From the early experiments of Bell and Marconi to a leadership role in telecommunications today, Canadians have both created and used audio-visual records to win a battle against its geography and to communicate its shared experience as a nation. The Canadian Pacific Railway's use of early films to promote immigration to the West, William Aberhart's skill in building a political movement through radio broadcasts in the 1930s, the government's decision to create our own broadcasting and film agencies, and Saturday night hockey broadcasts are mere examples of what the collection exemplifies.
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) acquires and preserves all forms of moving images and recorded sound of national historical significance produced by government departments, film and broadcasting companies, corporations and individuals. Ranging from documentary to all film genres and from current affairs to popular entertainment materials, including home movies of private life and stories and accounts as told in oral history interviews, the audio-visual collection serves as one of the country's richest sources of national memory. The collection encompasses more than 500,000 hours of film, video and sound recordings. Under certain conditions, the majority of the audio-visual holdings are available for consultation at Library and Archives Canada. Copies can usually be made, providing that a copyright holder's permission is granted and donor restrictions are addressed.
Library and Archives Canada has acquired, through donations and planned acquisition, over 500,000 hours of film, video and sound recordings that deal mostly with Canada. This search tool provides about 470,000 descriptions of audio-visual documents.
Descriptions are written in the language of the document, then mainly in the language of the creator-donor, with the majority in English. Description standards have changed over the years and the amount of detail about each document will vary from one description to another. Also, databases are constantly evolving and corrections, additions and deletions may be made at any time by LAC staff.
The Search Screens
Two search screens allow you to browse through the database: the default General Search screen and the Advanced Search Options screen that appears by selecting that button. More search fields and a multiple choice list allow you to refine your search.
General Search Screen
This default screen allows you to search by keyword, media type, title, date or accession number. By populating more than one field, the search is narrowed as if the logical connectors AND have been used. Within each specific field (except the Keyword field), typing more than one word uses the connector AND, narrowing the search to descriptions containing all these words.
A search by Keyword allows you to find any term or set of terms. This is an integrated text search system. When the search is initiated, all fields within the database are searched. If you use more than one word, please keep in mind that this field uses only the Boolean operator OR, which means it will broaden the search.
Type King for hits on this name, whether the subject of a film, the name of a producer, a place name, etc.
The multiple choice list named Media allows you to limit your search to films, videos or sound recordings.
A search by Title allows you to find a document using one or more words in the title.
Type house for titles of films, videos or sound recordings that include this word.
The Date search will locate films, videos or sound records created or distributed on a specific year or precise date, with the syntax YYYY-MM-DD.
Type 2010-11-19 for documents produced or broadcast or released on November 19, 2010.
A search by Accession number allows you to find descriptions of films, videos or sound records acquired by Library and Archives Canada at a specific time period. The exact accession number must be known in advance but it is possible to obtain this number by conducting a search using Archives search, our online catalogue for archival material.
Type 1985-0292 to obtain descriptions of documents with this accession number (the National Film Board).
Advanced Search Options Screen
This detailed search screen has the same attributes as the general search screen but offers more specific field search capability.
An Item number (ISN) search will locate a specific item based on the number it was assigned by LAC (the ISN number) which could be cited in publications or elsewhere, or known in advance.
A search by Production company allows you to find descriptions of films, videos or sound records that were produced by a specific company.
Type Cinémaginaire to obtain descriptions of documents produced by this production company.
A search by Sponsor allows you to find films, videos or sound recordings that were sponsored by a specific organization.
A Name of distributor or Current distributor search finds descriptions of films, videos or sound records that were distributed by a specific company.
An Original number search will locate a specific item based on the number it was originally given by the donor or in a catalogue. They might be cited in publications or elsewhere.
A search by Production Credit allows you to find descriptions of films, videos or sound records of a production in which a specific person participated.
Type Norman McLaren to find descriptions of his works kept in LAC holdings.
A Cast credit query gives you descriptions of films, videos or sound records in which a specific actor performed.
Type Sarah Polley to find descriptions of films, videos or sound recordings in which she performed.
In the Description field, any term or set of terms can be used to find documents that include the same terms in their subject description.
Type Angola to find films, videos or sound recordings containing that word in their description.
A Copyright Status search is used to determine if a document is still under copyright or not.
Type expired to find recordings for which the copyright term has expired.
A search by Fonds/Collection allows you to find descriptions of documents in a given collection. Use the specific name of the collection, if known. For example, the records of a government department will be identified by its name. Please note that a fonds may appear under several distinct accessions but generally an accession deals with one particular fonds.
A Consultation copy number search will locate an item based on the consultation number cited in publications or elsewhere.
Type V1 8603-0018 (make sure to type the exact digits including zeros), to obtain a description of the document.
Some numbers are no longer in the database because the items are no longer under our care or there are copyright problems.
If the consultation copy number does not appear in the database, contact us for information.
Enter, in the appropriate field, whatever terms you feel best describe the document. It can be a film's title, a general description, a producer's name, a place name, etc.
Unless you are looking for a specific film, video or sound recording, conduct your search using limited terms. Truncate if necessary; * is the wild card replacing characters to allow for possible misspelling or multiple endings. If the search brings up too many references, you can reduce the number of hits by using other fields.
If you type pollu*, you will obtain pollutant, polluant, pollueur, pollution, etc.
If possible, search in English and in French. Descriptions are currently produced in the language of the record and their creator-donor, but this has not always been the case. Most descriptions are in English only. Titles remain in their original language, and are only rarely translated.
First, type ship. Then in another search, type navire. The results will be different.
Be careful with dates. You will only retrieve dates that correspond strictly to what you have specified.
Type 1940-1950 for descriptions with this specific phrase, if there are any. You will not get anything for the years 1941, 1942, 1943, etc. Use truncation to improve your results.
Type in 194* for better results.
As the database contains descriptions of old documents, do not use only modern or current words and terms when entering your search.
Many audio-visual records and descriptions were created before they were considered not politically correct. For best results, please use outdated expressions that could otherwise be overlooked.
Settlers, sauvage, savage, eskimo, apothecary.
Be aware that artists often anglicized Quebec place names:
Trois-Rivières becomes Three Rivers.
Pointe-Lévis becomes Point Levi.
How to Interpret the Results
Your search results will be posted as a summary list from which you will be able to obtain more detailed descriptions.
By default, the number of references appearing on each results page is set to 30, and the search engine is capped at 2,000 results.
Results Summary List
The results summary list, sorted by column, contains information that will allow you to rapidly assess how relevant the documents are that you find. Please note that information within square brackets generally reflects Library and Archives Canada hypotheses, from clues found within the document. Each page of the list describes 30 documents.
The first (Title) and sixth (Item number ISN) columns are linked to the detailed description (see below). Using the link will bring you to the detailed description.
The Title column provides the document's title. Sometimes it is abbreviated. The complete title appears in the detailed description.
The Series Title column provides the collective title for a set of individually titled documents.
The Date column provides the document's exact or approximate date of production, or a release date if the production date is unknown.
The Consultation column provides information on conditions of access for the document, (i.e. the document is open for consultation or a permission is required for consulting it). Consultation of films, videos, and sound recording is done on our premises. For more information, see below.
The Reproduction access column indicates under what conditions, if any, a user can purchase a reproduction of the item. For more information on how to submit a reproduction order, see below.
The Item number (ISN) column provides the document's unique number, assigned by LAC. It is its reference number.
The Consultation Copy column provides numbers needed to retrieve a document for consultation. No number means that a consultation copy must be made before you can consult or order a copy of the document.
From the summary list, you can consult one detailed description at a time. The detailed description includes all, or some, of the sections described below. If the information seems insufficient or unclear, for example, because of misspelling or errors, please contact us for more information.
Item number (ISN):
Source database identifier (i.e., internal sequence number). This number must be included in all requests for consultation or reproduction.
The title of an archival fonds or collection associated with the document or series. An archival fonds represents the whole of the records, regardless of form or medium, automatically and organically created and/or accumulated and used by a body in the course of that creator's activities and functions.
The access conditions of the document or series. These terms and conditions are usually fixed by the donor. Please double-check the Copyright Status and Donor restrictions fields (below), for specific information on this document.
Details related to the copyright holder of the document or series and the reproduction conditions put in place by the creator, the donor, or by LAC. Please double-check the Copyright Status and Donor restrictions fields (below), for specific information on this document.
Any additional pieces of information related to the item: information about the donor, particular access or reproduction instructions, information related to the fonds or collection, or complementary information on copyright.
Administrative control number assigned to each incoming group of documents when being deposited at Library and Archives Canada.
Original medium of production or creation.
This is the complete title of the film, video or sound recording, generally as it was described in the lists that accompanied the accession. More specific information may be added within brackets. If square brackets are present, this signifies a title given by archival staff where no title existed. (i.e. [Harness Racing in Toronto])
The original title of the document, in its country of origin, whether or not it appears on the document held at LAC.
A series is a set of individually titled documents which also bear a collective name.
Defines the completeness of the document, and mainly shows incomplete documents (i.e., 2 of 3, if LAC doesn't have all parts). It does not define the relationship of an episode to a series (i.e., episode 10 of 13).
Production date and Release date:
Respectively records the completion date of a document, and its broadcast or release date.
Names of corporate entities or persons ultimately responsible for the creation of the document. The credits associated with the production, sponsors and cast may also be included.
Country of production:
Country of creation of the document or series.
Name of distributor:
Individual or corporate name and origin of the current distributing entity.
Names of the authorized members of the off-screen production team, preceded by their functions in the team and sorted by the priority assigned to each function.
Names of on-screen persons in a player-performer role, usually sorted by their order of appearance on the credits, and without their character names.
Description of the content of the document or series.
Indicates the presence of absence of sound, and the languages of the sound track and/or the presence of inter-titles and subtitles.
Catalogue and original numbers:
Donor catalogue number supplied by depositors, and used to further identify audio-visual documents.
Name of individual or corporate body responsible for the creation of the material, or subjects covered by the document. This field has not been used since 1992.
Indicates if a document is under copyright or not. This supersedes the consultation or reproduction information at the top of the page.
Indicates the copyright owner.
Indicates if a document has restrictions on consultation or reproduction that supersedes the information found in the consultation or reproduction fields, found at the top of the page.
Any additional pieces of information related to the item, which did not fit elsewhere in the description.
Vault shelf number of the document. A consultation copy must have been created to allow consultation of a document. This number must be included in all requests for consultation or reproduction.
Source database identifier. It is the Item Number (ISN) mentioned above.
The button to display the Detailed Holdings provides information on the physical extent of the media (i.e., originals, master copy, reference copy, etc.). Many elements include technical information mainly used by staff members of Library and Archives Canada to order and locate documents. If the information seems unclear, please contact us for more information.
How to Consult a Record or Order a Copy
To consult or to order a reproduction of audio-visual documents, researchers need to provide us with the following information:
Item number (ISN);
Consultation copy number (a consultation copy must have been created to allow consultation of a document).
Consultation of original audio-visual documents is not permitted. Only consultation copies can be viewed, and they are to be examined on site, at Library and Archives Canada. If there is no consultation copy, one can be created free of charge within 6 to 10 weeks.
For more information about the reproduction and consultation services offered by Library and Archives Canada, please visit the Reproduction Requests and Consulting and Borrowing Material pages. If you have any other questions please contact us.
Reproduction of archival material is subject to Copyright legislation and its regulations. This is a highly complex area for both archives and researchers, and has a profound effect on the way that Library and Archives Canada delivers its services to researchers for protected material.
Copyright can be owned or held by an individual or a group of individuals, a corporation, the Crown, or the public. The terms of protection can vary subject to the author, the nature and the disposition of the material in question, along with other considerations. Library and Archives Canada holds a variety of material for which the ownership of copyright may be uncertain due to the mixture of public and private material, or published and unpublished works. One of the major difficulties for both archives and researchers is in identifying and locating the copyright owners. It is recommended that researchers consult the Canadian Copyright Act and seek legal advice when questions regarding the interpretation of copyright arise.
It is not the role of Library and Archives Canada to interpret the Copyright Act for researchers, and researchers must accept responsibility for determining any copyright obligations. Researchers should allow adequate lead time for researching ownership and obtaining permission, as required.