Fonds F0132 - Zdenka Volavka fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Zdenka Volavka fonds

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  • Textual record
  • Graphic material

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Dates of creation area


  • [197-]-1999 (Creation)
    Volavka, Zdenka
  • 1471-1991, predominant 1900-1999 (Publication)

Physical description area

Physical description

25.5 m of textual records
ca. 660 photographs

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Zdenka Volavka, art professor and research associate at the Royal Ontario Museum, was born in Czechoslovakia and received her PhD from Charles University, Prague. She immigrated to Canada in 1968, and was Professor in the Department of Visual Arts, York University. Her research focused on analyzing the social context of visual art, material culture, history, and ethnography of west-central Africa. Her approach to studying African art combined extensive fieldwork with ethnographic, historical, scientific and linguistic analysis. Zdenka also studied the role of copper in the lives of the peoples of the lower Zaïre basin.

Her life's work was inspired by a trip in 1976 to the Musee de l'Homme in Paris, where she recognized the regalia of Ngoyo kinship labelled (for more than forty years) as a fishing basket. This was particularly important as no permanent regalia from any kingdoms in the whole of Central African have been recovered and only one set had ever even been seen by a foreign researcher. This research was published posthumously in "The Crown and the Ritual: The Royal Insignia of Ngoyo".

At York University, a research fellowship is honoured in her name to assist students engaged in field-based art historical research, which may include comparative study through collections as well as field activities, focusing on the art of the indigenous peoples of Africa and/or North America.

She is survived by her husband, Larry Landa, and son, Robert Landa.

Custodial history

The 1996-025 accession was transferred from the Fine Arts Department, York University in 1996. The 2000-018 material was transferred from the home of Larry Landa.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of Zdenka Volavka records accumulated and created over the course of her professorial career. The majority of files consist of annotated photocopied material obtained through interlibrary loans (the card catalogue indexing this material was prepared by Zdenka's long-time assistant, the late Charlotte Carrol). Files also contain material related to her involvement at York University and her research on the kingship and royal ritual in Ngoyo, Africa.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


The fonds is arranged in the original order in which it was received. There appears to be no discernible order.

Language of material

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish

Script of material

Language and script note

Language of material notes primary languages found in the fond. Additional languages of African and Western European origin are present.

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Access to be determined.

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Finding aids

Associated materials

An inventory of books donated by Volavka are available through the York University Library catalogue (search term "From the Zdenka Volavka fonds").

See University of Toronto Archives and Records Management services for records on her collaboration and research with Ursula Martius Franklin (UTA 1287).

Related materials


The fonds comprises the following accessions: 1996-025, 2000-018. Further accruals are expected.

General note

Finding aid may contain language from the era in which it was written including historical, unclear, or biased terminology.

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

2002/04/12 Marie-Josee Levesque:. WordPerfect (Creation)
2002/04/12 Awaiting review by the Data Collection Archivist
2002/10/10 Shannon MacDonald. Update wording on Scope and content, custodial history and Finding aid.
2003/04/02 Shannon MacDonald. Add URL for online finding aid.
2014/07/22 Migrated to AtoM.
2017/10/04 KCP. Metadata clean up. Imported file level inventories from legacy word perfect document.
2018/04/04 KCP. Added graphic material (ca. 660 photographs) to extent, arrangement note, languages (Spanish, French, German, and note of African languages) and associated material (Franklin and books); updated date to reflect information in finding aid; cleaned up metadata, and imported file lists from word processing finding aid.
2020/10/26 KCP. Added historical language note.

Language of description

  • English


Accession area