Robert Bell fonds [mutiple media]

  • Record Information – Brief
    Hierarchical level:
    Type of material:
    Textual material, Photographs, Art, Architectural and technical drawings, Maps and cartographic material
    Found in:
    Archives / Collections and Fonds
    Item ID number:
    Link to this page:
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    Context of this record:
    • Robert Bell fonds
      Robert Bell fonds
  • Fonds includes:
    451 lower level description(s)
    View lower level description(s)
    Place of creation:
    Added country of publication:
    12.62 m of textual records.
    ca. 3577 photographs : multiple processes, 3574 b&w.
    34 paintings : oil.
    47 drawings : multiple processes.
    18 watercolours.
    20 prints : multiple processes.
    ca. 405 maps.
    6 technical drawings.
    Language of material:
    Added language of material:
    Scope and content:
    Fonds consists of the articles, reports and official correspondence of Robert Bell covering his career with the Geological Survey of Canada, 1857-1908. Also Bell's extensive personal correspondence and subject files plus the Bell Family papers. The subject files include extensive documentation on mining in Canada and Indian legends. Fonds also consists of photographs documenting the personal and professional life of Bell, including views of various expeditions to the Northwest Territories, northern Ontario, northern Quebec, Labrador, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia; shots of flora and fauna; assorted rivers and waterways; and portraits of family, friends, Indians and Inuits. The fonds includes paintings by Olga Bell, M. Festa and B. Muhk; drawings by Henry Farmer, Margaret, Olga and Robert Bell; watercolours by Olga Bell; and prints by Robert Bell and Theordore Heinrich. Subjects include: family members; flora and fauna; and Sir William Dawson. Fonds also consists of maps of Canada and the United States and plans of Canadian bridges relating to the career of Robert Bell, geologist with the Geological Survey of Canada..
    Biography/Administrative history:
    Bell, Robert, 1841-1917: Robert Bell was born in Toronto, June 3, 1841. He was educated at Prescott County schools, McGill University (Faculty of Arts, 1858-61; Faculty of Medicine, 1869-78), and the University of Edinburgh (1864). Because his father, the Rev. Andrew Bell of Perth, Ontario, was a leading amateur geologist and a close friend of Sir William Logan, founder of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), Robert Bell developed an early interest in natural history, and especially in geology. In 1857, at the age of 15, Bell joined the summer field staff of the GSC, the start of over fifty years of fieldwork that would continue throughout his career, even after his retirement from the GSC in 1908. During the period 1863-67 when Bell was a professor of Chemistry and Natural History at Queen's University, he still pursued his geological interests by working for the GSC during the summers and by investigating privately owned mineral properties. Throughout his life he was involved in a variety of private business interests, including speculation and several partnerships in mining enterprises in Nova Scotia, Ontario and Newfoundland, and extensive land holdings in Manitoba. By 1868, having experienced some difficulties at Queen's, Bell had moved into full-time employment in the GSC. As a pioneer Canadian geologist, he explored and surveyed much of Canada east of the Rocky Mountains. On two Hudson Bay expeditions (S.S. Neptune, 1884; S.S. Alert, 1885), he served as geologist, naturalist and medical officer. Although his GSC career was sometimes surrounded with public controversy and personal frustration, he steadily advanced, being appointed an Assistant Director in 1877, Chief Geologist in 1890, and Acting Director in 1901. His great disappointment was that his position as GSC director was never made permanent. After he was superannuated in 1908, Bell devoted much of his time to private mineral explorations and his Manitoba farm lands. Bell's personal interests extended beyond geology to history, native customs and folklore, archaeology, geography, forestry and conservation, as well as colonization and farming. Besides writing over two hundred published reports and pamphlets, he wrote numerous speeches and articles which reflected his various interests. Bell was an active participant in many professional associations such as the American Institute of Mining Engineers, the Canadian Mining Institute, the Canadian and American Forestry Associations, the Geology Society of London, the Royal Society (London), and the Royal Society of Canada. His scientific and academic distinctions included, honorary degrees from Queen's, the American Geographical Society Medal and the Patron's or King's Gold Medal (Royal Geographical Society of London). In 1873 Bell married Agnes Smith (1854-1927) of Scotland. They had four children: Edith Margaret (Daisy), Alice, Donald and Olga. In spite of their many separations caused by Bell's fieldwork and Mrs. Bell's frequent voyages home to Scotland, they were a close and devoted family. Bell died at his farm in Rathwell, Manitoba, June 18, 1917.
    Finding aid:
    Textual records: (Paper) The finding aid is a file list. MSS0585

    Textual records: (Electronic) Finding aid. MSS0585

    Photographs: (Paper) Finding aids provide some series and item level descriptions. FA-267, FA-500

    Cartographic material (Other) Finding aids are available, please consult lower level descriptions. (90 90: Open)

    Architectural, technical drawings (Other) Finding aids are available, please consult lower level descriptions. (90 90: Open)

    Additional information:
    Custodial history:
    Material was received from Robert Bell Douglas in 1965, 1977 and 1981; Don MacKenzie of Ottawa in 1970; Montreal Book Auctions in 1964, 1978-79; and Harvey J. Champagne of Ottawa in 1978. 242 photographs were transferred from the National Museum of Man (History Division) in 1984. Fifteen pages were received from the NWT Archives in 1992. In 1986-87 the entire collection was reorganized and the various accessions were integrated. Only a few items from after Bell's death in 1917 are included in the collection.
    Related material:
    Additional Bell Family material is located in the following manuscript collections: MG 9, D 7-4 (Rev. Andrew Bell); MG 24, D 61 (Archibald M. Campbell); MG 24, H 10 (Rev. William Bell); MG 29, B 40 (Dr. John Bell); MG 53, B (Rev. William Bell, Robert Bell and Family).
    Subject heading:
    Other system control no.:
    Related control no.:
    1963-058 DAP
    1977-024 PIC
    1977-084 NPC
    1984-318 NPC
    1987-063 NPC
    1987/0501 MSS
    1989-408 DAP
    Former archival reference no.:
  • Conditions of access:
    Terms of use:
    Photographs: No restrictions. Copyright expired. Credit: name of photographer / Library and Archives Canada / PA- .
    Graphic material: No restrictions. Copyright expired. Credit: Library and Archives Canada.
    Cartographic material: No restrictions on access or reproduction. Credit Library and Archives Canada.
    Architectural, technical drawings: No restrictions on access or reproduction. Credit Library and Archives Canada.

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