Fonds Number: 26
Title: Osborne Photographic Collection
Creator: Osborne Photography (Allan and Jean Osborne)
Dates of Material: 1971-1989
Physical Description: approx. 60 Hollinger boxes
Scope and Contents: The Osborne Photographic Collection includes thousands of positives and negatives (small, medium, and large format). These were created between 1971 and 1989 at the Osborne Photography studio as well as at other locations within the greater Peterborough area. The majority are colour although a substantial minority are black and white. The colour negatives are 35 mm, the black and white are 4″ by 5″. The prints are mostly 4″ x 5″ with some smaller and some larger. When the collection was accessioned in 2001-02, it was estimated that it contained approximately 30,000 negatives and 15,000 positives. The preservation project of 2013 is in the process of determining more exact numbers.
The collection contains many culturally significant pieces, most particularly portraits of prominent figures (and sometimes their families), Trent University and Sir Sandford Fleming graduates, and in some cases entire (or nearly entire) graduating classes from Civic Hospital (nurses), St. Joseph’s (nurses), and Eastern Pentecostal Bible College. It also contains portraits of police officers (local and OPP), young people entering the military or RCMP, church functions, passport photos of participants of a 1974 PCVS trip to China, church functions, businesses, retirement parties, Bar mitzvahs, sports events, entertainers, and even visits in the early and late 1970s from then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
The collection is divided into two series:
Series A, “Personal Portraits”, contains most of the formal, personal portraits, most of which were taken in the Osborne studio itself on George Street. These include: weddings (though most of these are not present in the collection); studio portraits of children, parents, and families; location views (e.g., Jackson Park) of children, parents, and families; passport photos; some political and business portraits; many Trent grads, young people entering the military or RCMP, church functions, Masonic, sports teams, and entertainers. There are legal pictures, such as broken jaws and damaged restaurants. Interesting is a complete set of the passport photos of the members of a PCVS trip to China in 1975.
Although Series A contains some business and political portraits, it is Series B, “Business and Political Portraits”, that contains most such images. This series includes (among others): Alfa-Laval, Peter Adams, Bell Canada, Cherney’s, Dominion Life, Fischer Gauge, Greer Galloway, Investors Syndicate, OMC (Outboard Marine Canada), Spectrum Engineering, the St. Joseph’s Hospital Boards of Directors (various years), and more. This series also includes some event photography, for instance photos of several visits that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made in the 1970s.
Access Conditions: Open to researchers.
Finding Aids: 2 finding aids; one per series; both available on site.
Accruals: None expected.
Custodial History: When Osborne closed his studio after 1989, the collection was entrusted to John Lyon who was then operating his photography business on the north side of Hunter Street between Water and George. The Trent Valley Archives acquired the collection in 2001.
The Osborne Photography studio, run by C. Allan and Jean Osborne, operated at 521-523 George Street North, the corner at McDonnel, directly opposite George Street United Church. It closed in 1989.
On each envelope, Osborne would usually type the following pieces of information: client name (surname, first names); phone number, address, and date of the photo shoot itself. Sometimes he would write ordering information (size and costs) in manuscript on the front of an envelope (although, in most cases, this information is included on the order receipt which, if present, is included inside the envelope). Sometimes (for example, the Civic Hospital graduating nurses in 1972), Osborne would modify the outside of the envelope in order to record detailed ordering information (apparently in lieu of an invoice or sales receipt).
The collection, as accessioned, reflects Osborne’s original order. In the first series (Series A), Osborne filed each envelope alphabetically by client surname within the same calendar year (1971, 1972, 1973, etc.). In the second series, Osborne ordered the envelopes alphabetically by client surname or organization name regardless of year.
When TVA accessioned the collection in 2001-02, many portraits were missing. The overwhelming majority of these were wedding photos. It is unclear (in 2013) why they were missing or where they are today. For example, it was determined in 2013 that at least 25% of the envelopes from #0001 to #0800 were missing.
It is clear that the collection was processed in 2002 in such a way as to allow the inclusion of the missing pieces at a later date; however, as of 2013, no there have been no such accruals.
Processing, Part 1: Summer of 2002
In the summer of 2002, summer students Laura Monkman and Brittany Craig completed the initial processing. They first transferred most negatives and positives to archival enclosures but left all pieces in their original, non-archival envelopes. The students also created contents listings for both series but not scope and contents files. It was determined in 2013 that Monkman and Craig must have used Osborne’s own rolodexes as a basis for their contents listings, since many envelopes were actually missing from the collection and the students did not indicate in the contents listings which envelopes were missing and which were present.
Processing, Part 2: Spring of 2013
In the spring of 2013, archives assistant Matthew Griffis undertook to complete the processing. His work entailed a thorough review of the contents of each envelope and the compilation of a statistical report of damaged items. It was hoped that with detailed information about the condition of the collection at the envelope-level the Archives could apply for an external grant to restore some of the most damaged pieces of the collection. (See the Preservation Report for more information about the collection’s condition.)
In March of 2013 Griffis began transferring the contents of each envelope into archival envelopes and then, after applying a system of item numbers, the envelopes themselves into Hollinger boxes. He carefully inspected each positive and negative and recorded their condition, by size and type, into an expanded version of the contents listing. He corrected many errors in the original listings (made in 2002) and added missing information where appropriate. In many cases, damaged negatives and positives required newer or sometimes additional enclosures. Griffis left TVA in June of 2013. He got as far as Series A #1574 (he left TVA in June of 2013) before leaving for the beautiful, sunny American south.
Preservation Notes The collection is in overall poor condition. Unfortunately, Osborne did such things as packing prints together (they stick) and putting negatives on top of prints (they really stick). It is obvious that at some point in the collection’s lifespan they experienced moisture saturation–perhaps the result of a burst pipe or a flood. In some cases there is evidence of past mould damage, although the mould that has been found (up to envelope 1600) has been inactive.
Positives: Some positives are stuck together in clumps. In 2013, Griffis was encouraged to pull some of these apart but overall he chose to leave them as-is. Some positives show discolouration and/or residue from their original, non-archival enclosures.
Negatives: Most negatives were originally in glassine sleeves, and these, combined with poor moisture conditions, damaged the negatives. Many of these damaged negatives (when viewed under a light) now show substantial striations, tide marks, and spots. (Sometimes this damage is visible only on the film’s emulsion side.) Some negatives were placed in cardboard holders (for making prints) and were fastened in place with adhesive tape; this tape has yellowed and flaked away but has nevertheless left stains and discolouration on some of the negatives.
On estimate, several thousand prints and negatives require professional conservator’s care.