Another Roadside Attraction

The Big Nickel is a tourist attraction in the town of Sudbury, Canada1 created to commemorate the element nickel, and the role that it has played in the town's history.  Sudbury also is the home of INCO Corporation,2   which opened for business in Sudbury in 1902 and is, today, the world's largest producer of nickel. INCO employs over 4600 people in Sudbury out of a total population of 158,000. 

The History of the Big Nickel3 

"Mr. Ted Szilva, a local Sudbury police officer, thought of the idea of using a nickel as a symbol for the city from a suggestion by John Fisher, a former president of the Canadian Tourist Association. Szilva imagined the symbol on signs around the municipality, helping to promote the area. Bruno Cavallo, an artist and sign maker, was the man who first introduced the notion of a three-dimensional nickel monument, the "Big Nickel."

In the early 1960s, the Sudbury Star newspaper was holding a contest involving readers submitting Centennial project ideas for the city. Szilva was inspired by Cavallo's three-dimensional concept, and therefore introduced the idea of a Canadian Centennial Numismatic Park. Included would be a Big Nickel monument, an operational mine and a museum in a park-like setting.

After being rejected by the city's Centennial Committee, Szilva was convinced it would be a success and decided to build the park himself.

In 1963, he purchased several acres of land on which he would develop the park, overlooking the INCO reduction works at Copper Cliff. His plan involved the construction of eighteen giant "coin" monuments and a Canadian dollar bill. The park would also feature a nickel museum, a model railroad, a world-class coin collection and an authentic mine. It was the nation's largest privately developed Centennial project.

On July 22, 1964, after many months of planning, the park was officially dedicated and opened. The Big Nickel was unveiled by John Fisher in front of 2,500 local residents and dignitaries. The monument sits on a 4-metre-high base, made of rich ore-bearing rock and stone found in the Sudbury basin. It measures 9 metres in diameter and is 60 centimetres thick. The inner core is made of wood and is covered by sheets of stainless steel. The construction of this massive structure cost $35,000 and was modeled after the 1951 Canadian commemorative five-cent piece featuring King George VI on the obverse and a representation of a nickel refinery on the reverse.

The 1951 five-cent piece was designed by Canadian artist Steve Trenka. His interpretation of a nickel refinery was not based on any actual building, although some believed it to be the Inco Refinery in Sudbury. The design was chosen for the Big Nickel Monument since it marked the bicentennial of the chemical isolation of nickel as an element by the Swedish chemist Baron Axel Frederic Cronstedt in 1751. Naturally, this metal played a large role in the establishment of Sudbury.

Before 1751, the element confused and enraged refiners. It was thought to be an alloy of copper and was named "Kupfernickel" or "Old Nick's Copper" by German miners. This "Devil's Copper" could not be extracted with the limited technology available at the time. Cronstedt was able to prove that the trouble refiners faced was due to the unknown element which he named nickel. "

Ted's Vision Realized

The Big Nickel has recently been completely restored and integrated into the Dynamic Earth4  center, dedicated to science education with an emphasis on mining and mineralogy.  Along with the Science North center, Dynamic Earth boasts over 20 acres of above and below ground exhibits including an IMAX theater, the Virtual Voyages motion simulator and the LEGO® Mindstorms Robotic Lab. As the most popular tourist destination in Canada it has succeeded beyond Ted Szilva's wildest dreams.  



1 Information on the town of Sudbury, Canada:

2 Inco Corporation website:

3 The history of the Big Nickel:

4 Gateway to the Science North / Dynamic Earth

A note on this writeup

Although is it completely parenthetical to the topic at hand, I felt that a brief note about the history of this writeup, and the role that I inadvertently played in it, was in order.  It's a uniquely E2-esque story that I hope will entertain and enlighten you, while serving a higher purpose.

Both the E2 node and writeup, The Big Nickel, were originally created by stewacide on Saturday, June 09, 2001 in the course of her wildly successful multi-year career as an E2 author.  Brevity, as they say, is the soul of wit and although short and pithy by today's standards, The Big Nickel was well received by the audience of the time as an interesting and informative factual writeup, earning it one cool and eleven upvotes.  Unfortunately, The Big Nickel had a dark side — copyright compliance was sadly lacking.

The Big Nickel was brought to my attention through the auspices of a diligent Content Editor who astutely and correctly determined that, although otherwise interesting and informative, The Big Nickel was clearly non-compliant with both the spirit and the letter of the E2 Copyright Policy.  As a nominal defender of the copyrights process along with the rest of the CST Group, it fell on me to review the writeup and determine a course of action.  

The CST Review is a formal process that involves validating a suspect writeup against several criteria to determine if the material in question is under current U.S. copyright protection.  A secondary question is whether or not the copyrighted material is compliant under one or more strategies including Fair Use, or permission from the original author.  The CST Reviews are archived for future reference on E2, and once completed, they form the basis for the writeup to either be approved as compliant, updated to achieve compliance, or removed from the E2 database.

In the case of The Big Nickel the source for the history quote was cited and the copyrights for the material were clearly stated:

Material exhibited on Canada's Digital Collections Web site has copyright protection and must not be used without first obtaining permission from the holder of the copyright.

stewacide didn't indicate that any effort had been made to contact the original authors and the quoted content,  481 words in length, was clearly too large a percentage of the total writeup (85%) to qualify for fair use compliance.  Clearly we had a problem, and I resolved to find a way to fix it.

My editorial philosophy at E2 is perhaps unusual in that I much prefer to tinker with writeups that need help rather than remove them.  Within the constraints of time available, that's how I decided to approach The Big Nickel.  Since stewacide hasn't been around lately I first ventured down the path of requesting permission from the original author to repost the short history text on E2.  Unfortunately, this led me to a dead end as no one I contacted could remember who had written the text or offered much assistance in finding out.  

I next briefly explored the idea of utilizing a public domain strategy to support hosting the work on E2.  Since no one was willing or able to assert authorship of the text, let's just call it "author unknown," and let it go at that. I was initially optimistic about this approach, but it soon lead me back to the clearly stated copyright assertion quoted above covering all materials on the hosting website.  Despite the fact that we couldn't determine who, exactly, had written the history, someone obviously had and without their permission, it was protected from unauthorized reproduction.

Unfortunately, that left fair use as the only remaining compliance strategy for The Big Nickel which would require a substantial rewrite of the writeup.  As I had become fond of The Big Nickel in the course of my investigations, I decided to rescue it myself by adding enough original material that the quoted history would comprise the requisite 33% or less of the entire writeup.  As I didn't feel comfortable editing stewacide's writeup with significant changes, I was faced with the existential paradox of killing the very thing that I wanted to protect.  After a bout of concerned cogitation, I removed the original writeup to make way for this one.

My original preference was to rewrite stewacide's background text for The Big Nickel so as to expand it significantly and allow the quoted history text to reside comfortably, and legally, within it.  I researched the INCO company and the town of Sudbury, as well as the Science North and Dynamic Earth and found a wealth of interesting material.  The first and last paragraphs are studded with factoids from that venture, but as the material accumulated, I realized that the approach wasn't viable after all. The inevitable result of padding out The Big Nickel on these topics was, inevitably, to destroy the writeup as a decent exposition on the original topic.  The root problem was that the original text did too good a job covering its subject and just didn't leave enough related material unsaid.  I found I could turn it into a writeup on INCO, or the history of Sudbury easily enough, but at that point it was no longer The Big NickelConundrum.

Next I started down the path of just paraphrasing the history so that I could remove the quote entirely and thus circumvent the issue of copyright compliance entirely. Sadly, this felt intellectually dishonest because, again the quoted history was complete and well written, so well in fact that I felt more like a plagiarist than a writer. Ugh!

Having poured hours into this outwardly simple project, I finally determined that the one area of discussion in which I could meaningfully add value was to document the vexing process of rescuing the silly thing in the first place. Thus, this short course on the life and times of The Big Nickel at E2 is, in essence, a sneaky way of adding enough original content to comply with the letter, if not perhaps the sprit of the fair use laws.  

I suppose that we can consider it one of the arbitrary quirks and anomalies of E2 that this 'tail wagging the grouchy old dawg' story will likely remain buried in the depths of the E2 database for all time.  That makes me smile in acknowledgement that this was a labor of love after all.  

If anyone ever makes the journey to experience the magnificence of the old Devil's Copper please drop me a line and let me know how it was.


2005.4.30 (15.8 hr) allseeingeye says Science North and Dynamic Earth are both run by the Science North Group. 2 different locations, 1 company. I used to work at Science North...

CST Approved

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