Images of Winter Carnivals now on Flickr

Early Canadian settlers were in for a surprise when their first winter came upon them. Winters were severe, bleak and long.

It was either give into winter and hide away till spring, or embrace the season and find ways to offset the harsh elements. Early settlers decided to embrace the weather and we have examples of winter carnivals to this day celebrating the season. Cities like Québec, Ottawa, Montréal, Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Vancouver have outside events ranging from sports, music, food, light shows and ice sculptures to enjoy.

Ottawa Winter Carnival, 1922 edition

“A Week Without Worry!”… “Mirth Will be King for Carnival Week.” These were some of the slogans used to describe the first Canadian National Winter Carnival—otherwise known as the Ottawa Winter Carnival—of 1922. This was no tame affair. Instead, for a week at the end of January and early February 1922, Ottawans partied—and even went foolishly wild.

Canadians were used to winter parties. Since the late 19th century, there had been somewhat more genteel winter carnivals, which featured ice forts, informal skating parties and hockey matches. During these, there was only the occasional leap into the absurd. An example is the February 1894 skating masquerade at Rideau Hall where Lord Aberdeen’s male staff dressed up as schoolgirls:

Black-and-white photograph showing eight people standing on a snowy staircase, holding decorative fans. They are all wearing similar costumes comprised of dresses, pinafores and bonnets. Close inspection reveals that some of them have mustaches and look somewhat masculine.

Lord Aberdeen’s staff dressed as schoolgirls for a masquerade skating party at Rideau Hall, called “Dame Marjorie School” (MIKAN 3422882)

The 1922 Ottawa carnival was the brainchild of stock broker and mayor, Frank Plant. He organized everything within a matter of weeks. Lord Byng, the Governor General, was asked to open the festivities, which he did outside the Château Laurier on Saturday, January 28, 1922, with 10,000 people in attendance.

Black-and-white photograph of an ice castle taken from a very high vantage point. Crowds of people are milling about and the city fades into the distance.

Ice Palace at the Ottawa Winter Carnival (MIKAN 3517932)

The carnival included the following activities:

  • torchlight snowshoe parades on downtown streets
  • a grand ball at the Château Laurier
  • hockey matches between the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens
  • curling and boxing
  • nightly bean dinners in Lowertown
  • giant bonfires at Major’s Hill Park and at Connaught and Cartier Squares
  • ice castle climbing
  • midnight dances
  • horse-drawn passenger cutters that ferried people around the city
  • ski jumping off the cliffs at Rockcliffe Park

Although prohibition was in effect in the province of Ontario, alcohol was still legal in neighbouring Quebec. And with the exuberant party atmosphere, authorities turned a blind eye to the reveling hordes travelling back and forth across the river from Hull (now Gatineau) with bottles of booze.

There were three major attractions. The first was the 22-metre Ice Palace located at Cartier Square on Elgin Street.

Black-and-white photograph showing many people standing, possibly queuing, around an ice castle.

The Ottawa Winter Carnival Ice Palace during the day (MIKAN 3517934)

Black-and-white photograph showing an ice castle, brightly illuminated from the inside.

Ottawa Winter Carnival Ice Palace at night (MIKAN 3517933)

The second attraction was the giant ice column that towered over Connaught Square (now Confederation Square, roughly where the National War Memorial is located) between Union Station, the old Post Office, and the Château Laurier.

Black-and-white photograph of an ice column topped with a crown. A man stands beside it.

Ice column in front of the old Post Office (presently the location of the National War Memorial), Ottawa Winter Carnival, Jan. and Feb., 1922 (MIKAN 3384979)

And the pièce-de-résistance—the ski and toboggan slide.

“Ride a mile for a dime” was the slogan attached to this breathtaking chute. Built out of ice blocks with deep tracks, it extended from the Château Laurier down to the Ottawa River following the side of the Rideau Locks. The departure gate looked like an innocent-enough rustic wooden construction covered in evergreens. But when you entered and looked down, this is what you saw:

Black-and-white photograph of a view of the toboggan chute looking down towards the river and beside the Rideau Canal Lock. The track is very long and steep, and almost reaches the Alexandra Bridge in the distance.

Ski and toboggan chute for the Ottawa Winter Carnival (MIKAN 3517935)

If you were brave enough to venture forward, the chute fell at a daring 45-degree angle which levelled out somewhat before being punctuated by a series of steep dips, rather like a roller coaster. (For more views, see the Flickr album). Lord Byng presided over the first toboggan ride, which held Mayor Plant, prominent businessman A.J. Major, and two others. Throughout the week, daredevil ski jumpers would conduct daily demonstrations on the slide. And the rest of the time, thrill seekers bravely took the plunge on toboggans, racing down and out onto the frozen expanse of the Ottawa River at speeds of over 100 kilometers an hour!

When the week was over, the first Canadian National Winter Carnival was declared a resounding success, with tens of thousands of revelers (the city’s population had only just reached 100,000). The present-day equivalent of the Canadian National Winter Carnival—Winterlude—now garners more than half a million visitors every year.

Images of 1st Canadian Division now on Flickr

When war broke out in 1914 between Germany and its allies versus Britain and France, Canada’s Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden immediately offered assistance in raising a contingent of troops to defend Europe. Calls for volunteers started in August 1914.

With a small army of approximately 3,000 soldiers, a small navy, and some militia units, Canada was able to enlist about 35,000 men in a matter of a few months. They were stationed at Valcartier Camp situated northwest of Québec City for initial training and formed into battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and into a division—the 1st Canadian Division.

Comprising 31,000 men, the Division was sent overseas by convoy for further training at Salisbury Plain in England where it continued training through the winter of 1914, and was finally sent to France in February 1915. The 1st Canadian Division saw combat at a variety of locations, such as the Ypres Salient (Second Battle of Ypres), Festubert, Givenchy-en-Gohelle, Somme, Vimy Ridge up to the end of the First World War, and serving into the present. The history of the 1st Canadian Division is rich, long-lived and backed by distinction as seen in its motto, “Agile, Versatile, Ready.”

Linked Open Data sets for the First World War

We are proud to report that Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has recently released a new data set on the Canadian Government Open Data portal as part of a First World War collaborative initiative with the Muninn Project. The project involved the partial transcription of the service records of soldiers who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF) during the First World War. LAC provided the digitized service files of 1,000 soldiers while the Munnin Project organized the crowdsourcing for the transcription and data linking of these historical documents. As a pilot project, the scope was limited to a specific medical form—the medical case sheet—which is found in most of the files and which contains information recorded by hospital staff on a specific soldier’s medical history.

Colour reproduction of a form which provides information on a soldier’s medical history. In this case, the soldier suffered a gunshot wound to the eye.

An example of a medical case sheet from the LAC collection – Private Addison Baker

The information that has been gathered from the transcriptions represents a spectrum of the types of health issues one would expect to occur in a large group of men. Some of the medical cases are directly related to combat injuries such as gunshot or shell wounds or shell shock. Others are related to the living conditions found in trenches which would increase ailments affecting the respiratory system and the outbreak of diseases such as influenza. A large proportion of the recorded information is just the everyday health issues of the time: toothaches, measles, etc.

To learn more about the information that was gathered from the service files, visit the First World War Linked Open Data project. The raw data is also available on the Canadian Open Data Portal in Linked Open Data and plain text format.

Water in the stacks!

But it’s not what you’re thinking…

Recently, two copies of a publication in the Reserve (Rare Books) Collection were identified for rehousing. The piece is called Venise undersee.

When the objects were removed from their original silk fabric bag, it was discovered that they were made of metal and that they were corroding… yikes.

The items are part of Library and Archives Canada’s collection of artists’ books. A bronze representation of the globe, with braille text excerpts from a poem on the surface, they are about the size of a five-pin bowling ball. The globes were made in 1998 by Daniel Hogue in an edition of ten copies. Very nice pieces, but disconcerting to see the beginnings of corrosion on one, and quite a large spot on the other.

Colour photograph of a metal globe sitting on silk brocade. The patina of corrosion is clearly visible on the outside of the globe.

Hmm… corrosion. What’s happening here?

Our first thought was that after the construction of new containers, the items could be moved into a vault with a lower humidity setting at LAC’s Preservation Centre, watch for a while, and see if the corrosion continued.

But after checking the AMICUS record, it was discovered that changing the ambient humidity was not going to help… inside the bronze globes was water from the canals in Venice! Yes, give one of the globes a shake and you’ll hear water sloshing around.

You may be acquainted with the term “inherent vice,” and this is a perfect example. Something inherent, or part of the original, that can have a detrimental long-term effect on it. The effects of inherent vice can be slowed in some cases; for example, cooler storage conditions will slow acidic deterioration of paper. In this case however, without making a structural change to the object (that is, drilling a hole in it and draining the water), there is really nothing that can be done to halt the damage.

Just to make things interesting, the artist’s intent is an important consideration in making decisions about these objects. Is the corrosion damage what the artist intended? Will the artist be upset with what is happening to the works? To find out, the artist was contacted, and it was determined that leaving the water to do its thing was the preferred course of action. Just as the water is slowly eroding structures in Venice, so it will slowly erode these works.

Colour photograph showing the bronze globe in a padded container with the silk brocade wrapping on the right. There is a layer of polyester film under the metal object to isolate any leaking water.

All ready to sit and let time do what it will—the item is rehoused.

And, because you’ll ask, the amount of water inside is not a concern in terms of a leak that could damage other items in the collection. The quantity of water is small, and would most likely be absorbed by the cardboard containers they are housed in.

We will continue to monitor the works to gauge how quickly the corrosion is proceeding, and make decisions about how to manage what will be left of the works in the future.

Frederick Bourchier Taylor

Canadian artist Frederick Bourchier Taylor (1906–1987), was a man of many interests and many talents. He was born in Ottawa and mostly raised there; living briefly in London, England from 1916 to 1918 after his father was transferred there during the First World War. Upon returning to Ottawa, he graduated from Lisgar Collegiate in 1918. He became a student of McGill University in 1925 after his parents asserted that he must complete university before embarking on any sort of artistic career. While at McGill, Taylor studied architecture and developed a keen interest in skiing and boxing. As a testament to Taylor’s many talents, in 1927 he was awarded McGill’s Anglin Norcross Prize for drawing, and also became the university’s heavyweight boxing champion.

After graduating in 1930, Taylor studied, exhibited and worked in Britain as well as Canada, finally settling in Montreal by 1937. During this period, he earned a living by teaching drawing at the McGill School of Architecture and painting portraits.

After war broke out in 1939, Taylor began an unsuccessful lobbying campaign in an attempt to get the Canadian Government to put into place an officially sanctioned war-art program. Undeterred by the Government’s refusal, Taylor used his artistic talent as well as family connections (his brother was Canadian businessman and millionaire E.P. Taylor) to gain access to and document Canadian Pacific Railway′s Angus Shops in Montreal, along with several Canadian shipyards and other Canadian war industry factories.

Colour print showing ship workers unloading cargo, using nets and skids, on a very crowded dock with a ship in the background.

Empire Builders by Frederick Taylor for the Empire Marketing Board (MIKAN 2897675)

During this period, Taylor was able to paint over 200 works that document the diverse, strenuous, and often unrecognized or under-appreciated work done by Canada’s factory workers. Library and Archives Canada has some of these works in its art collection. These paintings consist of 19 small-sized studies along with eight larger finished works documenting factory workers in the fur and garment industry of Montreal during the 1940s. In these works, Taylor has used a muted palette of industrial greens, browns and greys. Taylor has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to capture not only the industrial atmosphere and harsh fluorescent factory lighting, but also the intense look of concentration on the faces of the workers.

Taylor continued his artistic career after the War, exhibiting and participating in shows mostly in Quebec and Ontario. In 1960, he moved to Mexico where he tried his hand at sculpture and silk screening. Frederick Taylor died by suicide in Mexico, in 1987.

Resources

From the Lowy Room: the magnificent 1657 Walton Polyglot Bible

Although Brian Walton sounds like a guy you could google or find on LinkedIn, one glance at his likeness in the 1657 Polyglot Bible, resplendent in bishop’s robes, quill in hand, will quickly disabuse you of that notion. Walton, indeed, was a product of the 17th century and left a legacy in the form of the magnificent multilingual Bible comprised of original tongues and early translations. Two versions of the bible were printed, the earlier one is known as the “Republican” version which thanks Cromwell in the dedication for removing the import tax on paper. The latter one is known as the “Loyal” version as it was printed after the Restoration of the Monarchy. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has the privilege of owning both versions. These bibles are just some of the treasures available in the Jacob Lowy Room at 395 Wellington Street for scholars and the general public due to the foresight of Mr. Lowy and LAC.

Colour photograph of a richly ornate book with gold leaf and the inscription “Bibla Polyglotta Walton” on the spine.

The 1657 Walton Polyglot Bible (AMICUS 940077)

If not for the Polyglot that bears his name, Walton’s face and backstory might not have made it to the 21st century, as his grave was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. An active and controversial clerical figure in the 1600s, he disagreed with some of his puritan parishioners and a House of Commons committee over the issue of tithes. Forced into early retirement in Oxford, he used the opportunity of enforced leisure to brush up on a few ancient languages, conceive a plan to create a polyglot Bible, sell the idea to eminent scholars of the day, and enlist the services of his colleagues who specialized in Eastern learning.

Colour photograph showing an image of a man standing in bishop’s robes with a quill in his hand and looking directly at the reader.

Engraving of Brian Walton in the introduction to the 1657 Polyglot Bible.

At least three polyglot Bibles had appeared in Europe in the 1600s but Walton was interested in creating a less costly, more saleable version. It was a successful commercial venture, even though Walton had priced it at £50. It often was the most expensive book on the shelves of scholars and gentlemen. This was the first work to be sold in England by subscription. By the time the work was ready for press, over £9,000 had been collected. It also represented a technological triumph of the day, being the first Bible to print all versions side by side on the same page.

Colour photograph showing the different languages side by side.

An example from the 1657 Polygot Bible with all the languages and scripts laid out

That is just one of the incredible features of this six-volume set that gives new meaning to the word “tome.” Seeing the ancient biblical text appearing in nine languages, including Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, and Persian on one page, with Latin translations of each language, makes you wish you had taken more languages at school.

The Walton Polyglot is a unique work with a unique story to tell, not only through its content but also through its more than 400-year journey from London into the Montreal home of Jacob Lowy who donated his entire world-class library of rare and old Hebraica to LAC in 1977.

For more information about the Lowy Collection, please visit http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/lowy-collection/index-e.html.

Opening the vaults: 10 million pages and counting!

In 2010, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) initiated a new risk-based process called “block review” to open more federal government records under the auspices of Canada’s Access to Information Act and Privacy Act. This initiative has been very successful and LAC is proud to announce that we have opened more than 10 million pages of Canadian government records, which are now available to the public.

What is a block review?

It is the systematic review of blocks or series of government records currently held in LAC’s permanent holdings. It incorporates a risk-based approach that looks at both the age of the record and the subject. Block review is completed by using various sampling strategies to determine whether the records can be opened for public access under both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The process involves identifying and examining representative parts of the archival record and, based on the findings, the records are either opened or not.

What records were targeted for the block review process?

LAC holds a myriad of Canadian federal government records documenting all aspects of Canadian public life. The block review process has opened material on many of these subjects. Of particular interest are:

  • records documenting Canada’s military history
  • records providing evidence of the relationship between the federal government and Canada’s Aboriginal population
  • archival material detailing our significant diplomatic and trade relationships with foreign governments and international organizations
  • regional documents created across all of Canada as the federal government administered its numerous functions and activities
  • archival material documenting how we celebrated our centenary in 1967—of timely interest as Canadians prepare for this country’s 150th anniversary
Black-and-white photograph of six men standing on the seashore, with a ship visible in the background.

An example of a collection that is now more widely available through the block review process. The photograph relates to the Canadian delegation for the International Commission for Control and Supervision in Vietnam in 1955 (MIKAN 3192391).

More records will open up as LAC continues to contribute to Canada’s Open Government initiative. We will be posting updates on the progress of the initiative, so watch for highlights of the collections being opened up to Canadians.