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Robert Allan Spencer fonds Series
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Education

This series covers Ruth Church’s education at Mount Royal High School; McGill University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Library Science the same day as her future husband, Robert Spencer, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts; her subsequent graduate training in librarianship at the University of London in 1945-1946, and her stint as a special student at the University of Toronto from 1984 to 1986.

Included are certificates, programmes, correspondence, and course papers. Ms. Church’s letters home while a graduate student are replete with accounts of her life in immediate post-war London. At the University of Toronto she was a ‘senior citizen student’, part-time, registered at Woodworth College and taking English 262S (‘Detective fiction’) and English 260 (‘Varieties of Biography‘). Her course papers have been kept.

Wartime service, World War II

During World War II, Ruth Church served as Base Librarian with the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (Wrens) from September 1943 to October 1945. She was stationed at HMCS Shelburne (September 1943 – July 1944), HMCS Stadacona in Londonderry, Northern Ireland (July 1944 – May 1945), and at HMCS Niobe at Greenock, Scotland (July – October 1945).

The files include her official record of service, correspondence, base librarian reports, newsletters, memorabilia, copies of period newspapers that she annotated, and post-war correspondence, newsletters, and news items relating to the Wren Association of Toronto. The arrangement is largely chronological.

Canada House

Ruth Church was employed as the head librarian at Canada House in London from September 1945 to March 1950. She was the first permanent librarian hired by the Canadian High Commission and was tasked with building up the library almost from scratch, while serving the demands of the Canadian diplomatic corps and facilitating the use of the library by Canadians based in or travelling through London and interested members of the public.

She nearly lost her job when she married in 1948, as the Civil Service Commission’s policy was that once married, she would be supported by her husband and therefore would be replaced by an unmarried librarian as soon as possible. She appealed on the basis that she would be supporting her husband while he was a student at Oxford and was allowed to remain on with her full salary and allowances. In April 1949, her contract was renewed for six-months and, on request, for a further six months until 28 February 1950, which was extended to 31 March until her replacement arrived from Canada. During this period she fought back against the Department of External Affairs’ decision to reduce her allowance and the Receiver General’s clawback of portions of her salary. Forty-five years later she publicly objected to the closure of the Library and of Canada House and lived to attend its reopening in 1998.

The files in this series contain correspondence, salary stubs, poetry, reports, a manuscript, and articles.

Personal and biographical

This series contains material relating to Professor Spencer’s birth, childhood and later birthdays; childhood stories, plays, and poems; reunions and other post-graduate activities at McGill University and the University of Oxford; honours received; and files relating to the residences that he had owned. Also present are copies of his curriculum vitae, security documents regarding the Department of External Affairs, and material reflecting his long association with the Canadian military in the form of Remembrance Day ceremonies and VE-Day and other celebrations related to World War II.

Travel

This series documents Professor Spencer’s travels, both for pleasure and for academic and other professional purposes. The first of his trips documented here is to New York City in 1946; the last is to Europe in 2011.

The files contain an assortment of flight information, correspondence, itineraries, invitations, notes, postcards, diaries and reports (indicated below where they exist), programmes for a wide variety of events, menus, tickets, passenger lists, booklets, maps, photographs, press clippings, and other memorabilia. The arrangement is chronological by trip. Beginning in April, 1977 and continuing while he was director until his retirement in 1986, a lot of Professor Spencer’s travel was done as an extension of the work of the Centre for International Studies. For the first of these trips, he wrote a detailed report of his activities. The often extensive correspondence in these files ranges from that with Canadian government, consular, and military officials to military officials at NATO and elsewhere in Europe and England, to academic and government personnel in Western Europe. Included are files on Professor Spencer’s involvement with the Atlantic Council of Canada, the Committee on Atlantic Studies, and the Canadian Studies Association.

Some of the folders in this series contain correspondence, postcards, reports, and other items that are well outside the dates of the activities being described.

The photoprints, postcards, and artifacts (pin buttons) have been retained in the relevant files. Files containing receipts only (such as transportation, car rentals, luggage, and accommodation) were not kept and the retention of such material in other files is selective. Fax paper, where present, has been photocopied and the original faxes, most of which had deteriorated badly, have been destroyed.

Additional information about some of these trips can be found in Series 7: Correspondence.