Remembering Carol Irwin

No comments :

We are deeply saddened by the recent passing of our friend and former colleague, Carol Irwin, who retired from the University of Alberta in 2016. Carol worked for over 30 years in Bruce Peel Special Collections where she provided public service and installed exhibitions. She had a natural talent for creating beautiful displays of rare books, and she relished opportunities to work with the collection, especially miniature books. We look back at her accomplishments in the Peel library with pride. She will be sorely missed. 

Link to obituary.

Peel open with limited access

No comments :
Bruce Peel Special Collections is now open in a limited way. For the fall term, we are continuing to offer remote research services as well as a limited number of on-site research appointments for those who need to view rare materials in person. We will not be able to host a new in-house exhibition before the spring, but please check out our new digital exhibitions and consider signing up for one of the Peel Workshops that we have lined up for September-October 2021.

Remote Research Services: The Peel team continues to serve researchers' needs remotely by answering questions about rare materials, providing researchers with images of materials not otherwise available (whenever possible), and providing links to digital resources that may help to meet current research and teaching needs (see "Peel materials online"). If you have questions that relate to materials housed in Bruce Peel Special Collections, you can send us an email at and you can be assured that we will respond on a timely basis.

Research appointments: To view materials held in Bruce Peel Special Collections, please write to us at to request an appointment well in advance, listing the requested materials including author, title, and call number for each item, and 
indicating which weekday afternoons would work (appointments are generally available Monday-Thursday 1-4pm). We will book research appointments on a first-come, first-served basis, so there may be a delay, but we will do our best to be accommodating. We will take all recommended precautions to protect researchers and members of the Peel team by limiting the number of researchers admitted to Peel’s reading room at one time and cleaning the spaces carefully in between researchers. Please note that University of Alberta policy now requires the use of face masks indoors on campus, and this includes the reading rooms in the Peel library. All normal reading room policies and protocols, designed to protect rare materials, remain in force.

Like other locations of University of Alberta Library, Bruce Peel Special Collections is open to all researchers, including faculty, staff, students, and members of the general public. 

To find out about the services being offered by other library locations and service points, please check the University of Alberta Library website for current information. If you require general reference support from University of Alberta Library, please consider using the chat service through the University of Alberta Library website. 

Take care!

Peel's new digital exhibitions

No comments :

Bruce Peel Special Collections launched three new digital exhibitionseach prepared over several years—during the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, hosted online by University of Alberta in May-June 2021. If you are new to Peel's digital exhibitions, you will want to be sure to also check out Tinctor's Foul Treatise, an award-winning exhibition that has been attracting an extraordinary amount of interest and discussion for almost five years. 


Ancestors: Indigenous Peoples of Western Canada in Historic Photographs

Curated by Sarah Carter and Inez Lightning 

Launched in 2021, this introductory digital exhibition provides a brief overview of a forthcoming in-house exhibition of historic photographs of Indigenous peoples of Western Canada. The exhibition features audio commentary from the curators remarking on the diversity and richness of the collection and its potential for understanding the lives portrayed in the photographs. It links to a digital collection in the Internet Archive with hundreds of photographs, offering free access to high-quality downloads. Note that the Photographies exhibition, described below, offers a useful companion to this exhibition/collection.


Curated by Andrea Korda and Heather Caverhill

Launched in 2021, Photographies explores the many technologies, materials, and practices—in other words, the many “photographies”—that make up the history of photography from its origins in the late-eighteenth century to the present. This exhibition, an Open Access Educational Resource, offers free access to images and content that are not available elsewhere. The exhibition is arranged around a series of questions, beginning with “What is Photography?” and moves on to consider how photographs shape memory and identity, circulate knowledge, and become works of art. Note that this exhibition offers a useful companion to the Ancestors exhibition/collection, described above.

Tinctor's Foul Treatise

Curated by Andrew Gow, Robert Desjardins, 
and François Pageau

In 1460, scholar Jean Tinctor penned an elaborate text, part sermon and part scholarly argument, condemning witches. One of the most unusual manuscripts housed in Bruce Peel Special Collections, and all the more disturbing for its polished scholarly approach, Tinctor’s treatise was written to defend early witch trials—the torture and execution of those accused of practicing witchcraft, normally the most vulnerable members of society—and as a call to arms to princes and church leaders to take a stand against what he imagined to be a growing evil. Tinctor’s Foul Treatise is an award-winning digital exhibition, launched in October 2016, with more relevance to the present times than it might at first seem.

Canadian Women Artists' Books

Team curated

Pushing the limits of the traditional book form and constructed using a wide variety of formats and materials, artists’ books first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s as an expression of social and political activism, a way to "talk back" to mass production and mass media. Today, these hand-made unique or limited edition art objects are sought by collectors and studied by scholars, and the best of them continue to challenge many of our preconceptions. Exploring topics ranging from illness and healing to nursery rhymes and haircuts, from religion and spirituality to race and gender, the artists’ books that are celebrated in this gorgeous exhibition (redesigned for the Omeka platform, updated and relaunched in 2021) have wide-ranging appeal. Bruce Peel Special Collections was able to secure special permission from the Canadian women artists represented in this exhibition to show their work, and anyone who wishes to reproduce these images for social media or other purposes should contact the artists directly for copyright permission.

Bruce Peel Special Collections offers a wide range of digital exhibitions. Highlights include the opportunity to explore the papers (including photographs) of pioneering Western Canadian journalist Miriam Green Ellis, the complexities of working with primary source materials (Sam Steele's Forty Years In Canada: History or Fiction?), the cultural networks and narratives around food, farm to table, in Culinaria: A Taste of Food History on the Prairies, and some of the most frequently-requested rare books in Bruce Peel Special Collections, i.e., those purchased as Honorary Degree Books to help celebrate the accomplishments of the University of Alberta's honorary degree recipients from 1987 to the present day.



Peel Workshops, Fall term 2021

No comments :

Peel Workshops, Fall Term 2021

A series of introductory workshops

Take a moment to discover something new in the rare book library!

Students who have participated in Peel Workshops have found it deeply rewarding to work with primary materials, to learn about the history of books, to hold special rare books in their hands, and to discover what kinds of knowledge can be gleaned from the material objects themselves. For the fall term, we are pleased to be able to offer a mix of small in-person and larger online workshops, as well as a couple of evening workshops (requested for the benefit of part-time students).

Registration opens at 8am on the first day of classes (September 1st), and is required. Find detailed workshop descriptions here. Please login using your UALBERTA ID to register here. If you join a waitlist you may be interested in knowing that there is usually some movement in the days right before the workshop, and also that we will put on extra sessions when needed if possible.

Exploring the Diversities of the Book Form: Artists’ Books
Peel classroom on Monday, September 20th from 10-11:30am

Exploring the Diversities of the Book Form: Artists’ Books
Peel classroom on Tuesday, September 21st from 10-11:30am

Women’s Gothic Writing
Online on Thursday, September 23rd from 2-3pm

Teeny Marvels
Peel classroom on Friday, September 24th from 10-11am

Teeny Marvels (ADDED DATE)
Peel classroom on Tuesday, September 28th from 10-11am

The Canadian Mob of Scribbling Women
Online on Tuesday, September 28th from 10-11am

Online on Wednesday, September 29th from 1-2pm

Caring for Collections (ADDED DATE)
Peel classroom on Monday, September 27th from 10-11:30am

Caring for Collections
Peel classroom on Monday, October 4th from 10-11:30am

Reading Between the Lines: Representations of Indigenous Peoples in Print Collections
Online on Tuesday, October 5th (for TYP students only)

Caring for Collections
Online on Tuesday, October 5th from 1:30-3:00pm

All Aboard! Exploring the Iconography of Canada’s “Iron Horse”
Peel classroom on Wednesday, October 6th from 10-11am

Reading Between the Lines: Representations of Indigenous Peoples in Print Collections
Online on Thursday, October 7th (for TYP students only)  

Edmonton and the Golden Age of the Postcard
Online on Thursday, October 7th from 2-3pm

All Aboard! Exploring the Iconography of Canada’s “Iron Horse” (ADDED DATE)
Peel classroom on Tuesday, October 19th from 10-11am

Recovering Forgotten Writers/Histories with Descriptive Bibliography
Online on Wednesday, October 20th from 7-8pm

Reading Between the Lines: Representations of Indigenous Peoples in Print Collections
Online on Thursday, October 21st from 2:00-3:30pm

Reading Between the Lines: Representations of Indigenous Peoples in Print Collections (ADDED DATE)
Online on Monday, October 25th from 2:00-3:30pm

Where Do Our Ideas about Witchcraft Come From?
Online on Thursday, October 28th from 6:00-7:30pm

Peel materials online

No comments :

Bruce Peel Special Collections will offer a very limited number of research appointments in the fall term, but many researchers will want to consider using digital resources where possible, and professors who are planning classes are encouraged to make use of rare materials that can be examined either as print originals or using digital reproductions, so that all options are available to your students.  

In order to help you to identify digital reproductions of primary source materials, we continue to work to add relevant links to the Research Collections page on Peel's website. Such links will help you to find digital content that has been created by U of A Library, by our colleagues at other institutions, and through collaborative projects, such as the very extensive HathiTrust database.  Also, please note that University of Alberta Library subscribes to numerous online databases, including many that offer digitized primary source materials.

Here are some highlights of Peel's digital resources:

Peel's Digital Exhibitions - Expertly curated and filled with images of rare materials, Peel's award-winning digital exhibition program covers topics from the history of photography (Photographies) to Canadian Women Artists' Books to the source of some of the earliest ideas about witches and witch trials (Tinctor's Foul Treatise). They explore the papers (including photographs) of pioneering Western Canadian journalist Miriam Green Ellis, the complexities of interpreting primary historical materials (Sam Steele's Forty Years in Canada: History or Fiction?), and some of the most frequently-requested rare books in Bruce Peel Special Collections (Honorary Degree Books).

Digitized in Databases - Some of Peel's collections have been partially digitized through databases hosted by major publishers, including the Gregory S. Javitch Collection of books about the Indigenous peoples of North and South America and the Dr Ronald B. Madge Entomology Collection.

Internet Archive - A selection of Peel materials have been digitized through the Internet Archive, including Treaty parchments (for Treaties 4, 6, 7, & 8), the Tinctor manuscipt, a Medieval Book of Hours, a collection of English Playbills (1779-1949), the Indigenous Photograph Collectionas well as selections from the Gregory S. Javitch Collection of books about the Indigenous peoples of North and South America and the Dr Ronald B. Madge Entomology Collection.

Peel's Prairie Provinces database - This database offers digital access to materials from many institutions, much of it from Library & Archives Canada, but it also features some materials housed in Bruce Peel Special Collections, including Prairie Postcards and the Sam Steele Family Archive (Canadian police, military, and Klondike gold rush history).

Good luck with your research and please take care!

Where do ideas about witchcraft come from?

No comments :

Explore early ideas about witchcraft by learning about a very rare (and sinister) fifteenth-century manuscript housed in University of Alberta's Bruce Peel Special Collections.

Tinctor's Foul Treatise is an award-winning digital exhibition that unlocks the secrets of this special manuscript. Curated by Andrew Gow, Rob Desjardins, and François Pageau, the exhibition was mounted in October 2016 by University of Alberta's Bruce Peel Special Collections, and it is the winner of the prestigious 2018 Leab Award (Electronic Exhibitions) from the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the American Library Association.

The Arras Witch Treatises is a full English-language translation of two important fifteenth-century source texts (Tinctor's Invectives and the anonymous Recollectioprepared by Andrew Gow, Rob Desjardins, and François Pageau and published by Pennsylvania State University Press (2016) as part of their Magic in History series. This edition is available through University of Alberta Library (BF 1582 A155 2016) and is widely available for sale.

Get a close look—through—at the copy of Tinctor's Invectives housed in University of Alberta's Bruce Peel Special Collections.

You can still check out Tinctor's Foul Manual, a very interesting one-hour documentary produced by Paul Kennedy for the CBC's Ideas that has been aired numerous times, most recently on 2 August 2016.

Read "The Travels of a Fifteenth-Century Demonological Manuscript: The University of Alberta's Copy of Jean Taincture's Invectives contre la secte de vaudrie," by Robert Desjardins, Francois Pageau, and Andrew Gow. Florilgelium 33 (26 Aug 2019).

Check out Paula Simons' fascinating exploration of the ways that old ideas about witchcraft continue to haunt us today: "Politics, Powerful Women and Hunting Witches in a New Age of Superstition," Edmonton Journal (29 Oct 2016).  This story helpfully links to a relevant story by Simons: "Witch History takes flight in Rare Manuscript at U of A," Edmonton Journal (27 Oct 2012), and a related blog post "The Witch-Burner's Mein Kampf: Excerpts of Evil" (Oct 2012).

Or this recent article: "300 years on, will thousands of women burned as witches finally get justice?" The Guardian (13 Sept 2020).