Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Jim Ryan Fonds

Big Jim Ryan in action at Swiftsure,  Victoria B.C.
For the last few years at the Royal BC Museum, BC Archives we have been talking about cold storage.  One of our goals is to acquire or build a facility for records and other materials that require cool and cold storage.  On the archives side, this mostly means negatives, both nitrate and acetate, slides and transparencies, prints, Polaroids and motion picture film.  Without appropriate storage, these are at risk to anything from colour fading to complete disintegration.
With over 5 million photographs in the BC Archives alone, this is no small task. In December 2010 Archives staff began the arrangement, description and safe housing of over 100,000 photographs that made up the Jim Ryan fonds in preparation for the eventual move into a cold storage facility. 
Jim Ryan was a well-known Victoria character who settled in Victoria, BC in 1949 and joined the Daily Colonist as a full-time newspaper photographer.  He was fired in late 1953 but given a freelance position.  Jim received a weekly retainer from the Colonist in exchange for first choice of his photographs in the paper.  He also had photograph published in Life, the Vancouver Sun, the Province, Liberty, the Toronto Star Weekly and Maclean's.
In 1955, Jim became a friend of, and official photographer to, Premier W.A.C. Bennett.  He took thousands of photographs of Bennett and in 1980 published a book of them entitled "My Friend, W.A.C. Bennett."  Jim was very successful throughout the 1950's and eventually formed "Ryan Bros. Photo" with his brother, Don.  They handled weddings and portraits as well as news assignments and political work.  They also branched out and made films about Victoria's centennial celebrations in 1962 and BC's centennial celebrations in 1971. 
In 1973, Jim joined the Victorian, a small paper which had a brief boom during a printing strike. He stayed with the paper until it closed in November 1977.  He continued to freelance for other papers and magazines and worked on various books of photographs.  Jim died of cancer on July 4th 1998 in a Victoria hospice.

Three staff members and one intern worked on the two large and complex accessions for seven months. The collection was originally housed in various boxes, with rusty paper clips, degrading elastic bands and acidic envelopes holding negatives. Each box was opened, sorted, counted, placed into new envelopes and information from the original source was transferred. Photographs were arranged according to Jim Ryan’s own filing system and described using our new collections management system.  For a while it did seem we would never be finished but the happy day came at last when we put the final labels on sixty-seven boxes of photographic materials. 

Below are a few samples of some reference scans of a few of our favourites of Jim's images, enjoy!

~ Ember Lundgren, Bev Paty & Katy Hughes

Mother Cecelia of the Good Shepherd animal shelter
Photographer: Jim Ryan
Children enjoying winter play

Photographer: Jim Ryan
“Blond Bombshell” aboard HMCS Saskatchewan

Photographer: Jim Ryan
Chivalry in the 1960’s,
Cook and Fort Streets, Victoria B.C.

Photographer: Jim Ryan
W.A.C Bennett at home in Kelowna, B.C.

Photographer: Jim Ryan
Victorians frolicking in an early spring snow

Photographer: Jim Ryan
Wounded, but still on the job!

Photographer: Jim Ryan
Soue Kee, a local businessman, after he was attacked

Photographer: Jim Ryan

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