched in it reads "NAME WITHHELD is a fag."  

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The temporary marker that stood over Bugler Morgan Dudley's grave in Belgium is part of the collection. The board knows that Dudley went to Pape Avenue Public School but it is still researching where he went to high school, if he in fact did. 

Just a little footnote on the grave marker above. 

Bugler Morgan Dudley was 17 at the time of his death, his last known address of 707 Pape puts him in the neighbourhood that Map of the Week Blog editor Patrick Cain did on the addresses of World War One dead that shows the impact that the war had. 

Map of the Week: Riverdale's First World War dead

If you find Bugler Morgan Dudley's poppy, click on it, it will offer up a few links, one to his attestation papers, where you can see his handwriting and signature. 

To see that cross then see his handwriting, powerful stuff.

-srussell@thestar.ca

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What a powerful display of treasures. I would be interested in seeing more. The school board should host a travelling show at the different Civic Centers around the city to share their history with the public.

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