Sir George Back created a remarkable record of his Arctic expeditions from 1818 until 1837. The talented naval officer and expedition artist accompanied Sir John Franklin on his first and second overland expeditions. The objective of the first expedition (1819-1822) was to chart the coast from the mouth of the Coppermine River to Repulse Bay, while the second expedition (1825-1826) was to explore the coast to the east and west of the mouth of the Mackenzie River.
Ernest Alvia “Smokey” Smith (May 3, 1914 – August 3, 2005) was the last living Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross (V.C.) and the only private in the Canadian Armed Forces to receive this decoration during the Second World War. It is the highest military honour awarded to British and Commonwealth Forces.
Private “Smokey” Smith earned this distinction 70 years ago—on October 21 and 22, 1944—in Savio, Italy, where he was fighting with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. His unit was ordered to establish a bridgehead across the Savio River, which had risen significantly due to torrential rain, making it impossible for tanks and anti-tank guns to cross. Having successfully crossed the river, the unit’s right flank was attacked by the German 26th Panzer Division. Smith, an experienced member of the anti-tank platoon, had participated in the amphibious Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy, been wounded twice, and been part of fierce street fighting during the advance in Italy. Sheltering in a ditch as a German Panther tank rolled toward him and machine guns raked his position, Smith waited until the tank was within 30 feet of his PIAT (Projector, Infantry Anti-Tank, a.k.a. “tank-stopper”) and then stood up, fired, and disabled the tank. Still in full view of the enemy, he drove back the Germans who leapt from the burning tank, along with a second Panther and 30 infantry soldiers, all the while protecting a wounded comrade. According to his V.C. citation, “Private Smith, still showing utter contempt for enemy fire, helped his wounded friend to cover and obtained medical aid for him behind a nearby building. He then returned to his position beside the road to await the possibility of a further enemy attack.” (The London Gazette, no. 36849, December 20, 1944). Smith’s unit consolidated the bridgehead position and paved the way for the capture of San Giorgio Di Cesena and a further advance to the Ronco River.
As Smith later told it, he was placed in a Naples jail by Military Police to keep him out of trouble until he could be sent to London to receive his V.C. He was, by his own words, a man who didn’t like to take orders but who believed firmly in the job he had to do. Following the war, Smith re-enlisted in the army but did not see combat. He later served as a recruiting sergeant in Vancouver and remained in the army until his retirement in 1964. Smith received the Canadian Forces Decoration and was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada in 1996 in recognition of his service to Canadian veterans’ organizations.
To learn more about Canada’s military past, visit the Military Heritage pages.
In January 2014, we announced a project to digitize 640,000 Canadian Expeditionary Force personnel service files as part of the First World War commemoration activities of the Government of Canada. The goal of this project is to provide free access to high-quality digital copies of all service files in PDF format, anytime and anywhere.
Close to 100 years old, these personnel files are quite brittle. Additionally, over the years, service files have been consulted many times, so they are extremely fragile. It was time to take concrete steps to ensure their preservation for future generations.
To achieve this goal, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) will have to close portions of this collection as they undergo preparation, conservation, and digitization. The entire process is complex because each file must be examined: staples, paper clips and glue must be removed, and in some cases, the files must be treated for mould. After this preparation is completed, digitization is next, starting with box No. 1 and going up. Once digitized, the service files will be stored in a permanent, safe environment. We estimate that 32,000,000 pages will be available online once digitization is finished.
We are happy to inform you that we have started posting the digitized files online. They are accessible via our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database. As of today, 76,330 files are available online. Regular uploads of about 5,000 files will take place every two weeks. All digitized files are searchable by name, regimental number and rank. We will inform you as more digitized files are added to the database.
At the beginning of the First World War in 1914, French Canadian volunteers were initially posted across several battalions in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Canada’s entry into the war on August 4, 1914, was shortly followed by the first efforts to mobilize volunteers. Then Minister of Militia, Sir Sam Hughes, set up a direct recruitment program for volunteers who would be sent to large training camps—the first being Valcartier, located northwest of Québec City. Volunteers would then be deployed to new numbered units, without their traditions or geographic origins being taken into account. The first Canadian contingent sent to Great Britain in October 1914 was made up of more than 30,000 men, including 1,200 French Canadians.
As early as September 1914, the Francophone elite expressed a desire to create a battalion composed entirely of French Canadians. With Dr. Arthur Mignault providing $50,000 for the cause, the Canadian government authorized the formation of such a battalion on October 15, 1914. It was to be under the command of Colonel Frédéric Mondelet Gaudet, an officer in the Permanent Militia who had graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada.
The 22nd Battalion—36 officers and 1,097 troops—left Halifax for England on May 20, 1915, on the RMS Saxonia, a passenger ship launched in 1899. On September 15, 1915, after training for a few months in England, they were sent to France to take part in several battles during 38 months of intense fighting. They received honours for 18 feats of arms, the most famous being the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in September 1916. The battalion was disbanded on September 15, 1920, at the end of the First World War.
Canada’s defence system needed reorganization when the war ended and it was then that the only Francophone military unit in Canada was revived. The famous 22nd Battalion, now the 22e Régiment, was housed at the Citadelle in Québec City. On June 1, 1921, the regiment received the title of Royal, awarded by the reigning British monarch to deserving military units. Over the years, different traditions took hold, such as the regiment’s colours, its mascot goat—Batisse, and its music. Note that the Royal 22e Régiment was extremely active in the Second World War as part of Operation Husky in Sicily, the Italian Campaign, and the liberation of the Netherlands.
Searching Library and Archives Canada for materials on the 22nd Battalion and the Royal 22e Régiment
Library and Archives Canada has many records on the 22nd Battalion (French-Canadian). Consult pages 115 to 121 of the Guide to Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force for a list of First World War records about the 22nd Battalion (French-Canadian). The war diaries of the 22nd Canadian Infantry Battalion are also available online.
To find material pertaining to the Royal 22e Régiment, carry out an advanced Archives Search by entering RG24 in the first search box and 22e Régiment in the second search box. View the Flickr album on the 22nd (French Canadian) Battalion.
For more information, visit the Royal 22e Régiment website (available in French only).
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) was established on May 2, 1939, under the National Film Act, with a mandate to produce and distribute films on subjects of varied interest to Canadians. Although its mandate has expanded, the NFB maintains a solid international reputation for capturing historically significant footage and producing visually stimulating flagship films, such as the early award-winning documentary Royal Journey (1951), documenting Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to Canada and the United States.
In 1967, after a fire devastated most of the NFB’s nitrate film collection housed in a storage facility near Montréal, Quebec, it became clear that Canada’s film heritage was endangered. This tragedy provided the impetus to authorize the Public Archives of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada) to create a national film acquisition program in 1969. And in 1976, Canada officially had a National Film Archive with its own dedicated staff to ensure the ongoing collection and preservation of Canada’s film collection.
The NFB Fonds
The National Film Board fonds is Library and Archives Canada’s largest film collection, boasting a variety of genres that represent over 11,000 audiovisual records, including film, video, sound recordings, textual records, posters, technical drawings and more. These records consist of completed productions and pre-production elements, such as negatives, outtakes, stock shots, and prints. The photographic series documents everyday Canadian life—promoting tourism, industry and natural resources—since the NFB’s photography division was established in 1942.
Although many NFB filmmakers are now working entirely in digital form, it is not uncommon for audiovisual archivists, when opening a box of archival records, to come across the iconic green NFB label on cans of celluloid or video cases. The NFB’s once wide distribution of their productions is evidenced in the large amount of analogue records still found in libraries and archives across Canada. Most of its analogue productions having been digitized, NFB can now reach an even greater public with its online collection.
Important NFBContributors in the LAC Collection
Besides the National Film Board fonds, Library and Archives Canada has private fonds of well-known and award-winning NFB filmmakers and directors, such as Norman McLaren—Neighbours; Gilles Carle—La vraie nature de Bernadette; Evelyn Spice Cherry—Weather Forecast; Donald Brittain—Canada at War series; Cynthia Scott—Flamenco at 5:15; Claude Jutra—Mon oncle Antoine; Bill Mason—Paddle to the Sea; and Colin Low—The Romance of Transportation in Canada. You can view many of these movies for free or a small fee on the NFB website.
Since Library and Archives Canada (LAC) extended its long-standing partnership with Canadiana.org to digitize microfilms in August 2013, 17.4 million images and 535 collections have been added to the Héritage website. These microfilms cover personal, administrative and government records.
Up until recently, clients looking for microfilmed records in the collection would start their search on the LAC website, then go to the Héritage website to check if that content was already digitized. But now, you can find out whether a microfilmed record has been digitized or not just by consulting the MIKAN description!
In this example for the Royal Canadian Air Force files, the following graphical notice is displayed at the top of the page in the Title section:Scrolling down to the Finding aid section, you will find the link to the Héritage website:
As other microfilms are digitized and made available on the Héritage website, similar links will be added to the corresponding MIKAN descriptions.
Canada’s libraries foster connections between people, ideas, communities and information.
Art lovers interested in researching the life and working methods of Canadian artist Alma Duncan (1917–2004) must make Library and Archives Canada (LAC) one of their first stops. With the acquisition of Duncan’s complete records (fonds) between 1998 and 2005, LAC became the major centre for the study and preservation of artworks, and supporting material documenting Duncan’s personal and professional life.
The collection includes major oil paintings such as this early self-portrait:
In this painting, Duncan portrays herself wearing pants at a time when this type of attire was still considered somewhat risqué for a woman.
The collection also includes drawings, preparatory work, material related to Duncan’s separate career as a graphic designer, and original films by Duncan. Probably the most fascinating items are related to the film company, Dunclaren Productions, formed by Duncan and Canadian photographer Audrey McLaren between 1951 and 1960. That collaboration resulted in three internationally acclaimed short animated films created for the most part in an Ottawa attic. Today these films are recognized as milestones in the history of short animated film, a genre in which Canada has always been a leader.
The Dunclaren Productions holdings include most of the original handmade puppets and props that Duncan created for the films.
This puppet and its accompanying “scared” replacement head created for the film, Folksong Fantasy, illustrate the painstaking methods Duncan used to make the characters in her films appear to change expression.
Meticulously crafted props like this tiny igloo and kayak created for the film, Kumak, the Sleepy Hunter, highlight Duncan’s lifelong interest in themes related to the Canadian arctic:
A major retrospective exhibition on Duncan’s life and work, ALMA: The Life and Art of Alma Duncan (1917-2004), opens on October 2, 2014 at the Ottawa Art Gallery. LAC is a major lender to this exhibition, which will include many of the original art works illustrated above.
Film festival season is upon us, and as numerous Canadian cities including Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Vancouver welcome the world’s film industry, it is an opportune time to discover the rich collection of feature films at Library and Archives Canada (LAC).
Since the 1970s, LAC has been acquiring and preserving Canadian feature films, an effort that has become more concerted since 2000. Our collection now includes the earliest surviving Canadian feature film, Back to God’s Country (1919) by Canadian film pioneer Nell Shipman, as well as the latest acclaimed works, such as Louise Archambault’s Gabrielle (2013), Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy (2013) starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and the latest from the Trailer Park Boys, Swearnet (2013).
Since 2000, we have acquired master copies of all feature films funded by Telefilm Canada, a federal cultural agency, thereby ensuring their long-term preservation. In addition, we have compiled a collection of privately funded films.
Representing the most diverse and complete collection of Canadian features in the world, we have over 2,800 feature films starring national and international award winners, including Academy Award nominees and winners. Our collection includes film prints, master videotapes and digitally created features, all preserved in our state-of-the-art storage facility.
As the film industry rapidly switches to digital filmmaking, we too are changing the feature film acquisition process by including Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs), the digital equivalent of a film print.
In light of the influence of the American film industry on the international cinema market, Canadian feature films frequently have limited theatre distribution. As a result, LAC is a major access point for Canadian films that are no longer available commercially, thus preserving a diverse collection of feature films to archival standards, and accessible to researchers.
These films provide cinephiles with access to Canada’s cinematic heritage through online descriptions; on-site research and screenings; and loans to festivals and cinematheques for exhibition.
Related Resources :
- Read Lights, Camera, Action! Searching for Film, Video and Sound Recordings
- Search the Film, Video and Sound Database (Archived)
- Search the Canadian Feature Film Database