J.J. Talman – An Exhibit


Myself and Prof. J.J.B Forster recently put together an exhibit about the Lawson Hall Memorial Library that used to be in Lawson Hall (coincidentally where I’m sitting this very moment) and Professor J.J. Talman who ruled Western’s library system as Chief Librarian from the 1930s to 1969.

Talman did his undergrad at Western and his Masters and PhD at the University of Toronto. He was the Provincial Archivist in Toronto during the 30s after which he returned home to London as a Librarian at Western under his mentor, the renowned local historian Fred Landon.  He was humble, incredibly witty and completely committed to his job and raising the stature of the libraries at the University of Western Ontario.

A HUGEEEE thanks goes out to Laura for taking all of these lovely photos so that I could show them off to you all.

The 4 shelf display case. Photo Credit: Laura Piticco


Bottoms up.


He was also a historian who wrote extensively on the history of Southwestern Ontario. He expanded Western's collection of local works.


His work as a reviewer.


Lawson library was a hub of student activity. Would you ever see this many students lined up at library counters today? Only if they were complaining about library fines.


Talman showing off Western's purchase of first edition Milton works like Paradise Lost. Today, one of those books could pay off a students tuition through undergrad and grad school.

Quotes taken from a Toronto Star article written on March 15th, 1969.

“James J. Talman is a gentle-looking chap with snow white hair and a penchant for tweed who has for 20 years led the quiet, if sometimes wearing, life of the University of Western Ontario’s chief librarian.  But last week Talman found himself pussyfooting around the continent with a double-locked attaché case in his mitt just like some modern day blend of the Scarlet Pimpernel and Secret Agent X-9.

Interviewed in his big office in the university’s gray-stone library, Talman first asked for identification (“It sounds a little silly but you could be a robber, you know”) then fetched his little cache of Miltonia (“you better not say where I keep them.”)”

In case you didn’t notice, the images are propped up on copies of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Such a lovely shot by Laura.

From The Toronto Star

“It was last week that Talman’s university bought a couple of boxes of books by and about the English poet John Milton from a Pasadena, California book collector.  Not just ordinary books, but rare books.  Old, cracked leather-bound precious-as-jewels books.  Books kept in vaults, books fretted about by insurance companies, books that bring a certain glaze to the eyes of men like James Talman. And expensive books.  Western’s acquisition cost nearly $200,000.”

What Have I Learned

Collaboration is a tricky rope on which you have to balance.  My working style definitely had to take some adjustments during this project.  I’m a GO-GO-GO person. I like to work very quickly and tend to jump from project to the next and then back. A lot of times that means that certain details get missed. My partner in this project, Professor Forster, is very detail oriented and a precise worker. When he is working on one project he is very focused on that one task.

So in Feb, when my ADD brain was busy thinking about the research and payment process and how to lay out the exhibit plans, he was calmly contacting people and making plans to meet Talman’s family.  We had set a due date (end of March) so that attendees to the annual Talman lectures could also learn a little bit about the namesake of the lecture series.

At first I got quite antsy about if we could actually get the exhibit up in time with all of the materials I had found at ARCC and Prof Forster had acquired from Talman’s personal collections. Then I started getting antsy about whether I would have the time to dedicate to this project as Prof Forster’s work style is much more prolonged than my own (basically I can do a project, look it over and then leave it).

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

At this point, I realized I had to just take a step back, relax and take things slower. I started just working according to Prof Forster’s pace.

Thank god I made the conscious decision to just slow down or else the exhibit wouldn’t have turned out as neat and precise as it did.  As many have said, slowing down isn’t always a bad thing and in this case it definitely wasn’t. So thanks to Prof Forster for showing me how to just relax and go through the work process in a more thorough manner.

It took a lot of late of nights, hard work and tender loving care. A parting shot of myself and my baby!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s