Accession N-2022-003 - W. D. Addison Nahanni collection

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Title proper

W. D. Addison Nahanni collection

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  • Multiple media

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on contents of accession.

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1821, 1834, [ca. 1895]-2017 (Creation)
    Addison, W.D.

Physical description area

Physical description

76.8 cm and 2.1 GB of textual records and other material

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

William (Bill) David Addison was born April 27, 1939 to Peter Addison and Ottelyn (Robinson) Addison, the oldest of 3 children, in Toronto, Ontario.

His father, a forester, moved with the family to Port Arthur Ontario by the time Bill was 5 years old, where he spent his formative years. His mother Ottelyn inspired his love and knowledge of nature and his intense curiosity as she took Bill and his brothers exploring nature, canoeing, identifying flora and fauna. She in turn developed her love and knowledge of the natural world in Algonquin Park under the tutelage of her father, Mark Robinson, a Park Ranger.

The family moved to Richmond Hill in the early ‘50’s where teenage Bill developed his love of photography. He and his mother built a dark room in which they could develop their photos. Bill was particularly drawn to nature with its abundant wildlife and landscape opportunities. Like his father, he studied forestry at the University of Toronto, followed by a Masters’ degree in Fisheries in the mid 1960’s. It was at University that he met Wendy Livingston who he married in 1966.

Bill’s reading tastes and interests varied greatly, leading to him being conversant on almost any topic. The book ‘Dangerous River’ by R.M. Patterson made such a strong impression on him that he led Wendy on a honeymoon trip into the Nahanni River country where they spent a month traveling the river and its environs by foot and canoe in 1966 despite the fears of relatives that they would never return. He was always adventurous. The collection of fish for the Royal Ontario Museum and the search for lemmings helped finance the trip as did scuba diving for an engineering company. This trip was to be instrumental in many of Bill’s later endeavours.

In 1966, Bill started working with fisheries biology in Maple for ‘Lands and Forests’. Much to his delight, the unit moved north to Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay) a year later. He was happy to have returned ‘home’. An article Bill wrote about the Nahanni trip appeared in Weekend Magazine that year as well. A few years later, Bill changed careers to join Wendy as a high school teacher which provided opportunities to camp and canoe together during the summers.

Bill promoted the Nahanni River area as natural place to create a park, and when this occurred in the early 1970’s, he proposed that old-timers in the area be interviewed to provide a history of the area while they were still able to do so. Due to his enthusiasm for the project along with his extensive interests and ability to connect to people, he was a natural choice. The proposal was accepted along with a request that he carry out those interviews. During this time, two daughters, Michelle and Kirsten were born, so the family stayed home while Bill travelled on his interviewing trips. He was always teased about having missed Kirsten’s birth because he was carrying out interviews at the time. Although the scope of the project was limited due to funding constraints, knowing that the interviewees were all aging, Bill continued the interviews after funding ran out, travelling from the Maritimes to California to the Northwest Territories. This was a task that he enjoyed thoroughly, and which resulted in a lifelong passion.

Bill returned to Nahanni River in 1978 and 1979, travelling the length of the river, but also carrying out many hikes in the surrounding areas. He loved exploring Canada which led to many car and canoe camping trips both locally and throughout the country with the family once the girls were old enough for this type of travel. Memorable trips to Dawson City, Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, the Broken Islands and the Milk River provided a greater understanding of Canada for all.

After retirement in 1998, Bill had more time available to participate in his many interests. Winter and spring months often took Bill and Wendy on camping trips in the Southern US and west, particularly during rainy years in which flowers were present in the deserts or oceans were stormy and snowpack was high. Bill was a prodigious writer, and his ‘epistles’ and digital photos of our many travels in Canada and the US along with several international extended trips were greatly anticipated by the many friends and relatives who received them. His interesting talks and slideshows were greatly appreciated and very well received by a variety of organizations and friends. Retirement also allowed time to enjoy the growing family, which by 2013 included 2 sons-in-law and 4 grandchildren.

Bill’s variety of interests led him, along with a Thunder Bay friend, Greg, to the exploration of local geological formations which they were able to identify as ejecta from the Sudbury (Ontario) meteorite impact in the early 2000’s. This discovery led to work still being carried out on this discovery by geologists and mining companies. Bill and Greg produced several publications on this discovery and for this work they were awarded the Goldich Medal from the Institute on Lake Superior Geology. This interest led Bill and Wendy to a trip to South Africa to take part in a Geology Conference on meteorite impacts as well as a geology cruise to Antarctica. A large piece of ejecta from Thunder Bay now resides in a museum in South Africa.

As geologists expanded on the ejecta studies that Bill and Greg started, Bill returned to intensive work on the Nahanni ‘Old timers’ project, transcribing interviews that hadn’t been transcribed as part of the original project. During their trip to Alaska and NWT in 2017, Bill was still searching archives and talking to people associated with the Nahanni area. Sadly, Bill was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer soon after his return from this trip and died October 25, 2017.

Custodial history

Scope and content

This accession consists of W.D. Addison's collection of material related to the Nahanni area, including his own photographs, trip journals, and maps, the annotated bibliography and literature review he compiled, oral-history interviews he conducted, transcripts and catalogues he compiled and edited, photographs, documents, and maps he gathered from various sources, and correspondence he conducted with Nahanni old-timers and others.

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Physical condition


Language of material

  • English

Script of material

  • Latin

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Restrictions on access

No access restrictions.

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No further accruals expected.


Copyright transferred to the Northwest Territories Archives by the donor.

Physical description

76.8 cm of textual records
2.1 GB of digital records
7676 photographs
91 audio reels
158 audio cassettes
134 maps

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Language of description

  • English

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