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Archival description
Harold Gordon Skilling fonds
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Personal

This series contains biographical information, address books, business cards, correspondence, greeting cards, notes and passports relating primarily to personal activities, including Gordon and Sally’s friendship with many people in Czechoslovakia, and honours bestowed on him over his lifetime. Included are files relating to the Skilling family generally, biographical sketches and curriculum vitae, and files relating to his 70th and 88th birthday parties (1982 and 2000). There is also a scrapbook of greeting cards and postcards received from friends in Czechoslovakia between 1964 and 1982, and files on honours bestowed – including his festschrift, and Czech awards – Order of the White Lion (1992), Czech Academy of Sciences (1994), and the T. G. Masaryk honorary medal (1999).

In 1933 Gordon hitchhiked and rode freight trains across North America, first to the founding convention of the CCF in Regina, writing letters back to his parents along the way and also describing activities at that famous gathering itself, and then on to the West Coast. His correspondence and the pamphlets, brochures and press coverage he collected survive in this series. He later attributed these experiences as being the seminal event that shaped the evolution of his political views.

Other files in this series provide glimpses of his activities late in the 1930s and in the 1940s, and of his return to Toronto in 1959. They also document of his extra-curricular activities, first as a teenager with the West United Church Club (1926-1927), then as an alumnus of Clinton Street Public School and of Harbord Collegiate in Toronto, and finally as a member of the Canadian Association of Rhodes Scholars. The series ends with selected messages of sympathy and other items relating to the death of his beloved wife, Sally, in 1990.

The scrapbook of greeting cards from friends in Czechoslovakia is filed in box 051.

Oversized material has been removed from /007 (11) to file .(01).

Photoprints taken in the 1980s and 1990s of Professor Skilling, Helen Hogg, Czech friends and the Jazz Section, a semi-official agency under the Union of Musicians in Prague, are filed in /009(07)-(11).

An audiotape of the presentation of the Order of the White Lion to Professor Skilling on 8 May 1992 and of the Stefanik medal ceremony is filed as /02S. An audiotape relating to Professor Skilling’s birthday (which one?) is filed as /03S; audiotapes documenting the 75th anniversary celebrations of Harbord Collegiate Institute are filed as /04S and 05S.

University of Toronto and the Living Room Seminar

The records in this series are divided into two sections. The first consists of a few files relating to Professor Skilling’s appointment to the University of Toronto and his activities as an administrator and professor in the Centre for Russian and East European Studies and as professor emeritus. Included are appointment files (1959, 1979-1994); correspondence, notes, and memoranda on various administrative issues, lecture notes (1968-1973), and correspondence with graduate students and other researchers (1985-2001). The files are grouped by type.

The second section contains correspondence files relating to the seminar variously known as the Living Room Seminar, the Flying Seminar, and the Czech Seminar. This seminar, which Skilling described in his autobiography as “the most exciting and stimulating development in my life” in his last years, was conducted informally in his living room, beginning in 1996. Meetings were held every month or so, initially with graduate students in Toronto working on Czech(oslovak) history and politics, but later
including other interested parties, and usually with a guest-speaker on a Czech subject. The seminar continues to take place and is now known as the Skilling Seminar. The files are arranged chronologically and by author.

Photoprints of the retirement party for the secretary of the Department of Political Science are filed as /009P(18).

Skilling 2nd 2002 accession

Personal records of H. Gordon Skilling, consisting of: Masaryk medal awarded by the Czechoslovak Association of Canada, 1985; certificate, case and medallion relating to honorary degree awarded by Charles University, Prague, 1990; Komensky medal awarded by Komensky University, Bratislava, 1990; certificate and medal for the Order of the White Lion, Third Class, Czechoslovakia's highest honour for non-citizens, awarded by President Vaclav Havel on Professor Skilling's 80th birthday, 28 February 1992.

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