Fonds MG 216 - R.G. Williamson fonds

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Title proper

R.G. Williamson fonds

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Reference code

MG 216

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  • 1921-2011 (inclusive); 1956-2003 (predominant) (Creation)

Physical description area

Physical description

33.6 meters of textual materials, over 2000 photographs, audio cassettes, ~90 audio cassettes, 48 postcards, ~900 negatives, 2377 slides, 25 laser prints, 10 45rpm records, 75 film reels, 31 video cassettes, 6 floppy disks, equipment.

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Archival description area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Robert Gordon Williamson was born on 2 November 1931 at Oxley, Staffordshire, England. He immigrated to Canada in 1952 and was employed at a series of jobs; but while wintering at Ft. Simpson, Northwest Territories, he began recording Dené folklore as an independent initiative. This work was later published in Anthropologica, and Williamson's extensive record of scholarship in cultural anthropology and ethnology can be dated from this period forward. Between July 1953 and October 1954 while based at Pangnirtung, Baffin Island, he learned Inuktitut and extended his ethnological experience by travelling throughout Cumberland Sound. In 1954 Williamson began studying at Carleton University, earning a BA in anthropology in 1957; he earned a PhD from the Royal University, Uppsala, Sweden, in 1974. During the summers while working toward his first degree, Williamson was employed with the Department of Northern Affairs. In 1958 he joined the Department of Northern Affairs on a full-time basis, where he established their Eskimology section, founded the first Eskimo language journal, Inuktitut; and became Welfare and Rehabilitation Superintendent for the district of Keewatin, dealing primarily with social issues. He resigned in 1963, remaining in Rankin Inlet doing private research on a Canada Council grant. His career with the University of Saskatchewan began at the Centre for Community Studies, with a study of Fringe Saulteaux near Kamsack, Saskatchewan; by 1964 he had joined the department of Anthropology as a lecturer and was an associate director with the Institute for Northern Studies. He was quickly promoted: assistant professor in 1965; associate professor in 1967; full professor in 1973. In addition, Williamson served for over a decade as the director of the University's Arctic Research and Training Centre. In 1966 he was elected by acclamation in the first of his two terms as member for Keewatin to the Legislative Council of the NWT. Williamson has worked on behalf of numerous organizations, including the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, the Canadian Eskimo Arts Council, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, and the CBC Northern Service. He was invested into the Order of Canada in 1983. Upon his retirement from the University in 1999 Williamson was named Professor Emeritus, and at the fall 2000 convocation ceremony, was recognized with the JWG Ivany Internationalization Award.

Custodial history

Scope and content

This fonds contains material created or collected by Dr. Williamson during his varied career as an anthropologist, civil servant, legislator, professor, and as a consultant for various provincial, national and international organizations and governments. Although primarily documenting Dr. Williamson's work for and with the Inuit of northern Canada, this fonds includes material relating to all circumpolar countries, other aboriginal groups in Canada, international affairs, and a very broad range of topics as they relate to the north, including art and culture, physical geography, sport, environment, botany, zoology, economics, defence, etc. It includes his personal and professional correspondence, research data, articles and scholarly writing, as well as a substantial collection of reference publications.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


Dr. Williamson utilized several different filing systems over the course of his career. These included an alpha-numeric as well as a strictly numeric system; but the majority of his files had subject/nominal titles. Pressures of moving, both from various offices and between cities, meant as well that a portion of the records were unfiled and unsorted. As some duplication between the alpha-numeric and subject-nominal files was found, this material was interfiled and put in alphabetical order; the alpha-numeric designations remain listed on the finding aid. Unfiled material was organized using existing file titles wherever possible. Those subject areas containing extensive records - ARTC, INS, NWT Council, etc. - have been separated as specific series; in other instances qualifiers have been added to the titles to assist in keeping similar material together. The majority of publications and photographs have been put together as individual series, unless they were found within existing, titled files. The numeric system was not altered. Cross-references are made within the finding aid, but researchers should be aware that there is considerable interrelated material between both individual files and various series.

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script note

Material in English, French, Inuktitut, Swedish, Danish, Italian, and Greenlandic.

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Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

Personal information relating to identifiable individuals is restricted under conditions similar to those in the Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Please consult with the archivist. Some personal family correspondence has been closed for a period of 50 years (until 2050). All restricted or closed files have been so designated in the finding aid.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

Finding aid available: file level with descriptions.

Uploaded finding aid

Associated materials

Related material: RG 2100, Institute for Northern Studies Records; RG 2068, Centre for Community Studies Records; MG 146, Walter Kupsch fonds; MG 172, Hans Dommasch fonds; MG 92, A.R. Byers fonds; MG 164, C.S. Houston fonds; MG 175, F. Walker Collection; MG 240, Robert Bone fonds. Material relating to BW Currie and Frank Davies' work on aurora can be found in the records of the Department of Physics (RG 2043) and in MG 102, J.E. Kennedy fonds.


Further accruals are expected.

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