19 October 2015




Happy Monday, oh inquisitive minds, and welcome to another Research Column post! As you may have noticed, the last few posts have been pretty thesis heavy, but starting this week, we would like to extend an open call for submissions. We know the research interests of our student body are many and varied and we would like to hear all about them! Whether it's something you’ve been investigating on your own time or work that was done as part of a paper for class, just drop us a line if you’d like to write a post! This isn’t the first time the column has done something like this, so check out some of these older posts for inspiration

In the meantime, to help fuel this time of furious research and paper writing, this post will take a look at some research/study spots that are rich in stories of their own. After all, what better inspiration for museum-related research than a bit of local scholastic heritage? 

Bloor/Gladstone Library

Although it’s a bit of a trek from campus, this little gem of a library is definitely worth the trip if you’re looking to spend a quiet day of research surrounded by beautiful architecture and friendly faces. Much beloved by its community past and present, the Bloor/Gladstone library was the first library in Toronto to be funded solely by the city. At the time of its construction in 1912, it was also the largest public library in the country and the original plans for the building included an outdoor area designated as a “summer reading garden.” This may sound like the sort of whimsy which usually gets sternly pruned from the drawing board, but much to our delight, the reading garden did indeed make it into existence and continues to exist to this day!

The summer reading garden at the Bloor/Gladstone Library. Source.

Originally constructed as a Beaux Arts take on Italian Renaissance architecture, the library was expanded in 2006, resulting in a fusion of contemporary architecture with the old bones of the building. Staying true to the building’s tradition of mixing scholarship and foliage, the library also received its very own green roof at this time.

The modern exterior of the Bloor/Gladstone Library. Source.

Over its many years of reading, the Bloor/Gladstone library has served as a community hub for the Dovercourt neighbourhood and continues to host frequent events and programs. Equipped with ample comfy chairs and study space, the library also happens to be surrounded by some of the city’s best (and cheapest) food and coffee options, making it a fine recipe for a day spent exploring the various rabbit holes of your favourite research project.

Hart House Reading Room

The Hart House Reading Room is hardly a secret amongst the general student body of U of T, but what with everything being so close at hand at the iSchool, it seems as though there is rarely a reason for us Museum Studies students to venture beyond the walls of Robarts. Well, luckily the Reading Room can provide reasons aplenty in the form of Gothic architecture, comfy couches, student artwork, radiators with well-meaning (though willful) minds of their own, and a welcoming outlook on the presence of food and beverages.

A view from the doorway of Hart House's Reading Room. Source.

However, although Hart House, and the Reading Room in particular, is now seen as a haven of inclusivity, the building is rooted in a difficult past. Commissioned in 1911 by the Massey family, Hart House opened to male students and faculty in 1919, yet remained off limits to women until 1972 (to wrap your head around this, check out this short silent film about student life from 1923). Thanks to an increasingly strong feminist movement on campus, protests were staged at least as early as the 1920's, gathering force until a change of deed was finally obtained from the Massey family and the policy was changed. Having been forced to overcome this marker of inequality, Hart House has since striven to more completely fulfill its chosen role as the social centre of the university. 

Hart House during its construction. Source.

Today, the Reading Room (located on the first floor) can typically be found host to students studying, socializing, and taking part in activities such as drop-in craft workshops and chess club meetings. While this space is probably not right for those moments when your brain is on fire and you just need some silence and a stack of books, it can be great for mulling over research ideas and generally basking in the presence of other human beings. If you find yourself needing a quieter space, you can always head upstairs to the Hart House library (a paradise of silent study and beautiful books)… but that’s a story for another post!

Toronto Reference Library

Ok, so the Toronto Reference Library is probably not unknown to most of us, but it’s fame is of the quiet variety. That said, even apart from a cameo in the Scott Pilgrim movie, and the high profile public talks it hosts, there is a lot to get excited about when it comes to the Reference Library. 

Now a part of U of T, this building on the northwest corner of College and St. George (pictured here in 1919) originally housed an early incarnation of the Toronto Reference Library. Source.

Located during the early 1900’s at the corner of College and St. George (that’s right, the building that now holds the University of Toronto Bookstore), the Toronto Reference Library is sort of the culmination of the city’s original vision of what a library should be. With it’s roots in the York Mechanic’s Institute library of the mid-nineteenth century, the Toronto Reference Library really got its start when the people of Toronto voted in favour of establishing a free public library on January 1, 1883.

Study pods are one feature of the Reference Library's recent revitalization. Source.

Since then, the library has been in a state of almost constant change, most recently undergoing a revitalization project completed in 2014. In its current incarnation, the library features a Digital Innovation Hub, updated study spaces, a public gallery with rotating exhibits, special collections of Canadiana, as well as its permanent reference collection and public archives.

The Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre at the Toronto Reference Library. Source.

Like the Bloor/Gladstone Library, the Toronto Reference Library comes with a strong sense of community and easy access to both food and coffee. It’s also worth noting that, as a reference library, it is often a good place to find books that have proven elusive on campus. Finally, after all that exciting research, you can often give your weary eyes a break from reading by popping into one of the library’s frequent author events.


Canadian Architect. (2014). Bloor Gladstone Library. Retrieved from https://www.canadianarchitect.com/features/bloor-gladstone-library/.

Hart House. (2013). About Us. Retrieved from http://harthouse.ca/about-us/history/.

Klein, Danielle, & Chiel, Ethan. (2013). Forty years on: how women fought their way into Hart House and the accessibility challenges that remain. The Varsity. Retrieved from http://thevarsity.ca/2013/03/17/forty-years-on/.

Toronto's Historical Plaques. (2009). Dovercourt Branch, Toronto Public Library 1913. Retrieved from http://torontoplaques.com/Pages/Dovercourt_Branch.html.

Toronto Public Library. (2015). Bloor/Gladstone. Retrieved from http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?Nr=p_cat_branch_name:Bloor/Gladstone.

Toronto Public Library. (2015). re:discover Toronto Reference Library. Retrieved from http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/renovations/toronto-reference-library-revitalization.jsp.

Toronto Public Library. (2015). Toronto Reference Library. Retrieved from http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?Entt=RDMLIB018&R=LIB018.

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