Cherry St. Hotel, by Gerald Lazare. 1978. 979-3-1 Cherry St. Hotel, by Gerald Lazare. 1978. 979-3-1

The Collection Today

The collection is housed in the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library. It has grown to approximately 15,000 paintings, drawings and prints, over 1 million photographs and more than 3,000 postcards.

Many items in the collection can be viewed on the Digital Archive.

Beginnings of the Collection

The beginnings of the library’s collection of historical pictures can be traced to the late 19th century; however it was the donation of the J. Ross Robertson Collection starting in 1910 that firmly established the library as a collector of historical Canadian imagery.

John Ross Robertson (1841-1918) X 64-173 John Ross Robertson (1841-1918) X 64-173

J. Ross Roberston Collection

John Ross Robertson (1841-1918) (pictured left) was founder and publisher of the Toronto Telegram, a major philanthropist of the Hospital for Sick Children, and a serious collector. He built a collection of more than 4,000 pictures and pictorial material illustrating the history of Canada. His generous donation to the Toronto Public Library has become known as the J. Ross Robertson Collection.

Printed catalogue of the J. Ross Robertson Collection, Landmarks of Canada.

Toronto Star Photographic Archive

The Toronto Star Photographic Archive contains over 1 million press photographs covering topics of local, national, and international significance from 1900-1999. The archive was donated to the Library by Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. in 2014.

It's divided into two groups based on how the items were transferred to the library - not by subject or date. View Group 1 finding aid or Group 2 finding aid.

Other Significant Collections

There is a rich collection of images depicting Toronto from its 1793 founding as the town of York through the 1920s. The works of well known artists are represented, including:

As well as significant photographic resources from the last half of the 20th century by photographers such as:

For Your Research

The Documentary Art Collection can also be accessed through the card file in the Baillie Special Collections Centre's reading room. Just ask the staff in the Baillie Special Collections Centre.

Digital Reproduction Services are available. Some restrictions may apply.