Signatures, Spring/Summer 2018

Signatures, Spring/Summer 2018

Signatures, Spring/Summer 2018
Library and Archives Canada welcomes visitors to its Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? exhibition on July 1, 2017, at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa.
Photo: Charles-Olivier Desforges-Rioux
Print version PDF 5.21 MB


— By Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada

Guy Berthiaume, photo : Michel Gagné

Acquisition. Preservation. Access. These three pillars support the actions of all national libraries and all national archives around the world. Taking its own context and mission into account, each institution must find the best balance between these three functions. In recent years, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has increased its outreach activities to meet the demands of the documentary community and the expectations of users, who want better access to the collection. Footnote1 Is this the spirit of the times—zeitgeist? The 150th anniversary of Confederation has certainly generated interest in a greater understanding of our distant past as well as our recent history, but access to reliable primary sources of information is more important than ever in these days of fake news and alternative facts. The articles in this issue of Signatures that examine our Twitter presence and Indigenous documentary heritage both support this point.

Providing high-quality public programming is another clearly essential way for LAC to promote access by allowing the public to get to know what is in the collection, and some compelling examples are highlighted in this issue. An article by Dino Roberge focuses on public events such as book launches, film screenings and lectures. Other contributions cover loans to museums, which is an important part of our outreach. The On Loan from LAC section relates that our works can be seen at the Canadian Museum of History, the National Gallery of Canada, the Ottawa Art Gallery and the Canadian Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg. An article by curator Madeleine Trudeau discusses an initiative that makes me particularly proud: the opening of a dedicated space at Calgary’s Glenbow Museum in March 2018 to display LAC’s portrait collection. As the proverb goes, charity begins at home, so LAC has also created an exhibition for our own walls showcasing our most recent acquisitions; this is the subject of a second article by Madeleine Trudeau.

Serving Canadians better also requires expanding LAC’s visibility across the country, as Caitlin Webster describes in her article about our national presence. Halifax, Winnipeg and—our newest innovation—the partnership with the Vancouver Public Library show that, from coast to coast, Canadians can benefit from the services of LAC specialists. To give us a concrete sense of the interactions between LAC staff and our clients, archivist Rebecca Murray shares the daily experiences of colleagues who answer questions from users. And, to highlight the effects of this work over time, Alain Roy’s article about archivist Francis-J. Audet recounts the career of an exceptional man who served the public for an impressive 51 years.

Of course, acting locally should not stop us from thinking globally. Thanks to Rob Fisher, this issue of Signatures celebrates the inclusion of the Marshall McLuhan collection, held by the University of Toronto and LAC, in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. This honour is a first for LAC; I am thrilled that the archives of this visionary Canadian thinker are now recognized as a “treasure” for humanity. And, as Serge Corbeil’s article on our preservation facilities reveals, the “treasure chest” is about to be expanded.

Guy Berthiaume, Bibliothécaire et archiviste du Canada 

Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada


Serving Up Hidden Gems: Behind the Scenes at 395 Wellington Street

— By Rebecca Murray, Archivist, Public Services Branch, with contributions from colleagues

The building at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, 1967. Source: C-023727

Have you ever been in downtown Ottawa and wondered what exactly was behind all those small windows in the peculiar-looking building at 395 Wellington Street, a few blocks west of Parliament Hill?

Stéphane Filion, Supervisor of Circulation at Library and Archives Canada (LAC), has the answer:

“Over 10 million publications, covering just about every imaginable subject. As incredible as it may sound, if all those publications were lined up in a row, there would be 104 kilometres between the first publication and the last.”

Also behind all those windows, there is a team of dedicated employees who are working tirelessly to ensure that Canadians have access to those publications and to the rest of LAC’s vast documentary heritage.

With all that material to choose from, you might not be sure just where to start, but Lexi Clemence, Reference Librarian, recommends the Canada Gazette, a gem despite its intimidating name:

“As the official newspaper of the Government of Canada since before Confederation, the Canada Gazette contains all of the important business of the land that you would expect, such as new laws and regulations, proclamations, tribunal decisions, notices, and nominations. Of interest to any household detectives out there: the running features such as militia appointments, the civil service list, notices regarding inheritance, bankruptcy and debt, commercial permits, and even intents to petition for divorce. Did your great-great-uncle run a tavern in the 1850s? Did your grandmother's second cousin decide that she had had enough of her husband's antics and end the marriage? Find out in the pages of the Canada Gazette, fully digitized and searchable on our website!”

Left to right: Nathalie Mathieu, Elaine Goetz, Sarah D’Aurelio, Stéphanie Hurtubise, Karen Bruce and Rebecca Murray explore the stacks at 395 Wellington Street. Photo: Tom Thompson

Left to right: Nathalie Mathieu, Elaine Goetz, Sarah D’Aurelio, Stéphanie Hurtubise, Karen Bruce and Rebecca Murray explore the stacks at 395 Wellington Street. Photo: Tom Thompson

Elaine Goetz welcomes a client at the Registration Desk. Photo: Tom Thompson

Elaine Goetz welcomes a client at the Registration Desk. Photo: Tom Thompson

The opportunity to connect Canadians with their storied past through documentary heritage is a frequent, but nonetheless moving, occurrence for Reference Archivist Rebecca Murray:

“I recently responded to a request for film footage of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police performing their 1959 Exhibition Ride at the Toronto Winter Fair. Although it seemed routine, I soon realized that this footage was extremely meaningful to the clients, in addition to being unique. It was a pleasure not only to view the footage, but also to hear back from the clients about how pleased they were to be able to share it with their families.”

Reproduction Clerk Stéphanie Hurtubise echoes this view with her experience of administering requests for digital copies of historical material:

“Each reproduction request is an opportunity to journey through time with our clients and experience crucial moments in our Canadian history. We have met soldiers who passed away decades before we were born, and we have travelled through towns that no longer exist. We have located treaties from wars fought long ago, and we have discovered ‘miraculous’ medicine that has since been discredited. And just when we believe these journeys have reached an end, we capture these moments for our clients to enjoy whenever they see fit.”

As the first face-to-face point of contact at 395 Wellington Street, Elaine Goetz of the On-Site Registration team has had many meaningful encounters with Canadians:

“At the Registration Desk, each visitor has a story, and one story was especially moving. It came from this lady who was trying to find out when her mother, a passenger on a ship crossing the Atlantic, first set foot on Canadian soil. The lady had searched for years, and LAC was her last remaining hope. During the registration process, she told me her story before she went on to the Genealogy Centre. I later saw her sitting on a bench, in tears. She recognized and hugged me, and told me that she now knew her true origins, which had been hidden for so long because of a name change for reasons of convenience or necessity. In short, this discovery changed her life, and I was there to share the moment.”

Consultation Clerk Sarah D’Aurelio inspects a ledger in the storage area for archival documents at 395 Wellington Street. Photo: Tom Thompson

Consultation Clerk Sarah D’Aurelio inspects a ledger in the storage area for archival documents at 395 Wellington Street. Photo: Tom Thompson

There is an intrinsic connection between the staff, the clients and the historical records. Sarah D’Aurelio, Consultation Clerk, has a first-hand view of these interactions:

“I really enjoy working in Consultation Services because I feel connected to our clients and to many other areas of LAC, such as Reference Services, Genealogy, Reproduction and many more. These interactions have stayed with me. A few years ago, a client was reading an old ledger book when she came across some beautiful yellow pressed flowers. I remember it was very fitting that the client discovered the flowers the day before Valentine’s Day. A group of clients and staff gathered to admire the finding. The flowers were so small and delicate, and I have always wondered who put them there.”

The feeling of wonder described by Sarah is often what inspires Canadians to pursue their research. Emily Potter, Genealogy Consultant, recounts a memorable experience at the Genealogy Desk:

“Last summer, two women arrived in the Genealogy Room with some watercolours in hand. Their late father was in the Second World War, and a fellow soldier had given him the paintings. For years, they had tried to identify the soldier, but the paintings’ signatures were incomplete. We looked together and found the painter’s full name and obituary, which listed his family. After years of searching, the sisters teared up. They were on their way to connecting with the family of this mysterious painter.”

What a privilege it is to work at LAC! Reference Technician Nathalie Mathieu shares her perspective:

“Did you know that in my work as a reference technician, I am able to help clients discover the wealth of our collections by helping them navigate our website, use our databases and find the information they are looking for? I have the pleasure of speaking with passionate and curious people; researchers from Canadian shows, the friends and families of renowned Canadian artists, orchestra conductors, and more. These people bring our history and culture to life through their research. What is there to be uncovered is truly amazing. See you soon?”

And there you have it, it all comes back to the people we serve, the Canadian public. Without them, the hidden gems would stay hidden, and we would not have this rich documentary heritage to share in the first place. Of course, we have different specializations and expertise, and we often work in different parts of 395 Wellington Street. Sometimes we are in public spaces, sometimes we are hidden among the rows of books. But whatever our work, we are connected by our clients, we are doing it for Canadians.


Portraits at Glenbow: The Artist in the Mirror

— By Madeleine Trudeau, Curator, Public Services Branch

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has been collecting portraits since the late 19th century. These likenesses and impressions represent Canadians, both famous and unknown, from all regions of the country and all walks of life. They include some of the most precious works of art in any Canadian collection.

Starting this spring, when the first in a series of portrait-themed exhibitions opens at Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta, western Canadians will have the chance to experience LAC’s portraits first hand. This exciting collaboration between LAC and Glenbow will continue over the next five years.

Each exhibition in the series will highlight a different selection of LAC portraits. The theme of the first exhibition is artists’ self-portraits. This special type of portrait can be surprisingly rare. Some artists never make images of themselves. When artists do create self-portraits, we often gain unexpected insight into aspects of their working process. Inevitably, artists end by giving away something just a bit more of themselves.

The Artist’s Mirror: Self Portraits opens at Glenbow on March 10, 2018, and runs until January 6, 2019. Stay tuned for updates on the upcoming shows in this series.


Visitors to the exhibition should expect to see a selection of historical and modern works, from drawing and painting to sculpture and video.

Self-portrait, Emily Carr, ca. 1899. Source: e006078795

Self-portrait, Emily Carr, ca. 1899. Source: e006078795

In the past, scholars have debated whether this portrait, by British Columbia artist Emily Carr (1871–1945), was truly a self-portrait. Now, many believe that Carr followed a common practice of the time, drawing her own head over another model’s body. All agree, however, that the image was created while Carr was at art school in England, and that it is an extremely rare early work by an artist generally regarded as one of Canada’s most important painters. The drawing was bought with the generous assistance of the Friends of Library and Archives Canada.

Self-portrait, Floyd Kuptana, 2007. Source: e010751990

Self-portrait, Floyd Kuptana, 2007. Source: e010751990

Inuit sculptor Floyd Kuptana (born 1964) created a self-portrait with two faces, intended to be viewed from many different directions. This dual self-portrait cleverly references ancient shamanic beliefs as well as modern notions of psychology. Kuptana’s work exemplifies a modern style of Inuit art that has been referred to as the Paulatuk style, after the region where the artist grew up. Works in this style incorporate unusual materials and draw upon personal themes, often in a humorous manner. Portraiture and self-portraiture feature often in Kuptana’s work and in works by other practitioners of the style.

Self-portrait in Mirror, William Lewy Leroy Stevenson, ca. 1928. Source: e011200954

Self-portrait in Mirror, William Lewy Leroy Stevenson, ca. 1928.
Source: e011200954

The exhibition includes examples of work by important Alberta artists, such as this self-portrait by William Lewy Leroy Stevenson (1905–1966), one of the province’s early modernist painters. In this painting, the artist’s face is reflected indistinctly in a mirror. The mirror also appears to reflect another portrait hanging on a wall; this portrait may also be an image of the artist. Often described as a portrait within a portrait, and set overtly within the artist’s studio, this self-portrait reveals more interest in the process of creation than in the blurred features of the artist himself.


Marshall McLuhan in the Memory of the World Register

— By Rob Fisher, Senior Archivist, Archives Branch

Le medium est le message the medium is the message poster, 1970.   Credit: Université de Montréal, Division de la gestion des documents et des archives  Source: e010779266

“Le medium est le message” [the medium is the message] poster, 1970. Credit: Université de Montréal, Division de la gestion des documents et des archives. Source: e010779266

The Marshall McLuhan archive attracts researchers from around the world to the reading room of Library and Archives Canada. They are drawn by the desire to understand the inspiration and ideas of the Canadian “prophet” of the digital age who foretold the impact of electronic media and coined phrases like “the global village,” “the medium is the message,” and “surfing” for information. The McLuhan archive at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has now attracted another form of international attention: UNESCO recognized its global significance in 2017 by inscribing his personal archive and library in the Memory of the World Register!

Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980) was a Professor of English at the University of Toronto but is best known as a cultural theorist and public intellectual. The McLuhan archive and library is one of only six Canadian entries in the prestigious UNESCO register, and the first documentary heritage to be inscribed from LAC’s collection. LAC and the University of Toronto Libraries, which holds McLuhan’s personal library, made the joint submission to the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. Founded in 1992 to promote and protect the world’s documentary heritage through preservation and access, the Memory of the World Programme includes in its register only those documentary collections that meet its strict criteria of “world significance and outstanding universal value.”note2

The Memory of the World Register ranges from historical treasures like the Magna Carta and the Bayeux Tapestry, to the papers of Hans Christian Andersen, Louis Pasteur and Winston Churchill, among others. The inclusion of Marshall McLuhan is a signal honour for LAC, and for Canada. Guy Berthiaume, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, remarked, “This recognition from UNESCO is very fitting, because while we are very proud that this great thinker was Canadian, his enduring legacy also unquestionably extends to all of humanity.”

McLuhan’s groundbreaking insights in books like The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) and Understanding Media (1964) revolutionized our understanding of how media, from the printing press to electronic media, have shaped the world today. His provocative and disruptive ideas, from the “global village” to “hot” and “cool” media, ushered in new disciplines of inquiry in communications theory and media ecology. Though his name is synonymous with the 1960s, the emergence and spread of the Internet and the World Wide Web in the 1990s revealed the enduring relevance of his insights into the transformative effect of media. Worldwide interest in McLuhan has undergone a renaissance since 2000, accentuated by a rising tempo of research and publications about his life and work, including dozens of conferences and events in 2011 to mark the centennial of his birth.

The archive might not have ended up in Canada. After McLuhan’s death in 1980, several American university archives expressed interest in purchasing the archive from his estate. Canadian archival institutions could not match their offers, but thanks to special funding made available by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, LAC purchased the McLuhan archive in 1984. The sale was for less than the rumoured offers from the United States, but the McLuhan family wished to keep his archive in Canada.

Photographic portrait of Marshall McLuhan looking at his reflection in a mirror, 1967. Photo: John Reeves Source: e008295857

Photographic portrait of Marshall McLuhan looking at his reflection in a mirror, 1967. Photo: John Reeves. Source: e008295857

Letter from Marshall McLuhan to Pierre Trudeau, dated June 12, 1968. Source: e011165494

Letter from Marshall McLuhan to Pierre Trudeau, dated June 12, 1968.
Source: e011165494

The McLuhan archive at LAC holds 43 metres of textual records, 375 photographs, 275 posters and prints, 134 audiovisual recordings, and 5 objects. His manuscripts series, comprising 17 metres of drafts, research notes and resource material for his books, articles and other writings, is among the most heavily consulted. McLuhan’s ideas take shape from their first inspiration in handwritten notes and then evolve through manuscript drafts into printed text. His extensive personal correspondence also reveals his family life, formative influences and exchange of ideas with other influential figures. The correspondence includes letters from Pierre Trudeau, Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, Edmund Carpenter, Robertson Davies, Sheila Watson, William Jovanovich, Buckminster Fuller, Glenn Gould, Yousuf Karsh, Walter Ong and Hugh Kenner, among others.

Complementing the archive at LAC, the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto holds over 6,000 publications from McLuhan’s personal library. McLuhan drew inspiration from his voracious reading, filling the margins and endpapers with annotations to capture ideas in the moment. To celebrate the nomination to the Memory of the World Register, LAC and the University of Toronto Libraries have created a web exhibition, “Virtually Reconnecting Marshall McLuhan’s Archives and Library.” This web exhibition brings together McLuhan’s annotations in books from the library with his letters from the archives discussing these books (he often sent these letters to the authors of the books). Reading inspired McLuhan and led to an exchange of ideas with other scholars. The books and letters in this web exhibition were selected because they reveal the interplay between the library and the archives. Reconstructing the links between these physically separate collections provides new insight into the progression of McLuhan’s thinking.note3

The inclusion of the McLuhan archive and library in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register is an enduring testament to how one Canadian profoundly changed the world. The honour may also be seen as acknowledging LAC’s commitment to preserve and make accessible his archival legacy for future generations.


Chatting with Our Specialists

— By Ricky Laforge, Team Lead, Social Media, Communications Branch

LAC archivists who participated in #AskAnArchivist.

LAC archivists who participated in #AskAnArchivist.

LAC librarians who participated in #AskALibrarian.

LAC librarians who participated in #AskALibrarian.

In 2017, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) received more than 25,000 questions from the public about its collection and services. Over the past few years, more and more information has become available online and communications have shifted to social media. As a result, traditional concepts of service to the public are evolving rapidly.

So, to counter the myth that its specialists are inaccessible, LAC decided to launch a new digital initiative. This initiative allowed specialists to share their knowledge and expertise directly with the online community. Between October and December 2017, LAC held three separate Twitter chats, with LAC’s specialists and the Librarian and Archivist of Canada answering questions directly from the public.

October 4: #AskAnArchivist
October 19: #AskALibrarian
December 4: #AskTheLAC (Librarian and Archivist of Canada)

This initiative was an opportunity to improve LAC’s openness, accessibility and collaboration with the online community. In addition, LAC was able to humanize its online presence, interacting and engaging directly with the public, and discussing the nature, value and importance of LAC’s work.

These three Twitter chats received much attention from the online community. Over 70 questions were asked during the chats, the tweets were viewed more than 75,000 times, and the public had some 1,500 interactions with LAC’s tweets.

LAC needs to offer such initiatives for the online community to showcase LAC’s vital role; librarians and archivists are “information gatekeepers” who can direct the public to dependable resources. The public can see for themselves that LAC’s specialists are available not only in person, but also online.

In 2018, LAC will host targeted chats on specific topics such as genealogy, the military, censuses and more. Stay tuned!

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Our Evolving National Presence

— By Caitlin Webster, Archivist, Public Services Branch

Exterior view of the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch in downtown Vancouver. Photo: Vancouver Public Library

For decades, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) clients outside Ottawa have been travelling to far-flung warehouses in suburban industrial parks, to consult records in reading rooms set up amid the vast repositories of archival documents.

More recently, LAC has embarked on a project to redefine our national presence. The goals of this plan include a broader scope of services outside Ottawa, closer collaboration with local memory institutions, and greater visibility and impact across the country for LAC. To this end, LAC is working toward an enhanced national presence through expanded orientation and reference services, co-location arrangements with documentary heritage institutions, and the creation of cultural hubs in shared high-profile locations.

The redefinition of our national presence will mean building on LAC’s existing services. LAC has offered services outside the National Capital Region for many years. While some locations focused on storing Government of Canada regional records, LAC offices in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Halifax also provided a variety of other archival services. Staff in these locations assisted clients through services such as reference, Access to Information and Privacy review, document consultation, and reprography.

Redefining our national presence will also involve moving LAC closer to the public. Some years ago, LAC began a shift in focus away from storing Government of Canada business records, and toward preserving our archival collection. As a result, several LAC warehouse facilities across the country closed. Meanwhile, LAC began discussions to collaborate more closely with local memory institutions such as libraries and museums. Last year, these efforts resulted in exciting new co-location arrangements in Halifax and Vancouver.

On June 19, 2017, LAC opened its public service point at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (see p. 22 in the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Signatures). Located within Pier 21’s Scotiabank Family History Centre, staff at the LAC Halifax office deliver orientation and reference services to the public. In addition to providing in-person reference support, LAC Halifax also offers kiosks where researchers can access LAC online research tools, as well as subscription databases such as LAC Halifax staff also contributed to other events taking place in the museum, including Canada Day celebrations, and created an interactive exhibit for Halifax’s Nocturne: Art at Night festival.

A small sample of the nearly 38,000 boxes of archival records at LAC Winnipeg. Photo: David Cuthbert

A small sample of the nearly 38,000 boxes of archival records at LAC Winnipeg. Photo: David Cuthbert

Participants at Halifax’s Nocturne: Art at Night festival create poems by obscuring and highlighting words in reproduced LAC documents. Photo: Harbour City Imagery

Participants at Halifax’s Nocturne: Art at Night festival create poems by obscuring and highlighting words in reproduced LAC documents.
Photo: Harbour City Imagery

Following closely on this success, the LAC Vancouver office implemented its co-location partnership with the Vancouver Public Library (VPL). LAC launched its public service point in the central branch of VPL on November 8, 2017, with a Signatures Series interview featuring former Prime Minister Kim Campbell (see LAC Perspectives in this issue of Signatures). As with LAC’s Halifax site, LAC Vancouver provides in-person orientation and reference services, as well as kiosks for LAC research tools. Collaborative projects are also in the works, including exhibitions, information sessions and learning opportunities. For instance, an Indigenous genealogy workshop highlighting LAC resources is one of many sessions that will offer more diverse services to local clients and make the most of this new partnership.

In addition, given the ongoing needs of the local community regarding Indigenous claims, treaties and other subjects, LAC Vancouver continues to supply access to original archival records of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for British Columbia and Yukon. LAC Vancouver provides reference, Access to Information and Privacy review, consultation, reprography, and other services for this selection of archival records at another site, next door to VPL’s central branch.

The LAC Winnipeg office currently remains in its location at Inkster Boulevard in Winnipeg, but its role is progressing as well. To provide improved access to LAC holdings (totalling nearly 11.5 km of archival records), LAC Winnipeg has expanded and improved on-site reference services. Clients can now access a self-serve digital kiosk for online LAC resources, as well as a larger reading room for on-site document consultation. Interest in these holdings continues to expand, bringing an increasingly diverse group of researchers to the site. In particular, records relating to the Mincome pilot project on guaranteed income are proving particularly popular, with several film crews visiting the site to shoot documentary footage (see p. 17 in the Fall/Winter 2015 issue of Signatures).

Change has been a constant for LAC’s regional team over the years, and the growth and development of LAC across the country continues. Public service, engagement with community partners and outreach programming are important as our national presence evolves. What remains unchanged is the vital role that LAC’s regional sites play as links to LAC resources across Canada.


A Flurry of Public Events

— By Dino Roberge, Communications Advisor, Communications Branch

Career diplomat Raymond Chrétien was the guest of the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Guy Berthiaume, as part of the Signatures Series in May 2017. Photo: Eric Quesnel

Career diplomat Raymond Chrétien was the guest of the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Guy Berthiaume, as part of the Signatures Series in May 2017. Photo: Eric Quesnel

In the last two years, we have seen something of a renaissance in public programming at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). It has been a long time since our building at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa bustled with so many visitors! The number of events taking place inside these granite walls has increased dramatically.

Thanks to its many partnerships with regional and national organizations, LAC has hosted a variety of events: book launches, exhibition openings, film screenings, open houses, lectures and more.

Spotlight on literature

Once “the” place for authors to present their latest works—at the beginning of the 2000s, LAC was a favourite location for several literary organizations—395 (as some call it) has regained its prestige. An agreement with the Ottawa International Writers Festival helped to bring back large-scale events. So last year, LAC hosted the public launch of Ingenious, co-authored by Tom Jenkins and the Right Honourable David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada at the time. Other writers who have also been able to showcase their new works at LAC include Ken Dryden, Frances Itani and Alexandre Trudeau.  

Canada on Screen

Agreements with the University of Ottawa and Carleton University have led to numerous lectures in the Alfred Pellan Room, on a range of subjects such as Canada’s military history and architecture. These collaborations have also resulted in conferences, including a one-day Smart Cities symposium.

As well, 2017 featured a series of activities to mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Movie lovers were treated to several film screenings organized with TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival) as part of Canada on Screen. This cross-Canada celebration came to 395 Wellington Street for four events that presented award-winning Canadian works from our collections.

Leading off in February was Tit-Coq, by Gratien Gélinas, screened in its original 35 mm version. In March, this was followed by another classic: Le Déclin de l’empire américain (The Decline of the American Empire). October saw the audience treated to a special screening of the silent movie Back to God’s Country, with a pianist playing the soundtrack live onstage. What a magical moment! Lastly, in November, Canada on Screen ended its run in Ottawa with the historic Inuit feature film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.

In addition, LAC presented two other high-profile screenings: The Pass System, about injustices endured by Indigenous peoples on reserves in the mid-20th century, and Miracles in Modern Medicine, a documentary that was wildly popular at Expo 67.

Portraying title character Tit-Coq, LAC archivist Théo Martin (right) captivated audiences with his words and acting skills prior to the screening of the classic film by Gratien Gélinas, in February 2017. The event was part of Canada on Screen, organized by TIFF. Martin is standing beside his LAC colleague Steve Moore, Senior Archivist, Audiovisual. Photo: Fred Cattroll

Portraying title character Tit-Coq, LAC archivist Théo Martin (right) captivated audiences with his words and acting skills prior to the screening of the classic film by Gratien Gélinas, in February 2017. The event was part of Canada on Screen, organized by TIFF. Martin is standing beside his LAC colleague Steve Moore, Senior Archivist, Audiovisual. Photo: Fred Cattroll

The Smart Cities conference, held in March 2017, brought together stakeholders from the worlds of academia, politics and economics in the National Capital Region. Photo: Fred Cattroll

The Smart Cities conference, held in March 2017, brought together stakeholders from the worlds of academia, politics and economics in the National Capital Region. Photo: Fred Cattroll

Stay tuned!

395 Wellington Street hosted more than 60 events in 2017. Yes, the building is busy again, and there is more to come: the new year looks to be just as exciting!

An invitation service is now available online, to ensure that subscribers will not miss any of our upcoming events. To register, visit and click on “Subscribe to our mailing list” in the box on the right.


Francis-J. Audet, the Archivist Emeritus Who Served the Public

— By Alain Roy, Policy Advisor and Historian, Strategic Research and Policy

Francis-J. Audet, 1923. Source: C-49494

Francis-J. Audet, 1923. Source: C-49494

In January 1939, after 51 years of service at Public Archives, Francis-J. Audet received the title of Archivist Emeritus of Canada, in recognition of both the quantity and the quality of his services to Canadians. This honour had been awarded only once before, to Arthur Doughty.

Let us first learn about the man. Born on July 29, 1867, Francis-Joseph Audet was hired on February 1, 1888, as a clerk to Alphonse Audet, curator of archives (also known as custodian of records) at the Department of Secretary of State. At that time, there were two archives services: the Department of Secretary of State was custodian of government records, as was the practice in Great Britain, while the Canadian Archives, headed by Douglas Brymner, was custodian of historical records.

In 1904, the two services were merged, creating the Public Archives. Francis-J. Audet was appointed filing and indexing clerk. On April 1, 1913, he became head of the new Index Division, which starting in 1918 was responsible for information requests. Two decades later, in 1938, he was presented with a bust of himself to mark his 50 years of service. He retired the following year and passed away on September 13, 1943. Both the Public Archives and the community of historians were saddened by his loss; news of his death appeared on the front page of Le Devoir, as well as in other newspapers and scholarly journals. 

In all commentaries about Francis-J. Audet, the idea of service is a constant theme. During his career, he responded to an impressive number of information requests: more than 20,000! As he noted in the 1918 Public Archives annual report, the number of requests shows the “great interest that has manifested itself with regard to research and the considerable degree of enthusiasm that is apparent at Public Archives” [translation]. For him, “the services rendered by the office to those who have dedicated themselves to the country’s history are increasingly in demand and are becoming increasingly useful. As in the past, requests for information span a wide variety of subjects” [translation].

Francis-J. Audet was also responsible for filing and indexing, to ensure access to the archives. As the distinguished historian Victor Morin wrote in the obituary that appeared in the Royal Society of Canada journal (Audet had been a member since 1923), Arthur Doughty was in charge of acquisitions, and “Audet immediately filed and wrote descriptions for these, with an index of names, subjects and locations; thankless work, no doubt, but which he carried out with ardour, love and dedication, in the silence of his office, for the benefit of researchers” [translation]. This labour resulted in nearly 2 million files! Morin points out that, through his work, Audet “made readily available the scattered materials to fashion a precise and definitive history of Canadians” [translation].

Francis-J. Audet’s contributions to knowledge are just as impressive: he published a total of 12 books (including 4 that were co-authored), 23 brochures and more than 600 articles, of which nearly 200 appeared in the Bulletin des recherches historiques. In his eulogy at Audet’s funeral service, Dominion Archivist Gustave Lanctôt noted that Audet “preferred to confine himself to the smaller sphere of biography, genealogy and factual information. There he has worked with the infinite patience of a monk compiling details and data, clarifying, rectifying or disentangling uncertain, obscure or dubious facts and dates. It was a work without brilliance or glory but not without usefulness, by which general history has often benefited to an unsuspected degree.”

Lastly, Francis-J. Audet was also a key player in a number of professional associations. He was a founding member of several organizations, including the Canadian Historical Association (1921), the Société des Dix (1935), the Société des écrivains canadiens (1936), the Monument national d’Ottawa (1904) and the Association canadienne-française d’éducation de l’Ontario (1910); he sat on numerous other boards and associations. His influence was also bolstered by the many friendships he maintained with the historians and intellectuals of his era.

Gustave Lanctôt recalled, in his eulogy, that “few men have ever been so generous to others, and especially historical inquirers, with the knowledge and material accumulated during a life-time of arduous work and constant research.” And he is quite right: while Canada’s history and identity, on both the Francophone and Anglophone sides, were going through a profound renewal in the 1920s, Francis-J. Audet’s contributions remain significant. The same applies to services such as archives; though discreet by nature, they are no less fundamental to culture. 

Index Bureau of the Public Archives of Canada, Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, circa 1910. Source: C-034009

Index Bureau of the Public Archives of Canada, Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, circa 1910. Source: C-034009

Francis-J. Audet et son œuvre. Lucien Brault (foreword by Victor Morin). Imprimerie Morin, Hull, Quebec, 1940, 92 p. Source: AMICUS No. 2327954

Francis-J. Audet et son œuvre. Lucien Brault (foreword by Victor Morin). Imprimerie Morin, Hull, Quebec, 1940, 92 p. Source: AMICUS No. 2327954


Come See a Selection of Our Most Recent Acquisitions!

— By Madeleine Trudeau, Curator, Public Services Branch, with contributions from colleagues

Whether donated, purchased or assigned to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) as part of established or evolving legal agreements, new acquisitions represent the lifeblood of Canada’s collection.

This spring, LAC is proud to present Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada, a small exhibition showcasing the latest acquisitions from across the institution. The show will be on display at 395 Wellington Street, beginning on April 24, 2018.

The project kicks off a similar feature in Signatures magazine, scheduled to appear on an ongoing basis. Be sure to watch this space! And be sure to visit the exhibition, open until December 3, 2018.

In their own words … Every one of the never-before-seen items featured in Premiere was chosen by one of LAC’s acquisition specialists. The same specialist also wrote, and signed, the item’s exhibition caption. These are a few examples of items that will be on show.

Senior Archivist Roddy McFall on a survey map and field book created by Dominion Land Surveyor and future Yukon Commissioner William Ogilvie, 1897:

“In the lower left of the map, a Discovery Claim by (Tagish Khwáan First Nation member) Skookum Jim Mason is marked. What struck me about this specific survey map and accompanying field book is that it simultaneously reflects the importance of its creator, William Ogilvie, while documenting the Discovery Claims made by First Nations prospectors—claims that directly brought about the Klondike Gold Rush. The fact that it was unusual to have such claims accepted by mining authorities makes these records even more remarkable.”

Plan of Placer Mining Claims on part of Bonanza Creek, William Ogilvie, 1897. Source: R214, vol. 6177, 8284 CLSR YT

Archivist Andrew Elliott on an early design sketch for the CF-105 Avro Arrow airplane preserved by William Kuzyk, an employee with A.V. Roe Canada Limited (later Avro Aircraft Limited), 1958:

“Despite design and flight success through 1958, the entire Avro Arrow project was cancelled by the federal government on February 20, 1959. All work on this project was ceased, and many of the project’s archival records were lost. The (William) Kuzyk material relating to his work at A.V. Roe provides unique visual evidence of the innovative aeronautical research and development that was occurring in Canada in the middle part of the 20th century.”

Vertical take-off and landing Avro Arrow, A.V. Roe Canada Ltd., 1958.
Source: e011161347

Archivist Katie Cholette on the letters, photographs and mementos that a Canadian soldier sent to his fiancée during the Second World War:

“As the son of Russian immigrants, Joseph (Gaetz) could speak German, a talent that came in handy in his work in the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Scout Platoon. He often mentioned his experiences in his letters to fiancée Jean McRae: in one letter he told Jean how odd it was to be capturing Germans who had lived in Canada before the war. His letters occasionally included objects taken from captured Germans, including an Iron Cross medal. Upon Jean’s death, the collection passed to their daughters. In 2016, Cathy Gaetz-Brothen honoured her mother’s wishes when she entrusted LAC with what she described as ‘her most treasured possession.’ ”

Joseph Gaetz, 1945. Source: R15971, vol. 7, file 1

Senior Archivist Normand Laplante on a silver cup, awarded to an executive vice-president of the Montreal Canadiens, 1953:

“While doing some research on the history of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, I stumbled on a blog entry by Mr. Robert Wrigley on a high school alumni association website. In his post, he writes about his excitement attending his first Montreal Canadiens game in 1953 as a 10-year-old guest of his great-uncle, William Northey, who was executive vice-president of the Canadiens. He also describes the cup, given to him when his great-uncle passed away in 1963. I contacted Mr. Wrigley and he kindly agreed to donate the cup to LAC. Northey played an important role in the development of hockey in Canada and one of its greatest professional teams.”

Stanley Cup souvenir bowl, Roden Brothers Ltd., 1953. Photo: David Knox

Special Collections Librarian Meaghan Scanlon on an early medical text, attributed to Philippe-Louis-François Badelard, printed in 1785:

“This book was printed in 1785, which is quite early for a Canadian imprint, and is believed to be the first medical text published in Canada. It describes the symptoms and treatment of a mysterious illness which plagued the Province of Quebec in the late 18th century. There is no author’s name on the book; however, on the title page, someone has written in pen ‘par Le Dr. Badelard.’ This refers to Philippe-Louis-François Badelard, a doctor appointed by the Governor of Quebec to investigate the disease. The text has generally been attributed to him, but no one knows for sure who wrote it.”

Direction pour la guerison du mal de la Baie St. Paul, attributed to Philippe-Louis-François Badelard, printed by Guillaume Brown, 1785. Acquired with the generous assistance of the Friends of Library and Archives Canada. Source: AMICUS No. 10851364. Photo: David Knox

Senior Military Archivist Marcelle Cinq-Mars on a film clip documenting a test run of the hydrofoil vessel HMCS Bras d’Or by the Canadian Navy, 1969:

“The HMCS Bras d’Or, built in Sorel in the 1960s, was the only hydrofoil vessel in the Canadian Navy. Records received from the Defence Research Establishment included footage of sea trials conducted in April 1969 in Halifax; the hydrofoil reached a speed of 63 knots (117 km/h), hovering on the water. It was intended to detect enemy submarines at the height of the Cold War, but the hydrofoil’s design and construction costs brought the program to an end. The Bras d’Or was decommissioned in 1971.”

Film still taken from film clip documenting a test run of the HMCS Bras d’Or, Defence Research Establishment Atlantic, 1969. Source: R112-6693

Art Archivist Shane McCord on four watercolours painted during John Franklin’s Coppermine Expedition, 1820–1821:

“LAC purchased these drawings from a private individual. The owner knew nothing about them, other than that her grandmother had told her they were important! We were interested right away, but completing the evaluation and organizing the purchase budget took some time. Just a few days before we were to negotiate the purchase, Parks Canada announced that the Erebus had been found. It was an interesting coincidence that these two pieces of Franklin-related exploration history came to light at the same time.”

Interior of a Cree tent, by Robert Hood, 1820. Source: e011154370


Indigenous Documentary Heritage Initiatives

Francis-J. Audet, 1923. Source: C-49494

Theresa Billette (left) and her sister Delia stitch beads on moosehide moccasins, Buffalo River Dene First Nation in Dillon, Saskatchewan, 1955. The sisters in the photograph were identified on LAC’s Project Naming Facebook page. Photo: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton. Source: e010975232

Memory institutions like Library and Archives Canada (LAC) perform an increasingly important role in reconciliation, the renewal of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, and the revitalization of Indigenous cultures and languages.

In its 2017 Budget, and as part of its response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, the Government of Canada announced funding for LAC to launch two new initiatives related to Indigenous heritage.

Our first initiative will involve the identification and digitization of Indigenous-related content in LAC’s vast collection. We will use various digital platforms to ensure that this information is discoverable, searchable and accessible.

Our second initiative will offer a variety of services to Indigenous communities to preserve and provide digital access to Indigenous-language recordings.

Our approach is centred on community-based engagement. We are therefore developing an Indigenous Advisory Circle, which will guide the priorities and implementation of these initiatives. The first meeting of the Advisory Circle is planned for early in March 2018.

In the meantime, we are planning and building capacity, including the staffing of positions with Indigenous employees. We look forward to providing further updates after the full launch of the two initiatives.

For more information, and to view the progress of this work, visit LAC’s Indigenous Documentary Heritage Initiatives web page.


LAC Perspectives

Vancouver: Public Service Point Launch

— By Caitlin Webster, Archivist, Public Services Branch

On November 8, 2017, LAC officially opened its public service point in Vancouver. To mark the occasion, the LAC Vancouver office hosted a Signatures Series conversation between the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Guy Berthiaume, and former Prime Minister Kim Campbell. This event, which took place at the Vancouver Public Library’s iconic central branch in downtown Vancouver, attracted nearly 200 people. The audience heard a discussion of Ms. Campbell’s long and varied political career, as well as her current work in promoting democracy and the inclusion of women in democratic institutions worldwide.

To spotlight the varied services on offer at LAC Vancouver, the event also included a small display of selected archival documents from LAC’s collection and a demonstration of online tools available at LAC’s kiosks. Both proved very popular, with many people visiting LAC’s service desk on the sixth floor of the Vancouver Public Library, as well as viewing and discussing the exhibit with LAC staff.

The success of the event has led to increased visits to LAC’s service desk at the Vancouver Public Library, heightened awareness of LAC’s service offerings, and growing interest in future LAC public events.

The Right Honourable Kim Campbell with the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Guy Berthiaume, at LAC’s Signatures Series talk in Vancouver on November 8, 2017.
Photo: Richard Provencher

Halifax: Sable Island

— By Leah Rae, Archivist, Public Services Branch

Ruins of a lighthouse on the coast of Sable Island, Nova Scotia, 1959. Source: e011177172

Crescent-shaped Sable Island lies approximately 300 kilometres off the coast of Nova Scotia. This island is most famous for its population of feral horses: about 500 of these wild animals roam the island’s sand dunes. Since 2013, Sable Island has been a national park reserve managed by Parks Canada. Because of its location in the Atlantic Ocean, Sable Island is also the site of many shipwrecks, which has earned it the nickname of “the graveyard of the Atlantic.” LAC has many cartographic records relating to the island, including maps that show the locations of various shipwrecks throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many government records associated with Sable Island are in our collection too; over the years, various departments have been involved in the management of the island, including the Canadian Coast Guard, the Department of Marine and the Department of Transport. If you cannot make a journey to the island, view the many photographs that LAC has of Sable Island’s untouched coastline, wild horses and haunting architectural remains.

Winnipeg: Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Cartographic Records

— By David Horky, Archivist, Public Services Branch

The LAC Winnipeg office holds more than 5,000 maps and plans that document the construction, in the early 20th century, of the western portion of the Transcontinental Railway (known as the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway). These records cover the various stages of building railways: reconnaissances of general routes, surveys of projected lines, construction plans, and maps and plans of lines “as-built.” The records concern the Winnipeg to Prince Rupert main line, the Lake Superior Branch from Sioux Lookout to Fort William, as well as various branch lines, particularly in Saskatchewan and Alberta. These maps and plans are a fascinating record of Canadian railway engineering achievements in the early 20th century. The records also provide invaluable information on western Canadian topography, geographical features, town sites, station house sites, yards and the First Nations communities that were traversed en route.

Plan showing the connection between the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway at Fort William, 1911. Source: RG30-M, box 127, file 4975

Gatineau: The Greek Temple Opens Its Doors …

— By Dino Roberge, Communications Advisor, Communications Branch

For the first time in 15 years, the most mysterious building in Gatineau opened its doors to the general public, on June 9 and 10, 2017.

LAC’s Preservation Centre welcomed more than 1,800 people. While touring the premises, visitors marvelled at the archival treasures tucked away in the vaults of this modern-day Greek temple encased in glass. They were also impressed by the dedication of the 126 LAC employees who generously participated in the event.

The event was such a success that monthly guided tours of the Centre are now available for the public. Visit the LAC website and click on “Events, exhibitions and tours.” But hurry: spaces are going quickly!

More than 1,800 visitors were treated to a guided tour of the vaults in LAC’s Preservation Centre in Gatineau on June 9 and 10, 2017. Photo: Eric Quesnel


Gatineau 2 Project: A Bright Future for LAC’s Treasures

— By Serge Corbeil, Director General, Real Property Management

Aerial view of the Preservation Centre in Gatineau. The arrow shows the future site of Gatineau 2.

Within a few years, a new architectural structure will be added to Gatineau’s urban landscape. Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) future preservation facility, dubbed Gatineau 2 for the moment, will be built starting in 2019 and should open in 2021.

Our current Preservation Centre has a well-established reputation—numerous visitors have had the opportunity to admire the treasures found within it. With the addition of a new building, our documentary heritage will benefit from state-of-the-art preservation techniques: optimal ambient conditions and a leading-edge automated shelving and retrieval system.

Last fall, the Gatineau 2 team and its partners held a news conference for journalists and public figures, and proudly announced the launch of the procurement process, which will take place through a public-private partnership. This process will take several months and involve a number of key steps.

Toward the end of 2018, the members of the consortium of experts that will build Gatineau 2 will be known. This ultra-modern building will be located right behind our current Preservation Centre. Challenges will include not only optimizing storage at the existing facility, but also providing services to ensure the operation and maintenance of both buildings over 30 years.

Architects, engineers, construction workers and others will have the task of designing a building that will blend in smoothly with its surroundings. Currently, the project team is busy planning, down to the very last detail, to ensure a perfect symbiosis between the current and the future facilities.

The Gatineau 2 project meets the Canadian government’s sustainable development priorities and objectives; once the project is completed, LAC will have reduced its environmental footprint by nearly half. In 2011, its collections were stored in 22 buildings. When the construction of Gatineau 2 is complete, LAC’s collections will be preserved in 5 specialized buildings.

By bringing its main collection together at its Gatineau site, LAC will have an ideal environment to preserve its archives, while maximizing its storage space and reducing transportation risks.

For Guy Berthiaume, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, LAC must remain a leader within the documentary community. The current Preservation Centre is considered a world-class facility, and Dr. Berthiaume is convinced that its new neighbour will be just as highly regarded: “This new cutting-edge facility will protect our rich collection for centuries to come.”


On Loan from LAC

Canada’s Legal System


February to August 2018

Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Winnipeg
6 original works

  • Source

    Western Treaty No. 3
    Signed by commissioners Alexander Morris, Joseph A.N. Provencher and Simon J. Dawson on behalf of Queen Victoria, and representatives of the Saulteaux Tribe of the Ojibway Nation, October 3, 1873
    Ink on paper with affixed seals and ribbon

    Library and Archives Canada, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development fonds, e011197577

Canadian History Hall


Permanent exhibition
Since July 1, 2017 (long-term loan)

Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau
37 original works and hundreds of reproductions

  • Source

    Frances Brooke
    Catherine Read, ca. 1771
    Oil on canvas

    Library and Archives Canada, Brooke Family fonds, e011154587_s1

We’ll all become stories – A survey of art in the Ottawa-Gatineau region


January to September 2018

Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa
25 original works

  • Source

    Parliament Buildings on fire, Ottawa, 1916
    Henri Fabien, 1916
    Oil on canvas mounted on board

    Library and Archives Canada, Henri Fabien fonds, e011198403

Laurent Amiot: Canadian Master Silversmith


April 23 to October 8, 2018

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
2 original works

  • Source

    Looking up the steps of Champlain Street, Quebec
    James Pattison Cockburn, July 1830
    Watercolour, pen and ink on wove paper

    Library and Archives Canada, Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana, e000756748

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