New OISE Web Exhibit: Canadian Public Figures on Tape

An OISE photograph of staff working with reel-to-reel-tape. The original interviews were similarly recorded on reel-to-reel tape and reproduced as cassette tapes.

Calling all Canadian history buffs! This week the OISE Library is launching its first web exhibit, Canadian Public Figures on Tape. The online exhibit features ten audio interviews with famous Canadian politicians conducted in the early 1970s and published by OISE Press. The interviews were originally produced as a series of cassette tapes and have recently been digitized by the University of Toronto Libraries.  The tapes were distributed to Ontario civics and social studies classrooms as an effort to bring politics to life for students. The interviews also offered politicians – including Lester B. Pearson, John Diefenbaker, and René Levesqué – a unique opportunity to reflect candidly on their careers and life achievements.

Nearly fifty years after the original interviews were recorded, the new Canadian Public Figures on Tape exhibit offers a renewed glimpse into 1970s Canadian politics and Canada’s emerging national identity. Digitized versions of each interview (including the condensed cassette interviews as well as several of the original, unedited recordings) are featured alongside biographies, contextual summaries, and accessible PDF transcripts. The exhibit also includes a brand new video introduction with interviewer Richard Alway, delving into his experience at OISE as an emerging research institution in the late 1960s and sharing his memories of the project.

cassette tape - lester pearson

Cassette tape packaging of the Lester B. Pearson interview.

The Canadian Public Figures on Tape exhibit captures a fascinating piece of OISE’s history, and is as relevant for teaching history and politics as when it first debuted. The exhibit is available to the public through the Exhibits U of T platform.

About Jenna Mlynaryk

TALint (Toronto Academic Libraries Intern) at the OISE Library | Master of Information (LIS), 2020 | University of Toronto
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