Signatures, Spring/Summer 2019

Signatures spring-summer 2019 cover page on which is written '15 years of LAC' in grey on a white background

Signatures, Spring/Summer 2019
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— By Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada

Guy Berthiaume
Photo: Michel Gagné

This spring, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) celebrates its crystal anniversary. Fifteen years ago, on May 21, 2004, the National Library and National Archives came together as one, with the blessing of the Parliament of Canada. As our colleague Alain Roy recalls in these pages, Canada was the first Western country to merge its two main memory institutions; Iran was ahead of us by two years. It was an ambitious—even revolutionary—initiative, born from the realization that the Web had changed the way the world used information and defined knowledge. The rise of digital technology triggered a great democratization of knowledge: while national archives and libraries were previously places reserved for researchers and graduate students, the Internet now enabled everyone—not just in our country, but also around the world—to have full access to our documents.

This democratization comes with considerable challenges. Not only do we need to digitize as quickly as possible, because from now on, “if it is not on the Web, it does not exist,” but we also have to re‑examine our long‑standing practices. As long as access to records remained the protected domain of specialists trained in how to retrieve them, the discoverability of our treasures was not an issue. Now that the Internet is throwing open our doors, windows and skylights, we need to remove barriers and make room for the intuitive efforts of our fellow citizens. 

Fifteen years in the life of memory institutions is a fleeting moment. Just consider that France’s Bibliothèque nationale is celebrating its 482nd anniversary this year! Our colleagues did not need to be asked twice when encouraged to share their opinions on the changes over the past 15 years. Whether it is the evolution in finding aids discussed by Amy Tector, the progress in our relations with universities reviewed by Cara Downey or, even more significantly, the major change in our role in managing Indigenous records described passionately by Sarah Hurford, Del Jacko and Hillary McLeod, these are all pages in the history of LAC that we share.

Colleagues have also celebrated the present. Sylvain Bélanger reveals what we are doing to preserve our digital collection for future generations; Claire Banton talks about the arrival of Aurora, our new library catalogue; and Nathalie Ethier describes the progress on the second preservation facility that will open at our Gatineau campus in 2022.

Talking about the past and the present leads to the question: what do the next 15 years hold for us? As Jean‑Jacques Rousseau wrote, “I believe, but I do not know.” Thus, I believe that two major trends that have been emerging over the past few years will become even more prevalent. First, the traditional distinctions between national library and public library will continue to blur, and we will see unprecedented numbers of visitors, as is already the experience of the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Library and Archives Canada is enthusiastically joining this movement by relocating its services to the public in new facilities to be shared with the Ottawa Public Library in 2024. As an article in these pages points out, this innovative project is limited only by our imagination.

Second, I also believe that the years ahead will be marked by a profound redefinition of our relationship with our users, who will increasingly demand to digitize, transcribe, translate and describe our documents themselves. Because of this, they will become more partners than users. The Wikipedia experience and its reliability gives me confidence in the ability of our public to self‑regulate and self‑correct. Only a paradigm shift of this nature will enable us to meet the appetite of our fellow citizens for greater knowledge of their documentary heritage.

* * *

This issue of Signatures is the last for which I will have the pleasure of writing an introduction. Over the past four years, I have done so on eight occasions, and each time, I have been amazed at the depth and breadth of knowledge of my colleagues at LAC. In the very first issue of Signatures, I began my comments by recalling the words of Alexander von Humboldt: “I feel every day that you only work well if the people around you work better.” Today, with the experience I have gained during my time as the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, I do not believe I could say it any better.

Signature of Guy Berthiaume 

Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada


The Birth of a Unique Institution

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

On May 21, 2004, legislation was enacted to create Library and Archives Canada (LAC). This legislation established a new institution that combined the National Archives and the National Library. To fully understand how this came about, let us see how LAC’s creation was intended to address the issues of the day and then look at LAC’s unique features.

Addressing the issues of the day

Bilingual poster and workbook cover of 2004 All-Staff event

Poster and workbook cover for the second all-staff meeting on June 8 and 9, 2004.
© Library and Archives Canada

Text version
  • All-staff event 2004 poster (left portion of the image) reads:

    Knowledge is here
    Can we built it? Yes we can!

  • All-staff event 2004 workbook (right portion of the image) reads:

    Knowledge is here
    Employee Retreat
    "Can we built it? Yes we can!"
    June 8-9, 2004

An integration project developed slowly during the 1990s. The National Archives and the National Library had to respond to the rapidly growing needs of their users.

First of all, the number of documents collected increased massively between 1991 and 2003; the National Library’s collection grew by 46.6 percent, and government archives by 85 percent. In addition, the advent of new information technologies required new ways of managing government information and a greater commitment from the National Archives and the National Library.

At the same time, financial and human resources were shrinking as the Government of Canada began to reduce its spending in 1984. After a major reorganization in 1993, a program review conducted from 1994 to 1996 led to a sharp reduction in the resources of both institutions; between 1990–1991 and 1998–1999, their combined budget decreased by 29.4 percent, and total staff by 15.1 percent. Of course, these measures seriously affected their ability to fulfill their mandate, as the Auditor General noted in 2003. New approaches were needed.

The heritage sector was also affected by these measures, with its share of the federal budget dropping from 2.2 percent in 1993 to 1.6 percent in 1997. Consequently, in 1997 the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage launched a major study on the Government of Canada’s role in culture, including the impact of new technologies.

Against this backdrop, in March 1998, Heritage Minister Sheila Copps commissioned historian John English to review the mandates and resources of the National Archives and the National Library. The survey covered seven areas, including the potential merger of the two institutions. Many agreements already existed between them, and the idea of a merger had been raised as early as 1994. Nevertheless, Professor English conducted extensive internal and community consultations. These revealed a consensus to promote a better sharing of resources and services, without supporting full integration. His report, released in July 1999, reflected these views.

Two dynamics would change this point of view. Internally, following their appointments in July 1999 to head the National Archives and the National Library respectively, Ian Wilson and Roch Carrier discussed the report, realizing that “this should logically lead to further progress.” Indeed, the pressing needs of both institutions, and the blurring of boundaries between “archives” and “published material” under the influence of digital technology, encouraged integration.

At the same time, the Government of Canada was developing a renewed vision of its role in culture as a result of new technologies. In its June 1999 report, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recognized the effect of cuts to the National Archives and the National Library while highlighting the opportunities that new media provided in terms of access to heritage resources. In response, the government announced in the October 1999 Speech from the Throne that it wanted to develop a 21st-century infrastructure in which knowledge, information and culture played a key role in a knowledge-based economy. It also announced funds to digitize the collections of the National Library and the National Archives. This idea of a “knowledge institution” promoting Canadians’ access to their documentary heritage would later become a recurring theme that the fledgling organization would build on as it moved forward.

The intention to create LAC was announced in the Speech from the Throne on September 30, 2002. Consultations with key stakeholders were held in January 2003, and a bill was tabled on May 8. The main entities then agreed to support the merger. Parliamentary business resumed in February 2004, and the legislation received Royal Assent on April 22.

Unique features

Since LAC’s creation, its model has attracted interest, and perhaps even envy, around the world. Other institutions inquire regularly about the legal framework and the process that led to full integration. The new organization is based on four pillars: a unified organizational structure, a common conceptual foundation, work on organizational cultures, and continuous networking.

Unified organizational structure

Color photo showing a conference room with 3 illuminated big screens in the background and many persons sitted around tables.

All-staff meeting of the National Archives and the National Library at the Shaw Centre on March 31 and April 1, 2003.
© Library and Archives Canada

Linking libraries and national archives, in Canada or elsewhere, is not new. Over the years, various formulas have been implemented. Between total integration within a single institution and partial integration through the sharing of services, there are numerous intermediate forms, including the grouping of services within a single legal entity, the integration of one as part of the other, or even co-location within departmental organizations.

What made LAC unique was first and foremost its unified legal entity. Few countries had adopted such an arrangement, except perhaps Iraq (1987) and Iran (2002); however, the 2004 legislation made Canada stand out. A few others would draw inspiration from it, including Singapore (2013). In Canada, Quebec followed the same path in 2006, while provincial archives were merged with provincial museums in British Columbia (2003) and Newfoundland and Labrador (2005).

But what made Canada unique, as Ian Wilson pointed out, was the integration of all of the services and programs of its national library and archives. As Wilson told a parliamentary committee in 2003, “We will integrate based on function”; that is, people working in the same functional areas were grouped together, although some streams remained separate. In short, LAC was a single legal entity with an integrated internal structure, unlike other institutions that were more or less aggregated.

Unifying concept: Documentary heritage

From the outset, the 2004 legislation introduced an innovative concept: documentary heritage. This is a keystone that bridges the gap between archives and libraries.

This concept, which appeared in the Spanish-speaking world in the late 1960s, emerged in English in Canada in the 1970s. In 1982–1983, Hugh A. Taylor, the former director of the National Archives, supported the concept in an article in Archivaria, emphasizing that archives and libraries had become an integral part of heritage. The concept spread across the English-speaking world, while the French version appeared in Quebec first. In the early 1990s, this concept even became the basis of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme.

The importance of documentary heritage in the new institution’s mission was even pointed out in the Canadian Parliament. The concept also resonated immediately with employees and stakeholders; it called for collaboration to preserve and provide access to documentary heritage by integrating professional practices, especially digital ones. It also fostered a change of perspective; books and archives were placed in the vast field of heritage, but the emphasis was on the social objective of preserving memory.

In short, the concept was the key to the integration envisioned. This seemed so obvious that it was simply understood, without any discussion of its basis or limitations.

Work on organizational cultures: Transformation

Front page of The 2005 Genealogy Center Guide entitled : Tracing your ancestors in Canada

Access to collections is a priority. The Genealogy Centre, which produced this guide in 2005, was one of the first to combine the resources of the two institutions.
© Library and Archives Canada

Integrating the two institutional environments required systematic efforts to generate a common space. To that end, a special budget of $7.5 million over three years was allocated in 2003. Wilson stated: “It is a profound transformation in which we are engaging all staff to look at commonalities rather than differences.”

The program, named Transformation, ran from 2002 to 2005, focusing first on the vision and then on implementation directions. Employees were asked to contribute through dozens of committees. The work culminated in two-day all-staff meetings in 2003 and 2004. Conferences and reports were followed by discussions on experiences and outcomes, and hopes and fears. Other forums were set up to build bridges. During this massive mobilization, staff became aware of the similarities between the two worlds and learned about one another’s work practices. Although for some, not all promises had been kept, the building of a common culture had begun, paving the way for a fruitful dialogue within the new institution.

At the heart of the networks

The last pillar of the new institution is participation in a vast network of partners in which discussions make it possible to move forward together harmoniously.

As early as the 1990s, the challenges facing the National Archives and the National Library led them to work together to share their resources with other institutions across the country. In response to the changes taking place, a number of consultations were held with stakeholders.

In 1998, John English had meetings with key stakeholders and then held public consultations. In January 2003, while the bill was being drafted, some 20 representatives were consulted on the name, objectives and national leadership role of the new institution. The discussions highlighted everyone’s visions and concerns, leading the community to support, during hearings on the bill, the integration of the two institutions.

During Transformation, the guidance document was the subject of consultations and made available online. After 55 briefs, 20 consultation sessions and some 30 interviews, a broader consensus emerged regarding LAC’s mandate and direction. In short, the community itself was invited to guide and support the new institution, which undoubtedly contributed to the success of the transformation.

The creation of LAC in 2004 was intended to address the challenges facing the National Archives and the National Library. Optimism was essential and efforts were relentless, which resulted in a model that attracts interest around the world. New challenges will arise, and LAC is well-equipped to move forward to meet them.


Migrating Your National Library Catalogue to Aurora

— By Claire Banton, Senior Librarian, Published Heritage Branch

By the time you read this, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and its clients will have undergone a major transition with the launch of our new library catalogue, Aurora! As we celebrate LAC’s 15th year, we also celebrate a new system that opens up great possibilities for staff and clients. 

Whether you are an individual searching in our library collection or a Canadian library employee, you are among the users that LAC staff had in mind as we worked on the migration. 

As I wrote this article, staff across the institution were working on the launch of the new catalogue, Aurora: migrating millions of catalogue records, configuring system settings, testing new functionality and devising new workflows. It was a huge task, especially when you consider that some colleagues had been using the previous system, AMICUS, for more than 20 years!

The earliest modules of AMICUS date back to 1995, others (including the public interface) to 2002. Given the age of the system, and based on the changing expectations of users, LAC started analyzing options to replace AMICUS almost a decade ago. Following a public procurement process, LAC announced in March 2017 that it had entered into a contractual agreement with OCLC, an international non-profit library co-operative. At this point, a new phase of the implementation began!

The transition from AMICUS started with the migration of the National Union Catalogue, which is a single point of access to the collections of libraries across Canada. The new public interface for this single access point, called Voilà, launched in February 2018. 

But Voilà was just the first phase. Migrating decades’ worth of data about our collection required intense effort from many experts at LAC. What follows is just a glimpse of the different work we performed to bring the new Aurora catalogue to life.

Our Innovation and Chief Information Officer Branch (ICIOB) staff were hard at work extracting and migrating millions of detailed catalogue records safely and accurately. They also had a long list of internal systems to integrate with Aurora, such as our high-density storage tracking system and our website search tool. 

Our cataloguing, acquisitions and standards staff in Published Heritage Branch were busy developing mapping specifications and verifying that data migrated correctly. They were also developing new work processes and taking advantage of new features such as emailing legal deposit receipts instead of using postal mail. 

Our circulation and care of collections staff in Preservation Branch were working with ICIOB to integrate Aurora with systems for retrieving requested materials, and on new procedures to provide the materials.

Our reference and client services staff in Public Services Branch were busy preparing instructions and tools for clients on how to use the new system. They were also making sure that client accounts were ready to go. 

Our Communications Branch staff were working hard to make sure that announcements were ready, the website was updated, and information was available to both staff and clients about the launch at the right time. 

With Aurora, we are looking forward to offering everyone additional functionality and a state-of-the-art interface. 

The migration by the numbers

  • Number of records in Voilà: 39,707,862 (as of October 9, 2018)
  • Number of records in Aurora: more than 3.5 million titles
  • Number of periodical issues migrated: more than 3 million
  • Top three formats in LAC holdings:
    • Books: 2.9 million titles
    • Periodicals: 256,000 titles
    • Music: 157,000 titles

Let the Design Begin!

— By Real Property Branch and Public Services Branch

Since 2016, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has been working with the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) and the City of Ottawa on the development of a new joint facility, which will allow LAC to offer enhanced public services and programs in the National Capital Region alongside OPL’s new Central Library. Expected to open in 2024, this new facility will be located at 555 Albert Street in Ottawa, at the southeastern edge of LeBreton Flats, only 400 metres from the current LAC location on Wellington Street.

This collaboration will provide LAC and OPL with a new, iconic, state-of-the-art facility bringing together the services of a national memory institution with the services of a public library. LAC and OPL plan to build on their shared vision to create a destination that will offer a unique and rich client experience through shared spaces and services. The two institutions will be housed under one roof and will work closely together, while retaining their organizational autonomy and their own distinct personalities.

For over 60 years, from 1906 to 1967, the National Archives of Canada was located at 330 Sussex Drive, which later housed the Canadian War Museum and now accommodates the Global Centre for Pluralism. In 1967, the National Archives moved to 395 Wellington Street, where it shared the building with the then-newly created National Library of Canada. The new joint facility project on Albert Street will be an opportunity for LAC to offer its first purpose-built facility for services to the public since becoming a single institution in 2004. The new joint facility will embody LAC’s identity, vision and spirit.

The new facility at 555 Albert Street is expected to attract more than 1.7 million visitors annually. This will be a great opportunity to enhance LAC’s visibility, and to increase awareness of and access to Canada’s history, culture and knowledge. Public libraries have been experiencing a resurgence of popularity as major community social and information hubs in recent times. For example, the new Central Library in Calgary had more than 52,000 visitors during the first four days following its official opening on November 1, 2018, and officials there expect more than 2 million visitors during the first 12 months. Likewise, the Grande Bibliothèque in Montréal, opened in 2005, now averages 2.5 million visits per year, and the new Halifax Central Library, opened in 2014, had almost 2 million visitors in just over one year.

A milestone for the new joint facility in Ottawa was reached in fall 2018 with the selection of a design team for the facility. After a review of 33 submissions from international architectural firms and a shortlist of five finalists, the team of Diamond Schmitt Architects (Toronto) and KWC Architects (Ottawa) was selected to design the new joint facility. The design development work for this major national and civic building, which includes public, staff and Indigenous consultations, began in early 2019.

The new facility will allow LAC to improve access to Canadian documentary heritage through modern purpose-built reference and reading rooms. The new spaces will be flexible, dynamic and adaptable, so LAC can adjust to changing client service needs and technological requirements. In addition, many key program enhancements are planned in this new joint facility. A museum-quality exhibition gallery will allow LAC to showcase holdings from its collection or to host travelling exhibitions from other memory institutions. The exhibition gallery will be complemented by a select display of treasures from LAC’s collection in the LAC entrance and orientation venue, as well as digital displays and reproductions located at key points throughout the building. In the shared Genealogy Centre, clients will benefit from two prominent public information services coming together around a shared interest: the history, both local and national, and the origins of Canadians and Canadian society. A working preservation lab, located adjacent to LAC’s orientation area, will provide visitors with a first-hand view of conservation techniques used to preserve and maintain LAC’s holdings.

Bringing together LAC and OPL in a joint facility will give prominent expression to the value that Canada places on the role of libraries and archives. The landmark institution will evoke pride in Canadian identity and provide a welcoming space for learning, discovery and collaboration, founded on an enhanced client service experience. Stay tuned for further updates on this exciting project!

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I applaud this latest milestone, which brings us one step closer to seeing a cutting-edge facility take shape in the heart of the nation’s capital. We are proud to be playing an important role in creating a showplace for Canada’s culture and heritage, which will be enjoyed by both local residents and Canadians from across the country who are visiting Ottawa.

The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism
2018-11-15 City of Ottawa – News Release –
Preferred proponent recommended

Bertha Wilson: A Life of Firsts

— By Elizabeth Campbell, Governance Archivist, Archives Branch

Portrait of Bertha Wilson as a Supreme court of Canada judge wearing a red robe with white fur trim

Official portrait of Bertha Wilson for the Supreme Court of Canada, ca. 1982–1991.
Source: Bertha Wilson fonds/e011201221
Credit: Michael Bedford, Ottawa

Library and Archives Canada (LAC), which holds the personal papers of many Supreme Court of Canada justices and chief justices, recently acquired the papers of the Honourable Bertha Wilson. She was a highly respected member of the legal profession, a pioneering figure who was the first woman appointed to the country’s highest court.

Bertha Wernham was born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, on September 18, 1923. She graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a Master of Arts in 1944, then a diploma in education the following year. She married the Reverend John Wilson in December 1945, and they spent the first few years of their marriage in MacDuff, a small Scottish fishing village, where John was the minister. Four years later, the Wilsons emigrated to Canada and settled in Renfrew, Ontario, where John became a United Church minister. During the Korean War, he enrolled as a naval chaplain, and the Wilsons were eventually posted to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

At the age of 31, Bertha Wilson decided to pursue a law degree at Dalhousie University. There were only six women in her class. In a speech to the Australian Legal Convention in 1983, she describes her first introduction to the law:

From my first day of lectures there I knew, as we said then, that the “law was my thing.” I took to it like a duck to water. I was fascinated by the history of the law and how it had developed over the years as social conditions changed, and I marvelled at its flexibility. I wondered how I could have lived this long without realizing the large part it plays, behind the scenes, in everything we do. I acquired a whole new perspective on life.footnote1

Wilson excelled in her courses and earned a law degree in 1958. She was subsequently called to the Bar of Nova Scotia.

That same year, she relocated to Ontario, where she was summoned to the Bar in 1959. Wilson broke barriers throughout her legal career, setting many “firsts.” In Toronto, she maintained a long-standing practice (1959–1975) with the firm Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt, becoming its first female lawyer, and later its first female partner. In 1975, she was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Ontario (now the Court of Appeal for Ontario). Some immediate renovations to the building were required; since there was no washroom for female judges, a general washroom was converted for her use.

Black and white picture of a yougn girl in front of a stone building wearing shoes and short skirt both in white

Bertha Wernham Wilson as a child in Scotland, ca. 1927–1929.
Source: Bertha Wilson fonds/e011201015

On March 4, 1982, Wilson was the first female justice appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. During her tenure, which coincided with the introduction of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Wilson played an important role in several historic Supreme Court decisions, such as the 1988 abolition of the abortion law (Morgentaler) and the 1990 ruling on admissibility of the battered woman syndrome as a defence (Lavallée). Wilson herself authored more than 50 Charter decisions. She retired from the Supreme Court on January 4, 1991. In her retirement speech, she describes her time on the Court as “challenging, exhilarating and enjoyable, and never more so since the advent of the Charter gave Canadians a new awareness of the rights and freedoms which make this country such a wonderful place in which to live. I am an unabashed and enthusiastic supporter of the Charter. I believe it is a document of which we can be truly proud.”footnote2

After retiring from the bench, Wilson was Commissioner of the Erasmus-Dussault Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1991–1996) and Chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s Task Force on Gender Equality (1991–1993).

The Bertha Wilson fonds at LAC covers many aspects of her life and career, including the important positions she held at Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt, the Supreme Court of Ontario, and the Supreme Court of Canada. These records include bench notes, case files, correspondence with colleagues, over 100 speeches, swearing-in ceremonies, retirements, memorial services and official visits from foreign dignitaries. The fonds also documents Wilson’s roles with the Royal Commission and the Task Force.

Through her speeches and lectures, researchers can better understand Wilson’s views on topics such as the Charter, judicial impartiality, family law and human rights.

The Bertha Wilson fonds also documents her personal life. These records offer a glimpse into a private life rarely seen behind scarlet robes, as a minister’s wife, personal photographs and correspondence.

Bertha Wilson died on April 28, 2007, at the age of 83. The records of her life’s work are a testament to her important contributions to Canadian society.

Color photography of Bertha Wilson seated at a desk in a work environment with wooden walls.

Bertha Wilson at her desk, ca. 1982–1991.
Source: Bertha Wilson fonds/e011201222


Portraits at Glenbow: Images of Women by Women

— By Madeleine Trudeau, Curator, Public Services Branch

Black and white woodblock print of 3 women with huge legs wearing tight costumes

Burlesque show, Cecil Tremayne Buller, 1945.
Source: Collection of Glenbow, Calgary, Canada, 989.165.8

Library and Archives Canada’s collection includes some of the most important portraits in any Canadian collection. In spring 2019, the second in a series of five portrait-themed exhibitions will open at Calgary’s Glenbow Museum.

Each exhibition in the series highlights a different selection of LAC portraits. The new exhibition, Ladylikeness: Historical Portraits of Women by Women, includes a variety of paintings, prints, drawings and photography by both amateur and professional artists.

Through much of the 18th and 19th centuries, women were denied access to the system of art school training. It was considered unladylike for any woman to become too serious about art. 

Still, many defied the odds, attaining high levels of accomplishment, whether as amateur artists or professionals. Portraiture offered one alternative path to success, without the official training. 

Even as women’s prospects improved, women artists chose to work within the genre in different ways, making it their own. By the mid-20th century, representations of the female body took on new symbolism, and perspectives emerged from outside the Western tradition.

Ladylikeness: Historical Portraits of Women by Women opens at Glenbow on March 8, 2019, and runs until January 5, 2020.

Both LAC and Glenbow hold examples of Cecil Tremayne Buller’s (1886–1973) award-winning wood block prints in their collections.

The exhibition includes portraits that may be associated with important milestones in the history of Canadian women and art.

Rita Mount (1885–1967) was a member of the first generation of Canadian women artists to receive artistic training equivalent to that of men. Her portrait of classmate Mabel Lockerby (1882–1976), probably completed when both were students at the Montreal Art Association, helps document this important period. It is housed with Lockerby’s art school sketchbooks, also preserved at LAC. Lockerby went on to become a founding member of the Beaver Hall Group, the first significant Canadian artist group to include women members.

Painted color portrait of a Beothuk indigenous young women wearing a red coat with a fur collar

Demasduit, Lady Henrietta Martha Hamilton, 1819.
Source: e010933312

Prospects had broadened for women artists by the time Vancouver-born Molly Lamb Bobak (1920–2014) was establishing her professional career. Still, it was only during the Second World War that Bobak became the first Canadian woman to be officially appointed as a war artist. Her war diaries document the contributions of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC), often contrasting the classic idea of the feminine with the military world of regulations, khaki and hobnailed boots.

A highlight of the exhibition is one of LAC’s most important treasures, the priceless miniature portrait of Demasduit. This 1819 portrait by Lady Henrietta Martha Hamilton (1780–1857) is the only known image of a Beothuk Indigenous person painted from life. Miniature painting was popular with high-ranking amateur women artists, who learned the art as a “ladylike” accomplishment.

After her capture by a party of Newfoundland colonists, Demasduit came to the attention of Lady Hamilton, the wife of Newfoundland’s Colonial Governor. During the incident, Demasduit’s husband was killed, and the young Beothuk woman was separated from her newborn baby. The child, still wholly dependent on mother’s milk, later died.

At the time, most agreed that Demasduit would benefit from assimilation and the “civilizing” effects of Great Britain’s colonists. Many also believed that hostilities between the colonists and the Beothuk should be laid to rest, especially as the colony expanded. They hoped that once Demasduit was returned to her people, her positive report of the kind treatment she had received would improve the relationship.

As the head of Newfoundland society at the time, Lady Hamilton may have received Demasduit, and painted her portrait, to lead by example.

Demasduit died before ever seeing her people again, and within the next 10 years the Beothuk were declared extinct.

Black and white charcoal sketch portrait of a lady wearing a feathered hat, shirt and tie

Mabel Lockerby, Rita Mount, early 20th century.
Source: Mabel Lockerby fonds/e002107422

Black and white drawing of a lady dressed in apron and army boots ironing a military coat

CWAC ironing, Molly Lamb Bobak, December 1942.
Source: Molly Lamb Bobak and Bruno Bobak fonds/e006078922


The Way Forward for Our Digital Collections

— By Sylvain Bélanger, Director General, Digital Operations and Preservation Branch

Ever wonder what happens to digital collections once Library and Archives Canada receives them from publishers, universities, archival donors and government institutions? With physical collections, they are stored in a vault, in a storage container, in specialized housing or simply on a shelf.

With digital collections, it is not that straightforward, and in years past, it was tortuous.

Traditionally, over many hours of manual interaction, specialists in the Digital Preservation team, along with library and archival staff, would extract data, bit by bit from carriers. Then they would face the daunting task of migrating data from archaic formats to current, readable and accessible ones for client access and long-term preservation.

LAC developed what we called a Trusted Digital Repository in the late 2000s, which involved continued manual interaction with our collections and little in the way of automation or simplification.

Screens, computers and various equipment resting on tables and carts scattered in a large room.

LAC’s Digital Migration Lab. Photo: Sylvain Bélanger, LAC

In the early 2010s, the Digital Preservation unit was a fledgling team, barely visible and even less resourced. There were multiple internal and external pressures on LAC to increase its digital preservation capacity. In particular, an accelerating volume of digital materials needed to be preserved for the long term. The Auditor General of Canada issued a report in 2014 raising questions about the readiness of LAC to handle digital records as the format of choice by 2017. It stated that LAC “must articulate these plans in its vision, mission, and objectives. It must put in place strategies, policies, and procedures that will allow the transfer and preservation of digital information so that it is accessible to current and future generations.” The audit report noted: “An electronic archival system, such as a trusted digital repository, could help [LAC] acquire, preserve, and facilitate access to its digital collection.”

The audit report was a call to action in dealing with our digital content, and it pushed LAC to attempt to tackle the problem head on. A team of stakeholders provided input and feedback into what would become a call-out to industry for a digital asset management solution that could support LAC’s requirements. Industry and partner consultations were held over many months and helped shape LAC’s request for proposals that finally went out in late summer 2017.

In summer 2018, LAC acquired digital asset management technology, Preservica Software, along with associated technologies to allow us to implement a solution (for pre-ingest, ingest and preservation processes) for collections coming to LAC in digital format. This means no longer receiving hard drives and other technology carriers, and also a wholesale modernization of our digital work.

We have finally reached the starting point!

What this really means is that we are still in the early stages of implementing a viable solution. Teams from Digital Operations and Preservation, Published Heritage, and the Chief Information Officer branches have been working on the first series of collections to process from clients, through to preservation and future access. Using specialized managed file-transfer software for pre-ingesting the metadata and assets, to test the preservation capabilities of Preservica, everything is being readied to transform how we manage our digital operations. To ensure a seamless and effective testing approach, as we are testing published workflows, staff within Published Heritage dedicated to this work are working hand in hand with preservation and information technology specialists to implement seamless processes.

For LAC, the implementation of a digital asset management system means being at the forefront of digital acquisition and preservation. Many partners, both nationally and internationally, are keen to understand the approach we have taken over the past four years, and how we are integrating various technologies to implement our long-term digital vision for both published and archival collections.

Even more important is what a digital asset management system may provide to Canadians in the long term: digital collections that are preserved and accessible to them when and where they want them.

This is but one step in LAC’s digital transformation.


Collaborations with Universities, Archives and Museums

— By Cara Downey, Senior Analyst, Governance, Liaison and Partnerships

Parchment landscape page showing bilingual gothic text on 2 columns with Canada crest in center top and seal at bottom left.

Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Source: Industry Canada fonds/e008125379

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has developed partnerships throughout its history, related to exhibitions, access, knowledge and more. These collaborations have created and strengthened connections with various communities, while also ensuring the ongoing transfer of knowledge and skills between the organizations involved.

One example is the Mountain Legacy Project, which started at the University of Alberta in the mid-1990s before moving to the University of Victoria (UVic). In 2001, as the former National Archives of Canada, we began to provide assistance in research, description and digitization of archival mountain landscape images in our collection, which we transferred to the university. Using the information and images provided, UVic takes a current picture of the same area (“repeat photography”), and digitally places the images together to show the landscape changes.footnote3

The creation of LAC in 2004 from its predecessors (the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada) allowed for diverse collaborative opportunities, with some previous projects continued, and new areas explored. When Dr. Guy Berthiaume became Librarian and Archivist of Canada in 2014, he formalized and expanded this work by announcing four commitments to ensure that LAC fulfills its mandate. Included in this new organizational focus was the commitment to be an institution proactively engaged with national and international networks in an open and inclusive way. The 2016–2019 Three-Year Plan further defined this objective. With this commitment, LAC has extended collaborative projects with national and international organizations, including additional universities.

Group color photo showing 1 row of 10 persons in front of a banner.

Launch of the Women in STEM portal, June 19, 2018.
Photo: Charles-Olivier Desforges-Rioux, LAC

In some cases, an overarching Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed, which allowed for the signing of a sub-agreement for a project to go forward. One example is the overarching MOU signed with the University of Ottawa in 2015. Under this MOU, work went forward to determine the preservation requirements for the book Platonis Opera, published in 1517 (and translated from Greek to Latin). In addition, a sub-agreement was signed with the university library to develop a centre of expertise, the Canadian Archive of Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This project includes, among other things, the development of a website and an environmental scan of related archival holdings in institutions across Canada.footnote4

Another example of collaboration was an agreement between LAC and The National Archives (United Kingdom) to develop social media projects to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Under this agreement, a series of blog posts was published by both documentary heritage institutions in April 2017. These posts discussed the composition of the Canadian Corps, the context leading to the battle, what happened in the battle itself, how the battle ended, commemoration after Vimy, and artistic representations.footnote5

Collaborative instruments have also been signed with fellow federal cultural institutions. For example, LAC signed an overarching MOU with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Under this agreement, various initiatives have gone forward, including one that is to be released soon: Proclamation 1982, an innovative augmented-reality project that will allow visitors to view items from the collections of both institutions related to the 1982 Proclamation of the Constitution and its impact on human rights.

Within LAC, Governance, Liaison and Partnerships assists in the development of collaborative instruments. In consultation with the area responsible, we draft the MOU and ensure that consultations are held with the relevant parties.

Overall, the development of collaborative instruments allows LAC to work closely with its networks, so we can learn from each other, share knowledge and develop new ways to serve Canadians.

Montage showing black and white landscape with soldiers and tank on the left, and color landscape with monument and bugle player on the right

LAC banner commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Left: Canadians advance with a tank across no man’s land at Vimy Ridge, April 1917; right: view of Vimy Memorial.


Reconciling History: Facing the Truth, Walking the Talk

— By Sarah Hurford, Lead Archivist, We Are Here: Sharing Stories, Office of the Deputy Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Del Jacko, Advisor, Indigenous External Engagement, Office of the Deputy Librarian and Archivist of Canada, and Hillary McLeod, Communications Advisor, Communications Branch

Colored illustration showing indigenous chief in beige leather clothing and white pointy hat speaking with a metis leader in a black coat.

Chief Wapahaska (“White Cap”) (left) and Métis leader Gabriel Dumont, ca. 1885.
Source: Charles Berkeley fonds/e010859195

First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation Knowledge Keepers hold and share important information about their peoples, cultures and traditions with the utmost care and absolute integrity. As the custodian of a significant part of the country’s memory, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) accepts responsibility for preserving Canada’s history. We strive to represent the materials in LAC’s collections with respect and accuracy, learning from each question and visitor experience. We understand that people come to the collections for a variety of reasons. Some visitors want to learn the history of their people, write research papers or inform legal cases. Knowledgeable service providers welcome visitors and their questions at LAC. There have been many changes over the past 15 years, and the context of records that express the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada has shifted the most.

We therefore had to step up our game to make meaningful progress toward reconciliation. Our first action was to support the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) by providing access to Government of Canada records related to Residential Schools. These records now form part of a distinct archive at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) at the University of Manitoba.

In 2015, the TRC released its final report and 94 Calls to Action. Call to Action No. 69 urges LAC to make records related to residential schools accessible to the public and to commit resources to disseminating them. The work of the TRC shook our bookshelves and lit our path! We knew we had to share the truth of Canada’s history in ways that reflected the traditions of Indigenous peoples.

In 2016, LAC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the NCTR to ensure that the records of the TRC are preserved, and that it continues to inform and advance reconciliation in Canada. On the road forward, LAC has a critical responsibility to provide survivors, their families, their communities, learners, educators and the public with information that contributes to a national dialogue. The Calls to Action guide LAC and have spurred new initiatives that inspired a different view of how we acquire, preserve and provide access to records.

With funds from Budget 2017, LAC developed the Indigenous Documentary Heritage Initiatives. An Indigenous Advisory Circle provides advice and guidance on these initiatives, to ensure that the procedures and processes reflect cultural perspectives. Indigenous archivists drive both of these initiatives.

We Are Here: Sharing Stories digitizes Indigenous collections at LAC to provide free online access to unrestricted digital materials and public access to the records. Listen, Hear Our Voices offers support and services to preserve oral recordings of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation languages. Indigenous archivists, based in traditional territories, create customized and collaborative approaches to preservation with participating communities across Canada.

Black and white photo showing two young girls wearing a coat, an Inuit on the left and a caucasian on the right holding a wildflower.

Two Brownies, Martha (left) and Jo, pressing wildflowers for a competition in Iqaluit, Nunavut, 1960.
Photo: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton
Source: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton fonds/e010868656

Black and white photo showing Inuit artist making a print with a stencil and a brush.

Inuk Iyola Kingwatsiak making a print, Cape Dorset (Kinngait), Nunavut, 1960.
Photo: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton
Source: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton fonds/e010869009

To support capacity building in Indigenous communities, we also created a contributions program. The program will provide funding to Indigenous communities to digitize Indigenous-language recordings held in their communities. LAC will provide financial support and collaborate with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation communities and organizations to ensure the preservation of their records.

As part of ongoing business, LAC produces and co-produces exhibitions of archival and published materials that increase access to and awareness about the histories and heritages of First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation. By displaying these collections, we aim to provide a better understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity in Canada. Our collections are also available in online catalogues, social media, podcasts and blogs.

Within our institution’s walls, employees benefit from the TRC Call to Action No. 57, which asks that the Government of Canada provide training and awareness activities for employees. We actively work to cultivate a team that is culturally aware and sensitive to First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation heritages and protocols. To educate staff about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, we have hosted numerous blanket exercises, and we continue to seek additional opportunities for awareness training.

Moving forward, LAC will continue to work closely with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation. The Indigenous Advisory Circle provides us with guidance and teachings that have helped to streamline our processes and set us on the path to reconciliation. We understand that this is just the beginning, and we are committed to continuing to face the truth and walk the talk.


Chefs d'Oeuvre: Creating the Prime Minister

— By Meaghan Scanlon, Special Collections Librarian, Published Heritage Branch, and Madeleine Trudeau, Curator, Public Services Branch

Painting depicting an obscure gothic room with queen Victoria kneeled on a coffin in the middle surrounded by black dressed standing attendees

Queen Victoria’s Tribute to her Dead Canadian Premier, Frederick Marlett Bell-Smith, 1896.
Source: Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith collection/c141808k

In many ways, Prime Ministers and the Arts: Collectors, Creators and Muses, Library and Archives Canada’s current exhibition in Ottawa, represents a perfect marriage of former National Library and former National Archives holdings. The exhibition was born out of a conversation between the show’s co-curators, Meaghan Scanlon, a librarian and rare book specialist, and Madeleine Trudeau, a curator and art specialist. Meaghan had an idea for an exhibition featuring former prime ministers’ libraries. This idea grew out of her work with William Lyon Mackenzie King’s library, which takes up substantial real estate in LAC’s rare book vault. Madeleine pointed out that LAC is also home to King’s extensive art collection. From there, the development of the exhibition took off, incorporating content from across LAC’s collecting areas. Children’s books and sheet music share the space with letters, audio files and portraits—like an image of King and his faithful dog Pat, by Arthur Lismer of the Group of Seven. Every item in the exhibition was selected to illustrate the different relationships our prime ministers have had, over time, with the visual, literary and performing arts.


Upon entering the lobby at 395 Wellington Street, visitors will be greeted by a historical timeline of the prime ministers—just in case they need a refresher on who’s who! On the lobby wall, they will see caricatures portraying the prime ministers as artists, and images of prime ministerial celebrity photo ops. In the spirit of the age of the selfie, visitors will be able to create their own photo ops by posing with life-sized cut-outs of a few notable prime ministers.

Rough sketched drawing of a man with hat, coat and cane standing beside a walking dog on the right

Mackenzie King with his dog Pat, Arthur Lismer, ca. 1940s. Courtesy of the Estate of Arthur Lismer.
Source: Harry Orr and Dorothy Jenkins McCurry fonds/e011201014

handwitten vertical page with signature at the bottom.

Page from E. Pauline Johnson letter to Wilfrid Laurier, April 8, 1906.
Source: Sir Wilfrid Laurier fonds/e011180873

Visitors will proceed from the lobby to LAC’s main exhibition room, which is divided into four sections: Patrons, Muses, Collectors and Creators. Perhaps the largest thematic section of the exhibition is Muses, which focuses on creative works inspired by the prime ministers. A notable example is the series of three massive funereal paintings commemorating the death of Sir John Sparrow David Thompson.

Thompson died suddenly while lunching with Queen Victoria. His death inspired a period of Canada-wide public mourning. Artist Frederick Marlett Bell-Smith sensed that the mood was right for a major public art commission. He painted his commemorative series on spec but was unable to sell it to the government in power.

The exhibition also includes documents that illustrate the role of the prime ministers as patrons of artists and performers. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, for example, was an important supporter of the career of Mohawk (Haudenosaunee) poet E. Pauline Johnson, also known as Tekahionwake. The exhibition includes original letters from Johnson to Laurier in which she warmly thanks the Prime Minister and his wife for their encouragement and guidance.

Black and white photo taken from the top of a 6 levels square staircase showing a spiral effect

Architectural photograph attributed to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1958.
© Estate of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Source: e011180867

Amateur photography attributed to Pierre Elliott Trudeau is part of the section on the prime ministers as creators.

Finally, the idea of the prime ministers as collectors is explored in a corner of the exhibition space dedicated to the library of William Lyon Mackenzie King. In his will, King left much of his personal property to the people of Canada, and appointed a group of literary executors to oversee the disposition of his papers and books. One of these executors was W. Kaye Lamb, who became Canada’s first National Librarian upon the National Library’s creation in 1953. (Notably, Lamb was the first person to hold the positions of National Librarian and National Archivist simultaneously, having been named National Archivist in 1948 by none other than Mackenzie King.) In his role as literary executor, Lamb made the decision to transfer many of King’s books to the National Library. The exhibition presents a selection of these books. Their subject matter provides insight into King’s interests, while inscriptions on their pages from friends such as Eleanor Roosevelt shed light on his social network. In this area of the exhibition room, visitors are invited to sit in an armchair and peruse an e-book, which guides them through King’s life as it is represented in his library.


The exhibition is intended to be lighthearted and non-political in nature. Through the assistance of LAC’s private political archives section, which maintains contact with the offices of Canada’s former prime ministers, it includes a button-down shirt loaned by Prime Minister Paul Martin. Martin was the accidental inspiration for a Turkish fashion designer, who—unbeknownst to the real Paul Martin—created a clothing line called “Paul Martin Canadian.”

Front of button down navy blue shirt with tiger head pattern

Men’s tiger print button-down shirt, Paul Martin Canadian, ca. 2016.
Courtesy of the Right Honourable Paul Martin.
Photo: David Knox, LAC

Top of page of a book with a dedication by Eleanor Roosevelt at the top right and a datation at the middle left indicating january 19th 1943.

Detail of page from William Lyon Mackenzie King’s copy of This Is My Story by Eleanor Roosevelt, showing inscription to King from the author. The date of the inscription is noted in King’s hand.
Source: collection of books from the library of William Lyon Mackenzie King/OCLC 466322

Visit the exhibition, or follow its related blog series to find out more. And please be sure to take a selfie with your favourite prime minister when you visit!

Prime Ministers and the Arts: Creators, Collectors and Muses runs from February 7 to December 3, 2019, at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa.


The Joy of Finding Aids

— By Amy Tector, Acting Director, Exhibitions and Online Content, Public Services Branch

Two men sitting at a table with shelves full of filing boxes in the background.

Former LAC reference archivists Daniel Somers (left) and George de Zwaan in LAC’s former Reference Room at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa.
Photo: David Knox, LAC

Finding aids: not the sexiest topic, but vitally important. When I started as a reference archivist at what was then the National Archives of Canada, reading “No Finding Aid Available” in a description would make my heart sink. Without that boring but oh-so-useful listing of the records held in a collection, I knew I would face hours of unfocused research. Those years of long days, toil and paper cuts in the Reading Room honed my appreciation for the unassuming finding aid and the enormous power it secretly wields.

Finding aids, whether handwritten lists of people’s names in a spidery scrawl on sheets of paper, or neatly typed 1,000-page lists of file titles generated by the Department of National Defence, are the lifeblood of archival research. While the casual user of archives who uses keyword searches to locate material might not even be aware of finding aids, researchers who delve deeply into a subject quickly discover that finding aids are key to unlocking their research.

Finding aids are tools that help a user to find information in a specific fonds, collection or series of records.  The most common form at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is a file list. This often consists of the name of the file, the date range that the file covers, and the physical location where that file can be found. These tools give a detailed picture of exactly what a collection holds. LAC’s finding aids come in all shapes and sizes: paper lists, electronic file titles, contact cards with images, microfiche, microfilm and even photographic prints.

Index card drawer showing card for plan 7457.

LAC has thousands of finding aids, most of which are still not digitized. So to crack open these treasure maps, researchers have to come to one of our physical locations, either in Ottawa or at our facilities in Vancouver, Winnipeg or Halifax. This is obviously a problem for people who cannot make the trip; over the years, LAC has made a concerted effort to digitize all of our finding aids and attach them to our Collection Search catalogue. The “Grey Boxes” project (so named because most of our finding aids are stored in—guess what?—grey boxes!) has made excellent progress, and in the past five years, our dedicated Finding Aids and Databases team has digitized over 2,000 finding aids. We do not just digitize, either. When a finding aid is handwritten, or very complicated to interpret, we take the time to transcribe it. This work has made descriptions of over 150,000 records available in our catalogue.

LAC is so committed to these beloved finding aids that the institution will soon be increasing the digitization efforts. Between now and 2024, we plan to digitize the majority of our finding aids. That way, all Canadians can enjoy the delights that these informative tools provide.


LAC Perspectives

Vancouver: Bill Miner Co-Lab Challenge

— By Caitlin Webster, Archivist, Reference Services Division

Old poster showing $500 reward title, followed by a picture, a notice and a description of the outlaw at the bottom

Reward notice for the recapture of Bill Miner, sent to police departments, publications and private detective agencies.
Source: Correctional Service Canada fonds/e011201060


LAC recently launched a Co-Lab crowdsourcing challenge for a fascinating selection of records relating to Bill Miner. Nicknamed “The Grey Fox” and “The Gentleman Bandit”, Miner was a legendary criminal on both sides of the Canada–U.S. border. Although he committed dozens of robberies and escaped from multiple prisons, many saw him as a generous folk hero who targeted exploitative corporations only. In the early 1900s, Miner robbed Canadian Pacific Railway trains in British Columbia. In the spring of 1906, he was captured, tried and convicted, and given a life sentence at the B.C. Penitentiary located in New Westminster. The prison walls would not hold him long, though: on August 8, 1907, Miner escaped from the maximum-security institution.  

The records included in this Co-Lab Challenge comprise three files from the B.C. Penitentiary relating to Bill Miner and his escape from the prison. The documents include intake forms and mug shots of Miner, reports of prison officials, newspaper clippings, and letters from individuals claiming to have spotted The Grey Fox, even years after his death. They provide remarkable insights into the escape.


Halifax: First World War Workshop

— By Leah Rae, Archivist, Public Services Branch

Black and white photo of a trench showing 4 soldiers in the front left and 5 at the back right

Canadian Expeditionary Force Grenadier Guards in a trench at Armentières, France, February 1915.
Source: Horace Brown fonds/a107237

Last fall, the LAC Halifax office created and offered a public workshop entitled In the Trenches: Digitized First World War Records. It was delivered in collaboration with Halifax Public Libraries, and four sessions were held at the Alderney Gate Public Library in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The workshop, designed by local LAC archivist Valerie Casbourn, gave participants hands-on experience in searching the LAC collection for digitized records related to those who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), during the First World War. Participants in the workshop explored various types of digitized records, such as service files, war diaries, photographs, sailing lists, court-martial records and much more. An additional session was delivered at the Vancouver Public Library by archivist Susanne Sulzberger of our LAC Vancouver office. These workshops were very well received in both cities.

Winnipeg: Canadian Wildlife Service

— By David Cuthbert, Archivist, Reference Services Division

Black and white photo of a marshland with a goose on the right, a duck on the left and 9 ducklings in the middle

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Calgary, Alberta, January 1938.
Source: Department of Indian and Northern Affairs fonds/RG109, accession no. 1996-97/271, box 44, file 410/09, part 1

Since at least the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1917, Canadian federal government agencies have been responsible for monitoring the population of birds threatened by human activities such as hunting. More recently, habitat loss and the effects of the Earth’s changing climate have presented an expanded range of threats to some bird species. Archival records from conservation agencies like the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) can provide useful historical information on avian populations and their migration patterns, against which recent changes in bird numbers and movements may be measured. The LAC Winnipeg office holds a rich collection of records from the CWS and its predecessors, including reports and studies dating back to the 1920s from bird sanctuaries and wildlife conservation areas across Western Canada. LAC is often associated with research into Canada’s social, cultural and political history, but some archival records can also serve as valuable resources for the study of natural history.

Gatineau: The Preservation Centre, a Remarkable Building

— By Sylvain Salvas, Senior Communications Advisor, Communications Branch

Mirrorlike facade with derrick-like structure

LAC Preservation Centre in Gatineau.
Photo: Gordon King

The LAC Preservation Centre in Gatineau received an Outstanding Building of the Year (TOBY®) award for 2018 at a recent ceremony hosted by BOMA Canada. This program, the most prestigious and comprehensive of its kind in the commercial real-estate industry in Canada, rewards building quality and management excellence. The assessment is based on numerous criteria, including energy conservation, environment, sustainability, emergency preparedness, security standards and training of building staff.

LAC and Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions Canada LP, the company that manages the building, have entered the Preservation Centre in the international TOBY® competition. The winners will be announced in June 2019 in Salt Lake City, United States.


The Centenary of Canadian National Railways

— By Andrew Elliott, Archivist, Archives Branch

Black and white picture showing streamlined locomotive, embarking passengers, terminal rail on the right and buildings at the back.

CN Locomotive 6400 at Bonaventure Station, Montreal, Quebec, 1936.
Source: Canadian National Railway Company fonds/e010861842

In the November 1926 issue of Canadian National Railways Magazine, company president Sir Henry Thornton is quoted as saying: “Two things may be regarded as the greatest assets of any railway. One is the loyal support of officers and men actuated by pride in their enterprise and a willing sense of duty; the other is the ability to secure and hold the confidence and goodwill of the community which those railroads serve. The passenger is the guest of our company and should be treated as such. The fundamental obligation is to furnish transportation at reasonable cost, coupled with courteous service.” This positive and hopeful attitude, of service to the people and communities of Canada, underlay the founding and operation of the Canadian National Railway Company (CN). This was the people’s railway, and this founding principle guided company leaders, more or less, for many decades.

A century ago, on June 6, 1919, CN was born. Its incorporation consolidated private and public railway systems into one public organization. The intention was for the new rail company to provide stable rail service to all parts of Canada. Too many rail companies in the first 20 years of the 20th century had either struggled to survive or gone bankrupt, creating instability for Canadians and the Canadian economy. From 1919 to 1923, various railways, including Canadian Northern, Grand Trunk Pacific and Grand Trunk, came into the CN fold. Until 1996, when it became a privately owned company, CN operated with support from the Government of Canada, yet it also had private interests and operated like a private company. It was a public and private partnership like no other. 

Color illustration showing a bucolic scene with 2 ladies holding a bucket dressed in 1920's style clothing, under a wooden pavilion with a well in the center.

Canadian National Railways Magazine cover illustrated by artist Alex Valentine, May 1927.
Source: Canadian National Railway Company fonds/e011201258

Two Black and white photos showing a couple, a man and a young girl in front of a house and a couple with 2 horses working in field.

Page 54 of a CNLSA album documenting the settlement of immigrant families, 1928.
Source: Canadian National Railway Company fonds/e011000074

There are many aspects to the history of CN, and the vast and rich archival collection (nearly 16,000 containers of archival material, see MIKAN 95) at Library and Archives Canada reflects this sprawl. The fonds, like the company itself, resembles a many-headed hydra. The myriad company functions reflected the perceived need for the company to be all things to all people. As such, the fonds has numerous series and sub-series. Also, the records of numerous private and defunct predecessor companies from the 19th and early 20th centuries can be found in the CN fonds, including Grand Trunk Railway. Surprisingly, perhaps 70 percent of the CN fonds consists of records from these companies. It may be hard for a researcher (and archivist) to know where to look first in this abundance of material.

There are a few ways in. One is through the more than 100,000 photographs in the CN fonds. Another is through the records created by the Canadian National Land Settlement Association (CNLSA). The CNLSA was established on March 9, 1925, as part of CN’s program to promote immigration and land settlement in Canada. This both increased rail traffic and assisted the railway in disposing of some of its land grants. Over 27,000 immigrants were assisted by the CNLSA. Land was located and money released to immigrants to purchase land, equipment and livestock. This continued until 1963. In two different sub-series (see MIKAN 4958005 and 5085592) in the CN fonds, numerous reports document the settlement of immigrant families, particularly in Western Canada in the 1920s and 1930s. These are invaluable resources. Detailed information is included about where the immigrants came from and settled, and there are accompanying photographs.

Front page of color brochure showing a drawing of birches, a river, evergreens on an island, cliff and a mountain panorama.

CN tourist brochure, 1930.
Source: Canadian National Railway Company fonds/e011202274

The CN fonds also contains records created by the CN Publicity Bureau. Of particular interest are the bureau’s beautifully illustrated magazines and tourist brochures. The brochures from the 1920s and 1930s are particularly appealing. They project a stylish, romantic vision of Canada. The Public Relations Department Series (see MIKAN 164439) has a nearly complete set of brochures covering the years 1929 to 1959. The literature promoted various CN services in Canada and abroad. A cultural historian might be interested in how the illustrated covers changed over the years. Some of the most striking covers, from the 1920s and 1930s, are in a beautiful art-nouveau style. Later decades featured a more utilitarian style.

CN also produced the Canadian National Railways Magazine. This was a splashy, large-format newsmagazine with illustrated colour covers, many by artist Alex Valentine, who also produced illustrated covers for the popular Canadian Home Journal. The CN magazine contained, among other things, timetables, fictional stories, information about the latest housing styles, fashions, travel information, sports information, inspirational anecdotes and speeches. In March 1927, for example, there was a travel piece about the remote Indigenous village of Kitwancool, British Columbia. In July and August 1927, articles celebrated Canada’s Golden Jubilee, profiled CN’s oldest pensioner (101 years old!) and noted the first coast-to-coast transmission by the four-year-old CN radio service on July 1, 1927.

These days, it is hard to imagine just how much railways were an important part of the fabric of Canadian society. As Library and Archives Canada celebrates its 15th year as a documentary heritage institution and CN marks its centenary in 2019, this may be a good time to reconnect with the railway way of life. What better way than by taking a trip into CN’s archival collection?


Gatineau 2: To Preserve Our Heritage

— By Nathalie Ethier, Project Director, Gatineau 2, Real Property Branch

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is currently at the crossroads of innovation and infrastructure. Recognizing the increasing amount of storage required, and to ensure appropriate storage conditions for our growing collection, LAC determined that additional specialized storage space was needed.

The Gatineau 2 Project was created as a solution involving a new archival preservation centre behind and physically connected to our existing iconic Preservation Centre. It will provide LAC with a specialized, flexible, sustainable and clean infrastructure, and it is aligned with the Government of Canada’s priorities to invest in sustainable federal infrastructure and Canadian culture.

The reality of today’s socio-economic conditions, combined with an emergent performance culture, set the table for opportunities presented by alternative procurement methods. The new archival preservation centre will be acquired through a Public-Private Partnership, an innovative, performance-based procurement model.

Canada’s documentary heritage is a unique and vast collection providing a comprehensive portrait of our country’s history over the past 150 years. It is fundamental that Canada’s legacy be preserved and accessible for current and future generations. LAC’s dedication to preserving Canadians’ legacy goes beyond Canadian heritage; it also considers environmental legacy. Through the Gatineau 2 Project, our institution is committed to supporting the recent Greening Government Strategy in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. LAC has embraced the challenge to ensure that the new facility will be energy efficient, resilient and sustainable. It will be the first government facility constructed to meet the Net Zero Carbon requirements of the Strategy.

At the leading edge of technology, the new state-of-the-art facility will be the world’s largest that is equipped with an automated storage and retrieval system for archival collections. The centre will provide 21,500 cubic metres, or the equivalent of about 8.5 Olympic swimming pools, of collection storage capacity in two highly controlled environments. It will also be the first Net Zero Carbon archival centre in the Americas.

The Gatineau 2 Project also includes maximizing storage space and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% in our current Preservation Centre. In keeping with the government’s efforts to promote environmental stewardship, sustainable performance considerations have been integrated into the procurement process. The refit of specific storage spaces will support LAC’s commitment to reducing our physical footprint and greening our activities by using efficient systems and adapted shelving structures.

The procurement process is now completed, and the consortium responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of the new facility has been selected. The contract should be awarded by the summer of 2019. Construction of our new, modern and green archival preservation centre should take about 36 months, so it should be operational by the summer of 2022. Work to maximize storage space in our existing Preservation Centre will start soon afterward.

Stay tuned for more information and updates on the Gatineau 2 Project!

Numbers related to Gatineau 2 Project
see below for the text version of the graphic
Text version

The Gatineau 2 Preservation Facility Project in numbers

  • 500 years of archival material preservation
  • Building designed for a service life of 100 years
  • Investment near $400 million for design, construction and financing
  • 21,500 cubic meters storage capacity
  • Maximizing use of space, resulting in a 50% reduction in our footprint
  • Contract awarded in 2019 and facility operational in 2022
  • Preservation Centre has won 4 regional and 1 national BOMA Toby Awards


============> RENDU ICI


On Loan from LAC

Black and white picture of a standing elegant lady with a hat leaning on an armchair

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Canadian and Indigenous Galleries
December 2018 to December 2019

Sophisticated Lady
Brodie Whitelaw, 1940s
Silver gelatin print

Library and Archives Canada, A. Brodie Whitelaw fonds, e011202563

Vertical parchment page showing blue ribbon and red seal on top left with calligraphic handwritten text in black ink.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Winnipeg
Protecting Rights in Canada
October 22, 2018, to August 12, 2019

Western Treaty No. 6 (pages 1, 8, 9)
Signed by Commissioners the Honourable Alexander Morris, the Honourable James McKay and the Honourable William Joseph Christie on behalf of Queen Victoria, and representatives of the Plain and Wood Crees and other First Nations, September 1876
Ink on paper with affixed seals and ribbon

Library and Archives Canada, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development fonds, e004156541, 548 and 550

Old paper page with handwritten script text and margin at left with a Canada crest stamped at the bottom.

Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau
Canadian History Hall
Long-term loan

Draft of the British North America Act in Sir John A. Macdonald’s handwriting
Sir John A. Macdonald with later annotations by Sir Joseph Pope, ca. 1866–1867
Handwritten manuscript

Library and Archives Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald fonds, e011081134

Round silver medal showing a bas-relief of indian chief on the right shaking hand with officer on left

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, Halifax
Negotiating Settlement
Long-term loan

Medal presented to Indian Chiefs to commemorate Treaty Nos. 3 to 8
J.S. and A.B. Wyon, 1873–1899
Silver medal

Library and Archives Canada, Marcella Percy Richardson collection, e000009998

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