Fonds 1421 - William N. Irving fonds

Identity area

Reference code

UTA 1421


William N. Irving fonds


  • 1914-1990 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

0.70 m of textual records (6 boxes)

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

William Nathaniel Irving was born in Toronto on November 11, 1927. At the age of 10 his family returned to the United States where he received most of his education. After military service with U.S. forces during World War II, he entered the University of Alaska in 1948 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology in 1952. Graduate study was undertaken at Harvard University from 1953-1957 and University of Wisconsin at Madison (1959-1964). His Ph.D. in Anthropology was awarded in 1964 with a thesis on Arctic small tool tradition. “His academic training, a mixture of anthropology and natural sciences, was essential for his subsequent directorship of the Northern Yukon Research Programme…”[1]In 1964 Professor Irving moved his family to Ottawa where he took a position as Head, Western Canada Section, Archaeology Division, National Museum of Man. From 1965 to 1968 he was head of the Northern Canada Section. His interest in the Canadian north continued as he conducted archaeological reconnaissance, survey and excavations at sites in the Yukon from 1965-1968. In 1968 he was appointed Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, a position he held until his death on November 25, 1987.During his career Prof. Irving published extensively on archaeology and anthropology of Alaska, District of Keewatin and Northern Yukon. In 1975 he assumed the directorship of the Northern Yukon Research Programme, based at the University of Toronto. This was a multi-disciplinary programme involving scientists from many different fields. “Under Bill’s direction the Northern Yukon Research Programme focussed not only on the Old Crow Basin but also adjacent portions of the Porcupine River drainage and upland sites such as Bluefish Caves in the surrounding mountains. Most aspects of prehistoric human use of the region were investigated, from caribou fences to Pleistocene archaeology, as well as questions regarding the faunal, climatic, geological and vegetational history of Eastern Beringia”.[2]Prof. Irving was active in many professional organizations including the Canadian Archaeological Association, Council for Canadian Archaeology, American Anthropological Association, Society for American Archaeology, Arctic Institute of North America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.1. P. Julig and W.Hurley, University of Toronto. “Obituary: William Nathaniel Irving (1927-1987)” Canadian Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 12, 1988.p. 210-2172. Ibid., p. 212

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Scope and content

This accession holds records relating to Prof. Irving’s university education, manuscripts of some published and unpublished works, correspondence mainly relating to his professional and academic activities both before and during his years at the University of Toronto, and administrative records of the Northern Yukon Research programme during his years as director. Records relating to his work with the National Museum of Man (1964-1968), as well as artifacts, data and research materials etc. relating to the Northern Yukon Research Programme (1975-1980) are held by the Canadian Museum of Civilization Archives in Ottawa.
Other materials not contained in this accession include most of his lecture notes and other teaching materials relating to the courses he taught during his nearly 20 years at the University of Toronto. As well, there is only a sampling of his manuscripts of published and unpublished works. Records relating to his field work for both American and Canadian museums during his thirty year career will not be found here but may have survived, as noted above, with the individual institutions.

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Finding aids

File list for series 5 only.

Uploaded finding aid

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Dates of creation revision deletion

-Original finding aid with Garron Wells
-Added to AtoM by Karen Suurtamm, Summer 2015




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