To be the best on snow and ice: Documenting Canada’s achievements at the Olympics

The Sochi 2014 Games mark 90 years of Canadian athletes representing their country on the Winter Olympic stage. Canadians have competed in all Winter Olympics, starting with the first Games in Chamonix in 1924. Canada is also part of a handful of countries that have won medals at every Winter Games.

Library and Archives Canada holds a rich collection documenting memorable Canadian performances at the Games, the athletes behind these achievements, and the historical development of winter Olympic sports disciplines in Canada.

The Canadian Olympians site provides a visual history of Canada’s participation in the Games. It consists of more than 10,000 images of athletes who participated in the Winter and Summer Olympics, from the early 1900s through 2004.

Find out more about the following winter sports:

Use the Archives Search tool to discover many historical documents and images by using keywords such as athletes, sports, Olympics or medals. Here are some examples of what you may find on our website:

Canada's Nancy Greene (top) celebrates her gold medal win in the giant slalom alpine ski event at the 1968 Grenoble winter Olympics. (CP Photo/COA).

Canada’s Nancy Greene (top) celebrates her gold medal win in the giant slalom alpine ski event at the 1968 Grenoble winter Olympics. (CP Photo/COA). Source

Canada's Marc Gagnon competes in the speed skating event at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics. (CP PHOTO/ COA).

Canada’s Marc Gagnon competes in the speed skating event at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics. (CP PHOTO/ COA). Source

See also:

  • Our Flickr album on this subject
  • The Fitness and Amateur Sport records, which contain over 40,000 photographs documenting the performance of Canadian athletes at national and international competitions, including the Olympics

Enjoy the Sochi Games!

Library and Archives Canada’s Fifth Anniversary on Flickr

In 2008, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) launched its first Flickr set, The Shamrock and the Maple Leaf, which provided a sample of items that could be found in the LAC collection. The set complemented a symposium on Irish-Canadian studies hosted by LAC and supported by the National Archives of Ireland.

This new LAC endeavour quickly proved to be a highly positive one, with viewership of LAC’s Flickr site continuing to grow every time a new set was added.

As LAC’s Flickr site drew more and more viewers, the participation of LAC staff members with specialized knowledge of the collection also grew rapidly. Thanks to those employees, 2012 in particular saw a major increase in the number of sets, covering a variety of significant and interesting topics.

As of September 2013, LAC’s Flickr page featured 74 sets and 2,576 images.

Thanks go out to our staff, and especially to all the people who visit LAC’s Flickr page, for helping us reach 1.7 million views. We hope you enjoy this unique window into our collection.

The “ghost” Colonel…and other “spooky” portraits in Library and Archives Canada’s collection

One of the most beautiful and rare oil paintings in Library and Archives Canada’s collection is this portrait of Colonel John Hale (1728–1806). After returning to England as a hero of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (1759), Hale had this portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), a famous portrait artist, who is also renowned for his experiments with paint materials and for his stubborn attitude towards the use of one particular colour.

Portrait of Colonel John Hale, circa 1763-1764.

Portrait of Colonel John Hale, circa 1763-1764. Source

In the portrait, the lapels of Hale’s uniform are edged in black in honour of the death of General James Wolfe (1727–1759), a reminder of the most recent and significant battle in Colonel Hale’s career. The unusually pale colour of Hale’s face and hands fits well with this serious subject matter. It also seems appropriate for a portrait of a man who lived a long time ago — as modern viewers might expect, Hale appears to be a ghost out of the past.

But Hale’s otherworldly appearance is really a complete accident. To create a flesh colour for faces and hands, Reynolds mixed white pigment with carmine, a dark red pigment made from crushed South American beetles. Unfortunately, early carmine was “fugitive” — it disappeared quickly when exposed to light. This is especially true when, as in this portrait, carmine is mixed with white. White is a colour pigment that is less able to protect carmine from light exposure. Carmine fades away, and white is the main colour that remains behind.

Even within Reynolds’ lifetime, the pale faces in many of his early portraits were noticed. Yet Reynolds is famous for refusing to use vermilion, the more stable but less natural shade of red. He is said to have responded to the suggestion by looking at his own hand and saying: “I can see no vermilion in flesh.”

For more “spooky” portraits, visit our Flickr album.