Ontario Black History Society



  • OBHS Book Collection
  • Mary Ann Shadd Collection
  • Leonard Braithwaite Collection
  • Oral History and Video Cassette Collection
  • Collection of Newspaper clippings on historical and contemporary personalities.

The Society has extensive slide, print and negative collection for use by researchers, students, educators, businesses, community organizations, and the general public.
Research time must be booked in advance. Due to limited space at the office, researchers must call (416) 867-9420 to confirm availability of space.
A research fee of $7 for the first hour and $3 for each additional hour is charged to non-members.


A reference library including biographies, news items, and special collections on historical and contemporary personalities.

Public Programming:


The Ontario Black History Society is able to provide Black history presentations in schools and other places during February and all year. Exhibits cover the contributions made by African descendants during a 400-year period in Canada. The following exhibits are available for rent:

  • A 3-panel mounted exhibit, 4×3 panels entitled Ontario Black Heritage (22 – 4 x 3″, 66 running feet panels).
  • The McCurdy Exhibit (22 – 4 x 3″, 66 running feet panels).
  • 4 x 3 – 6 Panel entitled Black History in Ontario (free standing).
  • A 3-panel Ontario Black History table top exhibit.

Educational Programming

  • A school information kit (teachers guide for classroom).
  • Books on contemporary Afro-Canadian writers.
  • Audio-visual presentations for schools, businesses and community groups.


The society offers bus tours entitled: “Discover Black History in Toronto” to explore areas of Toronto where people of African descent lived, worked, and made significant contributions to the City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario, and Canada. Guides are provided, but groups must provide their own buses.

One-Hour Tour: Covers general Black history, politics, industry and inventions. Passengers disembark once. Cost: $150.00.

Two-Hour Tour: Covers all the areas of the one-hour tour, as well as community, organizations, church life, current businesses, and contemporary personalities. Passengers may disembark twice. Cost: $175.00.

Three-Hour Tour: Expands on the two-hour tour. Passengers may disembark from the bus at four sites for approximately 15 minutes each time. Some Toronto City attractions are included. Cost: $200.00.

Customized tours can also be arranged. There are also one hour walking tours of Black historical sites in Toronto. Tours are available all year round.

Special Events

Since 1978, the society has spearheaded the celebration of Black History Month in February.


A quarterly newsletter.

Ontario Jewish Archives

Conservation / Preservation:

The OJA has worked in partnership with Heritage Toronto on an initiative that saw 14 sites of Jewish importance recognized in the city with official heritage plaques. In the summer of 2015, the OJA worked to ensure the safe removal of the Mandel’s Creamery glass window at 29 Baldwin Street that featured original Yiddish writing, saving this historic remnant of Yiddish culture in the Kensington Market area from destruction.


The archives contains over 1,670 linear metres of textual records documenting the activities of Jewish organizations, institutions and individuals; over 60,000 photographs; 400 oral histories; 2,000 blueprints and drawings created by some of Ontario’s most notable Jewish architects; unpublished histories of Jewish communities in Ontario; Yiddish, Hebrew, and English language newspapers; and the Toronto and London Jewish Directories.

Some of the larger fonds include:

    • Act to End Violence Against Women (formerly Jewish Women International)
    • Benjamin Brown (architect)
    • Board of Jewish Education (Toronto)
    • Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care
    • Canadian Jewish Congress, Ontario Region
    • Canadian Jewish News
    • Jewish Community Centre of Toronto
    • Jewish Family and Child
    • Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Toronto
    • Jewish Vocational Services of Toronto
    • Men’s Clothing Manufacturers’ Association of Ontario
    • National Council of Jewish Women of Canada
    • Rabbi Nachman Shemen
    • Toronto Haddasah-WIZO
    • United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto
    • Zionist Organization of Canada

Other fonds relate to synagogues, families, politicians, and photographers’ collections.

Public Programming:

Educational programming

Works in collaboration with university departments at York University and University of Toronto on research assignments. Provides information literacy sessions to school groups from elementary to university level.


Occasional exhibits dedicated to telling the history of Jewish communities and prominent Jewish individuals in Ontario.

Public Lectures

PowerPoint presentations and workshops about various aspects of Ontario’s Jewish history, given to historical societies, clubs and lodges, student groups and sometimes to coincide with an exhibition, intended for wide circulation.


Regular historical walking tours of Kensington Market and Pape Avenue Cemetery.

Archives of Ontario



Ontario Government Records:

The majority of the records in the collections of the Archives were created by the government of Ontario and its predecessors in the fulfillment of its legal and administrative functions. These records date from the late eighteenth century to the present day concerning:

  • Political and legal decisions.
  • The evolution of provincial administration.
  • The interaction between the government and its citizens.
  • The rights and responsibilities of Ontarians.

Private Sector Records:

Since 1903, the Archives of Ontario has been acquiring records from the private sector. The Archives holds the records of over 2600 private individuals, businesses, clubs and associations, labour and political organizations. These collections can range in size from one or two items to thousands of items that occupy hundreds of metres of shelf space.

These records include:

  • Paper files, diaries and photographs.
  • Maps and architectural records.
  • Sound recordings and moving images.

Genealogical Records:

The Archives of Ontario holds many important sources for researching family history in Ontario. There is no single finding aid or database for this type of research.

Vital Statistics:

Historical registrations of births, marriages and deaths. No database yet exists that allows you to search these records by name. Rather, these records must be searched using microfilm.

Records Relating to Aboriginal Peoples:

The Archives of Ontario has a substantial number of records relating to aboriginal history, very widely scattered through the Archives’ total holdings. Dating from the 1760s, most focus on what is now Ontario. However, a reasonable number — for example, fur trade and missionary papers — refer to Aboriginal people of Quebec, other parts of Canada, and the United States


The J. J. Talman Library at the Archives of Ontario is a research and reference collection for the general public and the staff of the Archives. Most of the Library collections relate to the social, political, economic, cultural and military history of the Province of Ontario.

There are approximately 75,000 pieces including:

  • Books, pamphlets and Ontario Government publications.
  • Periodicals, microfilm, microfiche and other printed and published items.

Special Collections


The Archives of Ontario’s photographic collection consists of approximately 1.7 million images documenting activities, people, places and events in Ontario from the mid-1800s to the present.

These images come in many formats including: colour and black and white prints, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, slides, and glass plate negatives.

The Archives photographic holdings include images from many private sources such as: photojournalists, studio photographers, amateur photographers, and corporate collections.

The Archives’ photographic holdings also include images created by many Ontario government ministries and agencies to document programs and activities.

Photographs are accessed through the Reading Room.

Online Photographic Database:

A selection of images drawn from the holdings of the Archives of Ontario which document the province’s history and landscape. Images are continually being added to the database.

Cartographic Records:

The Cartographic Records Collection of the Archives of Ontario contains over 40,000 maps, plans, hydrographic charts, atlases, bird’s eye views, and other cartographic materials relating to the Province of Ontario. Many of these maps are in manuscript form and thus are unique items.

The Archives has significant collections of private cartographic records including those produced by or for: Lieutenant Governor Simcoe, Thomas Talbot, the Canada Company, and David Thompson.

The foundation of the collection consists of maps produced by and for the Government of Ontario, most notably the Ministry of Natural Resources and its predecessors. Maps in the collection span the period from the early eighteenth century, when Ontario was still part of New France, to the present.

The collection contains maps and plans documenting many aspects of the province’s history and development including:

  • Exploration maps, settlement maps and township and town surveys.
  • Road maps, fishing maps and boundary maps.
  • Electoral plans, fire insurance plans, and maps showing the location and distribution of various natural resources.

Architectural Records:

An extensive architectural records collection of approximately 200,000 drawings and other items, dating from the early 1820s to the 1990s. These records document Ontario’s built environment and heritage.

The collection consists of architectural materials created or accumulated for government purposes. An example would be the records of the Public Works Department, which was responsible for the construction of prisons, hospitals, special schools, and other facilities.

The Archives also holds architectural records created by individual architects or private sector firms. The scope of these records ranges from houses to factories to skyscrapers.

Documentary Art:

The Archives of Ontario holds a collection of approximately 4000 documentary art records that document the people, places and events in Ontario from the 1790s until the 1900s.

The collection contains paintings, drawings, and prints by both amateur and professional artists, such as: Caroline Armington, William Armstrong, Thomas Burrowes, Anne Langton, C. W. Jefferys, Stewart C. Shaw, Elizabeth Simcoe, Fred Brygden, Robert Sproule, Owen Staples, and Dorothy Stevens.

It covers a wide range of subjects such as views of small towns, famous and infamous people, and historical events.

Public Programming:


Several exhibitions that highlight the collections. The most recent online exhibits can be accessed directly from the website.

Multicultural History Society of Ontario



Contains materials related to ethnic and immigration history, including

  • ethnic newspapers, news releases
  • oral history tapes
  • historical photgraphs
  • microfilm collections
  • organizational records
  • personal records
  • passports, diaries, scrapbooks
  • documents from social clubs, mutual aid societies, churches, and political organizations.

Online Resources

Develops and manages digital collections and links to multicultural organizations with digital collections.

Public Programming:

Educational programming

Develops and distributes publications, mounts and circulates exhibitions, and stages conferences, public lectures, and special events. The MHSO also provides professional and technical services and training to teachers and students, scholars and community historians, heritage and cultural organizations, and members of ethnicultural and indigenous communities.


Travelling exhibits related to ethnic, racial and immigration history are available such as,

  • Chinese Canadian Women, 1923-1967
  • Family Stories, Treasured Memories
  • Many Rivers To Cross: The African Canadian Experience

See the MHSO website for more information about the SOciety’s exhibitions.


The MHSO has developed a number of virtual exhibis and digital learning resources. Links to these sites can be found through the society’s website:

  • http://mhso.ca/wp/multi-faceted-websites/
  • http://mhso.ca/wp/learn-online-resources/

Oral History Museum

Gallery contains oral testimonies with photographs and multimedia technology, illustrating immigration adaption in late 20th-century Toronto. The Museum contains over 9,000 hours of interviews from members of 60 ethnic groups.