If you live in a city, posters can be hard to avoid. They’re stapled to light posts and electrical poles, or taped up to construction hoarding and inside store windows. They can be about just about anything – obscure political diatribes, concerts, community events, the list goes on. Since they’re cheap to print and distribute, they’re them a relatively democratic form of mass advertisement, making them an interesting window into the culture of a city.
This is where a unique collection held by the Toronto Public Library comes in. The Alan and Thomas Suddon Collection consists of over 5 000 street posters, collected by Alan and his son Thomas from the 1960s through the 1990s. After Alan’s death in 2000, the collection was donated to the library by his wife, and a small selection was recently made available in an online digital exhibition.
The exhibit is a fascinating time capsule. Some of the posters are silly, some are rallying cries about important issues of the day, and others are just ads that seem weirdly antiquated now. I’ve added a small gallery with a few more of my favourites below, but if you want to check out the exhibit for yourself, you can find it here. Just a quick content warning if you do take a look, as some of the posters are political in nature and deal with issues like racism and homophobia, so you might want to skip over the first section if that’s something you want to avoid.