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July 21, 2023

Research, Research, & More Research – Henry Ding, BArch 2026

by henryding2026

So it’s been around 3 weeks into my time as a Maharam Fellow at The ArQuives in Toronto. It’s been one of the most reflective, enriching, and unexpected experiences I’ve had yet as a student at RISD. While it was initially quite nerve-wracking, I found myself entering a space of extremely passionately queer, intelligent, and kind experts in their fields! It is no wonder that my brain has grown quite a lot since being here.

The Arquives location in Downtown Toronto!

Some fun acts about The ArQuives:

  • With over 100,000 items in its collection, The ArQuives is the largest independent LGBTQS+ Archives in the world and the only one of its kind in Canada!
  • I’ve also been told it has one of the largest porn collections in the country, if not the world, as well.
  • We do our work in a historic building that dates back to 1860! One small historic house surrounded by the skyscrapers of one of Toronto’s busiest shopping and business districts! (Think the house from the movie Up!)
  • Did you know archives actually write about space three-dimensionally? A storage room isn’t 150 square ft, it’s actually 1500 cubic square ft! Even records as small as magazines are catalogued by thickness as well as diameter. How are you gonna know how many records you can store when you only think two-dimensionally?

These facts may or may not help illustrate what my experience has been as of late—combing through thousands of records in this little treasure trove of history in the heart of Toronto. Man have I done a lot of combing. My projects and initiatives are all based around discovering what home and domesticity was like for Toronto’s historic queer community. What does that look like aesthetically, infra-structurally, and politically? How can I visualize this history and make it more accessible to the public? I’m especially becoming interested in queer POC communities!

Everyday at work is a little different. I may be reading through The ArQuives’ extensive books collection, looking through old artifacts (newspapers, census records, etc…), digitizing photographic records, or watching videos made by prominent queer filmmakers in Toronto. Along the way I’m taught archival vocabulary (which is kind of a lot), tour offsite storage facilities, and learn about Toronto’s queer community from my colleagues. It’s been a lot of reading, writing, and learning.

That’s about it for now but stay tuned for a couple interviews, research trips, and new findings I’ve set up that I’m very excited for!

What I probably look like signing off on this blog at my makeshift records desk.
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