From its incorporation, the University of Alberta has used a range of print materials to promote its vision, mission, and mandate. A common characteristic of these materials is strong visuals. Founding President Henry Marshall Tory knew the importance of "selling" the idea of the University not only to the Government of Alberta, which founded it, but also to influential people and the community at large. Thus, architectural drawings and campus grounds plans to convey the vision were among the first things ordered. From the outset, Tory envisioned the building of an endowment to support the University and such plans were essential to entice potential donors.
The plan shows quadrangles, courtyards, and historic buildings in Neo-Classical style surrounded by lush lawns. In the distance, the ribbon of green that is the North Saskatchewan River valley fades into the horizon. It is the quintessential "town and gown" of the English-speaking world's classic campuses: Oxford and Cambridge in England, Harvard and Yale in the USA, and, in Canada, the University of Toronto. These helped promote the idea of the University as a centre of learning, a city within a city, a bastion of civility within the larger world. Various generations of University histories and promotional materials have made use of these iconic images. Of course, not all of the buildings were built—the economic downturn after World War I dealt them a blow. It was not until the 1950s, after oil strike in Leduc in 1947, that the Province's economy improved and the building boom began.
This image has been used on the cover of several publications and, most recently, on the cover of the booklet with picture postcards of the University issued for the centennial in 2008. University of Alberta 1908–2008: Discovering Our Traditions: Decades of Optimism provides a series oficonic images from the University of Alberta Archives with a focus on the people of the University.
The Province of Alberta's Centennial in 2005 provided the opportunity for the University of Alberta Libraries to showcase images from various historic eras on posters. Two posters are dedicated to Peel's Prairie Provinces, the University of Alberta online archive of western Canadian historical resources.