McLuhan at the Coach House1963-1994

On October 24, 1963, John Kelly, president of St. Michael’s College, and Claude T. Bissell, president of the University of Toronto, together decided to establish the Centre for Culture and Technology. The Centre became McLuhan’s office in the English Department at St. Michael’s College.

Beside McLuhan himself, the early members of the Centre included Allen Bernholtz (Architecture), Drs. Daniel Cappon and E. Llewellyn-Thomas (Medicine), B. M. Carpendale and Arthur Porter (Engineering), W. T. Easterbrook (Political Science), Carl Wilson (Psychology), Harley Parker (Design, Royal Ontario Museum) and Ed Rogers (Anthropology). Seminars, workshops, lectures and other events were held regularly wherever space was available.

While McLuhan was at Fordham University during 1967 and ’68, Professor Arthur Porter, the acting director of the Centre, obtained the Coach House for McLuhan’s Centre. Upon McLuhan’s return from New York, the Centre moved into its new home at 39A 39A Queen’s park Crescent East. Former and future students, visiting teachers and scholars, researchers, people with interesting ideas or proposals for joint work or just curious tourists stopped by the Program.

Through the 1970s, McLuhan’s famous Monday Night Seminars filled the main seminar room at the Centre. A dynamic community was formed during those seminars, a community remembered fondly by many participants who return to the Coach House today to visit and reminisce. The seminar room remains visually dominated by the stunning mural, Pied Pipers All, by Canadian artist René Cera, a gift to the McLuhan Program from McLuhan’s widow, Corinne McLuhan.

Following Marshall McLuhan’s death, on New Year’s Eve 1980, the University of Toronto closed the Centre, but following a tremendous worldwide outcry, the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology was reopened. Literacy scholar and OISE professor David Olsen became the first director.

In the summer of 1994, the McLuhan program joined the Faculty of Information Studies as a distinct research and teaching unit. From its base at the historic Coach House on the east campus, the McLuhan Program continued to engage in its explorations into the nature and effects of technologies on culture.

iSchool - Faculty of Information1994 – Present

A number of people have been associated with the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology over the years, whether as staff or in a leadership/governing position, among whom are David Olson, Derrick de Kerckhove, Barry Wellman, Ted Nelson, Eric McLuhan, Bob Logan, Steve Mann, Liss Jeffrey (1951-2008), Mark Federman, Jason Nolan, and Twyla Gibson.

In 1994, The McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology became a research and teaching unit of the University of Toronto Faculty of Information. The Faculty of Information is a professional graduate faculty of the University of Toronto and the home of a broad-based group of information professionals. FI offers two degree programs: a doctoral program (Ph.D.) and a Master of Information Studies program (M.I.St.) with three specializations: archival studies, information systems, and library and information science. Graduates work in a wide range of information settings as librarians, information systems specialists, web designers, educators, archivists, researchers, records managers, and information consultants. The iSchool also offers a (MMSt) Museum Studies Program.

A McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology Executive Committee was formed in 2004 with Derrick de Kerckhove (Director of the McLuhan Program 1983-2008), Michael Edmunds (a student of Marshall McLuhan’s and Head of UofT’s Scotia Bank Information Commons), Dominique Scheffel-Dunand (Professor at York University with several appointments at UofT), Donald Gillies (Professor Emeritus from Ryerson University), and Brian Cantwell Smith, the newly appointed Dean of the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto.

In 2009, the iSchool, also known as the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, launched the Coach House Institute (CHI) as a clearly defined research unit under which the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology now operates. The move recognizes the broad mandate of the CHI, facilitates its governance, management and oversight within governing UofT practices, and enables the CHI to make a significant contribution to the Faculty’s intellectual presence within the University.