Classroom to Community: A Century of Social Work in Toronto

2014, Faculty of Social Work, History, Royal Ontario Museum, Temporary Exhibit
advocacy, families, immigration, neighbourhood, poverty, social work
About This Project

Date: Opening October 25, 2014

Partner: University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work & Family Service Toronto, and the Royal Ontario Museum

Venue: Royal Ontario Museum – map

Project Members: Desiree Fuller and Nora Venezky


The Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (FIFSW) at the University of Toronto and Family Service Toronto began a century of social work innovation in Toronto in 1914. Students, practitioners, and communities around the city undertook a collaboration to build a brighter tomorrow. One hundred years later the institutions remain on the cutting-edge of their field. Social work education and practice have made a significant impact on individuals, families, and communities in Toronto.


What is Social Work?
Social work grew from problems created by industrialization in Toronto. Heavy immigration and factory job openings resulted in disease and poor living conditions. Churches and women’s social clubs were the first to respond to these issues and as these agencies expanded, there was a need to train volunteers. In response, the University of Toronto opened the first social work program in Canada in 1914. Today, social work is a professional and academic discipline that aims to improve the well-being of individuals and communities.


Exhibit Elements
The exhibit features six stories that span the 100 years of Social Work history in Toronto. These stories are just a few examples of the diverse issues Social Work addresses, such as poverty, families and children, immigration, affordable housing, communities and neighbourhoods, and advocacy. A combination of archival images, maps, videos, sculpture, and artifacts will help tell the story of social work in Toronto. The exhibit will bring in the voice of the Social Work community through video interviews with influential people in the field. A timeline will provide historical context and an interactive map will show the growth of social work since 1914. This dynamic exhibit will highlight some of the amazing stories about social work. Moreover, it will provide visitors with a sense of what social work is and the number of lives it has impacted.


This exhibit was developed with two audiences in mind, the general ROM visitor and those individuals in the Social Work field. We have made a conscious effort to make the material accessible to the general ROM visitor who does not have knowledge about social work, but we wanted to choose stories that social work practitioners, academics, and students find interesting and inspiring.