Title and statement of responsibility area
Robert Hackborn Fonds
General material designation
- Multiple media
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Statement of scale (cartographic)
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Dates of creation area
194? - 2004 (Creation)
- Hackborn, Robert Arthur, Mr., September 22, 1928
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Archival description area
Name of creator
Robert Arthur Hackborn was born on September 22, 1928 in Toronto, where he lived during his childhood years. Hackborn attended Northern Vocational High School and upon completion of his studies, spent a year travelling across Canada and living and working on the West coast. During this period Hackborn worked in Banff Alberta at The Banff Springs Hotel as a golf caddy, and then in Vancouver B.C. where he got a job as a bell boy for Canadian Pacific Railway tour boats taking passengers to Alaska. Upon his return to Ontario, Mr. Hackborn attended the Ontario College of Art (OCA) between 1948-1952. During his time at the OCA, Hackborn and some of his fellow classmates including Michael Snow became known as the 'Musical Art Group' owing to the fact that they played together around Toronto in various Jazz bands and clubs while pursuing their fine art studies. While still enrolled at the OCA, Hackborn took a job as a bell hop on the Great Lakes tour boat The Noronic in the summer of 1949. On September 16th, 1949 while The Noronic was docked in Toronto, Hackborn was fortunate to have been granted shore leave to visit his parents. It was in the early hours of September 17th that The Noronic caught fire resulting in the deaths of over one hundred people and the destruction of the vessel.
Directly after graduating from the OCA, Mr. Hackborn travelled throughout Europe. While touring the European continent, Mr. Hackborn continued to develop his painting technique while he also regularly played gigs as a jazz drummer. Along with a group of musicians that included Michael Snow, Hackborn was contracted to Club Med, playing in their clubs in Italy, Yugoslavia, and The French Alps. After travelling Europe and living in Malaga Spain for 3 months over Christmas and New Years, Mr. Hackborn returned to Canada in 1954 and took a post working as an advertising illustrator and artist for S.W. Caldwell in Toronto.
In 1955 Hackborn embarked on what would become a long and important career in the design and production of sets and special visual effects for television when he took a position in the nascent Television Production unit at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Hackborn started his career as a scenic paint artist then subsequently transferred to the set design department in 1958. Hackborn continued to work for the CBC for nearly four decades, helping to design the look for a staggering array of variety, comedy, musical, sports, news, children's, and scripted television dramas. Hackborn's career saw him work both in-studio with multi camera shooting setups and later, with 16mm film cameras on a variety of sets and exterior locales. Starting with The Juliette Show in the late 1950's, and stretching to the 1990's, Hackborn's designs and special visual effects enhanced the production values of a vast number of shows at the CBC. Shows featuring Hackborn's input include but are not limited to: Mr. Roger's Neighbourhood, Mr. Dressup, The Tommy Hunter Show and Tommy Hunter's Canada Entertains, World Tour '67, Wayne & Shuster, I Married the Klondike, Fraggle Rock, The Royal Canadian Air Farce, and The Kids in the Hall. Hackborn also worked as a production designer with director Donald Brittain on several CBC/National Film Board (NFB) co-productions including: Canada's Sweetheart: the saga of Hal C. Banks and The King Chronicles. His contributions to these and many other shows are of great cultural and technological significance.
Scope and content
Records: [textual ; graphic ; photographic; audio visual; artifacts ; publications]
194? - 2004 : 36 Bankers boxes and 23 map cabinet drawers.
The Robert Hackborn fonds contains the records that Mr. Hackborn generated during the course of his television production career and maintained at his private residence after his retirement in 1993. This includes documentation going back to Mr. Hackborn's youth and earliest professional days. The research value of the records in this fonds is significant as it relates to the history of Canadian television production, and the specific programs that Mr. Hackborn contributed to. As an example, the fonds contains photographic and textual documentation of the earliest stages of the show development process for the important children's television programs Mr. Dressup and Mr. Rogers Neighbourhood. The fonds also contains extensive documentation of the creative processes behind the development of Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock, including images of, and correspondence with Mr. Henson.
During his career, Mr. Hackborn was also responsible for the execution of a very large collection of photographs that document the processes of working on a television set. With a professionally trained eye for composition and his camera, Mr. Hackborn systematically documented the television production process of the shows that he worked on. As a result of this work, the Robert Hackborn Fonds contains an impressive collection of this photographic documentation, which should serve as a valuable resource for future academics looking into the history of Canadian cultural output. Note on arrangement: This Robert Hackborn Fonds has been arranged in a manner that pays as much respect to the concept of Original Order as practically possible. Although the collection has been separated into Series based on General Material Designation in the finding aid and database, the physical arrangement of the collection remains identical to the manner in which Hackborn organized and stored his records, except where issues of physical size made such arrangement impossible. The oversized materials in this collection have therefore been arranged and stored in map cabinets designed to accommodate their physical dimensions. In addition, there is a small collection of oversized objects that have been stored on shelves above the collection owing to their size.
Access: There are no restrictions on access to this collection. Researchers must schedule an appointment with Ryerson Archives & Special Collections in order to view the records, and no records are permitted to leave the reading room or to be loaned out.
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Open. Records are available for consultation without restriction.