Signatures, Spring/Summer 2017

Magazine Cover: Signatures, Spring / Summer 2017

Signatures, Spring/
Summer 2017
[PDF 25 MB]
Cover: The Library and Archives Canada Preservation Centre in Gatineau, Quebec. Photo: Gordon King


—By Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada

Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada

This issue of Signatures magazine celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Preservation Centre. It begins with a reference to the Parthenon by our colleague Mario Gasperetti, whose insightful analogy reminds us that the façade of the Preservation Centre features eight columns, just like the temple on the Acropolis of Athens. He also points out that the temple imagined by Phidias housed the chryselephantine statue of the goddess Athena, who, as well as being patron deity of the city that bears her name, was the goddess of knowledge and the arts.

It could be said that LAC’s high-tech temple, designed by architect Ronald Keenberg, is also dedicated to knowledge and the arts. Knowledge, because it provides access to an unbelievable quantity of records—250 kilometres of archival documents and 30 million photographs, not to mention all the other wonderful things that are housed there! Thanks to the goddess Athena, there is enough material at LAC to shelter us from “fake news” and “alternative facts” for a very long time.

In terms of the arts, what immediately comes to mind is the profession practised by the remarkable conservators at the Preservation Centre, whose work ensures that our collections live on so that they can be used to their full capacity. The skills and expertise that come together on the fifth floor of our contemporary temple are astonishing! I cannot tell you how many times I have been incredibly and justifiably proud to show international visitors through the Centre, and to witness how impressed they are with our conservators and the leading-edge techniques that they employ! Visitors come from around the world to admire both the Centre and its artisans. The pages that follow showcase the extraordinary talents of our colleagues at Keenberg’s temple, including the work on the collages of Elizabeth Cleaver as described by Josiane Polidori, and the publication of the eBook Lingua Franca conceived by Tania Passafiume and Tom Thompson.

Knowing that good things often come in pairs, the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Centre is also an opportunity for Serge Corbeil, Director General of Real Property, to update us on the project for Phase 2 of our preservation campus in Gatineau, a new 11,000 square metre building soon to be constructed.

Some lesser known facts about the Preservation Centre, presented by our colleagues Marie Léonet and Nathalie Ethier, remind us that the building’s main corridor is called Wallot Boulevard in honour of Jean-Pierre Wallot, who was the National Archivist during the time the Centre was built, between 1992 and 1996. This honour is well-deserved, particularly for a man considered as a giant of Canadian archival practice. Also fittingly, the most prestigious lecture series presented by LAC, the Wallot-Sylvestre Seminar Series, is named in his memory as well as that of Jean-Guy Sylvestre, Canada’s National Librarian from 1968 to 1983. On January 11, 2017, as detailed by Zeïneb Gharbi, the new National Librarian of Argentina and celebrated author, Alberto Manguel, was the guest speaker at our first Wallot-Sylvestre seminar of the year. On that occasion, the author of The Library at Night encouraged national libraries to aspire to be “clinics for the soul.” I firmly believe that the human and material resources of our Preservation Centre allow us to have this lofty aspiration. The goddess Athena would be proud!

Guy Berthiaume, Bibliothécaire et archiviste du Canada

Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada

A Parthenon in the Heart of Gatineau

—By Serge Corbeil, Director General, Real Property Branch

The year is 1989, and the country’s archives are spread out in various buildings not specifically designed for preservation. Worse still, if nothing is done about it, Canada is at risk of losing some of its heritage.

The National Archives of Canada joins forces with Public Works and Government Services Canada in a world-class initiative: the construction of a preservation facility on a 50-acre site in the heart of Gatineau, Quebec.

Library and Archives Canada Preservation Centre. Photo: Gordon King

This facility is designed to preserve archival records in a variety of media ranging from film and one of the finest collections of artwork and portraits in Canada, to cartographic records and 100 kilometres of textual documents.

Having recently graduated from Carleton University’s School of Architecture, Mario Gasperetti joins the project team at the National Archives of Canada in 1992. And today, he continues to work with Library and Archives Canada.

Serge Corbeil: Mario, tell us about the architecture of the Preservation Centre.

Mario Gasperetti: First, I should say that it was the architectural firm of Blouin, IKOY & Associates that was awarded the contract, with Ronald Keenberg as principal architect of the project.

Keenberg’s trademark style is unmistakable in the high-tech design of the building. He was born in Winnipeg, and influences from that part of the country permeate his work. The fifth floor of the Preservation Centre is a good example: laboratories in the form of silos, others in the form of greenhouses; large spaces; and materials normally used in agricultural buildings.

Stairway leading from the ground floor. Photo: Gordon King

Laboratories designed in the style of greenhouses. Photo: Gordon King

The layout of the Centre resembles the temples of Ancient Greece, some of the first buildings where important documents were stored. There is a cella, the enclosure at the centre of a temple where the statue of the deity stood, which, here in the Preservation Centre, houses Canada’s treasures. Just as in the Greek temples, this central structure is surrounded by columns that support the roof. Indeed, it is probably no coincidence that, like the Parthenon, the Centre has a façade with eight columns.

The design of the fifth floor is inspired by the concept of a mining village, whose inhabitants extract resources and treasures out of the ground; similarly, staff working at the Preservation Centre take treasures from the vaults and bring them to the laboratories for consultation or restoration.

The book conservation laboratory. Photo: Gordon King

The project also involved bringing people together, and what better place for that than at an outdoor movie theatre? The parking lot was designed so that the films preserved in the Centre could be projected onto the building’s façade. Other urban design features were integrated into the site, like the walking path around the Centre and the pond. Actually, the pond was meant to be on the west side of the building, but when we began construction we discovered that the water flowed east, so we followed Mother Nature’s lead.

SC: And what were the main architectural constraints?

MG: The main thing was to design a building that was not only timeless but also very versatile. To meet those two requirements, the design consultants proposed to build vaults (for permanent conservation of the collection) and laboratories (to provide maximum flexibility).

And there was another major challenge: designing a facility that could handle the temperature and humidity fluctuations of our particular climate. Here again, we drew inspiration from antiquity. In Ancient Rome, the Library of Celsus in Ephesus had a space between the outside wall and the niches where the books were kept. This buffer zone protected documents from variations in climate. Construction of our vaults was based on the same model of a stable environment inside the building.

As well, the ground that the Centre was built on had to be stabilized, so 1,600 foundation piles were driven down to bedrock to serve as the base of the building’s impressive structure.

Materials and finishes had to be chosen very carefully too. They needed to be durable and maintenance-free, containing no volatile organic compounds. Certain materials were definitely ruled out!

Finally, to ensure that the air would be of superior quality, several filtration systems were installed. As a result, the air inside the Centre is purer than the air outside! This is the ideal place to be if you have allergies to pollen or dust.

SC: How long did the construction take?

MG: Four years, From September 1992 to December 1996.

SC: When I visited the Centre, I saw two huge turbines hanging from the ceiling on the fifth floor. It is not a spaceship …

MG: No! (laughing) It is a powerful system for evacuating smoke in the case of fire. Fortunately, we have never had to use it!

The Preservation Centre in numbers

  • Cost (1997): $102 million ($89 million for the building itself, $13 million for furnishings)
  • 48 vaults, each measuring 350 square metres
  • 4 different environments maintained between -18°C and 18°C, with controlled humidity
  • 1,072 glass panels
  • 1,600  foundation piles anchored in the rock to support the building
  • Designed to accommodate 80 employees in laboratories and specialized processing rooms

The Preservation Centre was recently awarded the BOMA BEST® Gold certification for meeting best practices in environmental performance and management. The certification is valid for three years.

A Rare Gift on Canada’s Centenary

—By Alison Harding-Hlady, Team Leader, Special Collections

Some of the treasures contained in the British gift of 1967 to the Government of Canada to mark our country’s centenary

In 1967, the British government made a substantial gift to the then National Library and Public Archives of Canada on the occasion of the Centenary of Confederation. Part of that gift is the Henry Moore bronze sculpture “Three Way Piece-Points,” which graces the lobby of 395 Wellington. Less visible are the more than 10,000 books that accompanied the sculpture, many of which now make their home in the rare book vault at the Preservation Centre in Gatineau.

The books fall into two categories: current and historical British publications and periodicals to augment the Reference Collection, and antiquarian materials to enhance the Rare Book Collection. A pamphlet produced by the British government for the occasion contained a message from Prime Minister Harold Wilson, which read, in part, that the gift was intended to “serve as a permanent reminder of the deep and enduring bonds between our peoples … given to Canada in this Centennial Year with warmest good wishes from the people and Government of Great Britain.”

The gift of antiquarian materials comprises such treasures as early maps and atlases, including the 1508 and 1520 editions of Ptolemy’s Geographia, and 1627 and 1632 editions of Samuel de Champlain’s books describing his voyages in New France. Other highlights are early examples of European printing—a 1482 first-printed edition of Euclid’s Elementa and three books of Greek philosophy from the Aldine Press, which operated in Venice in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, and was the first press to use an italic font.

Bookplate indicating the gift from the British government, in Relation de ce qui s’est passé en la mission des Pères de la Compagnie de Jésus … , part of an ongoing series of publications in the mid-17th century describing the work of Jesuit missionaries in New France.
Source: AMICUS No. 5682695

A 1482 printing of Euclid’s Elementa in a 1903 binding by famed British bookbinder Douglas Cockerell. Source: AMICUS No. 13835260

Important British writers are well represented, naturally. Enriching the Reference Collection are first or early editions of Robert Burns’ Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (1786), The Essays of Sir Francis Bacon (1625), Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1596), and many more. There are also several examples of English classics translated into French, including those by Geoffrey Chaucer, Emily Brontë and Charles Dickens.

And of course the gift also features many books describing travel to Canada and conditions therein from the 17th century on. One of the earliest is a copy of Relation de ce qui s’est passé en la mission des Pères de la Compagnie de Jésus … , written by Father Paul Ragueneau and published in Paris in 1651, which describes the experiences of Jesuit missionaries in New France. David Chisholm’s The Lower Canada Watchman, published in Kingston, Ontario, in 1829, is just one example of an early Upper Canadian imprint. Descriptions of the work of the Hudson’s Bay Company by Edward Umfreville in 1790 and Henry Ellis in 1749 represent that very important part of Canadian history.

Detail of a 1758 printing of John Milton’s Paradise Lost by renowned English printer John Baskerville.
Source: AMICUS No. 8843243

Map of the world from a 1662 printing of John Speed’s A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World, the first world atlas by an Englishman. Source: AMICUS No. 13383954

This brief article offers only a glimpse of this significant and valuable gift, made 50 years ago to the National Library and Public Archives and, by extension, to the people of Canada. As we spend 2017 in celebration of another milestone in our nation’s history, it is a treat to look back at these treasures that remind us of the many cultures and traditions that have helped shape the story of Canada.

Lingua Franca: Our First Enhanced eBook

—By Tom Thompson, Multimedia Specialist, Exhibitions and Online Content Division, and Tania Passafiume, Head Conservator of Photographic Materials, Preservation Branch

Cover page of Lingua Franca. Source: MIKAN No. 3192966

In the Online Content section we are always looking for new and innovative ways to share the incredible collections of Library and Archives Canada (LAC). I was searching for a new multimedia platform capable of reproducing all types of archival records held by LAC, specifically designed for mobile devices. At the same time, my colleague, Tania Passafiume, noted the lack of a bilingual resource of standardized terms on the conservation of photographic materials, and was eager to fill this void.

Page 19 of the eBook presents a description of tarnish. This screenshot illustrates some of the interactive features available in the eBook—zooming capabilities, a pop-up text with a translation of the term, and links to the collection item and related media. Source: MIKAN No. 3192702

After a little brainstorming, we came up with an idea we thought would serve both of these needs—an enhanced eBook! This would be the perfect medium for such a resource and would allow us to showcase some of the fascinating photographic works housed at LAC. Inspired by the 17th-century term Lingua Franca, which refers to a common language used by speakers of different languages, we called the book Lingua Franca: A Common Language for Conservators of Photographic Materials.

Page 62 of the eBook features a video of the test method explained. A link to “Variants” is displayed below the video, followed by FRA (for French translation) and links to the collection item and related media. Source: MIKAN No. 3192595

This first English-French visual glossary of photo conservation terms in enhanced eBook format was designed in collaboration with the Atelier de Restauration et de Conservation des Photographies de la Ville de Paris. It contains six chapters of bilingual definitions of photographic processes, condition issues, treatment options, preventative care, technical studies and provenance. Commonly used terms are briefly defined and illustrated with photographs, videos and interactive features. Each page includes a hyperlink to a collection item and other links to LAC podcasts, videos, blog posts and Flickr albums.

This eBook is intended for conservation professionals, teachers, students and anyone interested in the field of photography. Tania and I hope that it will become a worldwide standard reference for photographic conservation terminology.

Lingua Franca: A Common Language for Conservators of Photographic Materials is the first of many enhanced eBooks to be offered by LAC. This medium opens a new chapter for us, and we believe it will be an outstanding resource for making our collections known.

For questions or comments about Lingua Franca, please email us at

Collection Spotlight: The Enchanted World of Elizabeth Cleaver

—By Josiane Polidori, Senior Project Manager, Private Archives Branch

Among the numerous treasures held in the collections of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are those of children’s book illustrator Elizabeth Cleaver. In preparation for the exhibition Elizabeth Cleaver: Painting without a Brush, a closer look at some of the artist’s illustrations and a visit to the Fine Art on Paper conservation lab in LAC’s Preservation Centre reveal the richness of her work.

A daughter of Hungarian immigrants, Elizabeth (née Mrazik) Cleaver was born in 1939, in Montreal, where she later studied visual arts at Sir George Williams University. In 1967, William Toye of Oxford University Press invited her to illustrate a poetry anthology, The Wind Has Wings: Poems from Canada, which garnered a number of awards and launched her career. She illustrated 11 books for children, including The Mountain Goats of Temlaham, Footnote1 in addition to creating artists’ books and designing puppets and sets for the Centaur Theatre in Montreal. She died at the age of 45.

When works of art on paper are requested for an exhibition, LAC conservators assess their condition, identifying the artmaking process and the materials used, noting any damage (tears, discolouration) and making recommendations on the required treatment and the environmental conditions for display.

Elizabeth Cleaver’s lively collages are complex, delicate works of art. They are difficult to restore, as they are made with a variety of materials and adhesives that can discolour and fail over time. The paper is sensitive to fluctuations in humidity and temperature; humid conditions can create buckling and warping, whereas dry conditions can cause pigments to crack and flake and adhesives to dry and fail. To stabilize the collages, old adhesive tape was removed and stains were reduced using appropriate non-altering solvents.

Petrouchka. © Estate of Elizabeth Cleaver. Source: MIKAN No. 3671538

The Miraculous Hind: A Hungarian Legend. Sketch of the costume for a Hungarian nobleman, with annotations. © Estate of Elizabeth Cleaver. Source: MIKAN No. 3671538

Light levels for exhibiting the works are also critical, as too much light can fade or alter both the paper and its colour. Since the artist enhanced her linoprints with watercolour washes (jewel tones, which are particularly sensitive to discolouration), conservators recommended that they be displayed under reduced light levels and only for limited periods.

Elizabeth Cleaver illustrated five books of Aboriginal legends, Footnote2 combining linocuts, mixed media collage and natural materials, such as bark and moss. Her work on puppet shows and animated films led her to create more fluid characters, with articulated limbs. Her love of puppets influenced her work: every page became a theatre set populated with cut-out characters. She created narrative links between her works, embellishing her illustrations with miniature clues. This mise en abyme, where a representation of the story is embedded in the story itself, creates an effect similar to that of a matryoshka, a Russian nesting doll.

In her book Petrouchka, Cleaver combines her love of puppetry, theatre and dance, drawing on the aesthetic of the Ballets Russes and traditional Russian art. Footnote3 The story unfolds at a fair, where the puppet Petrouchka is rejected by the ballerina he loves. Here Cleaver embeds references to the story within the scene: a merchant sells puppets that resemble poor Petrouchka and a little girl clasps a gingerbread heart. Her illustration of the carousel was to reappear in a pop-up book she had planned but never completed. Footnote4

ABC. Original illustration for the letter T. © Estate of Elizabeth Cleaver. Source: MIKAN No. 3671538

The Miraculous Hind: A Hungarian Legend. © Estate of Elizabeth Cleaver. Source: AMICUS No. 53326

Cleaver explores her heritage in her book The Miraculous Hind: A Hungarian Legend, Footnote5 in which heroes Hunor and Magyar and their hunters pursue a white stag; a miniature hunt scene is depicted on the szür (coat) of one of the hunters. In The New Wind Has Wings: Poems from Canada, she illustrates a poem by Phyllis Gotlieb, Footnote6 using stylized capital letters from her alphabet book ABC to reference other works and projects. Thus the L represents the loon in the legend Footnote7 and the T, the tin soldier Footnote8 from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale.

A treasure chest overflowing with delightful gems best describes Elizabeth Cleaver’s archives. She created a magnificent body of work during her short career, offering readers a splendid and original pictorial world. Her books deserve to be read and admired. The Elizabeth Cleaver: Painting without a Brush exhibition will showcase her contribution to Canadian children’s literature.

The author thanks Susannah Kendall, Conservator, Art on Paper, and Anne Maheux, Head Conservator, Art on Paper, Maps and Manuscripts, Preservation Branch, for their invaluable collaboration.

Project Naming: Celebrating 15 Years of Engagement with Aboriginal Peoples

—By Beth Greenhorn, Project Manager of Special Initiatives, Exhibitions and Online Content Division

This year is significant with many milestones worth celebrating—Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, the 20th anniversary of the Preservation Centre, and the 15th year of Project Naming.

This photograph taken at Southend, Saskatchewan in March 1955 was the first to be featured on the Project Naming Facebook page. Within hours of the image being posted, family members identified the two girls (left to right) as Rose Anne Hardlotte (née Jobb) and Jane McCallum, both from the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation. Photo: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton. © Library and Archives Canada.

Project Naming is a photographic identification and digitization project that forges meaningful connections between Aboriginal peoples and the historic collections in which they are depicted. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has thousands of archival photographs of Aboriginal individuals who were never identified. Project Naming was created with the goal of naming the anonymous Inuit depicted in the photographs through dialogue between Inuit youth and Elders. The project, which is emulated internationally, began in 2002 with a partnership between the Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS) college program, the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, and LAC.

Over the last 15 years, LAC has disseminated its images and engaged with Aboriginal communities through a variety of ways—the Project Naming website and database, the Nunavut News/North newspaper, on-site visits, public outreach, community-organized events, and social media.

The project began with the digitization of 500 photographs from the Richard Harrington collection taken in the Nunavut communities of Iglulik, Kugluktuk, Pangnirtung and Tayoloak. Since then, LAC has digitized additional photographic records and has now scanned over 10,000 images depicting Aboriginal peoples. Of these, LAC has received information identifying individuals, events and places in approximately 2,500 photographs, which has been added to the archival descriptions and made available to the public through the Project Naming website.

Given the project’s increased popularity, LAC expanded it in May 2015 to include First Nations, the Métis within and outside the historical Métis Nation Homeland, and Inuit from Invulialuit (Northwest Territories), Nunavik (northern Quebec) and Nunatsiavut (northern Labrador).

In March this year, LAC collaborated with Carleton University to organize a three-day anniversary event celebrating the successes of Project Naming. The emphasis was on the achievements of the first 13 years of the project and its engagement with Nunavummuit (Inuit from Nunavut). The event brought together Inuit Elders and youth, students from NS, scholars and the general public, who recounted stories and shared memories of archival photographs depicting Inuit in LAC’s collections.

Left to right: Kathleen Ivaluarjuk Merritt, Paula Ikuutaq Rumbolt and Deborah Kigjugalik Webster discuss the overhead photograph depicting Misiraq (left), Elizabeth Unurniq Tapatai (centre) and Kajurjuk (right), taken in Qaman’tuaq, Nunavut, in 1926 (PA-099412)

Discussing the different types of Inuit clothing portrayed in archival photographs, Elder Manitok Thompson describes the designs and stylistic elements of the students’ parkas. Pictured are students Brendan Mannik (standing) and (left to right): Jillian Howmik-Kaviok, Cathy Pikuyak and Candace Barnabas.

Participants enjoyed performances of throat singing and traditional songs, drum dancing and Arctic games by the students of NS. In addition to performing, some of the students took part in conversations with Elders in several of the panel sessions.

During the event, LAC announced the launch of its Project Naming Facebook page (@project.naming) and Twitter account (@project_naming) as a way to strengthen engagement with Aboriginal communities from every province and territory.

LAC also organized a half-day at the end of the event to celebrate the future of Project Naming and to mark its expanded reach to all Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Algonquin Elder Annie Smith St-Georges opened the program with a prayer, which was followed by remarks from Métis National Council President Clément Chartier.

Participants looking through images from the Keewatin region during a photo identification workshop at Carleton University Art Gallery. Left to right (standing): Jean-Marie Beaulieu, Elder Sally Webster and Deborah Kigjugalik Webster. Seated: Elder Piita Irniq.

The last day included a panel with Onondaga curator and photographer Jeff Thomas, Métis artist Rosalie Favell and Inuk filmmaker Isabella-Rose Weetaluktuk. All use archival and historical imagery in their artistic practice to retell the stories of their communities. Prior to Project Naming, the Aboriginal peoples depicted in most archival photographs were passive and anonymous subjects. The work being done by Thomas, Favell and Weetaluktuk marks an exciting shift within the archival community, and is an excellent example of how Aboriginal individuals are reclaiming their histories.

While Project Naming has evolved over the past 15 years, the project adheres to its original aspirations of fostering a culture of innovation and enabling youth to engage with Elders on historical photographic records. It reaches out to communities that would otherwise not have access to our collections, and gives Canadians access to unique archival material anytime, anywhere. By continuing to engage with Aboriginal creators and communities, LAC hopes to facilitate the promotion and revitalization of their cultures.

Well-Kept Secrets

—By Marcelle Cinq-Mars, Senior Military Archivist, Government Records Branch

If one’s grandmother could have hidden her secret recipe for apple pie in a secure, secluded vault that she alone could open, she might have done that. Then her prize recipe would have been kept safe among family, passing from one generation to the next.

Library and Archives Canada has a safe place for secrets too, and just to be clear, it is not used for apple pie recipes!

Even in a democracy, not all documents are created equal. Each new document is assigned a permanent security level. From phone message notes to transactions between Allies, every document is classified based on the type of information it contains. Documents with restricted access are classified according to the risk associated with the disclosure of their contents. They can be classified “Protected A,” “Protected B” or “Protected C” if they pertain to individuals or organizations and do not involve national security. Documents with national security implications are classified as “Confidential,” “Secret” or even “Top Secret.”

For security reasons, sensitive elements have been blacked out at this vault entrance in the Preservation Centre in Gatineau

Far from the dangerous world of James Bond, Canadian government departments working within their mandates produce documents that contain “Top Secret” information. Such documents are privy to only a small number of people on a “need-to-know” basis (this designation being for those who need to see a document to fulfill their duties, rather than those looking for some excitement). Naturally, access to and information about “Top Secret” documents are tightly controlled.

To be transparent, we can reveal that the “Top Secret” vault is located on the word blacked out floor of the Preservation Centre in Gatineau. Only a few people, including the word blacked out , the word blacked out , and some word blacked out , have access to it. Considerable attention has been dedicated to strong security measures, including the word blacked out and word blacked out systems. Boxes of documents from the Department of word blacked out and the Department of word blacked out , for example, are stacked on the shelves and rarely opened. In fact, they must be kept closed, because the word blacked out word blacked out !

Once the giant door with word blacked out is open, all word blacked out word blacked out installed can be seen, as well as some word blacked out that help to word blacked out the documents. Devices such as word blacked out and word blacked out are strictly prohibited. Working in such a location clearly requires vigilance!

The Dominion Archives: Its Origins and Architects

—By Andrew Elliott, Archivist, Private Archives Branch

The former Dominion Archives building, 330 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, circa 1910–1924. Source: MIKAN No. 3192914

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) collects and preserves the archives of some of Canada’s most notable architects, architectural firms and organizations. These archives contain many interesting collections, for example, records pertaining to the architects, design and construction of Ottawa’s former Dominion Archives building at 330 Sussex Drive. Here is a bit of historical context gleaned from the collections to illustrate how the first national archives building came to exist.

Early in the first decade of the 20th century, Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier suggested that the addition of an archives building to the nation’s capital would help “make the City of Ottawa the centre for intellectual development in this country, and the Washington of the North.” The archives building was subsequently constructed between 1904 and 1906, and opened officially in early 1907. This Ottawa landmark housed Canada’s archival heritage until 1967.

The former Dominion Archives building, designated a national historic site in 1990, is a grand piece of architecture. It was designed in the federal Tudor Gothic style by the architectural firm of Band, Burritt, Meredith and Ewart. The firm’s four young architects, Charles P. Band, Clarence James Burritt, Colborne Powell Meredith, and John Albert Ewart worked under the direction of David Ewart, Chief Dominion Architect and Chief Architect of the Department of Public Works.

Adding to its distinction, the building was located on a promontory near the Ottawa River. This three-storey structure, with seven bays and a central entrance, was set well back from Sussex Drive, situated on well-landscaped grounds. As noted in its national historic site heritage designation, it was built as a “secure, permanent, fire-proof facility to collect, preserve and study the nation’s records…” intended to reflect “… a growing sense of a distinct Canadian identity and an increasing interest among Canadians in the country’s history.”

In 1907, the former archives building was divided into three main sections: one for manuscripts, one for maps and plans, and one for printed material. Various rooms were constructed to accommodate this functional division and to display the nation’s archival treasures. Each room reflected intricate details of fine craftsmanship, such as that seen in the Northcliffe Room pictured in this article.

In the mid-1920s, as space to house archival collections became limited, an extra wing was added to the building. This larger three-storey addition was built at right angles to the original structure.

Behind every architect is a supportive architectural society. Coinciding with the opening of the Dominion Archives was the formation of a national architectural organization. By the first decade of the 20th century, there were enough professional architects practising in Canada to warrant having such an organization that could represent their interests.

In the spring of 1907, a circular letter was sent to 500 architects inviting them to join the proposed organization. The letter stated “… such a Society has become a necessity in order to promote and conserve the honour and dignity of the profession. Also, it will help to unify the various local organizations and be of service to practitioners in localities having no local organizations.” Thus the Architectural Institute of Canada was born. Two years later, it was renamed the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC). The Institute’s first president was Montreal-based architect, Alexander Francis Dunlop. Other founding members were James Patrick Hynes of Toronto, Edgar Lewis Horwood and John William Hurrell Watts, both of Ottawa.

Interior of the Northcliffe Room, Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa, circa 1910. Source: MIKAN No. 3319330

Public Archives of Canada building with new addition, Ottawa, circa 1925. Source: MIKAN No. 3319315

It is worth noting that LAC holds the fonds of both Colborne Powell Meredith (see MIKAN No. 101412) and John Albert Ewart (see MIKAN No. 199896), two of the four architects who helped design the Dominion Archives building.

After completing his work on the Dominion Archives, Meredith became a member of RAIC. He took an active interest in the urban planning of Ottawa and sat on the board of the Ottawa Improvement Commission. He was elected President of the Ontario Association of Architects in 1912. In his later career, he photographed historic buildings in Southern Ontario.

Ewart, meanwhile, went on to have a prolific architectural career. He was also an accomplished photographer and artist. According to the Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, Ewart “effortlessly produced some of the finest architectural drawings to be found in public collections in Canada.”

With the move of the Archives in 1967, the building at 330 Sussex Drive became home to the National War Museum until 2005. After a decade of vacancy, it underwent a substantial restorative makeover, and today houses the Global Centre for Pluralism. The architectural firm KPMG Architects was tasked with creating an interior design where modern interventions would complement existing historic features.

There are many more architectural archives and fonds preserved in LAC’s collection. The Government Records Branch holds records of former Dominion architects and architectural plans for other federal buildings. The Private Archives Branch, particularly the Science, Environment, and Economic Affairs section, collects records on notable individuals or organizations outside of government. The collections from both branches are safeguarded and housed in LAC’s Preservation Centre and other storage facilities.

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of LAC’s Preservation Centre, the 50th anniversary of 395 Wellington, and the 110th anniversary of the first archives building on Sussex Drive, it is fitting to think of the individuals who helped create these purpose-built historical landmarks.

Twenty-three architectural plans of the former Dominion Archives building can be viewed in the sub-series “Canada. Public Works Canada. Design and Construction. Architecture. Headquarters” (MIKAN No. 3679391) attached to the series “Chief Architect’s Office” (MIKAN No. 133757).

The John Albert Ewart fonds contains many of his architectural drawings (MIKAN No. 3934361). Photographs by Colborne Powell Meredith have been digitized for viewing online (MIKAN No. 185464).

LAC holds the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada fonds (MIKAN No. 159689), which contains portraits of the founding members of RAIC (MIKAN No. 4873243). Visit RAIC for more information.

The Preservation Centre...Did You Know?

—By Marie Léonet, Senior Planning Officer, Digital Operations Branch, and Nathalie Ethier, Acting Director, Real Property Branch

Wallot Boulevard, a main corridor in the Centre

The collection of world globes preserved at the Centre

The pond bordering the Preservation Centre

  • When the Preservation Centre was being built, some people thought it was an airplane hangar. An interesting perspective given that the Centre is big enough to fit two Boeing 747s!
  • Wallot Boulevard, a main corridor in the Centre, was named in honour of Jean-Pierre Wallot, the National Archivist of Canada from 1985 to 1997. The Centre was built during his tenure between 1992 and 1996. The inauguration of the Centre took place on June 4, 1997, with the Governor General of Canada, the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc, in attendance.
  • The Centre made the cover of Canadian Architect in February 1998 for its fascinating architecture and complex construction. The following year, the Centre was awarded the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture.
  • Many visitors from around the globe have visited the Centre, including Canadian and international dignitaries, politicians, artists, and heads of state from Sweden, Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, the United States, Serbia, China, South Korea, Japan, Rwanda, Benin, Ivory Coast, South Africa and Australia.
  • Speaking of globes, the Centre is home to a collection of 75 world globes, the oldest of which dates from 1695 (the work of Mattheus Greuter, German painter and printmaker).
  • The oldest item preserved at the Centre is a document dated August 7, 1453: a papal bull from Nicholas V annexing the French church Saint-Roman-de-Malegarde to the Priory of Roaix. Nicholas V, a great humanitarian and the Pope from 1447 to 1455, founded the Vatican Library.
  • The Preservation Centre houses not only books, photographs, maps, Canadian works of art and stamps, but also a vast digital collection totalling 5 petabytes, or 5 million billion bytes! This content is preserved on 5,000 Linear Tape-Open cartridges in secure vaults in a controlled environment.
  • Our coldest vault is kept at -18°C to prevent colour film material (films and photographs) from deteriorating.
  • The documents do not just sit on the shelves. Five circulation clerks each travel about 10 kilometres every day to gather the collection items requested by the public. In total, they walk the equivalent distance of Gatineau to Fredericton every month!
  • An archivist at the Centre discovered an Australian playbill advertising the productions at the Sydney Theatre in 1796; it was produced on the first printing press in the colony of New South Wales by George Henry Hughes. The playbill is Australia’s oldest known document and, in 2007, Prime Minister Harper returned it to its homeland.
  • The pond bordering the Centre is home to two turtle species and a variety of fish, such as the Pumpkinseed, Brown Bullhead and Crucian Carp. This is somewhat surprising, since the pond is actually a retention basin!
  • Other wildlife species are found near the Centre: look for Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Ring-billed Gulls, Canada Geese and herons. There are even Western Chorus Frogs, which are protected under the Species at Risk Act.
  • In summer 2016, a boat was spotted on the pond. A rumour spread quickly on Facebook: more than 1,500 people believed that someone was fishing there. It turned out that it was just someone conducting a study!

Gatineau, Our Biggest Project in 20 Years

—By Serge Corbeil, Director General, Real Property Branch

Aerial view of the Preservation Centre and adjacent site of Gatineau 2. Photo: AGL Solution (French only)

LAC’s Preservation Centre will have a new neighbour! A second state-of-the-art preservation centre will be built next to our existing world-class facility, and will protect our rich collection of analogue records for centuries to come. The new centre, called Gatineau 2, will benefit from an unprecedented team effort, with all parts of LAC contributing to its success. We are working hard right now to implement the centre’s infrastructure plan. Visit the page Gatineau 2 Preservation Facility to follow the project’s progression.

There is no question that Gatineau 2 is our biggest project in 20 years, since the planning and construction of the first Preservation Centre!

With an area of approximately 11,000 square metres, the new facility will complement, not overshadow, its neighbour. Picture a great campus of knowledge surrounded by institutions including a cultural centre, a college, an athletic centre, and more.

LAC will strengthen its leadership role in the archival community.

Ottawa, 395 Wellington’s Golden Jubilee

—By Jennifer Roger, Curator, Public Services Branch

Architectural plans of the ground floor of 395 Wellington Street, Mathers & Haldenby, 1954. Source: e011166754

Canada’s new Public Archives and National Library opened its doors on June 20, 1967. Throughout the past half-century, the building at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa has welcomed a variety of researchers and visitors, and has been caretaker to Canada’s cultural memory. This year we are commemorating its Golden Jubilee.

To mark the occasion, LAC presents the exhibition Building on History: Fifty Years of Preserving Memory at 395 Wellington Street. Open since May, it is on view in the building’s Pellan Room. The culmination of extensive research work by LAC staff, the exhibition briefly explores the building’s history, its historical site, its design and construction, and its official opening, all while highlighting the integral art within.

The exhibition tells the story of 395 Wellington Street using reproductions, with several original documents on display for the Doors Open Ottawa event. Please join us in commemorating this iconic building!

Halifax, Immigration Records

—By Leah Rae, Archivist, Public Services Branch

Immigrants in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1948. Source: MIKAN No. 4751955

In the world’s current political climate, immigration has become a very important issue. Canada has always been home to immigrants: from the Vikings that landed in Newfoundland in 1000 AD, to the 25,000 Syrian refugees our Prime Minister pledged to welcome in 2016. Many Canadians can trace their roots to a particular immigrant group.

LAC holds a vast number of immigration records in its collection. These records include: censuses, land records, city directories, ship registries, passenger lists, diaries, letters, journals, and much more. In addition to textual records, LAC also has an extensive collection of photographs and moving images that speak to the immigrant experience. By reflecting on our own histories as immigrants, we can become more empathetic to the experiences of those undertaking the massive project of beginning a new life in a completely different part of the world.

Vancouver, Federal Indigenous Records

—By Caitlin Webster, Archivist, Public Services Branch

Irrigation map of Dog Creek Indian Reserve No. 1, June 1928. Source: MIKAN No. 4938670

LAC’s recent relocation activities in Vancouver have provided a unique opportunity for us to thoroughly examine our archival holdings and their conservation requirements. In preparing to move our services from Burnaby to the Vancouver Public Library and adjacent federal tower, we identified various files, bound volumes and maps as candidates for specialized storage and preservation. In a joint effort among LAC’s regional services, preservation and digitization teams, these records were sent to the Preservation Centre to undergo necessary conservation treatment, be digitized and then rehoused. The digitized images will be stored and made available to LAC clients, allowing for the safe storage and preservation of fragile originals, which include correspondence relating to chiefship and elections, field notebooks on land in the Okanagan area of British Columbia, maps and plans of First Nations reserves, bound registers of location tickets, and other records.

Winnipeg, LAC Café Session

—By David Cuthbert, Archivist, Public Services Branch

Café Session participants with guests Guy Berthiaume and Normand Charbonneau at LAC Winnipeg office. Photo: Katherine O’Connor

On February 28, 2017, LAC employees in the Winnipeg office hosted a Café Session with Librarian and Archivist of Canada Guy Berthiaume and Chief Operating Officer Normand Charbonneau. These sessions are part of a LAC initiative to foster open communication between employees and management. They feature informal discussions on various subjects, such as how to best serve the Canadian public and how employees envision LAC’s future. Fuelled by plenty of coffee and refreshments, participants in the Winnipeg session explored a range of topics, including how to ensure employee engagement and improve the integration of the Winnipeg office with the other LAC offices. Messrs. Berthiaume and Charbonneau took care to emphasize that LAC is a national institution and that all of our locations are integral to ensuring that our services are accessible from coast to coast.

Wallot-Sylvestre Seminar: How Do Libraries Help Us Become Better Citizens?

—By Zeïneb Gharbi, Acting Senior Research Analyst, Strategic Research and Policy

Alberto Manguel, Director of the National Library of Argentina

The year got off to a great start at Library and Archives Canada with the visit on January 11 of Alberto Manguel, Argentine-Canadian writer, translator, editor, critic and Director of the National Library of Argentina.

In an inspiring presentation, Mr. Manguel shared his ideas on libraries as places of fairness that provide citizens with an equal opportunity to develop their political and critical thinking. In his view, national libraries are clinics for the soul and laboratories for experimentation. Making a comparison to the Library of Alexandria (considered to be the model library in the collective imagination despite our limited knowledge of it), he defines the role of national libraries as:

  • Being open to everyone and tailoring services to users
  • Cultivating new users (converting non-readers to readers) and retaining existing clientele
  • Encouraging citizens to love books—and various types of reading—through collaborations with teachers
  • Having collections that span all cultural spheres, to nourish the imagination of every individual
  • Guaranteeing access to collections, to create fair and equitable social models

According to Mr. Manguel, who was once a reader for Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, national libraries are creative workshops where citizens can find reference points for imagining a better world through exploring and experimenting, failing and trying again.

Mr. Manguel’s visit coincided with the signing of a collaborative agreement between the National Library of Argentina and Library and Archives Canada to share digital resources, establish an exchange program for librarians and plan joint events.

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