— By Leslie Weir, Librarian and Archivist of Canada
We are all in this together.
These simple yet inspiring words, spoken recently by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, encapsulate Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) commitment to working collaboratively and serving Canadians as we navigate the ebbs and flows of COVID-19 on our society and the world.
Since March 2020, LAC has been working to prepare for and adapt to the “new normal” by offering remote services to the public, enhancing online service offerings, and creating safe physical spaces for employees and clients.
In light of these ongoing efforts, it is fitting that this issue of Signatures offers readers a look at how these endeavours have taken shape over the past several months. For example, learn about how we have adapted our ways of working and how we are ensuring the safety of our staff and visitors in the article “A Safe, Welcoming Environment for All.” In the same vein, read about how the temporary closure of LAC’s service points in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Halifax brought the importance of facilitating online access into sharp focus in our colleague Caitlin Webster’s “Serving Canadians Remotely” in LAC Perspectives.
As we make our way through these uncertain times, let us be reminded of the sacrifices that many have made and the kindnesses that some have brought to those in need. In Krista Cooke’s “Looking for the Helpers in a Time of Crisis,” discover the selfless journeys of Suno Yamazaki and Tsune Yatabe, whose Spanish flu memoirs provide inspiration more than 100 years after their own global pandemic. Enjoy vicarious travel through Alison Harding-Hlady’s account of her pre-pandemic trip to Africa; as part of LAC’s ongoing partnership with the Rwanda Archives and Library Services Authority, she provided training in library principles and practices to professionals in Kigali and experts from across the country.
LAC serves as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and Canadians, and we endeavour to make our collection as complete as possible. Learn about LAC’s tireless work to acquire many kinds of documents retrospectively in the article by Euphrasie Mujawamungu. In addition, as storage capacity for records diminishes across the federal government, the demand from the research community continues to grow, particularly in areas such as environmental studies. Roderick McFall describes how LAC acquired key records of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) Canadian Glacier Inventory and is currently in the process of making this significant historical collection available through digitized initiatives and continued partnerships with ECCC.
Speaking of collective endeavours, this issue of Signatures highlights LAC’s collaboration with Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec and 15 French-language Quebec libraries in the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire to create the Francophone Name Authority Program. This initiative aims to provide a shared repository that combines the work of a community of institutions under the umbrella of a set of common practices. And find out, in “Load (Your Kettles) … Ready … Fire!” by Marcelle Cinq-Mars, how Canadian civilians were called upon to contribute to war efforts by recycling and recovering various materials and sought-after household ingredients—a fascinating read!
Finally, this issue of Signatures highlights the exciting developments and progress being made in the construction of the LAC–Ottawa Public Library joint facility in downtown Ottawa, as well as the future LAC preservation facility in Gatineau, Quebec.
Despite the adversity the planet has faced this past year, LAC is as committed as ever to acquiring and preserving the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations. These activities continue in large part thanks to the expertise, ingenuity, dedication and collaboration of our employees as we move forward together to ensure future success.
Happy reading and discovering, and stay safe!
Librarian and Archivist of Canada
A Safe, Welcoming Environment for All
— By Corporate Services Sector
The times we have experienced since March 2020 have changed many of our routines. Over the past few months, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) staff have been hard at work to continue offering remote services to the public. We have reviewed and adapted our ways of working to create a safe work environment. We have also enhanced our online service offerings to remain accessible and support our clients.
To guide us through these changes, LAC created a working group to advise the Management Team on measures to address the COVID-19 crisis, and the Business Resumption Working Group has been readying our buildings and implementing local, provincial and national public health guidelines, often exceeding real property management standards.
To ensure the safety of employees and visitors, Corporate Services Sector has implemented many measures, including the following:
- We performed an inventory of cleaning equipment and developed improved cleaning protocols.
- We established a framework for the gradual return to the worksites and to manage circulation in common areas, such as meeting rooms, kitchenettes and more.
- We reviewed protocols for in-person services: shipping, receiving and handling of materials, front desk counters for commissionaires, etc.
In mid-August 2020, almost 20 percent of employees returned to their workplaces, in compliance with health and safety measures and new instructions regarding the use of specific spaces. LAC’s buildings remained closed to the public during this first phase of the plan for the easing of restrictions and increased access to worksites. However, at time of writing, copy services are resuming (for online orders only) and remote reference services are being enhanced. Our public service points in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Halifax are gradually reopening.
Although we do not know precisely when, more staff will eventually be returning to the worksites. At that point, LAC will increase its services and gradually resume public activities. LAC’s priority will always remain the same: to provide a safe, welcoming environment for all in compliance with directives from health authorities.
We are looking forward to seeing you all again, and we continue to prepare our buildings to offer you excellent service in an efficient, adapted and safe environment. Meanwhile, we urge you to use our online services and continue following us on social media to keep abreast of the situation as it evolves.
Looking for the Helpers in a Time of Crisis
— By Krista Cooke, Curator, Public Services Branch
During the early months of the COVID-19 crisis, bad news stories filled the airwaves and the Internet. But for those inclined to follow the famous advice of television icon Mr. Rogers to “look for the helpers,” examples of humanity and kindness have also emerged.
Two women whose moving accounts of the 1918 Spanish flu are held in the Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association fonds epitomize the concept of being “helpers.” They provide inspiration more than 100 years after their own global pandemic.
Both women selflessly volunteered to nurse patients at a temporary hospital. Neither had nursing training but were compelled by the state of emergency in their community and their strong religious faith to take direct action. As Suno Yamazaki later wrote, “A month ago, the tragedy was someone else’s problem, but then it had come to me. I learned a lesson from this experience – that I should not think of anything as someone else’s problem.” Her profound words resonate as we continue to move through our own uncertain period in history.
In the fall of 1918, as the First World War ground on, a virulent flu epidemic swept through Canada and the world, killing millions, and throwing the globe further into chaos. News of the rising global death toll spread across the country. By the end of the pandemic, it would claim 50,000 Canadian lives, nearly as many as the 60,000 war dead.
For Yamazaki and her friend Tsune Yatabe, recent immigrants from Japan to Vancouver, the growing epidemic must have been especially terrifying. Both had small children and, most probably, as was the case for most first-generation Japanese immigrants in British Columbia, shaky finances and no extended family to lean on. Regardless, the women made the difficult decision to volunteer at the Japanese flu hospital, which had been set up in a school close to where most Japanese Canadians lived.
Yamazaki later recalled, “There were more sick people than healthy among my neighbours. Nobody took care of the sick because healthy people were afraid of being infected. Some people offered a lot of money for help, but the money could not buy any.” With so many medical staff at war in Europe, hospitals were understaffed, and the sick, dying and dead were left unattended. Tsune Yatabe was shocked by the conditions, later writing, “I had never seen a dead body before I worked in the hospital, but there I saw many bodies every day.”
Both women suffered terribly as a result of the flu. Yatabe very nearly did not survive the illness, and tragically, Yamazaki’s four-year-old child died. She wrote that her daughter “was with me for only four years and 3 months. My younger daughter was also in critical condition. I was desperate. … Because I was not allowed to go out of the house, I could not attend my daughter’s funeral. I could not stop crying.” Thankfully, all of the other family members in the Yamazaki and Yatabe families survived.
Yatabe, still weak from the flu, was discharged from the hospital on Armistice Day. She recalled, “Many people were honking their car horns and making celebratory noises. … I was in a car decorated with flags from different countries. It was November 11, 1918, a historic day for not only the world but also for me.”
Indeed, memories of the flu hospital stayed with them for their entire lives. Forty years later, when the Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association called for entries for a 1958 history contest, both women contributed memoirs of their experiences.
From today’s perspective, it is difficult to imagine two young mothers putting themselves in harm’s way in an effort to help friends and neighbours. Our world is very different from that of Yamazaki and Yatabe. Canada’s (relatively) well-prepared medical system, governments and even military have responded to the state of emergency on our behalf in a way that was not possible 100 years ago. In 2020, most Canadian citizens are doing their part by washing their hands, wearing masks and self-isolating, rather than as hospital volunteers.
Yamazaki and Yatabe lived in a world with less infrastructure to provide social assistance during times of crisis, were part of a marginalized community where caring for your own made up for the lack of support and overt racism toward Japanese Canadians, and experienced a global war effort that urged women to “do their bit.” In this context, their volunteerism makes sense. Their bravery and selfless determination to take action as “helpers” is commendable and should be remembered.
Susan Yatabe, Tsune Yatabe’s granddaughter, oversaw the translation of these accounts (by Kazue Kitamura), and she and Midi Onodera have shared their grandmothers’ stories online. I am grateful to them.
A Valued Visit to Rwanda
— By Alison Harding-Hlady, Senior Cataloguing Librarian, Rare Books and Special Collections, Published Heritage Branch, and Member of LAC’s Vision 2030 Transition Team
In the small central African country of Rwanda, the last Saturday of every month involves Umuganda. Meaning “coming together with common purpose” in the local language of Kinyarwanda, the premise is straightforward: members of each community come together once a month to work on a project that will benefit their locality. This activity is followed by a community meeting where announcements are made, concerns are raised and issues are discussed. Mandatory for citizens between the ages of 16 and 65, Umuganda ensures that the work of the community is shared and that everyone there takes some responsibility for maintaining their common space. Relationships are built and nurtured, information is shared, and conflicts are resolved informally and peacefully. The idea is that everyone does what they can, and collectively they make things a little bit better than before.
When I applied last summer for the opportunity to represent Library and Archives Canada (LAC) on a month-long assignment in Rwanda, I knew nothing of Umuganda, and very little about the country itself. But the assignment appealed to me. It was a chance to travel to a part of the world that was new to me and to share my passion for librarianship with colleagues in Africa. How did this occasion come about? In May 2019, LAC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Rwanda Archives and Library Services Authority (RALSA), the national library and archives of Rwanda, to facilitate co-operation between the two institutions. One of the activities that the MOU covers is an “exchange of experts or visits for professional development.” So LAC sent two employees to Kigali, Rwanda, to work with the librarians and archivists at RALSA and provide training in library and archival principles and practices. I was honoured to be chosen as the representative on the library side. The focus during my time with the librarians of RALSA was to be on bibliographic description (also known as cataloguing).
As someone who has built her career at LAC in the cataloguing division, I was thrilled that the training I was to provide would centre on bibliographic description. The catalogue and the descriptions of collection material that it contains are the foundation of all other library work. You cannot provide access, answer reference questions, digitize, exhibit or do conservation work without knowing what you have and where it is! The opportunity to share not only my expertise in this exacting, detailed and essential work but also my passion for bibliographic description, and librarianship in general, was very exciting.
In mid-January 2020, my archivist colleague Karl-Xavier Thomas and I flew to Kigali to begin our four weeks of intensive training. Karl-Xavier worked with the four archivists, and I interacted with the three librarians; these individuals comprised RALSA’s complete full-time workforce. Although we had been asked to focus on specific topics, mostly about the organization of information and description of material, it quickly became apparent that they were keen for any expertise or knowledge we could share. What they lacked in professional training, they made up for in eagerness to learn, commitment and dedication to their collection and mandate, and passion for the work. We adapted the curriculum repeatedly over the four weeks, adding more topics and repeatedly calling on colleagues at LAC specialized in different areas, to help provide more detailed information and advice.
In the third week, RALSA extended an invitation to librarians and archivists from across the country, most from universities and large public institutions, to join the training. Approximately 40 professionals in each group accepted, and we spent that week sharing our expertise with these larger groups. It was during this week that the enormity of what we were accomplishing really struck me. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that Karl-Xavier and I were able to help shape the future of our professions in Rwanda. The archival and library professions are only beginning to flourish in that country, and the lessons, knowledge and tools that we left with them will endure long after our departure for Canada.
I began this article with a little information about Umuganda and have some personal observations to share. Karl-Xavier and I were honoured to be invited to participate in Umuganda during our month in Kigali. We joined the local community one Saturday morning to help clear brush and clean out a drainage canal, and we were invited to attend the town meeting that followed. Although I did not understand the language, I was impressed by the tone of the meeting. Each member of the community clearly felt free to speak, and he or she was listened to with respect and openness. We were welcomed with open arms and asked to bring the story of Umuganda—a movement that the people of Rwanda are fiercely proud of—back to Canada. In a way, I think that our entire experience in Rwanda was in the spirit of Umuganda. We brought what we had to contribute, and we left things better than how we found them. It was an honour and a joy, and an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Documenting Climate Change: The Canadian Glacier Inventory
— By Roderick McFall, Senior Archivist, Archives Branch
The past decade has witnessed a significant degree of federal government downsizing. One area of activity of the Government of Canada that was particularly affected involves the institutions that create and maintain scientific records and data. Specifically, departments such Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Natural Resources Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada have faced chronic budget and storage space constraints. They have been forced to seek creative, unique and collaborative partnerships with Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and other institutions to preserve the scientific records they create. LAC, as the federal department with the legal mandate to preserve such historically valuable records, has been instrumental in many of these partnerships, and it has been similarly compelled to facilitate unique approaches to acquiring and providing access to scientific records, particularly those pertaining to climate change.
It was in this context in 2017 that ECCC contacted LAC concerning the potential transfer of key records of the Canadian Glacier Inventory (CGI). These records, dating from 1890 to 1990, were created and maintained by the Glacier Inventory Division of the Inland Waters Directorate of ECCC. This unique collection was housed at ECCC’s Library Services facility in Saskatoon, part of the National Hydrology Research Centre. Earlier, in 2016, it was announced that the facility would close. In the previous two years, ECCC had to close or merge 12 of its libraries and reading rooms, with the Saskatoon facility on the list of those to be closed next.
Given the undoubted historical value of the collection and the pending closure of the facility, LAC sent an experienced archivist to the Saskatoon library, with a view to acquiring key records that would serve to document glacial erosion as it relates to climate change. A decade earlier, ECCC had itself noted that the “glacier collection is very important and valuable to Canadian science, and its outright loss would be terrible for researchers.” In early 2020, ECCC completed the transfer of the CGI collection to the permanent holdings of LAC by arranging for the shipment of the collection’s cartographic records.
The collection now includes textual records, photographs, maps, field books and data sheets. It also features material that documents Canada’s involvement in the International Hydrological Decade (1965–1974), in which Canada committed to creating a comprehensive inventory of “perennial snow and ice masses in Canada.” The CGI’s goals were as follows: compile a glacier indexing system for the Glacier Atlas of Canada; measure recommended information from 1:50 000-scale maps and smaller; provide an analysis of glacier data; develop a glaciological archive; and prepare a comprehensive bibliography on Canadian glaciers.
The records document Canada’s nascent involvement in the World Glacier Inventory program, reflecting the Canadian federal government’s participation in the program from its inception in 1968 to its demise in 1993. Specifically, Canada’s evolving role in thoroughly documenting glacierized areas in the Arctic and in western Canada—particularly during the International Hydrological Decade—are captured in these records. The result was the transfer of 6.8 metres of glacial datasheets, approximately 400 original glacier maps showing flight lines for glacier photographs, 4,149 photographs of glaciers included in the inventory, 544 field books compiled by surveyors and scientists documenting all glaciers in Canada, along with reference material related to the CGI.
Snowmelt and glacier melt remain essential sources of fresh water in Western Canada, yet they remain particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. According to researchers Bash and Marshall, “Glaciers have the unique ability to store water in years of high snowfall and low temperatures, while supplementing streamflow in years of lower snowfall and higher temperatures. Declines in Rocky Mountain snowpack are expected to continue with changing climate, and mean annual temperatures are expected to increase.” footnote1 Sadly, these factors will further contribute to the glacial retreat that has been observed in the Canadian Rocky Mountains since the mid-20th century.
Haig Glacier, straddling the boundary between Alberta and British Columbia on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies, is just one of the glaciers documented in the CGI collection. Close to 100 kilometres southwest of Calgary, the glacier measures 485 metres at its thickest point and covers a total area of close to three square kilometres. However, the CBC recently reported that over the past 20 years, Haig Glacier has lost “about 22 metres of ice thickness, roughly a metre every year,” to the point where the “irreversible course for the Haig”—total elimination within 80 years—remains a realistic possibility.footnote2
As storage capacity for records diminishes across the Government of Canada, demand from the research community continues to increase, particularly in areas such as environmental studies. With the effects of climate change having a significant impact on glaciers across the world, the transfer of the CGI collection is both relevant and topical, as it epitomizes the Canadian federal government’s historic efforts to bring a science-based approach to such research. LAC is currently in the process of making this significant historical collection available to climate scientists, students and other members of the researching public through digitization initiatives and continued partnerships with ECCC.
— By Euphrasie Mujawamungu, Retrospective Acquisitions Librarian, Published Heritage Branch
The documentary heritage collected and preserved by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) represents our collective memory. To make its vast collection as complete as possible, the institution works tirelessly to find any pieces that might be missing. By doing so, LAC can better fulfill its mandate of offering access to knowledge to all Canadians.
LAC acquires many kinds of documents retrospectively:
- documents published between 1867 and 1953, the year when legal deposit came into effect
- documents published since 1953 that are not in the collection
- works published outside Canada by Canadian authors, or on topics related to Canada
The breadth and diversity of our national collection never cease to amaze me. I would need several lifetimes to explore it fully! It encompasses the daily life, lifestyles, activities, joys and challenges of Canadians. And more acquisitions are added every day.
My work involves enriching the collection of previously published documents (retrospective acquisitions). I would like to showcase two fields that have drawn my attention recently: community cookbooks and rail transport publications.
Eating is fundamental, and kitchens are the most unifying places in our homes. Over time, techniques and recipes have evolved, and horizons have broadened to make room for a variety of delicious and satisfying dishes. Cooking has even carved out a place for itself in literature, in schools, and on radio and television. It is literally a daily staple.
LAC's collection includes several community cookbooks, mainly published by charitable or religious organizations, and sometimes supporting various causes. Here are a few examples:
- La Cuisine pratique à l’école et dans la famille, Sœurs des Saints Noms de Jésus et de Marie (Outremont, Quebec). [1936?]. OCLC 49117259
- New Cook Book of Tested Recipes, Evangeline Chapter, Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (Halifax, Nova Scotia). Mac Nab Print, 1929. OCLC 628845349
- Victory Cook Book, Knox United Church (Regina, Saskatchewan). [194-?]. OCLC 60496607
- The P.L.A. Cook Book: Arranged from Tried and Proven Recipes, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (St. John’s, Newfoundland). Ladies’ Aid Society of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 1925. OCLC 223822673
The black-and-white P.L.A. cookbook gives a lot of space to advertising (34 pages out of 218). The ingredients in the book also reveal what foods were available at the time; there are no mentions of avocados or kiwi fruit! As for quantities and cooking instructions, those are approximate at best: “Add a little water,” “Add enough flour to roll,” or “Bake about 1 hour” (without indicating the temperature). I suppose that cooks at the time had enough practical knowledge on such matters! The book also gives household tips, such as: “To clean a musty teapot, fill it with boiling water, and some strong washing soda. Let stand a day or two and wash.”
More modest in appearance, the Victory Cook Book is filled with recipes and local ads. Most importantly, it reflects the impact of the Second World War on Canadian society. Recalling the soldiers fighting on the European front, it portrays women as home-front warriors, responsible for maintaining the health and morale of everyone who stayed at home.
Rail transport publications
Railways have made it much easier to move people and goods across Canada. They have allowed Canadians to travel unprecedented distances and to have access to products from different parts of the country (and even other continents). They have also contributed to the growth of the tourism industry.
Canada’s charm is matched only by its vastness. Canadians, being curious and adventurous, never tire of exploring it. Many corners of the country have mountains, plains, valleys, picturesque villages or captivating landscapes to discover.
LAC's collection is vast as well; there are many publications about trains and railway companies that were or still are in operation. For example, the Merrilees collection includes approximately 5,000 publications, including books, periodicals, and brochures with timetables, routes and maps. Some publications stand out because of their emphasis on tourist sites, activities and vistas.
In my work, I seize every opportunity to enrich the LAC collection. Here are two publications that we recently acquired:
These full-colour books promote various tourist sites, providing a historical and geographical overview of each. They also supply travellers with information about nearby restaurants, hotels and inns, as well as on activities available (golfing, canoeing, swimming, fishing, etc.).
Interestingly, these publications are illustrated with maps, and they present routes and connections to major cities and other tourist sites. We therefore see a snapshot of all of the amenities in an area at a given point in time; their number reflects the popularity of the place. Finally, there are works by several artists who were asked to immortalize the beauty of the area. These publications can also be said to have contributed to the development of the country’s artistic talent.
In short, on the rails as in the kitchen, all tastes are represented, and when it comes to knowledge and culture, all paths lead to LAC’s national collection. I have no doubt that there is something there for everyone!
First Steps for the Francophone Name Authority Program
— By Bernard Bérubé, Cataloguing Librarian, and Nathalie Mainville, Senior Librarian, Published Heritage Branch
Whether you want to read the memoirs of the former mayor of Rimouski, consult the Guide du collectionneur d’épinglettes, learn to grow African violets or start reading the Chroniques du Plateau-Mont-Royal, a library catalogue should help you by distinguishing between the different people named Michel Tremblay who wrote these works. It does so through an authority file, a tool that is as essential for users as it is demanding to maintain in terms of human resources.
Fortunately, there is good news! Since the spring of 2020, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has opened its authority file for collaboration with Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec and 15 French-language Quebec libraries in the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire, to create the Francophone Name Authority Program. This initiative makes it possible to share not only the efforts required, but also the benefits provided, by such a file.
Need and innovation
In AMICUS, LAC’s previous library system, there was a single bilingual authority file. With the transition to the Online Computer Library Center’s (OCLC) WorldShare Management Services system, the authority management work had to be divided into two separate files: the Canadiana file, for French-language authorities, and the LC/NACO file, for English-language authority records.
To participate in the latter, LAC joined the Name Authority Cooperative Program (NACO), a collaborative program for the management of English-language authorities, which until recently did not have a French-language equivalent.
The Francophone Name Authority Program therefore aims to provide a shared repository that combines the work of a community of institutions under the umbrella of a set of common practices. This type of collaboration endeavours to reduce the number of standardization stages between institutions, facilitate exchanges, enrich the available data and decentralize efforts. It should also reduce the work required to maintain this type of file.
This program is based on NACO’s documentation and structure. A steering committee ensures planning and supervision, while a standards committee drafts and updates guidelines for the authorities’ contributions to the French file, in addition to offering support to partners for the application of standards.
Both committees are made up of members from LAC, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec and the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire. They can also rely on the expertise of Dominique Bourassa, Cataloguing Librarian at Yale University, NACO trainer and American Library Association representative on the North American RDA Committee.
Although the initial authority file belonged to LAC, it soon became apparent that the desired role for the institution was that of a collaborator, in a relationship of equals with Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec and the universities.
Francophone Name Authority Program
|Library and Archives Canada||Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec||Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire|
|1 representative||1 representative||1 representative (see note below)
|Library and Archives Canada||Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec||Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire|
|2 representatives||2 representatives||2 representatives (see note below)
Please note that the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire representatives have a two-year mandate.
Following many months of discussion, consultation and work, the Francophone Name Authority Program officially launched in June 2020. There had been several significant milestones in this important project.
For starters, the adoption of the WorldShare Management Services system by the libraries of the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire gave a major impetus to the project. With the general structure sketched out, the committees formed and the initial agreement signed, the first steps in establishing the program accelerated over the winter of 2020. In particular, the Standards Committee embarked on a winter sprint to prepare a comprehensive training course by translating and adapting NACO training materials. This four-and-a-half-day training was completed online by some 100 cataloguers from all of the institutions in the program.
Then on June 2, the program participants added their name authorities to the Canadiana file. This meant 1.4 million new records in Canadiana, which already had over 650,000 records.
There are 17 institutions currently involved in the program. This collaboration includes the usual ways of managing an authority file: initial contribution of original authorities, creation of new authorities, and enhancement and maintenance of authorities already in Canadiana.
At this stage, all authorities resulting from migration still need to be updated. However, it is already possible to measure, in two ways, the value that has been added to the Canadiana file.
First, the mere presence of authorities and access points greatly aids the work of cataloguers. Second, the authority records originally created by LAC have been enriched, which undeniably adds value.
The main drawback of this massive contribution is duplication. OCLC is working to remove as many duplicate records as possible. The Standards Committee has developed a process to select duplicate items for retention or removal, which should minimize, as much as possible, the extra work involved. This problem will be mitigated in the medium term.
A unique project
The creation of the Francophone Name Authority Program centred on the Canadiana file is a major project in the Francophone documentary processing community. In the long term, it will enable both present and future participants to benefit from a richer file for all, with less effort from everyone.
With this project, LAC has acquired a powerful collaborative tool to enrich and facilitate the promotion of Canadian heritage. LAC has also reaffirmed its leadership position and expanded its network with a number of important institutions in the field of French-language documentary processing in Quebec.
Load (Your Kettles) ... Ready ... Fire!
— By Marcelle Cinq-Mars, Senior Military Archivist, Government Archives
Fighting the enemy with old kettles, blown tires or table leftovers seems like an absurd idea. Yet recycling and reusing, which are popular nowadays, were even more valued over a hundred years ago, when they were heartily encouraged in support of the war effort. Of course, back then, the environment was not the reason. It was all about winning the war!
Apart from the cost in human lives, armed conflicts generate a great amount of waste in all categories: weapons, munitions, vehicles, uniforms, equipment and more. These were used on the battlefield, and they often remained there. Countries at war had to support economies crippled by conflict, and they sought to reduce unnecessary expenditures by all means possible.
The warring nations in 1914 did not expect the conflict to last as long as it did, but they were quickly disillusioned. This was one of the first economic lessons learned in the First World War: what a war economy entails. “Economy” in this case involves reorganization of the industrial and agri-food sectors toward the production of war materiel, but also rationalization of the use of resources, financial or otherwise.
One of the first measures implemented by governments was to reduce waste in the army, including recovering as much material as possible. The Canadian Corps Salvage Company was therefore formed in September 1916. Its main role was to recover material for recycling.
An effective recovery network was established, from teams that “swept” battlefields, to material depots, to the transportation of recovered materials to recycling centres. Some materials could be recovered directly in huge sorting centres near military bases behind the front lines. A journalist who visited one of these centres described it as follows:
Here is a pile of muddy, mildewed boots, tattered and down at heel. First they must be thoroughly washed, then they are taken apart and the uppers separated from the soles. Next a serviceable upper, is matched with a sole in good repair to produce a new boot. Finally pairs are sorted out and given a thorough soaking in oil, when they are ready for re-issue from Quartermaster’s stores. If only a part of an upper can be used the leather is saved for patch-work and so it goes with every available scrap of material.footnote3
Shell breeches, generally made of brass, were first and foremost among the objects and materials recovered by soldiers. These breeches were easy to retrieve because the gunners piled them up just behind the artillery. On the other hand, battlefields had to be scoured to pick up the miscellaneous objects that troops left behind, including bowls, boots, rifles, cannons, trench periscopes, bottles, tires, horseshoes and helmets.
The need to recover and recycle material was repeated endlessly to the soldiers, as seen in this excerpt from the regimental journal of the Victoria Rifles of Canada:
... the waste which exists is far too great, and must be stopped... Return to stores anything you do not require – do not throw it away. Returning it to stores means only a little more trouble, but it is worth while. Salvage all the various articles of kit you find. A Battalion, next to its fighting qualities, cannot have a better reputation than of economy in Government property. Think of the millions this war is costing the Empire, and think of how each one of you can help reduce that cost.footnote4
Like the military, Canadian civilians also participated in the war economy. Metal, in particular, was the subject of major recovery and recycling efforts. Civilians were encouraged to bring any unnecessary metal to recycling centres, including old, damaged pots and pans!
Canadian households did not sit around twiddling their thumbs; they could also fight the enemy with ... their table scraps. Indeed! Canadian kitchens contained one of the most sought-after ingredients for the war effort: fat! Fat was especially prized for the glycerin that could be extracted from it, then used to make nitroglycerin, which filled the bombs launched at the enemy.
Although it is difficult to assess the true economic impact of all of these efforts, it was at least significant enough that the same efforts were repeated during the Second World War. As in many other areas, the efforts undertaken during the later conflict were multiplied tenfold. Reclaiming and recycling became tangible, visible forms of patriotism. Everyone―in factories, kitchens and schools alike―was strongly encouraged to contribute to the war effort.
Technology a Hero Would Crave!
— By Dino Roberge, Engagement and Outreach Coordinator, Real Property Branch
This is a memorable scene from an Indiana Jones movie: a crane moves a crate containing the Ark of the Covenant across a massive Smithsonian warehouse. How could anyone ever find that one box again among the thousands? But if Indy had access to the automated storage and recovery system of the future Library and Archives Canada (LAC) preservation facility, he might be able to track, recover and move that historical artifact in record time!
The system will be the cornerstone of the future facility because it will move the collections stored in the cube-shaped building. Each of the six vaults will be equipped with a storage and retrieval robot that looks like a forklift. Its purpose is to recover and transport large shelves filled with boxes. This robot will then place the selected shelf on an automated elevator, which will descend to the ground floor, where the shelf will be consulted by the person who made the request. Because each box has been entered into a database, recovery will be precise, quick and hassle-free.
Twenty-eight metres high
Many recovery systems were considered when the new preservation facility was still on the drawing board. The unique configuration of the vaults, which are more than 28 metres high, led designers to analyze all possibilities. At the current Preservation Centre, where the shelving is not very high, the collections are moved manually. In the future facility, the heights involved would make it hazardous for employees to move the collections themselves.
As Lisa Hennessey, an analyst for the Gatineau 2 Project who saw these robots in action when she visited the Utah State Archives, remarked, “I thought it was amazing! I had never seen anything like it: two robots working non-stop, autonomously, in continuous movement and without a single problem. It is really hard to envision it in operation from looking at photos or videos, but when it is applied in Gatineau, people will be able to see it with their own eyes.”
The Utah State Archives are trailblazers in this field, having inaugurated the system in 2005. The company that designed the system, Dematic, used the archives in Utah as a testing ground. The system has since been adopted by several archives, including at Temple University in Philadelphia and Tennessee State University in Nashville, among others.
“Dematic is a pioneer in this type of retrieval system,” said Todd Hunter, a senior account manager at Dematic. “We didn’t create the principle, but we adapted and perfected it. Initially, we worked with university libraries to maximize book storage space. Our first effort at this was in 1990 at California State University, Northridge. But the Utah State Archives was the very first archival centre to use an automated storage and retrieval system. [...] So the future LAC facility is familiar ground for us; this will be our 27th deployment of this type of software and technology.” He also mentioned that, because of the expertise developed by the company, full deployment will take place within two weeks for each vault, with a run-in period of approximately 30 to 60 days.
Hunter’s team from Salt Lake City will orchestrate the whole process. The equipment (robots, rails, etc.) will arrive this fall, over land. “That, in itself, will be quite a spectacle for the curious,” Hennessey pointed out. So, heads up to any interested parties who may be near Highway 50 in the province of Quebec or on King Edward Street in Ottawa when the time comes!
Work Begins on Joint Facility Site
— By Real Property Branch
Planning for the design of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC)–Ottawa Public Library (OPL) joint facility began in February 2019 and was notable for extensive public consultations and Indigenous engagement activities, which informed the design. This process culminated with the public design reveal on January 23, 2020.
Work has continued despite COVID-19 restrictions. The design development phase, during which the location and layout of spaces were finalized, was completed in July 2020. The project is now in the construction documents phase, during which the design will be finalized and detailed drawings for construction of the building will be completed. This last phase of design will be completed in early 2021.
Concurrently, in the summer of 2020, the City of Ottawa, which is delivering the project on behalf of LAC and OPL, issued a Request for Qualification (RFQ) to produce a shortlist of pre-qualified general contractors with the required qualifications and experience to undertake and manage the construction of the joint facility.
This fall will see the first visible signs of work on the joint facility site at 555 Albert Street in Ottawa. Before construction of the joint facility itself begins, the City of Ottawa plans to carry out preparatory work, including mass excavation and soil remediation. The construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2021.
The site of the joint facility is bounded by Albert Street to the south, Commissioner Street to the east, and Brickhill Street to the west. It has been home to a variety of activities over the centuries, including a number of single and row houses, a flour-and-seed shop, a warehouse, a mica works, a hotel, a restaurant, and a mattress factory, as shown in these 1912 fire insurance plans for the area.
The site has also been used for construction staging for several large municipal projects in recent years, including the Light Rail Transit Project western tunnel entrance and the Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel.
The work that begins this fall not only marks an important milestone in preparing for the construction of the LAC-OPL joint facility, but it will also lay the groundwork for the first new building on the site in over half a century.
Vancouver and Halifax/Lightkeepers: Isolation and Responsibility
— By Jean Buchanan Breit, Orientation and Archival Technician, and Valerie Casbourn, Archivist, Public Services Branch
In mid-March 2020, LAC posted a Discover blog article and launched the Women Lightkeepers, Heroes by the Sea Co-Lab challenge, to highlight our holdings relating to lighthouses. Soon after, most LAC staff began working remotely, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For those of us involved with the lighthouse project, these lightkeepers and their beacons of refuge provided inspiration for working from home.
Working remotely entails balancing work and home duties. Similarly, lighthouses in Canada’s early years were often workplaces for the entire family. While each lighthouse had an appointed lightkeeper, unofficially all family members contributed. Sharing tasks allowed the family to meet around-the-clock responsibilities and have necessary rest. Assistant keepers who were not family members received pay from the keeper; thus, a harmonious relationship was imperative.
Responsibilities were numerous and often weighed heavily on keepers and their families. Erected to prevent shipwrecks due to increased marine traffic, the lights in key waterways aided navigators of marine vessels. In cases of accidents at sea, keepers performed search-and-rescue services and offered sanctuary. In periods of dense fog, the light was insufficient to prevent ship collisions, hence the addition of fog alarm technology.
To make the most of their resources and to have a varied diet, lightkeepers would plant vegetables when the climate allowed, fished or bought fish from local sources, and hunted any animals or birds available. Otherwise, lighthouse dwellers relied upon infrequent boat deliveries to provide staples such as flour and sugar, along with hardware for lighthouse repairs.
Many of LAC’s lighthouse records originate from Central Registry files of the Department of Marine (RG42) and the Department of Transport (RG12). These files concern lighthouses across Canada. Examples of West Coast files are the oldest lights at Fisgard and Race Rocks, as well as northern stations such as Triple Island and Green Island.
East Coast records include lighthouses on Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy, and on the famously treacherous Sable Island, off Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast. There are also files about heritage lighthouses like Enragée Point in Cape Breton and Cape Jourimain on the Northumberland Strait.
While teleworking in 2020, we have the ability to communicate easily across distances. Clearly, Canada’s early lightkeepers faced greater isolation. Perhaps we can learn from their abilities to be self-sufficient while helping others in greater need. For more photos of Canada’s lighthouses, explore LAC’s Flickr album.
Regional Services/Serving Canadians Remotely
— By Caitlin Webster, Senior Archivist, Public Services Branch
Along with many Canadians, LAC’s Regional Services team packed up their laptops in mid-March 2020 and settled in to work from their homes in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Halifax. Fortunately, the team’s diverse responsibilities and talents, as well as our experience in working together from a distance, prepared us well for these challenging times. As a result, we continued to adapt and to serve our clients from afar.
Keeping calm and carrying on
Wherever possible, the team worked to provide our regular services while working remotely. We conducted preliminary research in support of Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) requests, and we replied to a variety of reference questions by telephone and email.
Our ongoing projects continued as well. For example, as part of LAC’s We Are Here: Sharing Stories project, the regional team worked diligently to create, verify and make available digitized versions of file lists for Indigenous-related holdings. As of July 2020, we made over 47,000 file-level descriptions available and searchable on our website! Team members also continued to prepare articles for LAC’s Discover blog, including a fascinating study of the relationship between the Stony Mountain Penitentiary and early events in Manitoba’s history.
Improving online access
While facilitating online access has always been a priority for the Regional Services team, the closure of service points in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Halifax brought its importance into sharp focus. Working from home provided a chance for us to tackle projects that aim to improve online research for our clients. For instance, we worked to update the ATIP status information for online descriptions when possible. Staff at the Vancouver and Winnipeg offices have conducted ATIP review for thousands of files over the years, and now that more and more file-level entries are available online, work is under way in Vancouver to update this information for as many files as possible.
To add even more file lists to our searchable online tools, staff in Vancouver and Winnipeg have been working hard to transcribe and verify a variety of finding aids. This will allow our clients to identify files of interest to them using our online tools, rather than consulting analog finding aids in our consultation rooms.
Increased access to digitized holdings is often a top priority of our clients. With this in mind, the team in Vancouver is working on next steps to add digital copies of some British Columbia and Yukon holdings to LAC’s online search tools.
Finally, the Regional Services team is working with our colleagues from the Reference Services Division and across LAC on projects to upgrade our 1861 and 1901 censuses, re-examine existing workshops for delivery online, and improve a variety of thematic guides and other research tools.
Planning for the future
While the team has been busy working from home offices, spare rooms and kitchen tables, we have also been looking forward to a safe and gradual return to our service points beginning in August 2020. In addition to all of the necessary preparations, we have been busy with a few projects that will benefit our local clients. The Vancouver and Halifax teams have been tackling the complex but rewarding task of selecting reels of LAC’s microfilm to create reference copy collections of locally relevant content for our clients. With tens of thousands of reels in LAC’s reference collection, we have been spoiled for choice! In addition, staff in Winnipeg have begun a project to draft a musical edition of LAC’s popular “Guess where?” picture matching game. With such diverse acts as the legendary Stompin’ Tom Connors, renowned pow-wow artists Northern Cree, and heavy metal band Kick Axe, the game will have something for everyone!
While the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely persist well into the future, the Regional Services team will continue to meet them with our distinctive blend of flexibility, creativity and drive!
Winnipeg/Canadian Grain Commission
— By David Cuthbert, Archivist, Public Services Branch
The aggressive expansion and consolidation of an agriculture-based economy on the prairies of Western Canada in the early 20th century motivated the federal government to pass the Canada Grain Act in 1912. This legislation established the Board of Grain Commissioners for Canada, responsible for regulating the quality, handling and distribution of grain grown in Canada. Known officially since 1971 as the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC), this federal government department continues to oversee grain handling in Canada from its headquarters in Winnipeg. The CGC also regulates the quality and grading of Canadian grain destined for domestic and international markets.
LAC’s Winnipeg office holds a collection of over 500 photographs documenting the activities of the CGC from its early years. The photographs include images of grain elevators, inspections, marketing exhibits, commissioners and other employees, and, most abundantly, the work of the CGC’s Grain Research Laboratory. The laboratory photographs may be of interest to those who enthusiastically baked bread during the COVID-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020; the images illustrate the seriousness with which scientists at the CGC approached the bread-making process and their critical evaluation of the resulting loaves.
On Loan from LAC