Students create open educational resources to help future learners

Group of students working at a computer monitor BANNER

York University undergraduate students in the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program participated in an initiative to create open educational resource (OER) videos aimed at improving the practicum experience of future program participants.

Students in programs such as TESOL must often complete field placements in a wide range of environments – from post-secondary academic bridging programs to community-oriented Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada programs. Because these environments are unique, students are often unprepared for these teaching contexts.

Saskia Van Viegen
Saskia Van Viegen

That’s why the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics students in Professor Saskia Van Viegen’s TESL3300 class were assigned a project that could help.

Van Viegen’s 14 students received instruction on digital media creation, then formed groups to complete videos about the diversity of experiential education environments – culminating in the creation of four Creative Commons-licensed OER videos to help orient future English as a second language (ESL) teachers to their practicum. The students did this while completing their own field placement, gaining paid practicum experience and hands-on learning about digital media creation in the process.

Students Matthew Rawas, Tanishia Clarke, and Denise Suarez shre tehir Open Educational Resource video, which was filmed at the English School of Canada (ESC)
Students Matthew Rawas, Tanishia Clarke and Denise Suarez share their OER video.

“I think this kind of digital storytelling project is wonderful,” says Dawei Jin, one of Van Viegen’s students. “At first I wasn’t sure what the connection was between this work and teaching ESL. But after we started, we experienced challenges with collaboration, video editing – all things we didn’t know how to do. We struggled to tell our story, but eventually we figured it out. That’s exactly how ESL students will experience the process of learning English. This program helped me understand the difficulties encountered by our students.”

“This work increases access to work-integrated learning for students, especially equity-deserving students,” says Van Viegen. “It helps them feel more connected to each other, to their program and to a community, by offering enhanced opportunity for participation, stronger partnership with field placement hosts and greater integration with technology.”

ESL 3300 students Oshawnie Ralph and Nicole Cecotka introduce their video, which orients student teachers to doing pkacements in a Language Instructors for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program
Students Oshawnie Ralph and Nicole Cecotka introduce their video, which orients student teachers to doing placements in a Language Instructors for Newcomers to Canada program.

The project was a partnership between TESOL and York University Libraries’ Media Creation Lab, funded by the Co-operative Education & Work-Integrated Learning (CEWIL) Innovation Hub program.

One of the co-founders of the Media Creation Lab, librarian Kris Joseph, sees the initiative as the culmination of a vision the Libraries had for the lab during its inception. “The lab launched in 2022, but I think Saskia’s project is a sign that the booster rockets have been ejected and the shuttle is heading out to explore space. This kind of work ticks all the boxes for us: digital literacy and media creation, experiential learning and the development of open, accessible resources for the benefit of others.”

Sarah Coysh, associate dean of digital engagement and strategy at York University Libraries, adds: “One of the biggest successes of this project was that the grant included funds for a dedicated librarian as well as additional library media lab staff to support the students’ learning and media creation work. Saskia’s foresight in this area ensured York University Libraries had the capacity to partner on this project, and this is a terrific model for future grants, the process for which we have outlined on our new library support for grant-funded research web page.”

The students’ videos, as well as their reflections on the project, are available on YouTube. In addition, full-resolution copies are being deposited into York’s institutional repository, YorkSpace, so they can be discovered and reused by other ESL teaching programs.

Open Education Month puts spotlight on accessible education

Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change students in class

March is Open Education Month, a time to celebrate open educational resources (OER), which are openly licensed, freely available educational materials that can be used, accessed, adapted and redistributed with limited restriction. York University’s engagement with OER has continued to expand and grow over the recent years, helping faculty create inclusive and adaptable learning environments while advancing a number of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) – specifically, UN SDG 4: Quality Education, UN SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities, and UN SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.

In an upcoming series of webinars scheduled for this month, Dominique Scheffel-Dunand, an associate professor in linguistics at York and co-lead for Camerise, York’s French-as-a-second-language (FSL) hub, will spearhead efforts to promote the use of Camerise, H5P, and Pressbooks for developing inclusive OER for FSL and English as a second language (ESL). Supported by a $5,000 award from eCampusOntario, Scheffel-Dunand and her co-presenter, education technology consultant Sushumna Rao Tadinada, will deliver these webinars in both English and French.

“The events that York is hosting and participating in for Open Education Month show that the University is making great strides to support the University Academic Plan’s priority of Access to Success,” said Sarah Coysh, associate dean of digital engagement and strategy at York University Libraries. “Open educational practices in the classroom help provide students with access to course learning materials from the first day of classes. Our York eCampusOntario OER Rangers have also been instrumental in helping to spread awareness of open education on campus and providing faculty, staff, and graduate students with training and guidance on embedding these practices into their teaching and outreach programs,”

The first webinar, titled “Creating Accessible Interactive OER with H5P for Language Teaching (FSL and ESL),” on March 14 from 8 to 9 a.m., will demonstrate the use of the Canvas (LMS) and H5P platforms to design massive open online courses (MOOCs) – open-access courses with unlimited participation – in both English and French, focusing on the values of openness and diversity.

The subsequent events will delve deeper into using Pressbooks and H5P to publish interactive and inclusive learning modules.

The second and third event, titled “Libérer la puissance de l’apprentissage interactif et inclusif avec Pressbooks et H5P en FLS et ESL,” will be offered first as a webinar and then as a hands-on workshop by Scheffel-Dunand and Tadinada Ra. Delivered in French, the sessions will illustrate using Pressbooks to publish collections of training modules developed with H5P and made accessible on Lumi,, HTML or in PDF format. The two events focus on how to conceptualize the interoperability between various tools and publishing platforms such as H5P or Pressbooks to foster accessible and interactive learning, from K-12 to post-secondary education.

Interested individuals can attend the March 21 webinar from 8 to 9 a.m. or the March 28 hands-on workshop from 8 to 9:30 a.m.

“These webinars and workshop have been co-designed with Ontario educators to ensure stakeholders in FSL and ESL in the province and beyond explore how to author high-quality content and why it matters that such content be discoverable, reproducible and modified for localized contexts to meet community needs for language and culture,” said Scheffel-Dunand.

During the first week of March, eCampusOntario – a nonprofit organization supporting technology-enabled teaching, learning and innovation at Ontario’s publicly funded universities, colleges and Indigenous institutes – will also be hosting several webinars to promote OER and open educational practices. Charlotte de Araujo, an assistant professor in York’s Faculty of Science, and Stephanie Quail, acting director of the Libraries’ Open Scholarship department, were accepted into eCampusOntario’s OER Ranger program last August, making them York’s institutional champions of the use of OER.

De Araujo will be speaking at the eCampusOntario Zoom webinar titled “Designing and Publishing OERs: Creator Panel Discussion” on March 7 from noon to 1 p.m.

“The OER Ranger program has provided us with the opportunity to share the benefits of OERs with our academic community, promoting a collaborative dialogue between stakeholders and encouraging OER integration in our teaching practices,” says de Araujo. “Being able to implement OERs, whether it is a textbook chapter or an ancillary resource to review course content, can be one solution to help alleviate cost challenges, enabling students to freely revisit course material, fostering lifelong learning for all stakeholders.”

Quail adds, “Being an eCampusOntario OER Ranger has provided me with the opportunity to build my network of open education advocates across Ontario, while also co-creating events at York University with my fellow ranger to support faculty, staff and student engagement with open educational practices.”

As York University continues to champion OER and open educational practices, it exemplifies its commitment to accessible and inclusive education, paving the way for innovative pedagogy and community-driven learning initiatives.

Teaching Commons’ program joins forces with University of Guelph

books on grass rustling pages

By Elaine Smith

Participants in the Teaching Commons’ Reading for Teaching program at York University got a glimpse of the commonalities and differences in teaching practice at another institution thanks to a collaboration with a similar group at the University of Guelph during the Fall 2023 term.

Scott McLaren
Scott McLaren
Lisa Endersby
Lisa Endersby

Reading for Teaching is an informal opportunity for colleagues from across campus who are interested in reading and talking about teaching. A type of book club that focuses on works dealing with pedagogy, the program is the brainchild of educational developer Lisa Endersby and teaching and learning librarian Scott McLaren.

The two started the group pre-pandemic in 2019, building on early iterations of a Teaching Commons Journal Club facilitated by Endersby, and it has been running in the fall and winter terms ever since.

Members read works, both fiction and non-fiction, related to teaching and meet monthly to discuss the ideas set forth in the reading and how they relate to each individual’s experiences in the classroom.

Earlier this year, Endersby discovered that educational development colleagues at the University of Guelph in the Office of Teaching & Learning ran a similar group, and she suggested collaborating. She and McLaren talked with the two Guelph group leaders – educational developers Jenn Reniers and Christie Stewart – and tested the waters this fall.

Jenn Reniers is on the left; Christie Stewart on the right
Jenn Reniers (left) and Christie Stewart (right).

“One of the strengths of the group is that it brings people together from across the University and allows discussion among people at all levels of the profession, from teaching assistants to tenured, full professors,” McLaren said. “By reaching out to another institution, it takes the group to another level, making it even more diverse.”

Their Guelph counterparts agreed.

“Within the university, context is important, and it’s interesting to talk to people from different contexts,” said Reniers. “Our two institutions are different, in terms of commuter students versus students who live in residence, size and programs offered. We were interested in continuing our own club while connecting with others from different contexts.”

Stewart added, “Many of the books we read were based on research from the United States. By talking with each other, it helped us work through whether the differences were due to a difference in our own university and theirs or if it reflects differences between post-secondary education in Canada and the U.S.”

The leaders met in August to consider how they could work together and still maintain the individuality of their programs. Since Guelph faculty meet bimonthly and York’s monthly, they decided to make introductions asynchronously at the start of the term and meet as a group at the end of the term, separately discussing the chosen book in the intervening months. The book they selected was Relationship Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success in College by Peter Felten and Leo M. Lambert (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020).

“There are a lot of institutional structures that can facilitate or hinder connection,” McLaren said. “It’s interesting to talk about this across different universities and discuss what works and what doesn’t.”

The leaders of each group maintained a strict “whatever is said in the group stays in the group” policy to encourage openness and honesty and allow people to drop their guards when they met unfamiliar colleagues.

“In a group like this, you come face-to-face virtually with people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet and you don’t want to worry that you might be sitting across from them in a meeting,” McLaren said.

In September, the two groups used Padlet, a virtual bulletin board software, to introduce themselves to each other individually. Throughout the term, participants were able to post comments about the readings, although the groups met separately.

“Throughout the term, we updated each other about the conversations that were taking place,” said Stewart of the leaders.

The leaders also met to arrange December’s online joint session, creating reflection questions and planning for breakout sessions, as well as a large group discussion. The December gathering featured discussions about such topics as the impact of having a third space besides the classroom or home to meet and how to create a welcoming environment in large classes, even if one-on-one connections weren’t possible.

“It was very useful,” Stewart said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect when bringing in others after 12 weeks of building our own bonds, but I didn’t find reluctance. People were willing to contribute, and it offered validation of their experiences by people at another institution.”

Endersby agreed.

“Despite our sense of working in a York bubble, the Guelph participants felt the same way about some of the challenges and opportunities inherent in relationship-rich education. It was affirming for me.”

York’s Reading for Teaching program begins its winter term program on Jan. 16. For more information and to register your participation, complete the registration form.

Digital Library launches new upgrades, marking 10-year anniversary

hand holding magnifying glass with colorful background

In alignment with its 10-year anniversary, the York University Digital Library (YUDL) has introduced new software upgrades that bring increased accessibility and visibility to its cultural and heritage collections, protect future acquisitions and enable public exploration of more than one million unique objects.

The new extensive upgrades to the Digital Library platform include a full migration of the University’s existing collections, and the integration of a user interface that provides easy access to content by type, location, subject, and creator, and is supported by a search engine for more general queries.

The updates reflect the YUDL’s ongoing goal to be open to the public and provide low-barrier access to materials not often seen outside the walls of a physical archive, a mission it has pursued for a decade, serving as a preservation platform for unique collections of digital objects – including photos, videos, audio and text records in many formats – that reflect Toronto’s cultural heritage and the work of York researchers.

“York’s archivists collaborate with faculty and graduate students to build unique collections that preserve the cultural heritage of Toronto’s richly diverse society. The Digital Library allows us to share these documents with global diasporas to promote discussion and understanding of issues shared by people separated by oceans and continents, especially at a time when travel is more challenging,” says Michael Moir, university archivist, York University Libraries.

In its lifespan, it has grown to house 147 collections featuring a breadth of materials, including: photographs and interviews from politician and community activist Jean Augustine‘s collection; more than 1,300 recordings of Iranian radio programs from 1956 through 1979; digitized maps from York’s Map Library and the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections; and nearly 18,000 digitized photographs.

Furthermore, the collections in the Digital Library provide visibility to the materials of marginalized and equity-seeking communities, whose histories are still under-represented in online spaces. Digital objects from BIPOC, 2SLGBTQIA+, Indigenous, immigrant and women’s communities, as well as a reflection of a broad range of social and economic statuses, can be surfaced using the platform. For example, the Burmese Colonial Cultures Collection provides access to rare books, pamphlets and journals published in Burma (Myanmar) between 1874 and 1930. The Egypt Migrations: a Public Humanities Project collection provides access to multimedia resources that document the history and activities of Coptic immigrants in Canada and the Egyptian diaspora. Other unique collections include the Kenneth Shah fonds, which provide access to organizational documents and promotional materials related primarily to the Caribana Festival, and the Mariposa Folk Foundation fonds, which provide access to digitized and born digital recordings, photos and other festival materials.

“The Digital Library offers a vital space to preserve cultural materials and make them available to groups who would otherwise be denied access,” says Alicia Turner, associate professor of humanities and religious studies. “In the midst of war in Burma/Myanmar and the military regime’s long-standing practices of censorship and suppression of education, we are able to preserve materials and make them available to students, scholars and activists inside the country and around the world.”

In addition to providing public access to rich archival material, the YUDL serves as an entry point to the much larger collection of physical items at the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, housed within York University Libraries.

“The UNESCO Memory of the World Programme reminds us that the world’s documentary heritage belongs to us all, and that the sharing of documentary heritage fosters dialogue and mutual understanding between people and cultures. York University Digital Library is integral in helping York University to advance this important mission,” states Andrea Kosavic, interim dean, York University Libraries.

Questions or comments about the YUDL’s new interface or collections can be directed to the Digital Library. Note: the YUDL has a strict Collection Policy, which can be viewed here.

Special exhibit celebrates York’s contribution to technological breakthrough

MCM Model 70 Microcomputer designed and built in Canada from 1972-74 (Kingston and Toronto), AC and/or battery power, two tape cassettes for programs and storage, plasma display screen (credit: Nash Gordon/Wikimedia Commons)

A new exhibit at York University’s Steacie Science and Engineering Library celebrates the history of technology and highlights York’s contributions to a milestone innovation more than 50 years ago.

Zbigniew Stachniak
Zbigniew Stachniak

On Sept. 25, 1973, members of the Canadian press gathered at the Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto to witness what would become one of the most significant events in the history of computing in Canada. In the hotel, a Toronto-based electronics company, Micro Computer Machines (MCM), unveiled its MCM/70 computer – noted as the world’s first personal computer, and one of the first microcomputers.

“What MCM introduced that day was not only its portable personal computer but also a new computing paradigm that challenged the domination of massive and expensive mainframe computers requiring the kind of space and financial resources that could only be mustered by large corporations,” says Zbigniew Stachniak, an associate professor at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering and expert on computer history. “Small PCs, claimed MCM, would redefine the relationship between society and computers and make widespread, personal information processing a reality.”

The development of this groundbreaking technology is also traced back to York, with two former employees of the York University Computing Centre (located in the Steacie Science and Engineering Library) among the key software engineers working on the MCM/70 project. Gord Ramer and Dom Genner worked at York University before joining MCM. While at York, they developed the York APL programming language and that proved critical for the writing of software for the MCM/70 computer.

The Sept. 25, 1973 announcement of the MCM/70 in Toronto's Royal York Hotel (from left: Mers Kutt, Gordon Ramer, Edward (Ted) Edwards and Reg Rea with a prototype of the MCM/70. (Photo by Parkway Production courtesy of York University Computer Museum)
The Sept. 25, 1973 announcement of the MCM/70 in Toronto’s Royal York Hotel (from left: Mers Kutt, Gordon Ramer, Edward (Ted) Edwards and Reg Rea with a prototype of the MCM/70. (Photo by Parkway Production courtesy of York University Computer Museum.)

The MCM/70 @ 50 exhibit, organized by the York University Computer Museum and York University Libraries, celebrates the momentous appearance of the MCM/70 computer – a technological marvel that offered an early glimpse of a new digital reality. It pays tribute to the makers of the MCM/70 for their contributions to personal computing.

Curated by Stachniak – who authored a book titled Inventing the PC: The MCM/70 Story – the exhibit features a complete line of MCM computers from the York University Computer Museum’s MCM collection, including an MCM/70 computer and its first prototype. Among the exhibited images are those taken during the unveiling of the computer in Toronto, and those depicting former MCM engineers reunited with the MCM/70 computer, reflecting on the creativity, enthusiasm and dedication it took to realize their personal computer concept and deliver their creation into the new world of personal computing.

The exhibit opens on Tuesday, Nov. 14 with a special event at 4 p.m. in the Steacie Science and Engineering Library at York University’s Keele Campus. To learn more about the MCM70 @ 50 exhibit, visit the online catalog here.

York joins network of ‘open rangers’ to advance open educational resources

York University is among a cohort of educational institutions in the province that will champion the use of open educational resources (OER) through a program led by eCampusOntario.

Charlotte de Araujo, assistant professor, Faculty of Science, and Stephanie Quail, acting director of the Libraries’ Open Scholarship Department, were accepted into eCampusOntario’s Open Educational Resources Ranger (OER Ranger) program, an initiative designed to create and develop a network of OER advocates throughout Ontario’s post-secondary institutions.

Charlotte de Araujo
Charlotte de Araujo
Stephanie Quail
Stephanie Quail

A non-profit organization, eCampusOntario supports technology-enabled teaching, learning and innovation at Ontario’s publicly funded universities, colleges and Indigenous institutes. 

According to eCampusOntario, the OER Rangers will “form a network of educators and practitioners interested in supporting the advancement of open education within their institution and are individuals who are passionate about education as a public good, and who promote OER as a sustainable approach to education.” There will be a total of 84 rangers from 46 Ontario institutions participating in this program.

York University’s engagement with OER continues to expand and grow, helping faculty advance United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education. OER are openly licensed, freely available educational materials that can be used, accessed, adapted and redistributed with no (or limited) restrictions.

“With each semester, students have shared that purchasing textbooks is sometimes beyond their budget,” says de Araujo. “Being able to provide OERs, whether it is a chapter from a textbook or a worksheet to review information, can be a potential solution to help alleviate cost challenges and also enable students to freely review and revisit course material.”

To help support York University’s engagement with OER, de Araujo and Quail will host a live Zoom event, Discovering Open Education at York University, on Thursday, Nov. 23 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. During this event, attendees will learn about the following topics:

  • what are open educational resources;
  • open licensing basics;
  • accessibility considerations and OER; and
  • learning more about H5P and Pressbooks – common OER creation tools.

Faculty who are interested in using, adapting or creating OER are encouraged to attend this webinar, and can register now.

Additionally, faculty who would like to learn about OER in more depth can sign up for the Libraries’ fully asynchronous four-week OER mini-course. This course was initially developed in 2020 for Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) project leads, to help support them in turning a component of their AIF into an OER. Last fall, this course was opened up to all interested faculty and staff at York University.

“I highly recommend taking the OER mini-course because it helps instructors develop the skills they need to find existing high-quality OER. Incorporating OER into your courses helps provide your students with access to course learning materials from the first day of classes,” says Quail.

The online OER mini-course will begin on Monday, Nov. 20 and will wrap up on Monday, Dec.18. The four-module mini-course covers valuable topics such as:

  • OER 101: What is OER? Including examples of OER and how they benefit students and faculty.
  • Copyright and Creative Commons licenses: An exploration of the range of open licenses available to creators and how to choose a licence that makes the most sense for their project.
  • Finding and evaluating OER: How to find OER for your subject area and evaluate them.
  • Create or adapt pre-existing OER: Learn about OER project management techniques, accessibility considerations, and OER tools and platforms.

Quail will teach the Libraries’ OER mini-course this year. Register for the course now.

Libraries presents symposium as part of International Open Access Week

Scott Library Learning Commons on the Keele Campus

A unique symposium organized by York University Libraries (YUL) as part of International Open Access Week will bring together leaders in the fields of open educational resources (OER), archives and special collections.

Hilary Barlow
Hilary Barlow

York’s W.P. Scott Chair for Research in E-Librarianship, Hilary Barlow, will lead the online event on Thursday, Oct. 26 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. via Zoom. The event features two guest presenters – Danielle Manning, outreach officer at the Archives of Ontario, and Carrie Schwier, outreach and public services archivist at Indiana University – with a concluding presentation by Barlow on her current research. 

“This event brings together Archives, Special Collections and open education (OE) in a way that is rarely explored and under-documented,” says Barlow. “While much has been studied and written about making archives and special collections available online, connections to OE and OER are scant. This symposium bridges that connection.”

This year’s Open Access Week theme, “Community vs. Commercialization,” looks at advocating for unrestricted access to knowledge while prioritizing community needs over profit. Archives can play a key role in empowering communities by providing free and open access to a number of resources, which promotes inclusivity and can help democratize information. 

Archives and special collections in academic libraries are a valuable resource for faculty and students and often contain hidden gems such as university records, private papers, rare books, maps and other primary source material that support an array of academic fields.

By enabling these resources to be properly described and in some cases digitized, YUL, like other academic libraries, has been able to engage a broader audience in their use,” says Sarah Coysh, YUL’s associate dean, digital engagement and strategy. “YUL has been looking into how these resources can be accessed globally and has taken inspiration from the open education movement.”

“I began my research by asking if archives and special collections materials could be shared as open educational resources and wondering if anyone in the field was actually doing this,” says Barlow.

The OE movement, and OER specifically, contribute to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4: Quality Education. By providing free, reusable and remixable digital resources, OE initiatives contribute to removing barriers to education, as they can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.

GLAM institutions (galleries, libraries, archives and museums), and archives and special collections organizations in particular, also contribute to advancing SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, notably the sub-goal 11.4, to “strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.”

Manning will present her work with the Archives of Ontario (AO) and share how her team is building community through GLAM-Wiki. Manning will share case studies on AO’s Wikimedia Commons uploads and how it has impacted community engagement. A second presentation, by Schwier, will examine concrete examples of implementation from an active primary source instruction program that serves over 30 academic departments, ranging from art to science. 

“These presentations by Danielle Manning and Carrie Schwier show that there are practitioners in the field using innovative OE methods to make their collections more accessible online,” says Barlow.

Barlow will conclude the event with a presentation from her research, “Open Archives: The Intersection Between Open Education, Archives, and Special Collections.” This includes the results of 22 case study interviews with archivists and librarians on the subject of open education, and details of an upcoming larger survey. Earlier in her term as W.P. Scott Chair in E-Librarianship, Barlow worked with other members of YUL’s Open Education Steering Committee to survey York faculty on their familiarity with and use of OER

Register for the symposium here:

Symposium imagines possibilities of Victorian Studies at York

Aristocratic dining table

The Victorian Studies Network at York (VSNY) is hosting its 15th annual symposium, titled “Imagining the Possibilities,” on Friday, Oct. 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in 305 Founders College on York University’s Keele Campus.

The event’s widely interdisciplinary program includes presentations from York-affiliated faculty members and graduate students, representing a range of units, from English and engineering to fashion, history and the York University Libraries.

The presentations will include the following:

  • “Fathers and Feelings: Sentiment, Family, and Jewish Futures in the Anglo-Jewish Novel” by Asa Brunet-Jailly (English, York);
  • “‘But what have you done for us lately?’: A Decade of Developing Victorian Collections at York University Libraries” by Michael Moir (University archivist, York);
  • “The Scarlet Thread: Crime, Fashion, and Forensic Identification in the Nineteenth Century” by Alison Matthews David (fashion, Toronto Metropolitan University);
  • “Tyros and Practical Men: The Evolution of John Bourne, CE” by Michael Roberts (history, York);
  • “‘Quenched in leaves’: The Poplar Experiments of Hopkins and Monet” by Lesley Higgins (English, York); and
  • “‘While Coopers Hill was wanted, Coopers Hill did its duty’: The Brief Existence of the Royal Indian Engineering College” by Richard Hornsey (engineering, York).

For 15 years, VSNY has been connecting researchers and enhancing connections among graduate students, postdocs and faculty. The network’s goal is to facilitate interdepartmental and interdisciplinary work, to enrich the personal and collective experience of research in the field and to showcase York as a centre for Victorian studies.

All community members are invited to attend. RSVP to Higgins at

For more information or to view the full program, visit

Greek Canadian Archives grows, goes digital

Greek Canadian Studies York U
Reg Towers, “Ethnic Groups : Greeks” (image: York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC08803

The Hellenic Heritage Foundation Greek Canadian Archives at York University (HHF GCA) is celebrating a series of significant milestones as part of its ongoing mission to preserve and promote the rich history of Greek Canada.

Thanks to the commitment of donors, partners and the community, the HHF GCA physical collection has seen significant growth over the past year. Hundreds of donated Greek books have been catalogued into the Hellenic Heritage and Michael Vitopoulos Collections within Omni, York Libraries’ search tool. Louise Curtis and Katrina Cohen-Palacios have also worked together to complete the arrangement and description of the George Papadatos fonds, begun by Anna St.Onge, which offers critical insight into the history of Toronto’s Greek community from the late 1960s through to the early 1980s. In addition, The HHF GCA’s new archivist, Maria Paraschos, has begun processing a donation from John Sotos, which features materials describing the activities of several Greek Canadian and Canadian ethnocultural organizations active from the 1980s to the present. The accessioning of these materials by the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections ensures that the memories and artifacts remain safeguarded for future generations.

In response to the increasing need for accessibility, the HHF GCA has also amplified its digitization efforts, digitizing dozens of recordings by George Thaniel, the Chair of the University of Toronto’s Modern Greek Program from 1971 to 1991. These cassettes contain discussions, lectures and performances from prominent 20th-century Greek voices. They cover a range of topics, from poetry to prose and theatre. The archives team is also digitizing a significant photo collection created by Dimitrios Mantalas at his Danforth Avenue photo studio, and a loan of photographs and textual records from former member of Parliament John Cannis, documenting his early life and political career. In the coming year, the team will begin digitizing footage from over 1,000 U-matic video cassettes filmed by Basil Avramis, documenting decades of community events in Toronto, and a collection of mini DV tapes and DVDs of community events and interviews donated by Trifon Haitas. These initiatives will make more of the HHF GCA’s rich historical resources available to a global audience of students and researchers.

Another notable change is the new HHF GCA digital portal, which provides access to a treasure trove of oral history interviews from three research projects: “Greeks in Canada: A Digital Public History,” “Childhood Narratives of Greek Canadians from the 1940s” and “Film as Mediator: Cultivating a Cypriot Canadian Community Audiovisual Media Archive.” In the coming years, the archives team will add to the repository of interviews, complementing them with digitized records, photographs, newspapers and recordings, and making it easier than ever to research Greek Canadian history.

With the help of the Hellenic Heritage Foundation, York University and many donors, the HHF GCA is rewriting the narrative of Greek-Canadian history by telling more nuanced stories of the community’s past and highlighting the many triumphs, blemishes and contradictions within it.

To watch the HHF GCA’s Fall 2023 update video, visit

For more information about the Hellenic Heritage Foundation Greek Canadian Archives at York University, follow along on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or X. To donate materials or explore the archive first-hand, contact Vasilis (Bill) Molos, director and research lead at the HHF GCA, at

Libraries makes accessing electronic articles quicker, easier

Libraries atrium

York University Libraries (YUL) has acquired a time-saving tool to connect users to electronic articles with one simple click to the verified version of record. 

This tool is called LibKey, and it interacts with Omni, YUL’s state-of-the-art library catalogue. Omni was launched early in 2020, with the goal of making it easier for all users to discover and access articles. LibKey works behind the scenes in Omni and is enabled at all times. 

How does LibKey work in the Omni catalogue? 
The Libraries subscribe to full-text journal content from many platforms, often with an article being available from five or more different providers. Sometimes having so many options can lead to confusion: Which platform is best? What will get users to content with the fewest clicks? Can users quickly snag the PDF? Is this link going to take users to a complicated website or even a dead end? LibKey answers all of these questions.

Here’s how: 

  • LibKey only highlights full-text options that are closely monitored to help avoid dead links; 
  • LibKey always prefers the version of record for articles but will also get users to a freely available manuscript when no version of record is immediately available; and 
  • LibKey provides convenient options, the most frequent being: 
    • Download PDF: downloads a PDF of the article to a computer; 
    • Read Online: links users to a web version of an article, which is more compatible with adaptive software and great for taking a quick look; and 
    • Manuscript PDF: if no version of record is available via LibKey, links users to the submitted manuscript openly available in a repository. If needed, the Libraries’ Resource Sharing Department can assist in getting the version of record through Omni Interlibrary Loan

All full text options remain available in the full record for an article in the same way they always have.

“We’re always seeking new ways to give our researchers an edge,” says Andrea Kosavic, interim dean of Libraries. “This product saves time by connecting researchers to electronic content more directly than ever before, including global open-access content, which in the past required multiple clicks to view the full text.”

LibKey Nomad connects users seamlessly to YUL content while browsing the web 
A common challenge of discovering scholarly content on the open web is connecting easily to the Libraries’ subscription content. LibKey Nomad is designed to be sensitive to citation information on platforms like Wikipedia, PubMed and scholarly publisher websites, and to easily connect to full-text content for journal articles and even ebooks.

To install LibKey Nomad in a browser, go to Third Iron and download the version for the preferred browser(s) and watch the brief video for a quick overview of Nomad’s features. Installation is easy and is only required once. 

Those with questions about LibKey can contact the Libraries using one of the Ask & Services options.