More about the 16mm Kodachrome film reel from 1940 of TTC Bloor streetcars

Here’s a slightly more animated excerpt from the 16mm Kodachrome reels I found at the City of Toronto Archives this week. This was captured from a primitive Zeiss-Ikon Moviscop viewing device, and the film transport is a homemade hand crank assembled by the now-retired film & video archivist (for whom there was no replacement designated):

I learnt a bit more about this and the other two 16mm colour reels from the same series: in 1981, the TTC sent their original movie film reels to the Library and Archives Canada (then known as the National Archives of Canada). This includes a Kodachrome reel of 30 March 1954 — opening day of the Yonge line — and another reel from the mid-1950s which may be a compilation of subway-opening events, including footage of the last run of the Yonge streetcar line.

At the time, the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto (old Toronto) and the TTC lacked a repository for TTC archives. So LAC received these reels and made a film copy of each to return to TTC, while maintaining custodianship over the originals. Eventually, these copies of the originals — along with other TTC stuff — were moved to the public archives, post-amalgamation. The originals remain in Ottawa to this day. When a digitization is to occur with these, the originals will absolutely be required, given that copies have faded and not held up well in the years since (no small shock, of course).

I was speaking to a City Archives supervisor about this yesterday. I suggested how now that Toronto has the conservators and facilities to maintain these originals, they should be repatriated back to Toronto. Whether that can happen with Rob Ford’s “gravy cuts” is uncertain at best. But given their historical significance — possibly the oldest, if not one of the oldest Kodachrome reels of our city in existence — we should be finding a way to not only bring them back to Toronto, but also the means to have them digitized and made publicly viewable.

It might be time soon to get a federal grant, ironically, to have the federal government return to us what we gave to them in trust, so that Torontonian researchers and scholars can have all this media in one place. It’s not so much that Toronto is exceptional relative to our nation’s other municipalities. It’s that we now have the capacity to properly care for and store these artefacts.