- Introduction, by Guy Berthiaume
- Administrative Services...150 Years Later!, by Hervé Déry
- A Shared Birthday Feast, by Marcelle Cinq-Mars
- In Search of... the Canadian Constitution, by J. Andrew Ross
- An Exhibition Preview...Canada: Who Do We Think We Are?, by Madeleine Trudeau
- A Story of Valour, Sacrifice and Liberation, by Mathieu Sabourin
- 395 Wellington: A Landmark for 50 Years!, by Andrew Elliott
- Collection Spotlight: A Remarkable Gift, by Michael Kent
- Celebrating with Song! LAC’s Virtual Gramophone, by Alison Harding-Hlady
- LAC Perspectives
- Wallot-Sylvestre Seminar: Archives, Privacy and the Digital Shift, by Zeïneb Gharbi
In the words of the famous song by Beau Dommage, “En ’67 tout était beau.”1 This folk-rock group from Montreal was obviously singing about 1967, the year of Expo, and not about 1867. Yet it is easy to imagine the pride and optimism that inspired Canadians when the country came together at Confederation was similar to the sentiments shared when Canada opened itself to the world in such spectacular fashion.
In 2017, we will once again have a great occasion to show our pride for this country, as Canada affirms its place in the world and its status as a model for democratic countries. Having evolved tremendously in its first 150 years, Canada has become a country of inclusion and diversity. As the keeper of our country’s distant past and its more recent history, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is an essential resource for Canadians wanting to learn more about themselves, individually and collectively. LAC is well poised to contribute to the 2017 celebrations.
Our upcoming exhibition entitled Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? dovetails perfectly with this vision, inviting visitors “to explore different ideas of Canada, and being Canadian, over time,” to quote our colleague and curator, Madeleine Trudeau. This unique exhibition, presented at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa, will open June 1, 2017.
Along with Canada’s sesquicentennial, another celebration deserves mention. Our flagship building, 395 Wellington, will be 50 years old on May 10, 2017, and archivist Andrew Elliott chronicles its design and construction in his article in this issue of Signatures. The architecture of national libraries and archives is a major indication of the importance a country assigns to knowledge, and the prestigious location of our iconic building, close to Parliament Hill, is a powerful symbol of Canada’s cultural and intellectual identity.
A country is also built by the documents that shape its identity. Two articles in our magazine are an effective reminder of this: archivist J. Andrew Ross examines the story behind the Proclamation of The Constitution Act, 1982, and Michael Kent introduces us to the riches of the Jacob M. Lowy Collection, which include LAC’s oldest work, an incunabulum from 1470, containing a Latin translation of The Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities by Josephus.
Reference to these precious documents allows me to conclude by mentioning a paradox of this age: the tenfold increase in access to our records, made possible by digitization, has resulted in an increase in visits to our premises by Canadians wanting to experience the works first-hand. To quote a recent British Library report: “The more screen-based our lives, it seems, the greater the perceived value of real human encounters and physical artefacts; activity in each realm feeds interest in the other.”
Virtually and in person, LAC will be at the forefront of the 2017 celebrations. We look forward to seeing you there!
Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada
Administrative Services...150 Years Later!
— — By Hervé Déry, Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, and Chief Financial Officer
The 150th anniversary of Confederation is also the birthday of the Canadian public service and its employees. The key political players at the time of Confederation knew instinctively that Canada’s development would call for a robust administrative framework. So, in 1867, the Treasury Board was created—a cornerstone of a sound and credible structure, making our public service one of the best in the world.
Although modest, the early administrative services, which played a leading role in the development of Canada, have been influenced by three other factors: commissions of inquiry, government-wide initiatives, and changes in legislation and the machinery of government.
Little by little, through the implementation of decentralized services, accountability mechanisms and programs to better serve Canadians, the public service carved out its place in history.
A turning point in the development of administrative services came in 1918: the government created the Civil Service Commission (the predecessor of the Public Service Commission), which was responsible for emphasizing merit in the staffing and classification of positions. The goal was to avoid abuse and nepotism, which were prevalent in the late 19th century, and to create a professional public service that supported decision makers.
Nearly half a century later, in 1962, the Royal Commission on Government Organization—better known as the Glassco Commission—released a report, in which it highlighted the importance of representativeness and values in the public service. It also recommended that administrative authority be decentralized and that the President of the Treasury Board no longer serve as Finance Minister—in short, that management be left to managers. A truly revolutionary concept!
Since then, the public service has adopted increasingly professional administrative services: human resources, finance, planning, real property management, procurement, program evaluation, internal audit, communications, information technology and other areas of modern management. Essential to achieving the government’s objectives, these services ensure the integrity of the public service and allow departments to operate in a way that is respectful of employees.
View Description of Poster in HTML
"There are lots of reasons to be confident about the country, its place in the world and the future of the Public Service." (Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet)
Early in this century, three factors redefined the balance between standards and regulations on the one hand, and principles and values on the other: the adoption of the Public Service Modernization Act; the establishment of a management accountability framework; and the publication of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service. A number of initiatives—Public Service 2000 and, more recently, Blueprint 2020 and Destination 2020—have the same goal: to improve service to citizens while preserving the excellence, competence and impartiality of the public service.
At Library and Archives Canada, we can rely on experienced and dedicated professionals in all areas of administrative services. They have established proven processes, effective management tools and modern policies to guide our choices and actions, in line with central agency legislation, policies and directives.
In this year of celebration, it is important to underline the invaluable contribution of administrative services. Beyond the public institutions, iconic figures, national sites and historic events and monuments that will be the focus of festivities, this country has been built by men and women with a mission: to serve their community with professionalism and impartiality. As they have done since 1867.
CANADA (2008). The 100 Years of the Public Service Commission of Canada 1908 to 2008, 30 pages. (Downloaded on September 6, 2016)
FORSEY, Eugene A. How Canadians Govern Themselves, 9th edition, Ottawa, Library of Parliament, 2012, 62 pages. (Downloaded on September 6, 2016)
KERNEGHAN, Kenneth. A Special Calling: Values, Ethics and Professional Public Service, “Public Service – Studies and Discoveries” collection, Ottawa, Canada Public Service Agency, 2007, 48 pages. (Downloaded on September 6, 2016)
A Shared Birthday Feast
— By Marcelle Cinq-Mars, Archivist, Government Archives Division
Everyone needs to eat and, ideally, eat every day. Regardless of location, time or circumstance, food remains a central focus in our lives. So it should be no surprise to find traces of this attention to food pretty much everywhere, both in daily life as well as in the collections of Library and Archives Canada (LAC). These collections include maps, books, posters and other documents related not only to the history of food in Canada, but also to its most delicious aspect: how it is prepared and served!
Canada’s food culture has grown from deep and diversified roots, first inspired long before Confederation by the First Nations and Métis peoples, the French and the English, then further enriched by the thousands of immigrants who came to our shores, bringing their culinary traditions with them.
The Confederation agreement of 1867 made it possible for the Dominion of Canada to manage its own immigration policy. The objective was simple: attract the largest possible number of immigrants to help develop the Prairies. To that end, Canada opened information offices in a number of European countries, including the United Kingdom, and launched a major publicity campaign. As an incentive, Canada offered to pay part of the travel costs for immigrants. At the same time, steamships had replaced the sailing ships that had brought thousands of Irish immigrants to North America decades earlier. These more comfortable and faster transatlantic vessels were an added incentive to those seeking a new life.
This proactive immigration policy began to bear fruit in the 1870s: waves of immigrants from the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe came to Canada, and large numbers settled in the Prairies. Accustomed to the hard work of farming, they reaped what they sowed. Rewarded with enough wheat to sustain them, they created their favourite traditional dishes, including perogies!
The wild berries traditionally gathered by First Nations and Métis peoples to make pemmican quickly found their way into the desserts prepared by immigrants. Further west, Asian workers hired to build the transcontinental railway established neighbourhoods in major cities like Vancouver. There they built factory mills to process rice and other Asian commodities.
During this time, Montreal’s Italian and Jewish communities experienced remarkable growth with the arrival of their extended families in Canada. Together they offered Montrealers a taste of cherished home recipes, serving up dishes of spaghetti, pizza, smoked meat and bagels—all becoming favourites with the locals in no time.
Then came war.
Many of the children of immigrants enlisted to fight in the trenches of the First World War. This was not a time for celebrating, but a time for tightening belts and cutting back on the use of staples, such as flour, butter and meat. While it was up to the government to encourage people to economize on food, it was left to the women, as homemakers, to ensure the success of this simple living program. Fish consumption rose dramatically, as meat was reserved for feeding the troops. To cut back on the use of grain, legislation on prohibition was adopted. Duringfour years of war, Canadian pantries remained sparse.
The war is over and life resumes, for about 10 years. Then came the Great Depression.
In the cities, long lines of unemployed workers formed outside soup kitchens. The Depression was barely over when war broke out for the second time. And this time, rationing was mandatory. Not only did people have to find something to eat, they also had to be eligible to buy it! Everyone got their share and no more. Butter, flour and sugar were all rationed. There was no talk of dieting then!
With the Second World War finally over, the Cold War struck at a most vulnerable time for the world. Nevertheless, the 50s and 60s showed a return to prosperity. For its 100th anniversary of Confederation, Canada invited the world to Expo 67, in Montreal, where visitors were treated to foods from over 30 countries at restaurants and concession stands. It is anyone’s guess as to how many visitors first tasted the delicacies of Indian butter chicken, couscous, nachos, or pad Thai.
This year, as we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, a look back at the past reveals the true wealth of this country, having welcomed so many immigrants from around the world. To this huge birthday feast, each and every one has brought a traditional dish of their homeland to share among the guests.
As the custodian of Canada’s collective memory, LAC holds a rich store of documents of every type to remind us of this culinary epic, which over the years has created a cuisine that suits our country well: it is flavourful, eclectic, and has a proud heritage.
In Search of...the Canadian Constitution
— By J. Andrew Ross, Archivist, Government Archives Division
Britain has the Magna Carta, the United States has the Declaration of Independence, and France, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. What is Canada’s foundational document?
Many might answer “the Constitution,” or the “Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” However, unlike the United States Constitution, which is a document on permanent display at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, Canada’s constitution is not one single document but rather a set of written laws, unwritten traditions, legal judgments, and Aboriginal treaties. Putting this entire constitutional heritage on display is a challenge, especially given that most of the written components were not even made in Canada, but are the product of the British Parliament. The British North America Act 1867, which set out the rules for Confederation, and the Statute of Westminster 1931, which established Canadian legislative independence, reside at the Parliamentary Archives at the Palace of Westminster in London, England. It was not until 1982 that Canada had its first domestic legislative constitutional document, and even then it was not straightforward.
At the culmination of several intense rounds of constitutional negotiations between Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and provincial premiers, the Canadian Parliament sent a resolution to the British Parliament at Westminster with the text of a law setting out a new Canadian constitutional amending formula, along with a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Westminster duly passed a law called the Canada Act 1982, which, similar to a Russian nesting doll, contained within it the Constitution Act, 1982, which itself contained the text of the amending formula and the Charter.
To signal the country’s new constitutional freedom, Prime Minister Trudeau decided that the patriation process needed a made-in-Canada document. Although the Canada Act 1982 received royal assent in the United Kingdom on March 29th (the 115th anniversary of the enactment of The British North America Act 1867), Trudeau asked that it not come into legal force until Canada could hold a formal proclamation, which took place on April 17, 1982. On that blustery day, Queen Elizabeth II, the Prime Minister and two of his cabinet ministers signed the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982. This document, embellished with beautiful calligraphy, was stained by raindrops, and although an identical pristine version was signed indoors, it was fated to be stained as well after a vandal poured red paint on it the following year.
The signing of the Proclamation has become a central symbolic event in Canada’s collective memory, and the two copies of the document have become some of the most popular items held by Library and Archives Canada. However, there is also some confusion about what the Proclamation represents. Some remember the signing of the Proclamation as the signing of “the Constitution” or the “Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” even though the Proclamation does not contain any constitutional details, nor any text from the Charter itself.
The Canadian government recognized that there would be public interest in the Charter and produced a poster with the text. The similarity of the poster to the Proclamation may have added to the confusion, especially since the poster featured the Prime Minister’s signature.
The British government also acknowledged the importance of physical copies of foundational constitutional documents. In the fall of 1982, it presented a gift of copies of major documents that comprise Canada’s legislative constitutional history. Five of the documents (including The British North America Act 1867) were photographic reproductions rendered on parchment (animal skin), but the sixth was a special copy of the Canada Act 1982 itself. Usually only two copies of each Act of Parliament are created on vellum (calfskin), but in the case of the Canada Act 1982, a third copy was made and included in the gift box. As such, it is the 37-page document that can be said to be Canada’s national copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017 will also mark the 35th anniversary of the constitutional patriation and the enactment of the internationally renowned Charter. Canadians interested in seeing documents related to this fascinating constitutional history, including the raindrop-stained Proclamation, can see them next year at the Library of Parliament’s exhibition of foundational documents, opening in early 2017.
An Exhibition Preview...Canada: Who Do We Think We Are?
— By Madeleine Trudeau, Curator, Exhibitions
What should you expect when you visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are?, an exhibition developed by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) in recognition of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation? Think all things Canadian, writ large!
When you come through the front doors of 395 Wellington Street, expect to see a vibrant, over-the-top display in the lobby. There will be cut-out beavers and maple leaves, and even our very own nod to the backwoods cabin. After you have explored the reproductions in the lobby—perhaps played a round of the Oh! Canada board game and watched a clip from the television series R.C.M.P—follow the snowshoe tracks to a “treasure room” of rare originals, on display in Room C. These include LAC’s leather-bound copy of Samuel de Champlain’s Les Voyages with its appended map, Catharine Parr Traill’s only surviving journal, and the paint brushes Paul Kane is said to have used during his western travels—to name only a few!
The exhibition sets out to explore different ideas of Canada, and being Canadian, over time. It does not confine itself to Canada’s first formal 150 years, but looks back to earlier periods when figures like Champlain were considering the potential of the country.
Some of these ideas will be familiar, and rather comfortable to us all—like old, worn slippers. The idea of our country as a “northern” nation, for example, goes right back to the earliest colonial days. Other ideas may simply seem old-fashioned, like a 1944 image of the “typical” Canadian family. And still others may seem wrong, or even shocking, to today’s viewer. These include certain past attitudes toward immigration, for example, and the country’s First Nations peoples.
A secondary theme of the exhibition is the unique and enduring role of LAC itself as the official “memory” or “mirror” of our country. It seemed especially important to showcase and celebrate this essential function of a national library and archives during the 150th anniversary year.
LAC’s vast collection represents as complete a record of Canada’s past as is possible to find. The exhibition deliberately draws together diverse items, selected by specialists from across LAC’s collecting areas, to illustrate the point. There is heraldry, as well as music recordings; stamps and oil paintings, as well as census documents. Books and published materials are displayed side by side with unpublished manuscripts. And, of course, we find records of private citizens as well as those of the Government of Canada.
The exhibition caption, for each of these items, includes a separate “Did you know?” section. This part of the text relates directly to LAC’s history, to LAC’s collections, or to work being done at LAC. It is designed to remind viewers of LAC’s important role in preserving Canada’s national story.
This same idea will be reinforced again through “Guest Curators,” an upcoming blog series scheduled to run throughout 2017. In this series, you will hear from staff who helped develop the exhibition, including anecdotes about their work at LAC. Stay tuned for the first installments, coming your way in January!
One item up close
This magnificent bit of 18th-century propaganda, developed by one of Great Britain’s most famous portrait artists, Sir Joshua Reynolds, fits perfectly with the exhibition theme. Almost every one of its details helps promote an optimistic vision for the colony’s future, from a victor’s point of view. Behind Colonel John Hale, a hero of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, the doors of the temple of war are closing. The time for fighting is over. At Hale’s elbow stand books by British philosopher and politician Henry St. John (Lord Bolingbroke) and French philosopher François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire. These thinkers were famous friends, and were widely recognized as master and pupil. Voltaire was also a vocal proponent of British institutions.
A hidden gem
Sometimes research for an exhibition results in the discovery of some rare, previously unrecognized treasure—such as these signed measures by Calixa Lavallée, the composer of the music for “O Canada.” Noted Lavallée expert, Dr. Brian Thompson, had never seen this excerpt before, despite his familiarity with the piece’s published version. That composition was popular in Montreal in the years just before Canadian Confederation. In his recent biography of Lavallée (Anthems and Minstrel Shows: The Life and Times of Calixa Lavallée, 1842–1891. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015), Thompson suggests that code words from its title may have been used by the radical press to identify Lavallée as a composer of anti-Confederation music. One thing is certain: the talented young musician was not convinced that Canada could work, as a country.
Come see for yourself!
This is only a small taste of Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? The exhibition will be presented at 395 Wellington Street from June 1, 2017 to March 1, 2018. Be sure to mark your calendars now!
Quick facts about the exhibition
- Number of Originals: 30
- Oldest item: Geographical Map of New France (Samuel de Champlain, 1612)
- Most recent item: Photo of LAC’s booth at the Truth and Reconciliation national event, Edmonton, Alberta (Sarah Hurford, 2014)
- Number of reproductions: 76
- Item requiring the most preservation work prior to display: Canada’s first formal Coat of Arms, carved wood, ca. 1923. Over 400 painstaking hours were spent cleaning this piece!
A Story of Valour, Sacrifice and Liberation
— By Mathieu Sabourin, Archivist, Reference Services Division
Five paragraphs. That is what Major-General Georges Vanier wrote in his letter of September 14, 1944, as he described the special mission of the team of Lieutenant Paul-Émile Thibeault and Captain Léonard Jacques Taschereau during the Second World War. As Canada’s representative to the French government in exile, Major-General Vanier told Norman A. Robertson, Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs, about the crucial work of these officers and a handful of French Canadians in liberating occupied France.
The letter, housed in the External Affairs Archives,1 clearly summarizes the mission of British secret service operatives, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), as one of spying, sabotage and field reconnaissance. Revisiting the story of this important mission and other milestones in our history allows us to rediscover those who fought to preserve the liberties we now enjoy.
Beginning in June 1944,2 experts in demolition and guerilla tactics, known as “Jedburghs,” were organized in teams and parachuted into Europe to prepare for the Allied invasion. Their mission was to organize and arm the Maquis, the French Resistance, which was divided into cells.3 They were also meant to disrupt German military movements and communications by sabotaging the railroads. The Jedburgh teams were the bridge between the Resistance and London.
The French Canadian Jedburghs had a major advantage over the European agents: if they were captured, their families were out of harm’s way.4 Being less susceptible to blackmail during interrogation made them less likely to disclose information about their operations. As far as London was concerned, they posed very little risk.
After several months of training (some of it at the famous Camp-X),5 the members of the Jedburgh team, referred to in Major-General Vanier’s letter, were ready. Captain Taschereau and three specialists were airdropped into France on June 10, 1944, as part of the Diplomat circuit operating near Troyes.6 Lieutenant Thibeault was the arms instructor. They were welcomed by Maurice Dupont, a former French officer who had been deployed by the SOE in the region the previous autumn.7
According to Taschereau’s report, preserved in the National Archives of the United Kingdom,8 the Germans were ready and waiting for them. Within the first few days, they had to move repeatedly from one Maquis camp to another to evade the enemy. But this did not last, culminating in a confrontation at Morvilliers, where 5 men were killed on the French side and 26 on the German side.9 The Maquis was then split up to improve operational flexibility, with Dupont and Taschereau each in charge of about 125 combatants.10
Taschereau set up his headquarters in the woods near Bar-sur-Aube. To better organize the Resistance, he lived among the locals, passing as a carpenter with an angina condition (naturally, the Maquis had furnished his medical certificate).11 When he arrived in June, the Resistance network in the Département de l’Aube consisted of 100 members; by late July, the number had risen to 1,800,12 many of them armed and trained by Thibeault.
However, difficulties lay ahead for Taschereau, who was described by his British commanding officers as “tough […], fiery, determined and inclined to recklessness,” but nevertheless considered to be intelligent, quick and practical.13 Thus, when his team lost thousands of francs in the confusion of the early days of combat, he pushed forward with his operations, making do with what was at hand and even stealing explosives from the Germans.14
The responsibilities of Taschereau’s team were not limited to sabotage and reconnaissance. Air force pilots shot down during missions depended on the Jedburghs to get back to England, crossing Allied territory on foot or going through Switzerland.15 Many of them stayed at the Bar-sur-Aube camp until they were able to return to their own lines through the clandestine escorts provided by the Maquis.
In his letter, Major-General Vanier wondered about the treatment of German prisoners and whether any executions were carried out by the Resistance. The answer is clear: German army soldiers were spared, but no members of the Gestapo or the SS were taken prisoner. Taschereau’s report does not, however, mention any executions. It was not the mission of his Jedburgh team to take prisoners.
In late July, following repeated attacks, Taschereau planned a counterattack in reprisal. The organization and training that the French Canadian officers had given the Maquis proved its worth: the Germans lost 300 soldiers, while only 51 members of the French Resistance were killed. This action would later be cited in a letter recommending Taschereau for the Military Cross.16
The first American troops, led by General Patton, arrived in Troyes on August 30, 1944.17 In September, the role of the Jedburghs in France drew to a close. Major-General Vanier ended his letter by quoting Lieutenant Thibeault, who planned to rejoin Captain Taschereau after a brief stay in Paris: “Our work is not yet finished.” Truer words were never spoken: most of the French Canadian officers working in Europe volunteered to fight with Force 136 in Burma.
These men accomplished the unthinkable in a situation that most of us cannot even imagine. Their story is recalled from time to time, when one of them dies18 or when an unexpected discovery is made, such as the letter written by Major-General Vanier. Canada’s 150th birthday is an opportunity to reflect on our past and on those individuals who, at our time of greatest need, sacrificed a period in their lives so that we could celebrate our country’s story in safety today.
395 Wellington: A Landmark for 50 Years!
— By Andrew Elliott, Archivist, Private Archives Branch
The original Library and Archives Canada (LAC) building—known more fondly as 395 Wellington, or more archaically as PANL, short for Public Archives National Library—is an architecturally iconic structure, highly visible from many vantage points on both sides of the Ottawa River. The building embodies our national collective memory, which LAC safeguards and shares with Canadians and the world. On June 20, 2017, LAC will mark the 50th anniversary of this historic landmark, a couple of weeks before Canada celebrates its 150th birthday.
The history of the design and construction of this Classified Federal Heritage Building is an interesting one. The Ottawa intersection of Bank and Wellington was first proposed as the building site for Canada’s new national library. However, in November 1952, the National Planning Committee of the Federal District Commission (now National Capital Commission) approved the 395 Wellington address as the most appropriate location. (The Dominion Archives was located in a separate building at 330 Sussex Drive from 1906 to 1967. After outgrowing the space there, the Archives moved to 395 Wellington.)
In late 1952, at the suggestion of Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, Cabinet agreed to retain the firm of Mathers & Haldenby to design the new building. The prestigious architectural firm was established in 1921 by Ontario architects Alvan Sherlock Mathers of Aberfoyle and Eric Wilson Haldenby of Toronto. In 1954, following a year of intensive work, the two architects revealed their plans for a new national library building including drawings of its interior and exterior sections. In spite of those preparations, the construction of the building was delayed for almost a decade. The primary reason was that the No. 1 Temporary Building, which sat on the site, had not yet been demolished. In 1958, the project was further delayed because of a major gas explosion on Slater Street, which destroyed a government building and forced the relocation of hundreds of civil servants to offices in the No. 1 Temporary Building.
In 1960, the EllisDon construction firm, originally of London, Ontario, was awarded the building contract. In the fall of 1963, work began in earnest. Ottawa’s Van Photography Studio recorded the entire construction project, which lasted until 1967. On May 10, 1965, Governor General Georges Vanier laid the official cornerstone. Inside it he placed an elaborate copper casket containing pictures and descriptions of the building as well as copies of the latest publications from the National Library and the National Archives. On June 20, 1967, in time for the celebration of Canada’s centennial, the new, purpose-built National Library and National Archives building was officially opened.
A masterpiece of functional and aesthetic design, 395 Wellington has many notable exterior and interior features. On its exterior, for example, the outside walls are faced with Canadian grey granite accented with polished granite panels and brushed aluminum railings. As a landmark structure situated on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Ottawa River, its other unique characteristics are hard not to miss. The building has two symmetrical four-storey wings, which wrap around a central nine-storey tower block. It is also distinguished by a façade that is perforated with small square windows, and it has an auditorium that projects out from the west side.
Upon entering the building, the interior is both striking and sophisticated. It features a spectacular ground-floor lobby embellished with polished slabs of white marble and black marble accents, gold mosaic-tiled columns and main staircase with brass handrail, bronze-accented elevator doors and oak-panelled walls. There are also beautiful works of art, such as the etched glass engravings by New Zealand-born artist John Hutton (1906–1978), murals at each end of the second-floor Reference Room painted by Scottish-born war artist Charles Comfort (1900–1994), and two large murals in bright and contrasting colours in the Pellan Room, or former Reading Room, painted by Quebec-born artist Alfred Pellan (1906–1988). Known as Knowledge and The Alphabets, these murals provide an additional distinction to this second-floor room. It is also worth mentioning that the National Library adopted the central figure of Knowledge as its logo for many decades.
The following excerpt from a January 2005 statement published by the Federal Heritage Building Review Office contains remarks about the character of 395 Wellington: “…[It] is a high quality achievement…. Aesthetically, it is a hybrid of two tendencies, balancing remnants of federal classical modernism with Modernism’s new trends, both of which it handles with sophistication and refinement, resulting in a modern, functionalist, rational appearance….Functionally, the complex range of the building’s uses is well served and the arrangement of public areas and that of services and stacks is reflected in the composition of the building.”
As one can see, neither time nor expense was spared in the design and construction of this heritage building. Today, 50 years later, 395 Wellington is part of our national cultural heritage, and continues to have an iconic presence in the heart of downtown Ottawa.
See the blog version of this article posted on the LAC website September 6, 2016.
LAC employees have digitized a remarkable series of photos showing the construction of 395 Wellington.The images are from the Public Works fonds, accession record MIKAN No. 13901.
Design plans by Mathers & Haldenby have also been digitized and can be consulted in the series “National Archives cartographic and architectural records,” MIKAN No. 1706542.
Collection Spotlight: A Remarkable Gift
— By Michael Kent, Curator, Jacob M. Lowy Collection
The year ahead will certainly be one of celebrations across Canada. In addition to being our country’s 150th birthday, 2017 marks a number of other important anniversaries: the Stanley Cup turns 125, it has been100 years since the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and it is the 50th anniversary of the Canada Games. Much closer to home, we recall another significant anniversary, the gift of the Jacob M. Lowy Collection to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) in 1977.
A visit to the Jacob M. Lowy Collection reveals one of our institution’s true treasures, rich in examples of printing in Hebrew, Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Spanish as well as in Latin, Greek and numerous European vernacular languages. Among its highlights are 34 Hebrew, Latin and Italian incunabula (books printed in the 15th century) and fragments thereof, over 120 editions of Bibles in many languages, and important editions of the works of the first-century historian Josephus. Spanning over 500 years of printing, it is a world-class collection of rare Judaica.
While it is awe-inspiring to see books from over 500 years ago, many visitors and scholars are puzzled by the placement of the collection within a national Canadian institution. Not only were most of the books not printed in Canada or written by Canadians, they were also published centuries before Canada was a country, some even before Christopher Columbus arrived in North America. Learning about what led to the collection’s donation, however, reveals a remarkably Canadian story, one worth sharing and celebrating.
The story of the collection is very much the story of Jacob M. Lowy, and it begins not in Canada, but in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Born and raised in Bardejov, of present-day Slovakia, Jacob came from a long line of Rabbis. His father, Raphael Lowy, was the town’s Rabbi and a respected leader in the community. As with most young Jewish boys, Jacob received a traditional Jewish education centred in Limmud Ha-Kodesh, the study of sacred Hebrew texts and rabbinic literature. During his time in Cheder, the traditional Jewish school for young boys, Jacob won the Sefer, a book entitled Eben Ha-Bokhan. The experience of winning and owning a book was a pivotal event in Jacob’s life, setting off his love for collecting books, a passion that led him to create the extraordinary collection now housed at LAC.
Jacob’s formative years were not without hardship. The 1930s brought a significant increase in European antisemitism and the rise of the Nazis. In 1938, on the verge of the Holocaust, Jacob was able to escape from Czechoslovakia to London. His father, Rabbi Lowy, stayed behind to help other Jews flee from persecution and he is credited with saving many lives. He was later murdered by the Nazis.
After the war, in 1951, Jacob immigrated to Canada where he began a new life in Montreal. He went into industrial real estate and became quite wealthy over the course of his career. This fortunate turn of events allowed him to pursue his passion for book collecting. In addition to his exploits in business and collecting, Jacob became a noted philanthropist and community leader.
Jacob’s experience of life in Canada must have been truly unbelievable for him after having gone through the antisemitism of Europe in the 1930s and the rise of the Nazis. His life was no longer in danger for simply being Jewish, and, as a Jew, he was now able to participate in Canadian society and become a prominent and wealthy member of the community, an opportunity he would never have dreamed of in his youth in Bardejov. This new reality was his major motivation for donating his personal collection of rare books, a gift that was ultimately an expression of his gratitude for all that Canada had allowed him to accomplish. And a gift that significantly enriches the cultural heritage available to Canadians to this day.
Upon reflection, the story of Jacob M. Lowy is the type of story we as a nation need to celebrate during our 150th anniversary of Confederation. It is a story of a refugee fleeing hatred and persecution looking to start a new life in a free and welcoming society. It is a story of an individual from a minority community who is able to participate fully in Canadian society. And it is the story of an individual who wanted to give back to his country. The experiences and actions of Jacob here in Canada truly serve as a model for what makes our country great.
A visit to the Jacob M. Lowy Collection offers us far more than an access point to a world-class historic treasure, it reveals a Canadian story worthy of celebration in 2017!
Celebrating with Song! LAC’s Virtual Gramophone
— By Alison Harding-Hlady, Team Leader, Special Collections
In May 1878, just over a decade after Canada became a country, our first phonograph was demonstrated at the Governor General’s residence in Rideau Hall, and our first sound recording was made.
Music is integral to our national sense of self and the shaping of our Canadian identity. At Library and Archives Canada (LAC), we hold tens of thousands of sound recordings that reflect the role that music played in Canadian life in the early years of our country. Many of these recordings can be accessed through LAC’s Virtual Gramophone website, which also features articles about early recorded sound in Canada, popular Canadian music in the first half of the 20th century, biographies of prominent Canadian performers, educational resources, and more.
Fundamentally, the Virtual Gramophone is a database of LAC’s holdings of 78-rpm and cylinder recordings released in Canada from 1900 to 1950, as well as foreign recordings from the same time period featuring Canadian artists or compositions. Each entry in the database is a full bibliographic record, providing information such as title and performer, relevant dates, and details about the label and disc. But what really makes the Virtual Gramophone special is the thousands of digital files, with MP3 or RealAudio file recordings and images of the labels. Visitors to the website can choose a song, turn up their speakers, and immerse themselves in the same sounds and songs that were heard in Canadian homes in the early 20th century. For example, LAC’s holdings include a 1902 recording of “The Maple Leaf Forever,” performed by The Kilties (a pipe band based in Belleville, Ontario) and released on the Canadian Tartan label.
The Virtual Gramophone’s holdings are particularly rich when it comes to music of the First World War. Much as many would say that Canada as a country came of age during that conflict, so too was it a particularly rich and complex time period in Canadian music. Patriotic songs, regimental marches, songs from the perspective of the soldier or the sweetheart left behind, songs describing the great beauty of Canada and the courage and strength of her soldiers, all are documented and made available on the Virtual Gramophone. And the First World War is not the only time period covered in-depth! For example, there are sections about music in Quebec in the early 20th century, and about Canadian opera—both Canadian singers who became famous abroad and the beginnings of the opera scene here at home.
Another interesting feature on the Virtual Gramophone website is the over 80 biographies of Canadian performers and composers. Read about Geoffrey O’Hara of Chatham, Ontario, who became a successful composer in the vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley era, and created the still popular First World War hit “K-K-K-Katy.” Or Emma Albani, born in Chambly, Quebec, who became the first Canadian singer to achieve international success, performing to great acclaim across Europe for decades. Explore the life of Ottawa’s own Éva Gauthier, whose collaborations with such composers as Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, and George Gershwin earned her the nickname “The High Priestess of Modern Song.” LAC holds Éva Gauthier’s fonds, which includes her personal papers and correspondence with the leading composers and performers of her day, and the Virtual Gramophone features several recordings she made of traditional French Canadian folk songs in 1917 and 1918.
So, if you are looking for a soundtrack for your Canada Day 2017 party as we join in our country’s 150th birthday celebrations, turn to the Virtual Gramophone and lose yourself in the music of a bygone age in Canadian history!
Hear more musical selections on the Virtual Gramophone website!
Winnipeg: Stony Mountain Records
— By David Cuthbert, Archivist, Public Services Branch
The year 2017 marks the 140th anniversary of the relocation of the Manitoba Penitentiary and Asylum from Lower Fort Garry to Stony Mountain, Manitoba. Renamed the Stony Mountain Institution in 1972, the penitentiary continues to operate today. The history of this federal institution is intertwined with the history of Western Canada: participants in the 1885 North-West Resistance and the leaders of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike were incarcerated there, alongside many others convicted of unlawful acts. LAC’s Winnipeg office has rich and diverse records from the early decades of the penitentiary, including letter books, inmate worksheets, and hospital and library registers. These records offer haunting glimpses of prison life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Ottawa: Documentary Heritage Communities Program
— By Kimberley Macies, Acting Director, Governance and Collaboration
LAC administers the Documentary Heritage Communities Program (DHCP), which provides financial assistance to Canadian memory institutions. Integral to the DHCP is the External Advisory Committee (EAC), appointed by Librarian and Archivist of Canada Guy Berthiaume. The seven committee members, representing all regions of Canada, bring a range of perspectives and expertise to the peer review of all eligible applications submitted—over 200 to date. They meet annually for a full day to discuss eligible applications and to finalize their recommendations to the Librarian and Archivist of Canada. EAC Chair and Provincial Archivist for the Province of Prince Edward Island Jill MacMicken-Wilson best sums up the impact the DHCP is having across Canada: “The archival work funded by this program helps ensure the preservation of and access to Canada’s rich and diverse documentary heritage.”
Ottawa : Le Numéri-Lab
— By Melanie Brown, Manager, Digitization Partnerships and Initiatives
LAC is pleased to announce that the DigiLab—a new hands-on digitization facility at 395 Wellington—is set to open in the spring of 2017. The DigiLab provides high-performance scanners, computers and tools for users to digitize and contextualize LAC collections that are of value to their study, work and communities. Our goal is to facilitate collaborative digitization projects with community groups, academic organizations, and individuals by making available a range of materials from LAC’s vast collections that might not otherwise be digitized. All of the material digitized through the DigiLab will be made available online for general public access. Consult the LAC website for more information about the DigiLab.
Vancouver and Halifax: Canada’s Coastal Ports
— By Caitlin Webster and Leah Rae, Archivists, Public Services Branch
Ports can have a significant impact on the evolution of waterfront communities, and cities on Canada’s east and west coasts are no exception. Port activities and development along the Pacific Ocean and the Fraser River, as well as in the Atlantic region, have shaped communities throughout the area for hundreds of years. In addition, the economic and social development of local municipalities has also influenced port operations, plans and priorities.
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority operates the largest port in Canada, and is a non-shareholder, financially self-sufficient corporation, governed by a board of directors representing government and industry. First formed in 1913, the focus of the port in its early years was dredging, clearing debris, and promoting shipping, trade, and industry via the port. Over time, the role of the port grew and adjusted to the requirements and opportunities of an expanding metropolitan area. Currently, the port is responsible for the operation and development of a variety of assets, including deep-sea terminals and freshwater facilities to accommodate cargo and cruise ships, as well as truck and rail carriers. Responsibilities such as environmental management, safety, and security have also taken on a more prominent role in recent years.
Shipping has also been an important part of Maritime culture for centuries. Ports in the Atlantic region have played a crucial role in local economies and community development. As on the west coast, the activities and development at the ports in St. John, Halifax, and St. John’s have evolved over time in tandem with the growth of their surrounding communities and the changes in regional economic activity. Services to long-standing industries, such as fishing and shipbuilding, have expanded to include a full range of port services and infrastructure. More recently, east coast ports have evolved to provide specialized services such as an offshore energy supply and a dedicated potash terminal.
LAC’s holdings of various port authorities include architectural and technical drawings, minutes, reports, photographs, newspaper clippings, leases, and other records relating to port planning, development, operations, and management.
Wallot-Sylvestre Seminar: Archives, Privacy and the Digital Shift
— By Zeïneb Gharbi, Acting Senior Research Analyst, Strategic Research and Policy
The Wallot-Sylvestre Seminar held on October 18, 2016 featured guest speaker Hervé Lemoine, Director of the Archives de France, the organization responsible for government archival policy. Mr. Lemoine addressed new questions being raised by archivists regarding the privacy of citizens.
Archivists are increasingly torn between demands for access to information and the right to be forgotten. The growing volume of digital archives presents another challenge: the online dissemination of information concerning the private lives of living persons and the security of systems that manage such data. Mr. Lemoine also discussed the complex issue of rights with regard to digital archives; unlike Canada, France regulates the online dissemination of information that may be consulted and communicated in the reading room. Thus, in 2012, France had to obtain special authorization to post digital documents online so that a wider audience could have access to them.
While English-speaking countries make a clear distinction between the concepts of record and archives, the French talk more of a continuum. Documents—including those containing personal information—become subject to the control of archives administration as soon as they are created. Mr. Lemoine emphasized the importance of terminology: personal data is not the property of the individual concerned. Rather, it constitutes “personal information” about the individual and, since it could be of interest to the public (researchers, historians, etc.), it must be communicable within a reasonable period of time.
Lastly, Mr. Lemoine explained the repercussions of the new République numérique, which gives citizens an absolute right to be forgotten on the Internet, and addresses the requirements of the future European regulations, which will apply to national law by 2018.