Archives Awareness Week at Unity Health Toronto!

Archives Awareness Week is April 3-7! To celebrate, we are joining @ArchivesOntario on their month-long #ArchivesAtoZ Twitter campaign. Launching April 3, we will feature a letter of the alphabet and its corresponding archives word of the day! The archives program at Unity Health Toronto includes collections of inactive social, historical and corporate records at each of our three sites. In 2022, we also started a digital archives initiative to preserve valuable records created digitally across the network. Tune in all month to find out more about archives, and get a behind the scenes look at our digital archives project:! #ArchivesAwarenessWeek

Coming Soon: A Digital Archive!

Archives might often be thought of as just “old” records. A black and white photograph or a storage room with boxes on shelves may come to mind. While these two things can indeed be archives, records have evolved, both in form and in the way that they are managed. Information and historical events are increasingly being recorded digitally, now more than ever. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is particularly true for organizations, such as Unity Health Toronto, where a large number of staff work remotely. That is why the Unity Health Archives is launching a new initiative to preserve valuable records created digitally across its three sites. These are the records which document Unity Health’s historical development, core values, major achievements and significant changes. Our mission is to ensure that these archives can be preserved long-term and accessed in the future.

Digital files, however, cannot be managed the same way as physical materials, and contrary to popular belief, digital content does not “last forever”. Certain factors pose a threat to important digital information at Unity Health, such as: the rapid accumulation of content, changing technologies, and staff turnover which may often lead to misplaced records. We risk gaps in our history when the contents of digital files are lost and unrecoverable. When it is possible, recovering and accessing old digital content can be a time-consuming and costly process.

The best solution is to implement a digital preservation program which supports records appraisal, archiving and disposal practices. There is no better time to start preserving important digital records than now. A digital preservation program can not only help to preserve Unit Health’s digital memory but also establish an archiving process which encourages systematic management of digital information and reduces unnecessary digital storage. We hope that in time, some of these practices can be adopted throughout Unity Health to departments which regularly deposit to the archive. Changes in the way digital files are stored and organized by teams can improve their ability to locate needed information, thus improving work efficiency. As for the Archives team, our objective is to create a central digital archive which will house our organization’s digital records with historical value.

This project has begun with the development of a digital strategy and policy which will guide archival staff. Next we will build the digital archive by setting up a technical infrastructure and adding content. Our end goal is to have a digital space where users can access photographs of events, do some fact-checking, use past projects as inspiration for new initiatives and more. Unity Health staff, students, physicians and volunteers will have the opportunity to view digital records, much like they would at our three physical archives locations. As we continue to develop this exciting project, we invite any questions or recommendations from the Unity Health community.

-Roxanne Wildenstein, Digital Preservation Archivist

From the Providence Healthcare Archives: A Short Film From the 1940s.

The Providence Healthcare Archives are currently being established in room C237G, off the Memory Lane hallway at Providence. The Archives contains a collection of textual, photographic, audiovisual and visual records. In a quest to preserve by digitization footage of an event that took place in the 1960s known as the Caravan of Kindness, the following film from the new archive was digitized:

Celebration with House of Providence Residents, Sisters, possibly Knights of Columbus c. 1940.

The Caravan of Kindness was an event that marked the beginning of Providence Healthcare as we know it. On January 28, 1962 a group of Toronto Cabbies donated their time to drive residents of the original House of Providence, then located on Power Street and slated for demolition, to their new home at Providence Villa and Hospital, currently known as Providence Healthcare.

This film, however, is not what we expected it to be.

Instead of a snowy January day in 1962, this 9.5 minute film appeared to have been shot on a summer day in the 1940s. In it, impeccably dressed people gather outside of what may be the original House of Providence while a roving four piece band marches by playing a slow song – a trumpet, an alto saxophone, a bass drum, a cymbal and an accordion – as people on a balcony dance to the music. Trees and plants in full bloom, people are escorted into cars as they pull away from the building. 4 minutes and 21 seconds into the footage, the cars and people no longer there, a large group of Sisters walk together up and down the sidewalk alongside of the building, some looking into the camera, smiling slightly. It is a delightful film, but determining its context proved challenging.

Thanks to the work and expertise of Linda Wicks, Archivist at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto Archives (CSJTA), we now have a clearer picture of what event this film might depict. Although not certain, the film is most likely that of an outing organized by the Toronto Council of the Knights of Columbus. The printed Annals of the House of Providence 1857-1962, housed in the CSJT Archives, records one occasion from “September 19, 1940: The Knights of Columbus arranged for an outing for the old people at the House of Providence. On their return, each man received a pipe and tobacco. A chicken dinner was served at 5:00 p.m. The Archbishop was present to say Grace. Then he and twenty-five Knights had dinner in the reception room.”

If anyone has any further insight or information about this film, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Unity Health Toronto Archives at

Special thanks to Archivist Linda Wicks who generously donated her time, Marc Knez and the hardworking team at Digital Treasures!

-Leah Hunter, Project Archivist