Skip to content

Remember This? North Bay Photography Collection Provides Window to the Past

A collection of photographs by William Forder documents how North Bay has developed and changed.

I remember the first time I came across a box of photos from photographer William Forder while working at the North Bay Museum. I was immediately aware that this would be an important collection because of what it can tell us about life in North Bay and how it has changed over Forder’s lifetime (1915-2002).

I was able to connect with Barb Dilworth, whose mother Madeline (Forder) Fisk was William Forder’s cousin. When Forder passed away in 2002, Barb arranged for the collection to be transferred to the museum.

Barb recalled that Forder had been a prolific photographer. As a young man, he photographed local events and took photos outside of Quintland. In later years, he ran a successful souvenir business. He regularly travelled to Temagami and Moosonee each year, capturing photos along the way while selling souvenirs. His work was also featured in many publications. Forder carefully recorded where each photo had been published on his original photographer’s envelopes. 

Within North Bay, the collection has photos on almost any topic you can think of. Local events such as carnivals and parades were captured and preserved. Many of the photos feature local stores, rail yards, landmarks, and streetscapes. The images above are a few of the many photos included in the collection.  

Volunteers played a vital role in assisting with the project. Janet Calcaterra helped with the initial sorting and organization of the photos. Val Croswell helped identify the hundreds of railway related images included in the collection. Many of the images have been shared through the museum’s Facebook page. In many cases, the museum has been able to expand their catalogue records based on responses to the photos gathered through social media. 

North Bay Museum staff have processed the 600 envelopes (and thousands of images) received as part of the Forder collection and are in the process of digitizing the collection. Once complete, much of the collection will be placed online with the option available to order prints. 

This collection also highlights the importance of current photographers (both amateurs and professionals)  in how North Bay will be remembered and understood in the future. Museum volunteer Pat Moulson recently put together an online workshop about news photography based on another prominent local photographer (John McNeill). The workshop challenges participants to go out and document aspects of their own lives and community. Check it out on the museum's website.

Similarly, the North Bay Heritage Committee has recently launched their youth engagement photography contest. Participants can enter photos that reflect built, natural, and human heritage and win great prizes. Visit their website for more details.