The material presence of early social work: the practice of the archive

Adrienne Chambon, Marjorie Johnstone, Julia Winckler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article focuses on the practice of archival research and addresses the methodology and work of interpretation that are at stake in dealing with a multiplicity of archival media: texts, images and objects. It raises questions that arise from the archive of a Toronto child-care agency that celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2009. This work is part of a project that links social work practices to cultural representations. By exploring the knowledge and practices of early social work in English Canada, and the culturally marked assumptions of an era whose influence has continued to this day, we seek to understand social work practices in conjunction with broader debates or disputes of the time. Treating each source as a material object shows us the multifaceted nature of the agency's work, as each material fragment brings another angle of comprehension into view.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-644
Number of pages20
JournalThe British Journal of Social Work
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011

Bibliographical note

This project is part of a larger Canadian research project. This was the lead article in a special issue on innovative research methods.


  • photography and archives
  • material history methodology
  • reactivating photographs
  • collaboration
  • Toronto
  • in house magazines


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