Dr. Morton early realized the potential of using the visual and sound media as a method of documenting historically significant events in Canadian history, which could then be used as teaching aids in the classroom, with possible distribution to a wider audience. The principal resource for these projects was a rapidly expanding collection of photographs and slides that he had been amassing for some years. Beginning in 1970, he began to meld the old technology of slide lectures, which had been in use at the University of Toronto since before the turn of the century, with the newer medium of television and the emerging one of video. The potential excited one film maker who wrote, “I think an excellent programme could be produced from your slide collection on the Northwest Rebellion…By throwing the slides up on a screen we would then be able to get slide animation, by using the television camera to pan from one part of the scene to another and zoom in on some detail, or incident.”
The old and the new technologies were used in tandem, as the video production, though relatively inexpensive to produce, cost much more than slides and took time to realize. For general classroom use, Dr. Morton created a series of slide programmes, accompanied by notes and, occasionally, scripts, on various aspects of Canadian history. The topics ranged from Canadian nationalism and imperialism, to the North-West Campaign of 1885, the Manitoba School Question, immigration during the two decades before World War I, and to working women in the post-Confederation era. Some of these themes were developed more fully in his moving image productions that also took shape during the decade.
Dr. Morton sought support and funds for his video projects primarily through officials at the University of Toronto, the principal division being the Instructional Media Centre, but also through educational and broadcasting channels outside the University. Officials early recognized the necessity of creating a product with an appeal beyond the confines of the University – the videos would fill an educational niche as “a medium for a kind of scholarly publication cum library or similar resource”. They were modestly successful in achieving that goal.
Dr. Morton’s first foray into the realm of video production was the 16-minute production on the ‘Winnipeg General Strike’ that appeared in 1973. Other productions followed in rapid succession over the next six years – (‘Canada's First War: The 1885 Rebellion’ (1974), ‘The Fourth Wave: Newcomers to Canada, 1896-1914’ (1974), ‘The Canadian General: Sir William Otter (1975), ‘The Splendid Dream: Canadian Labour and the Left’ (for Ontario Educational Communications Authority, 1975-6), ‘The Conscription Crisis, 1917’ (1977), ‘Bread and Roses: The Struggle of Canadian Working Women’ (1978), and, in 1979, four titles, two of which revisited old themes: ‘The Great Canadian Temperance Crusade’, ‘The Winnipeg General Strike, 1919’, ‘Saskatchewan, 1885’ , and ‘Struggle for Identity’. For ‘The Splendid Dream’, financial support was sought from the United Steelworkers of America and interviews were conducted with, amongst others, Tommy Douglas and David Lewis. Most of these videos are present in this series.
Dr. Morton’s involvement in moving image productions has continued since this auspicious beginning. In May of 1980, TV Ontario launched Canadians in Conflict, a six-part series “on major traumas in our history”. It was conceived by Dr. Morton who was also its on-air narrator. It incorporated several of his video productions, beginning with ‘Bread and Roses’ and ending with ‘Struggle for Identity’. In 1980 and 1981 he compiled tape-film strips for NC Multimedia on ‘Canada in the First World War’ and ‘Canada in the Twenties’. In 1983, he worked with an independent company on a filmstrip production entitled ‘The Canadian Constitution’, and on ‘Canada and World War I’, for which he was an advisor. In 1985 he revisited the North-West Rebellion for the third time in a production for the National Museum of Civilization that was, in 1993, converted to a new format, CD-ROM. In 1989, as a member of the advisory board of TV Ontario, he produced ‘Lift, right and centre: Party politics in Canada’. He also conducted a number of interviews for the program ‘TVO at 25’.
This series begins with a correspondence file on Dr. Morton’s sound and moving image productions generally, followed by files on specific productions, some of which are accompanied by videos. The correspondence files and videos are arranged by project date. These files are followed by others documenting Dr. Morton slide programmes, with accompanying notes and occasional scripts, for formal lectures at Erindale College and for public addresses outside the university. The textual records conclude with a file on a CBC radio interview. Accompanying these records are a number of audiotapes that Dr. Morton collected or recorded with an eye to future research use. These include a CBC production, ‘Project ’66: The frail revolutionary, J. S. Woodsworth’, and an interview he recorded with Tommy Douglas and his wife in 1984.