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MARGIN NOTES

University PR: it was a simpler time

A short walk down memory lane before the Internet.

By LÉO CHARBONNEAU | MAR 24 2014
Track and field athletes, Simon Fraser University, 1998.
Track and field athletes, Simon Fraser University, 1998.

 

We’re changing offices here at University Affairs – nothing major, just moving up a few floors in our current building in downtown Ottawa. But, as part of that, we were all asked to go through our filing cabinets and dispose of everything that wasn’t essential. That’s how I got to browsing through hundreds of old black-and-white photos from Canadian universities, mostly from the 1970s to 1990s.

The photos got me thinking about how things have changed – or haven’t – at universities in general. But, in particular, it made me think about how the role of university public relations has changed. It was in many ways a simpler time back then. Think about it: in the ’70s through to at least the early ’90s there was no social media, no websites and no email. Heck, there was no Internet.

As for the photos, many of these would have been sent to us by mail to accompany a press release. For editors, it wasn’t easy finding decent photos back then, so having a good black and white photo to go with a story certainly increased the odds the story might get published. University public relations offices might have had dozens of these 8 x 10 photos printed and mailed out in envelopes, with the requisite piece of cardboard inserted to prevent them getting damaged. The fancier places might have also sent a colour slide, budget permitting. And, if it was something really important, sometimes you’d get the package within 24 hours by courier!

With that in mind, let’s take a little walk down memory lane. Photo 1, at the top, and Photos 2 and 3, immediately below, are good examples of the type of PR photo I’m talking about. The ones after that all have their own particular charm. I have very few details about the photos: if you happen to recognize them or the people in them, let me know!

One final note: I am taking a three-month travel sabbatical starting next week and so won’t be writing any new blog posts until my return at the beginning of July. See you then.

BC Open University, 1995. Say "ahhh."
BC Open University, 1995. Say “ahhh.”
Graduation ceremony, again at SFU. This photo appeared on the cover of University Affairs, May 1995
Graduation ceremony, again at SFU. This photo appeared on the cover of University Affairs, May 1995
UPEI
All in the family, University of Prince Edward Island, date unknown.
An electronics lab, University of Toronto Scarborough, 1966(?).
An electronics lab, University of Toronto Scarborough, 1966(?).
A research lab, Université Laval, 1989.
A research lab, Université Laval, 1989. A dot matrix printer!
A library card catalogue, Trent University, date unknown. If you're under 25, this may need some explaining.
A library card catalogue, Trent University, date unknown. If you’re under 25, this may need some explaining.
Residence room, University of Alberta, 1974. The rooms haven't changed, but the hairstyles have!
Residence room, University of Alberta, 1974. The rooms haven’t changed, but the hairstyles have!
ABOUT LÉO CHARBONNEAU
Léo Charbonneau

Léo Charbonneau has been the deputy editor of University Affairs since 2003. He started the Margin Notes blog in 2009 and it has gone on to win several awards, including Best Blog at the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.

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  1. SC / March 24, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for the photos….. nice way to start the working week!

  2. Harriet / March 27, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Good luck and best wishes for a wonderful and well-earned sabbatical, Leo.

    Harriet

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