Digitization at Library and Archives Canada

How we approach digitization

The digitization of collections held by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is a vital means of advancing research, promoting discovery, and ensuring broad access to Canada's documentary heritage.

Our goal is to digitize as much of the collection as possible and to ensure that the materials are described and searchable online. Our digitization approach supports sustainable digitization operations that leverage transparent, high-value partnerships in order to complement consistent, well resourced, and strategic internal operations.

This approach supports LAC's longstanding objectives to promote digital access, to deliver a critical mass of digital content online, and to maximize the internal capacity for digitization operations.

Digitization criteria: how we choose what to digitize

LAC has a Digitization Committee that draws on the expertise from across the institution to ensure effective planning of digitization priorities.

Our vast collection is too large to digitize in its entirety. For this reason, a two-step assessment process was created to help us determine which digitization projects would best serve Canadians.

Step one: content assessment

Content assessment helps us identify materials to digitize by considering the following criteria:

  • Public interest: The level of public interest is decided by researching the popularity of specific collections--this research includes consultation with Canadians, clients and partner organizations.
  • Government of Canada: The potential for a digitization project to support the Government of Canada in commemorations, special events and open government initiatives.
  • Uniqueness: If there are no duplicates or similar materials available for viewing elsewhere then digitizing a collection is the ideal way to provide better access and ensure long-term digital preservation.
  • Preservation: Fragile materials are strong candidates for digitization as the process offers an opportunity to ensure long-term digital preservation. The process of digitizing allows LAC to remove physical items at-risk of deterioration from circulation without depriving Canadians of access.

Step two: feasibility assessment

The second step of digitization assessment addresses the feasibility by researching key practical considerations:

  • Rights issues: Copyright, donor conditions or privacy issues are taken into account and addressed before a final decision can be made.
  • Metadata needs: The availability of existing metadata or the ease with which it can be created.
  • Technical considerations: How easily the material can be digitized includes factors such as format, equipment required, or the possibility of task-sharing with external partners.

Digitization and partnerships: how you can get involved

Our goal is to digitize and make available as much of the collection as possible and to ensure that the materials are described and searchable online. Accomplishing this goal is a process that is difficult to manage by one institution alone—by working with our partners and stakeholders, it is possible to digitize and make available many more collections at a faster rate.


Over the past 10 years, LAC has collaborated on several successful partnerships to make millions of pages accessible in digital format. Digitization partnerships are common in national memory institutions around the world. These partnerships help to ensure that LAC can deliver on its digitization goals and create high quality digital access to LAC's collection.

The following Principles guide our digitization partnerships:

  • Partners should digitize full series or segments of records, not just selected documents.
  • LAC will retain the rights to the digital copies in order to provide digital service to researchers and staff on its premises, while respecting the partnership agreements.
  • Partners will transfer the digital copies and related metadata to LAC, after an agreed upon amount of time, for unrestricted use on its website, reading rooms or any other means to ensure LAC is fulfilling its service mandate.

We welcome interest from organizations who would like to partner on our digitization projects. In addition to considering proposals from potential partners, LAC has compiled a list of high-value, high-interest collections that are ideal opportunities for a partnering model.

Themes include Immigration, Military, Crimes and Prison, Courts and Law, Civic records, Pre-confederation records, Trains, Marine and Ships, Education.

For more information on potential collaborations, contact us.


LAC’s DigiLab is a new hands-on digitization facility at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa that provides the equipment and tools for users to digitize and describe LAC collections of value to their study, work and communities. All of the material digitized through the DigiLab will be made available online for general public access.

Crowdsourced projects

LAC's online crowdsourcing tool lets the public transcribe and tag our documents making them easier to read, search and use. We recently digitized The Coltman Report, 1818–Inquiry into the Offences Committed at the Battle of Seven Oaks and within a month, members of the public transcribed all 534 pages of the document.

LAC will continue to launch new crowdsource projects to help make our collections more widely accessible. All new projects will be advertised on Twitter, Facebook and our website. Have a collection idea for a LAC crowdsource project? Please contact us to share your ideas.

Share your Library and Archives digital projects

Contact us to share your projects—we may able to link to databases that use our collections or re-tweet information about research based on our holdings. Have ideas about collections that should be digitized? Contact us to share your projects and ideas.

Contact us

For more information, please contact us.

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