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  • Levin Alex

CBU facility tour with Dr. Richard Mackinnon-VP Academic

“How many of you have seen the world-class facilities available at CBU? We have a world-class recording studio, an art gallery, and many more;” announced Dr. Richard Mackinnon- VP Academic during a welcome speech at the Leaders Edge Conference. To the majority in attendance, these facilities were unheard of. To be fair, the students in attendance were either newcomers or belonged to the Management or Technology discipline and do not use these facilities in their programs or students who were yet to use these in their courses. . However, inquisitive as Caper Times is, we reached out to the VP to familiarize ourselves with the facilities and its capabilities.

Dr. MacKinnon not only obliged to our request but went one step further and volunteered to provide a guided tour of the facilities in discussion.

“Why don’t I just show you instead of us sitting in our office and trying to explain the facilities,” asked Dr. Mackinnon. “It could be easier, to show you than explain, if you have the time;” added the VP. With absolutely no objection on being taken around campus by the VP Academic, I gladly tagged along.

Rotary Music Room

Our first stop was the Rotary Music Room; a state-of-the-art Music studio tucked into the corner of the Great Hall. One must pass through the alley adjacent to the washrooms to reach this facility. The facility is managed by Christopher Jones who is also the sound technician for the studio. While Chris was setting up the studio for a scheduled recording session, the VP decided to play something on the piano in the corner. With absolutely no taste or talent for music I cannot detail as to what he played, but it was harmonious to my ears.

The music room is divided into two separate rooms. The performance room contains a Steinway grand piano and an isolation room booth for recording which incorporates high quality microphones and recording equipment. The room is completely soundproof. The adjacent digitization room can record performances and digitize audio, video, photographs, and records. The digitization room is equipped with several types of sound equipment such as microphones, monitors, mixing boards, reel-to-reel machines, cassette players, recorders, stereo, video cameras and playback units for various formats. Additionally, the room also has computers, machinery to play older audio and video formats, audio-video editing software, CD and DVD burners, transcription software and hardware for transcription and digitization.

Christopher Jones at the digitization room

“This room is capable of digitizing archival tapes, including all video formats and is a modern research lab [for music],” explained Dr. MacKinnon. “It is soundproof, and students can use this room for research or to conduct and record interviews that are related to their course,” he added.

The room is available to students for academic purposes. To book the room, students should request an approval or letter from their professors. The room is open to students from 9AM-5PM, Monday through Friday.

"I keep the doors open from 9AM-5PM, Monday to Friday and classes are scheduled Tuesday and Thursday,” said,”; Chris. “Professor approved societies or students can book or reserve the music room for research or project purposes,” he added.

Art Gallery

Located in the Great Hall in the Student Cultural and Heritage Centre, the art gallery is the first and only full-time public art gallery on the Island. The gallery has over 2000 artifacts on permanent collection stored in the vault and can be viewed with prior appointments.

Founded in 1970s, the art gallery has regular artistic exhibitions throughout the years. Currently, the art gallery is exhibiting works by renowned Canadian Artist Elizabeth Whalley until December 9th, 2022.

“We have many unique artworks here that hold special value to the public,” said Greg Davies, the curator of the Gallery. “The gallery holds works of renowned photographer Robert Frank who lived in Cape Breton since 1966. This one is unique because of the scaling of the images. The work was gifted to CBU” added Davies.

The art gallery also holds a non-circulating library. The library holds hundreds of books that can be viewed at the library.

“We have a sketch book from Picasso’s younger years gifted to us in our library,” said Davies. “The book was gifted to the library;” he added.

The permanent collection can also be viewed online on the gallery’s website. The gallery also displays select works from its permanent collection and is open to public Monday through Friday 10AM-12PM & 1PM– 4PM. Most of these collections are held in trust for the public and are meaningful to those living on the Island.

Beaton Institute

The Beaton Institute is the official repository for documents related to Cape Breton University. Additionally, the Institute also serves as an archive for cultural, social and heritage related to the island of Cape Breton.

Located in the Student, Culture, and Heritage Centre (CE-267), the institute is close to the CBU Art Gallery as well as the Mi’kmaq Resource Centre. The Beaton institute is a 17,000 square foot complex that houses a reading room, the vault, several specialized collections rooms, offices, and a work room.

The institute has its own collection of manuscripts, audio visual holdings and photographs. The manuscript collection holds value in depicting the” industrial, labor and political history” of the Island. The audio-visual holding comprises of an oral history collection, and material related to the social life and songs of Cape Breton; including a Celtic music collection which includes recordings of Cape Bretons best fiddlers and pianists. The photographic collection holds more than 60,000 photographs depicting life on the Island.

The Beaton archives contain an extensive collection of archives ranging from newspapers that publish on the Island, music labels, engineering drawings of various industries as well as earliest publication of Caper Times.

“We have [extensive] information about the Cape Breton Island. We also have the best representation of newspapers from the island,” said Jane Arnold, archivist at Beaton Institute.

Students and visitors need to book and appointment for a visit or research purposes. Appointments can be made by emailing the institute at

Ms. Arnold while giving CT a brief tour of the institute, explained and showed the extensive collection it holds. From newspapers from the early 1860’s to engineering drawings of the heavy water plant in Glace Bay, to publications of Caper Times from the early 1980’s is available at the institute.

Ms. Jane Arnold holding a copy of the Caper Times from March 10, 1982

The Cape Breton News, Dec 12, 1868

The tour of the facility revealed other surprising artifacts such as an album cover produced by ‘Brothers and One,’ a New Waterford based band of which our VP Academic, Dr. Richard MacKinnon, was a member.

“Our rocking VP” – Dr. Richard MacKinnon holding an LP record of Brothers and One

Ms. Arnold continued the tour of the institute showing engineering drawings for various industries that operated in Cape Breton. Among the valued documents there are some pertaining to the steel plant that operated where the Open-hearth Park currently is located. Documentation regarding the reclamation work of the site is also available at the archives. The archive holds drawings from the 1819’s in the collection.

Another interesting artifact that also shed light into a tragic past, is an album depicting the "Braune Messe, a Trade show for non-Jewish trades’”-a German made trade show album, created by a Nazi Socialist in 1933. The album contains images of National Socialist German Workers' Party, the year they rose to power, along with newspaper clippings and unidentified photographs.

“The university archive is based on community work;” remarked Ms. Arnold. “We also hold older university records, although newer records are held by the registrar’s office,” Ms. Arnold added.

Mi’kmaq Resource Centre

The Mi’kmaq Resource Centre is located in the Student, Cultural and Heritage Centre, room CE 268. The Centre’s entrance is through the Beaton Institute and is a repository and research space for Indigenous research at Cape Breton University.

MICMAC news, an important example of Mi’kmaq print culture is available for review at the resource Centre. The print was first developed in 1965 and published until 1991 by the union of Nova Scotia Indians and the Native Communications Society of Nova Scotia, respectively.

The institute serves as a source for students, researchers, scholars, schools, and anyone interested in studying Mi’kmaq culture.

The Centre is open Monday through Friday 9AM- 4PM. For more information on the resource Centre, reach out to Tara Johnson, Coordinator and Research Assistant at the Mi’kmaq Resource Centre.


Rotary Music Performance Room and Digitization Lab (

Cape Breton University - Society for Ethnomusicology

Art Gallery - Cape Breton University: Cape Breton University (

Beaton Institute - Cape Breton University: Cape Breton University (

Braune Messe, Quedlinburg - Beaton Institute Digital Archives

Mi'kmaq Resource Centre - Cape Breton University: Cape Breton University (

Dr. Richard MacKinnon – Interview conducted by Levin Alex

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