Canadian directories online

Library and Archives Canada is pleased to announce the release of a new version of the online database Canadian Directories. An addition to the page includes full versions of the directories in PDF format, as well as newly digitized directories which are not available through the database.

Black and white illustration of a page from the directory featuring three business card ads for hardware.

Business card-style advertisement from The Montreal Directory for 1842–3, page 213.

These 152 new directories are for the Ontario cities of Hamilton, Kingston and London and for the counties of Southwestern Ontario.

Enjoy!

All papers are not created equal

You may be aware that over the last 25 years, there has been a major effort to convert paper production from acidic products that deteriorate quickly to more stable paper. The movement largely came from the library community’s concerns about rapidly deteriorating paper in their collections. The result is that there are now no western producers making acidic papers anymore (other than newsprint), which is great news for libraries, archives and consumers.

Not all of these papers, however, can be guaranteed to truly last long-term (by that we mean over 300 years). Manufacturers can, and do, change the chemical composition of papers quite regularly, and as consumers and staff in a library/archive, it is good to know what is available and how to use it best.

So, let’s look at what’s around us. Our inexpensive everyday photocopy paper is not acidic when tested with a pH pen. This paper can be labeled “acid-free.”

Colour photograph of piece of paper with the words: “Purple = Ok!!” on it. This means that the paper is acid-free.

Test of the pH on everyday photocopy paper.

But it does not meet standards for longevity that we want for paper that will be incorporated with collections on a permanent basis. It’s perfectly fine for bookmarks and flags—items used temporarily.

For long-term quality, look for papers that are marked “permanent” or “archival,” with the infinity symbol set inside a circle.

An image of the acid-free paper symbol—the number eight lying on its side enclosed in a circle.

Infinity symbol designating a permanent or archival quality paper.

Permanent papers can be made with wood pulp (where the harmful acidic lignin is found), but the lignin is generally removed and no acidic additives are included during manufacture. Permanent papers are expected to last several hundred years under normal library or archival storage conditions. To be labeled “permanent” with the infinity symbol, the paper must meet either ISO 9706 or ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 standards.

Archival papers are made to an even higher standard and will last up to 1000 years. These papers are produced with cellulose fibres from plants other than wood and do not contain lignin (usually cotton or linen). Also, the standard for archival papers (ISO 11108) includes requirements for paper strength, which the standards for permanent papers do not include.

Papers labeled as either permanent or archival are recommended for long-term use with collections. It is probably best to choose archival papers when strength is a consideration, such as wrapping or enclosures.

A colour photograph showing an enclosure to house textual documents.

An archival quality paper enclosure.

As a final note, it is important to remember that the storage environment for paper also has a huge impact on its longevity. For every five-degree reduction in temperature, it is estimated that the lifespan of paper doubles. Everybody put on a sweater!

“The Complete Set”: Some fascinating examples in Library and Archives Canada’s portrait collection

The Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holdings include one-of-a-kind historical artifacts that relate directly to specific portraits in the collection.

In some cases, items that were separated over the years were reunited at LAC. In others, LAC was fortunate to take over the custodianship of a carefully preserved ‘set.’ In all cases, these somewhat unexpected holdings provide invaluable context for better understanding the portraits they are associated with.

Copper plate image showing Captain George Cartwright checking his fox traps during the winter in Labrador. He wears snowshoes, carries a gun over one shoulder and has a dog on a leash, tethered to his belt.

Captain Cartwright visiting his fox traps (MIKAN 3986048)

This copper plate, for example, was created as a means of ‘publishing’ the evocative oil portrait of Captain George Cartwright (1739–1819), a retired army officer who set up trade as a trapper and fur trader in Labrador.

Oil painting showing Captain George Cartwright checking his fox traps during the winter in Labrador. He wears snowshoes, carries a gun over one shoulder and has a dog on a leash, tethered to his belt.

Captain Cartwright visiting his fox traps (MIKAN 3964571)

It illustrates one process that was used, before the development of photography, to “translate” paintings into a printable format, so that they could appear in books. The painted portrait was created specifically to provide a frontispiece image for Cartwright’s important Memoir, A journal of transactions and events, during a residence of nearly sixteen years on the coast of Labrador… (1792).

The same image as above, except in printed form, published in a first edition of the 1792 book.

Frontispiece from Captain George Cartwright’s Memoir (AMICUS 4728079)

Special Notes on the Frontispiece, compiled by Cartwright, underline the significance he attached to every one of the painting’s details. Like the Memoir, the painting reads like a primer for would-be adventurers—including innovative, Aboriginal-inspired solutions for survival, such as wearing snowshoes when checking traplines in winter.

Copper is a soft metal that allowed engravers to faithfully reproduce these details, as well as something of the feel of the original oil painting. Here, for example, the soft-edged atmospheric landscape of winter was created by protecting some areas of the plate with wax, while allowing acid to wash over other exposed areas.

It’s rare for any institution to hold a painting, its copper plate and a first-edition copy of the resulting book, but LAC’s collection includes all of these items.

Another example: LAC’s collection includes this pendant and earrings.

Colour photograph of two gold earrings with a stylized spiral pattern and a matching pendant.

Marie-Louise Aurélie Girard’s earrings and pendant (MIKAN 3994256)

This was the actual jewellery that Marie-Louise Aurélie Girard (ca. 1868–?) wore when she sat to have her portrait painted by the distinguished Montreal artist, Alfred Boisseau (1823–1901):

Oil painting showing a woman in a black dress looking straight at the viewer. She is wearing the same pendant and earrings as shown in the previous photograph.

Marie-Louise Aurélie Girard (MIKAN 3993116)

These precious items remind us of the human process behind historical portrait painting. Prominent and wealthy sitters would often deliberate over which items to wear or include in a portrait, not only for sentimental reasons, but also to convey social status. In this case, the sitter was the wife of a former Premier of Manitoba.

A Canadian icon: celebrating Sir John A. Macdonald’s bicentennial

It has been 200 years since the birth of Canada’s first prime minister and the interest in his political and personal life has not diminished. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has an extensive and varied collection of records related to Sir John Alexander Macdonald, including a virtual exhibition that includes personal papers, photos, artwork, and publications. Within LAC’s Sir John A. Macdonald collection, there are over 100,000 letters to and from family and close friends, which gives researchers a rare glimpse into his personal life.

Black and white photograph showing Sir John A. Macdonald sitting on a chair, both his legs and his arms are crossed.

Sir John A. Macdonald, 1872, by William Topley (MIKAN 3333452)

As well as revealing a little bit about Sir John A.’s family life, LAC’s collection also contains artwork and objects that use the former prime minister’s image as a political symbol and, at times, a comic caricature. From political cartoons disapproving of the National Policy and Canadian-American relations, to a derisive phrenological chart of Macdonald’s head, the image of Sir John A. has become a part of Canadian iconography.

Lithograph showing Sir John A. Macdonald dressed as a marching British soldier in front of a locked gate. Behind his back, Uncle Sam is reaching for bags of money from some business men straddling the fence.

Electoral campaign sign reading, “We can’t undo the lock, Sir John is on guard. Hand it over the fence?” (MIKAN 2847973)

Beyond the more politically charged cartoons, Sir John A. Macdonald’s image has also been used commercially in beer advertisements, an endorsement for tomato chutney, and he has even been made into an action figure.

Print of a Molson’s ale ad featuring Sir John A. Macdonald seated and looking off to the side. Behind him is a map of the Dominion of Canada and underneath the image the text reads, “Fifty-six years ago when Sir John A. Macdonald was first Premier of the Dominion of Canada in 1867, Molson’s ale was then 81 years old! The ale your great-grandfather drank.”

Molson’s Ale, Sir John A. Macdonald. (MIKAN 3000462)

However, lest our mental image of Sir John A. Macdonald become a caricature, this bicentennial marks an opportunity to reflect on the personal history and life behind the icon. LAC’s Sir John A. Macdonald collection is a monument to the man and the myth, but his legacy extends beyond these images, back to his Scottish origins. In 1968, outside the tiny village of Rogart in the Scottish Highlands, a memorial cairn was dedicated to Sir John A. Macdonald and unveiled by the 13th Prime Minister of Canada, John Diefenbaker. This memorial is built on the site of the home of Sir John’s grandparents and is made of stones from the original family home. Accompanying the cairn is a plaque that states that the monument is but “a footnote to his greatness.” This type of disclaimer is a good one to keep in mind when examining Sir John A. Macdonald’s accomplished and storied life through such a diverse range of records.

To learn more about Sir John A. Macdonald and his legacy:

Library and Archives Canada releases seventeenth podcast episode, “Let us be Canadians: Sir John A. Macdonald

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is releasing its latest podcast episode, Let us be Canadians: Sir John A. Macdonald.

January 11, 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. To celebrate this anniversary, award-winning journalist-historian Arthur Milnes and LAC art archivist and curator Madeleine Trudeau join us to discuss the life and career of this important political figure as well as the related resources available at LAC.

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS or iTunes, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

For more information, please contact us at podcasts@bac-lac.gc.ca.

The William Redver Stark sketchbooks: the details

Over the next few months, the blog will feature a series of articles to uncover behind-the-scenes conservation work. This work ensures that the Library and Archives Canada collection is maintained, preserved and available for future generations to enjoy. We will be following along as the conservation team conserves the William Redver Stark sketchbooks. We had a preliminary overview of the restoration of the sketchbooks this year as well as a podcast about William Redver Stark. Now over the next months, the team will be conserving the sketchbooks and documenting the conservation process on the blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Examining the sketchbooks: the groundwork

The paper in the 14 sketchbooks is either wove watercolour or wove drawing paper. Wove paper is paper made on a closely woven wire roller or mold and having a faint mesh pattern. Unsurprisingly, the eight sketchbooks with drawing paper do not have watermarks. Watermarks are a design or symbol, such as the maker’s name, that is impressed on a piece of paper and can be seen when the paper is held up to the light. Three of the six watercolour paper sketchbooks have watermarks from different English papermakers.

Colour photograph showing a watercolour sketch of a horse. Along the bottom edge is the faint imprint of a watermark reading “1915 England”

Watermark reading “1915 England” on one of the sketchbooks.

The dimensions of the sketchbooks range from 84 x 126 mm to 145 x 240 mm which makes them roughly the size of a smart phone or a deck of cards. There is no pagination in any of the sketchbooks but a close examination reveals the sequence in which the artist used the sketchbooks—some were used from front to back, some back to front or in a completely random order.

Colour photograph of three stained sketchbooks on a white table with a smartphone beside them to show the relative sizes of the items.

Three sketchbooks laid out beside a smart phone for size comparison.

Further examination reveals other important nuggets of information. Some of the books have bookseller tickets, artists’ colourmen labels or ink stamps. These can provide further information on the composition of the paper, the format and provenance of the book. Some labels indicate the number of pages which is very useful in determining if pages are missing. The examination concluded that many pages were missing from these sketchbooks. The provenance information also reveals that the books came from a variety of book makers and booksellers in London and France and that some were marketed to English, French and German consumers.

Colour photograph of a yellow label with information on the maker of the sketchbook.

An example of an artists’ colourmen label showing the maker, the provenance of the sketchbook, the number of pages and quality of the paper.

The text blocks (the main book body) are composed of signatures of between four to eight folios. A signature is a group of folios. A folio is a single page, folded once. All but two of the sketchbooks were traditionally bound, one with two metal spine rings and another with a stapled binding. These two simple binding structures were hand produced and do not use the commercial industrial manufacturing commonly used in book production at the time. All the sketchbooks have hard board covers. The bindings are plain and utilitarian with no decoration on the covers or spines except for manuscript notations in ink or graphite possibly written by the artist. Two sketchbooks have leather spines with cloth on the boards. The others have beige canvas bindings with an elastic-wrap closure. Most of the sketchbooks have pencil holders.

The sketchbooks have not been previously repaired or conserved and all exhibit multiple minor or major stability issues as follows:

  • pages breaking off at the spine
  • paper tears and pieces of paper broken off
  • missing pages
  • pages out of their original order
  • broken sewing threads
  • weak or broken attachment of text blocks to covers
  • adhesive tape on covers
  • fragile areas on cloth covering and boards

The next article in the series, “The William Redver Stark sketchbooks: page mapping,” will look at how the conservation team determined the order of the pages in the sketchbooks.

Visit Flickr to view more images of the conservation examination.

New Books in the Genealogy Services Collection at 395 Wellington—January 2015

Below is a list of our recently acquired genealogy publications. You can consult these publications in the Genealogy and Family History Room located on the 3rd floor at 395 Wellington. The link takes you to the AMICUS record which gives the call number to help you find the book on the shelves.

If you’re just starting out in genealogy, you should check out our Genealogy and Family History pages.

Happy exploring!

Family Histories

De nos ancêtres Houallet en France aux descendants Ouellet-te en Nouvelle-France, de François Houallet et Isabelle Barré, à leur fils René et son rêve américain by Jeannine Ouellet (AMICUS 43057598)

Généalogie ascendante de Maurice Fortier by Lise Lefebvre (AMICUS 42357176)

La descendance de Pierre Gilbert, capitaine de vaisseau: Petite-Rivière-Saint-François à partir de 1756 by Jules Garneau (AMICUS 42913904)

André Marsil dit Lespagnol: l’ancêtre des Marcil et Mercille d’Amérique (1642-1725) by Denis Marsil (AMICUS 42507286)

La famille Miville-Dechêne, Julie: l’arrivée en Nouvelle-France et les pérégrinations à Québec et dans les environs du 17e au 21e siècle by Michel Émond (AMICUS 42421839)

Larocque family by Charles G. Clermont (AMICUS 42544482)

L’histoire de la famille acadienne des Lejeune dit Briard: les sept premières générations et plus by André-Carl Vachon (AMICUS 43023469)

Looking back: a history of the Robert and Hannah (Swinton) Williamson family, 2013-1783 by M. Yvonne Brown (AMICUS 42487533)

The Amos B. Weber family history by Tim Campbell (AMICUS 42624120)

The legacy of Peter Martin by Tim Campbell (AMICUS 43040697)

The Noah B. Martin family history by Tim Campbell (AMICUS 42624089)

The scent of oil: a Nicklos/Perkins family saga by Gary May (AMICUS 39274484)

Ethnic and Local Histories

Atlas généalogique de la France ancestrale: pays des migrants vers la Nouvelle-France by Micheline Perreault (AMICUS 42213484)

Dictionnaire des souches allemandes et scandinaves au Québec by Claude Kaufholtz-Couture and Claude Crégheur (AMICUS 42651679)

Irish presence: the protestant religious history, volume 1: Villages et visages en Lotbinière (includes cemetery transcriptions), research and writing by Sylvie Bernard; translation by Claude Crégheur and Mélanie St-Jean (AMICUS 38820935)

La colonie nantaise de Lac-Mégantic: une implantation française au Québec au XIXe siècle by Marcel Fournier (AMICUS 41526971)

Le pays des filles du Roy… au confluent du Saint-Laurent et de la Richelieu by Louise Biron, Danielle Mailloux and Louise Pelletier (AMICUS 42139559)

Les Filles du roi au XVIIe siècle: orphelines en France, pionnières au Canada by Yves Landry (AMICUS 42011241)

Les sépultures du coteau des Cèdres, 1750-1780 by Jean-Luc Brazeau and Isabelle Aubuchon (AMICUS 43036058)

Patriotes, reformers, rebels & raiders: tracing your ancestors during the troublous times in Upper and Lower Canada, 1820-1851 by Kenneth Cox (AMICUS 42726565)

Pour que rien ne s’efface: Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, 2014 by Robert Charbonneau, Mario Cyr and Huguette Plourde (AMICUS 43043082)

Répertoire des naissances, des mariages et des décès de la paroisse de Saint-Émilien, Desbiens, 1926-1941 by Société d’histoire du Lac-Saint-Jean (AMICUS 42654710)

The Irish Catholic families of Puslinch Township, Wellington County, Ontario: a genealogy by Marjorie Clark (AMICUS 42756767)

Building a case for the Proclamation of the Constitution Act 

It was raining on Parliament Hill as Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau signed the Proclamation of the Constitution Act on April 17, 1982. Marks left by the raindrops, as they smudged the ink, can still be seen as physical reminders of the rich history of the Act.

The Proclamation of the Constitution Act is a fundamental document for all Canadians as it symbolizes Canada’s journey from colony to independent country. Like many of history’s most valued documents, it has spent most of its time sealed in a vault for preservation reasons.

As with the display of all collection materials, a balance must be struck. Exhibiting materials involves exposing items to potentially damaging light, while not exhibiting means restricting access to the collection. The loan of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act to the new Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg presented an exciting challenge to the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Preventative Care and Conservation staff—to make the document accessible to Canadians.

So, what does it take to prepare one of Canada’s most significant documents for display?

Studies conducted in 2012 by the Canadian Conservation Institute concluded that the signature inks on the Act are extremely light sensitive. In an effort to prolong its life, the document is allowed only a limited number of display hours per year. LAC staff designed and created a state-of-the-art encasement and display case to protect the Act from harmful light, vandalism and theft.

First, the Act was housed in a custom case that allows the control of humidity, UV exposure, and oxygen levels which will help to further reduce deterioration of the document. A display case was then designed to help limit the total amount of light exposure during exhibition.

Conservators fitting the interior of the case with an an activated carbon cloth which filters the air, absorbing atmospheric pollutants.

Conservators fitting the interior of the case with an an activated carbon cloth which filters the air, absorbing atmospheric pollutants.

The display case incorporates a special layer of opaque black glass (which protects the document from 97% of visible light) but, at the press of a button, it can quickly become translucent as the document is illuminated. The whole system runs on a timer, controlling the length of time the document is visible and records the total exposure over an entire loan period. This will help LAC to monitor the amount of light exposure the Act receives over the course of its life.

The silver bag inside the case acts as a bellows to regulate the air pressure once the case is sealed, to avoid a change in temperature or barometric pressure.

This project enhances public access to our country’s heritage without compromising the long-term preservation of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, and ensures that Canadians will be able to see this national treasure, including generations to come.

Visit the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg for this rare opportunity to see the Proclamation of the Constitution Act and other significant documents from LAC’s collections during the museum’s inaugural exhibitions.