University of Toronto Scientific Instruments Collection

Preserving University of Toronto's scientific material history one instrument at a time


The University of Toronto Scientific Instruments Collection has acquired and catalogued a very small part of the overall Faculty of Forestry collection. The larger collection, located at the Faculty of Forestry, consisting mainly of biological samples and instruments/equipment. The biological samples can be divided into items assembled for teaching, such as formal collections of wood species and herbarium samples, and items that have been collected for research purposes, and then retained in small quantities for use in instruction. These include items related to the Faculty’s work in Urban Forestry, particularly pathologies affecting urban trees. The instruments in the collection largely relate to the history of undergraduate teaching in Forestry, ongoing throughout the 20th century (but now discontinued). There are also a number of instruments related to general field work, likely both teaching and research, such as traps, cameras and compasses. In addition to these, the collection also includes personal memorabilia from select students, and samples from materials research conducted at the Faculty.

Person Responsible: Tony Ung, Coordinator Technical Services/Research Technician

Number of Objects: Unknown. Likely around 200, with hundreds more biological samples of wood species, diseased woods and insects, all used in teaching and/or research.

Inventory/Catalogue: The majority of the objects are neither inventoried nor catalogued. A small number of objects were catalogued in the Spring of 2017 in connection with artefacts loaned for the Untold Stories exhibit.

Location: Scattered among various rooms and display cabinets in the rooms currently belonging to the Faculty of Forestry, including: Tony Ung’s office, classroom/laboratory shelf storage, a Forestry basement storage room and Dean’s office and adjoining meeting rooms.

Types of Objects in the Collection:
• Faculty Forestry memorabilia, including sports equipment, plaques.
• Personal memorabilia related to the Buckley family, including an R.C.A.F. branded suitcase, diplomas, books, documents and other objects.
• Samples • Two large sections of White Pine, dating back to the early 20th century.
• A large collection of wood samples from Canadian forests and forests around the world, includes wood from the tropics, Africa.
• Type One: Larger pieces approx. 2’x2’
• Type Two: Flat trays containing a selection of woods designed for students’ learning to identify types of woods.
• Mounted, framed and displayed leaf, bud, and twig samples from specified trees created by Craig Willian Holzcherer (8T9) and Henry Gordon Sheasby. Display includes drawings of plant parts by Bernard A. Martin. (assembled 1987)
• Herbarium collection in flat boxes. Many of these were discarded but at least 20 were retained.
• Large collection of samples of diseased wood, organized in boxes by disease, for teaching.
• Large collection of insects related to tree pathologies collected as part of research but retained for teaching. Equipment:
• A large number of pieces of equipment from (discontinued) undergraduate teaching and student fieldwork, including clinometers from various eras, a large number of compasses, circumference to diameter tape measures, surveying and drawing tools.
• Remote sensing spectroscopes.
• Field surveying equipment, including a tripod and various measuring tools.
• A variety of instruments and tools dating from the early 20th century to the modern era, related to teaching and research at the university, including a possible beaver trap, microscopes, cameras, clinometers, notebooks, planimeters etc.
• Recent objects surrounding work at the university around materials, e.g. wood-plastic hybrids designed for cars. Objects include: prototype samples, example materials. There are also documentation type artefacts: maps, ledgers etc.

Provenance While the Faculty of Forestry was founded at the beginning of the 20th century, a few of the objects predate this, the earliest dating from approximately 1890. These, like most of the collection relate to the training of undergraduate Forestry students at the university, especially in fieldwork training (although the distinction between objects for training and research is not a clear one). Objects dating from the earlier history of the department include measuring tapes, clinometers, compasses, data recording forms, and surveying tools. Classroom training is also represented in the form of substantial collections of wood which were used to train and test students in the recognition of wood species, insect damage, and diseases. The collection also includes a small number of spectroscopes relating to a history of teaching remote sensing through aerial photography, a subject taught to Forestry students (under “photogrammetry”) in the mid- to late 20th century, particularly by Professor Jerry Vlcek. There are a number of personal memorabilia items relating to students at the Faculty, particularly within the first half of the 20th century.
The Faculty of Forestry ceased its undergraduate program in at the beginning of the 20th century and has been downsizing its considerable teaching collection of instruments and samples. A number of objects, particularly biological samples, stem from the Faculty’s history of research into ‘Urban Forestry’. Examples of artefacts include wood samples exhibiting Bark Beetle damage, Dutch Elm Disease or Emerald Ash Borers (insects), have been retained from this work. Samples were collected from various urban locations and represent different dates particularly linked with outbreaks of specific diseases in different locations. Although this branch of research dates from the 1960s, most of the retained samples were collected since the 2000s. These samples were collected for research purposes, but are largely retained as instructive examples. The Faculty’s work in materials is also represented in the collection. Most prominent are samples from a collaboration between the department and Ford in the production of wood-plastic hybrid materials for the manufacture of car parts. A number of sample car parts have been retained for display.

A number of instruments related to forestry research and teaching, including an early chainsaw, have been donated by the Faculty to Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve, with whom the Faculty has an ongoing research and teaching relationship. Other items, such as cameras, have been given to staff and faculty.

Further Resources: • Kuhlberg, Mark. One hundred rings and counting: forestry education and forestry in Toronto and Canada, 1907-2007. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c2009.