The Ian McTaggart-Cowan digital collection officially launched at the University of Victoria. A crowd convened in the university’s new Digital Scholarship Commons to witness the launch of the digital collection showcasing McTaggart-Cowan’s field notes, photographs, CBC television programs, 3D images and guided tour of the ecologist’s impactful life and career. Among the speakers were McTaggart-Cowan’s daughter Ann Schau and Briony Penn, author of the scientist’s biography The Real Thing and creator of the guided online tour.
Archivist and director of special collections Lara Wilson said, “It was very rewarding to be able to launch what we would call the fuller digital exhibit … It highlights the role of universities in disseminating knowledge to the greater public.”
Interested viewers, researchers and students can download the materials on the site and incorporate them into relevant work.
McTaggart-Cowan, often referred to as the “father of Canadian ecology,” studied zoology, ecology and natural history during his long and dynamic career. He taught notable students such as C.S. Holling, Charles Krebs and Valerius Geist and, during his time as a television host, influenced young David Suzuki on his own environmental path. After serving as professor and Dean of Graduate Studies at UBC in 1964, McTaggart-Cowan became the University of Victoria’s Chancellor from 1979 to 1984, and went on to write and publish books such as The Birds of British Columbia well into his nineties. He left behind over 70 years of notes, journals, photographs and correspondence when he passed in 2010.
McTaggart-Cowan’s important environmental background was published in The Real Thing in 2015. The recent exhibition at UVic marks the release of all his work to the public in digital form – an accessible collection which, Penn says, will help the next generation of environmental scientists broaden their frame of reference.
“I think I see it as foundational building blocks,” Penn said. “[Students] can see the political origins of scientific suppression and then they can start putting themselves in context. That’s where I think the next generation can arm themselves with historical facts.”
Visit Ian McTaggart-Cowan’s digital collection online at exhibits.library.uvic.ca/spotlight/ian-mctaggart-cowan.