Queen's University

You can help open Archives’ Environmental Studies time capsule

Queen's Archives is seeking help to preserve and make widely available video of a unique 1970s-era lecture course that focused on environmental issues.

The environmentally controlled, secure storage vaults of Queen’s University Archives (QUA) hold a rich and diverse collection of University records and the personal papers of distinguished faculty and alumni, as well as documents related to the heritage of Kingston and its surrounding region, the province, and the country.

Among the materials now housed in the Archives is a set of some 200 U-matic videotapes, plus accompanying course and lecture material, from a 1970s-era lecture course called “Nature, Science and Man.”

Prof. Reg Clark

This interdisciplinary course, the brainchild of the late Prof. Reginald H. Clark, was offered through the Faculty of Applied Science from 1971-79. It focused on environmental issues and involved approximately 20 faculty from various disciplines and subject areas. Certainly the first environmental course and perhaps the first interdisciplinary course at Queen’s, it was geared, as the course syllabus stated, “to look at where man is now, and how he got there.” A leading and early expert on recycling, Reg Clark designed his course to delve into humanity’s view of the environment, including an apparent indifference to pollution. As he told a Journal reporter in 1971, “If there’s a disease which is wider than the dumping of garbage, let’s cure the disease and not just apply balm to the spots.”

By the mid-1970s, guest lecturers, including U.S. architect Buckminster Fuller, political philosopher Tommy Douglas, LLD’72, and MP Flora MacDonald, LLD’81, were invited to present divergent views. A host of individuals from government and industry also spoke on such issues as energy, recycling, oil and gas, and the then-emerging “tar sands.” Clark distributed the lecture notes for each class “to relieve students of the necessity of note-taking so they can concentrate on the lectures.” Each lecture was videotaped for future reference.

Clark donated these videotapes to QUA, and now that the transfer technology is available, Archives staff hope to undertake a two-stage project to preserve and showcase the lectures. Stage One would see the entire U-matic video collection digitized and the originals returned to QUA’s climate-controlled vaults. Stage Two would see the hiring of a student to design and post a virtual exhibit on the QUA website, which would include not only the digitized videos, but also course descriptions, lists of lecturers, and scans of the lecture notes.

QUA staff hope to find the funds needed to make this project a reality, and, by so doing to shed light on how opinions on environmental issues have changed – or stayed the same – over the past 40 years; as well as documenting the evolution of environmental science itself.

Anyone who is interested in helping QUA pursue this initiative is invited to contact University Archivist Paul Banfield at banfield@queensu.ca or QUA staff member Deirdre Bryden at brydend@queensu.ca, or to call 613-533-2378.

Queen's Alumni Review, 2012 Issue #2Queen's Alumni Review
2012 Issue #2
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