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January 5, 2006
Toronto Archives reveals “Signs of Urban Life” in exhibit
The City of Toronto Archives invites the public to its continuing exhibition, “Signs of Urban Life.”

The exhibit, which will close this spring, consists of more than 300 photographs, posters and other records documenting the history of visual communication on Toronto’s streets and in other public spaces from the 19th to the 21st century.

Taking both a historical and subject-specific look at the topic, the show includes displays specific to various eras, as well as sections on postering, graffiti, street furniture, Dundas Square, chain stores and electric/neon signage.

“If there’s one thing that quickly becomes clear, it’s that modern concerns about the proliferation of outdoor advertising are a continuation of a century-old debate,” said exhibit curator and staff archivist Patrick Cummins. “It was common in the 19th century to find multiple rows of the same poster, with repetition serving to amplify the message.”

The growth of the city to include suburbs and a reliance on cars is reflected in the evolution of outdoor communication, as signs became larger, brighter and flashier. Changing values regarding religion, politics, and language are also reflected in the exhibit.

The City of Toronto Archives is located at 255 Spadina Rd., just south of Casa Loma and a short walk north from the Dupont subway station.

The free exhibit is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Group tours of the exhibit and Archives may be arranged by calling 416-397-7977.

For more information on the exhibit and City of Toronto Archives services such as the research hall, call 416-397-0778 or visit

Note: photographs from the exhibit can be provided for media use.

Media contacts:

Karen Teeple
City of Toronto Archives

Patrick Cummins
City of Toronto Archives



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