Images of Firefighting now on Flickr

Firefighters have the intense job of fighting and extinguishing fires that threaten lives, property, and the environment. Their schedule is demanding and the work is dangerous, but the service they provide is crucial. Fire has been as much a danger to human life as it has been essential to advance society.

Firefighting in Canada began as a collective effort. Citizens and soldiers worked together to fight flames with water and axes. New settlements in Canada were constructed with wood, in tight quarters, leaving them vulnerable to the very fire used by settlers to heat their homes and cook their food. Firefighting evolved to deal with the threat of fire, with the first organized fire department opening in Halifax in 1754 and the first fire engine operating in Montreal in 1765. 

Established towns continued to enhance their capabilities, creating volunteer firefighting companies after the 1824 Upper Canada Parliament fire. Firefighting transitioned into a career after the addition of new machinery, equipment and horses required a full-time staff. A shift toward relatively sophisticated fire protection occurred at the end of the 19th century with the introduction of improved building codes, professional fire departments, fire hydrant systems, steam fire engines and horse-drawn apparatus. Firefighting has since continued to evolve in the face of new challenges.

 

How to find Government of Canada press releases

By Emily Dingwall

Government of Canada press releases, also referred to as news releases, are issued for the media to announce the latest news of government departments. At Library and Archives Canada (LAC), we hold a number of press releases, some in hard copy format in our archival holdings, and some in our published collection. The LAC collection is a great starting point to search for older releases that are not currently online. However, it should be noted that the collection is not comprehensive because press releases were not collected systematically throughout the years. This blog post will focus only on the available materials we have in our published collection, most of which span the years 1945 to 2004. It will also discuss how to find more recent press releases on individual government department websites and through the Government of Canada Web Archive (GC WA).

News releases in our published collection can be retrieved through the AMICUS library catalogue. It is helpful to know the department and time period you are seeking, as the releases have been catalogued chronologically for each government department. Here is an example of a series of press releases in our collection from the former Department of Communications. For more search tips, please contact us with your question or visit us in person. There are also search tips available in AMICUS.

To find more recent news releases, such as those dating back to the late 1990s, try searching the GC WA. The GC WA is available through our website and provides access to harvested material from former Government of Canada websites. The archive can be searched by keyword, department name, or URL. It is most effective to search by department name (available through the red menu on the left), then scroll through the list of departments and click on specific ones of interest. This will take you to different snapshots of the websites where you can navigate to the news section to view the releases. Please note that this is an archived website, so certain links may not be functional, and older content on the website is no longer being updated.

A colour image showing screen captures of two Government of Canada web pages side by side.

A screen capture of the introductory page for the Government of Canada Web Archive (left) and the page listing the departments (right).

In regard to the most recent news updates, the releases for the last several years (depending on the department) are mainly available through individual websites for government departments, crown corporations, and the Prime Minister’s Office. For example, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (formerly Industry Canada) has news releases on its website archived back to 2012.

There is a Government of Canada News Releases website as well, which is a list of the most recent news releases compiled from all federal departments.

Please contact us for any other questions you may have on Government of Canada press releases!


Emily Dingwall is a Reference Librarian in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Superheroes of the Digital Universe: Digitizing the Bell Features Collection

By Meaghan Scanlon

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is excited to announce a new digital resource for fans of Canadian comic books. The Bell Features Collection of Second World War-era comics has been completely digitized and is now available to researchers online.

The Bell Features Collection consists of 382 comic books, most in multiple copies, published in the 1940s by the Canadian comic book publisher Bell Features. These comics showcase an astounding selection of Canadian heroes such as Nelvana of the Northern Lights, Johnny Canuck, and Dixon of the Mounted.

Between November 2015 and March 2016, LAC’s digitization staff painstakingly photographed one copy of each issue held in the collection—a total of 193 comic books. At between 50 and 60 pages per comic, that’s around 10,000 pages!

Creating electronic copies of these delicate documents from LAC’s collection involved hours of careful labour from technicians in our digitization labs, who follow rigorous standards to get the best possible images while preserving the condition of the items.

The process begins with a technician placing a comic on a flat copy stand under an overhead camera, making sure to line the comic up with the camera so that the image taken will be straight. A sheet of Plexiglas is laid over the item to keep it flat. The Plexiglas is on small risers to ensure as little contact as possible with the surface of the comic. This helps prevent damaging the item by placing too much pressure on its spine. Every superhero has an archenemy, and so, too, does the digitization specialist: dust. A single particle on the Plexiglas can create a spot that ruins an image. The technician keeps an anti-static blower on hand to defeat this threat.

A comic book is placed on a flat black surface underneath a sheet of Plexiglas. A woman leans over the surface, using an anti-static blower to remove dust from the Plexiglas. The lens of a camera is visible above the table.

A digitization technician uses an anti-static blower to remove dust from the sheet of Plexiglas covering the comic book she is about to photograph. The camera lens can be seen suspended above the copy stand.

Once the comic book is in place, the technician uses an overhead camera to take a photograph. For the Bell Features Collection, a Phase One 645DF+ camera body with an IQ260 digital back and an 80-mm lens was used, with an F11 focus and a shutter speed of 1/13th of a second. The image taken with the camera is automatically uploaded to the technician’s computer, where she checks for imperfections. If she is satisfied with the image quality, she crops it in Photoshop and moves on to the next page.

A woman faces a computer monitor showing an image of a page from a comic book.

A digitization technician checks for imperfections in the digitized image of a page from Slam-Bang Comics no. 7 (AMICUS 42623987), with art by Adrian Dingle.

This entire process is repeated for each page of each comic book. Once all the pages of an issue have been photographed and the images corrected, a PDF version is created. Finally, this PDF is uploaded to LAC’s servers and a link is added to the relevant record in LAC’s online library catalogue.

If you’re interested in checking out a few of these newly digitized old Canadian comics, you can find a small sample on our website. Hungry for more? The finding aid attached to the catalogue record for the Bell Features Collection (AMICUS 43122013) includes links to all of the digitized comics. You can also access them via the catalogue records for each of the individual titles in the Bell Features Collection; see for example the record for Active Comics (AMICUS 16526991).

In the Ottawa area? Encounter some of Bell Features’ characters on a bigger scale when you visit LAC’s exhibition Alter Ego: Comics and Canadian Identity. It runs at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa until September 14th. Admission is free.

Additional resources


Meaghan Scanlon is the Special Collections Librarian in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force personnel service files–update of August 2016: We’ve passed the half-way mark!

As of today, 320,638 of 640,000 files are available online in our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database. Please visit Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10,686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the contents of some boxes have been moved. You might find that the file you want (with a surname that should have been digitized) is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 5410 and Larocque.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Images of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps now on Flickr 

During the Second World War, Canadian women were mobilized to serve in the armed forces. Approximately, 50,000 women enlisted and a majority of them served with the Canadian Army. A variety of tasks were assigned to the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) formed in 1941. These women enrolled from a sense of patriotism or a desire to see the world, no different from their male counterparts of the time.  

However, they faced skepticism and harassment at home and abroad. Their perseverance coupled with wartime labour demands enabled women to work in numerous fields of work, such as mechanical and technical repairs, communications, drafting, or driving vehicles. The Canadian government and the Department of National Defence in 1943 started a recruitment drive and public relations campaign to support women contributing to the war effort. Over time their salaries increased, and public and military opinions began to change in favour of women serving in the armed forces.

The thousands of women who served their country during wartime gained new skills and expertise, confidence, and a much improved respect and support from Canadians. The CWAC was an opportunity and milestone for those choosing to step away from traditional gender roles in Canada.

 

75th Anniversary of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps

By Laura Brown

On August 13, 1941, after many months of cross-country campaigning during the early days of the Second World War, women were given the opportunity to join the Canadian Army. Like the Royal Canadian Air Force, which created a women’s division a month earlier, the army recognized that women could be placed in non-combatant roles to release more men to fight overseas. At first the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) was not a formal part of the military and operated instead as an auxiliary organization. However, on March 13, 1942 the CWAC was officially integrated into the Canadian Army. Uniforms and insignia, including badges displaying the figure of Athena were issued to army women or “CWACs” as they were commonly called.

A coloured poster showing a female and a male member of the Canadian Army striding forward in unison. The figures wear helmets, uniforms, and carry gas mask bags around their necks. The male soldier carries a rifle on his left shoulder. At the bottom of the poster are four small black-and-white photos of women performing different jobs in the army.

Second World War Recruiting Poster, “Shoulder to Shoulder – Canadian Women’s Army Corps – An Integral Part of the Canadian Army” ca. 1944 (MIKAN 2917721)

While many Canadians were supportive of women in khaki, some were apprehensive and even fearful, viewing the acceptance of female soldiers into the military as a disturbing lapse of traditional gender roles in society. In 1943 the government launched an extensive advertising campaign in an effort to address such concerns and to encourage enlistment. Recruitment materials, such as the poster above and the film Proudest Girl in the World presented female recruits as professional, respectable, and feminine, as well as eligible for various types of work.

Before commencing basic training at one of Canada’s regional training centres, recruits were given a test to determine the job for which they were best suited. In 1941 there were 30 different jobs or “trades” available and, by the end of the war, that number nearly doubled. Some positions open to CWACs were unconventional for women at the time (such as working as a mechanic) but the most numerous trades were those associated with traditionally female work, including cook, laundry worker, or typist.

A black-and-white photo showing a crowd of smiling CWAC recruits. They wear summer dress uniforms and caps with diamond-shaped cap badges.

Personnel of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps at No. 3 CWAC (Basic) Training Centre, April 6, 1944 (MIKAN 3207287)

During their war service, many CWACs hoped for a posting outside of Canada, though only a few thousand were successful in obtaining such positions. Among them was Molly Lamb Bobak, Canada’s first female war artist. In addition to her paintings and sketches created to document the contributions of the CWAC, Bobak produced an illustrated diary, which today is held at LAC and available in digitized format. Peppered with self-deprecating humour, this work provides a frank and funny view into army life. You can learn more about Bobak by consulting this blog post.

A black-and-white photograph showing Molly Lamb Bobak posing in front of an easel with brushes and palette in hand. Bobak wears an army battledress jacket and smiles at the camera. The partially completed painting behind her depicts male and female members of the Canadian Army standing inside a room.

Second Lieutenant Molly Lamb Bobak, Canadian Women’s Army Corps, London, England, July 12, 1945 (MIKAN 3191978)

Out of the three branches of the military—army, air force and navy—the army saw the highest enlistment of Canadian women during the Second World War with a total of 21,624 recruits. The many documents related to the CWAC in LAC’s collection, some of which you can find below, help illustrate the important service of Canada’s first army women.

Related Resources


Laura Brown is a Military Archivist in the Government Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Are we missing part of the historical record regarding Oronhyatekha?

By Richie Allen

Searching through archival records can sometimes lead to unexpected discoveries.

 In my work as a reference archivist at Library and Archives Canada, I regularly conduct research for researchers’ requests. While investigating if a certain individual had actually received formal military training in 1865 at the Toronto School of Military Instruction, I consulted Library and Archives Canada’s online database, Archives Search. A keyword search located the first Register of Candidates Admitted to the School of Military Instruction, Upper Canada (Toronto), 1865-1867, in the record group relating to the Department of Militia and Defense (RG9), Volume 7.  When I consulted the school ledger, the name I was looking for was not there, but another name instantly caught my attention.  Standing out clearly on the list, amid the old script of European first-middle-last name format, was the single Mohawk name Oronhyatekha.

A colour photo showing on the left side an opened book and on the right side a close-up showing a name on the page of the book.

Register of Candidates Admitted to the School of Military Instruction, Upper Canada, 1865-1867. The name “Oronhyatekha” has been highlighted with a blue circle (R180-124-1-E, MIKAN 195106)

The ledger contains many columns of information. In particular, on page 9, it indicates that Oronhyatekha was 23 years old, from Shannonvillle, but living in Toronto. In subsequent lists, he is indicated as being admitted to the school at Toronto on May 6, 1865. On July 29, 1865, he is noted as the “candidate permitted to remain in school for purpose of qualifying for 1st class certificate”—an honour accorded to few students.

A colour image showing a close-up of a page from a book.

Information from the ledger indicating that Oronhyatekha is permitted to remain in the school for the purpose of qualifying for a 1st class certificate (MIKAN 195106)

Information can also be found on Oronhyatekha, also known as Peter Martin, born in 1841, in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, where select biographical entries on significant Canadians can be found. Upon reading this entry, you will note that there is no specific mention of Oronhyatekha attending the School of Military Instruction. Therefore, it appears that there are gaps in the historical record, and we are wondering if this is something new to add to his biography. Please contact us if you have any additional information on this important individual.


Richie Allen is a reference archivist in the Reference Services section at Library and Archives Canada.

Opening the vaults: 20 million pages and counting!

In 2013, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) announced the opening of 10 million pages under its Block Review Project. LAC is happy to announce that the count is now up to 20 million pages open as a result of this initiative.

This project is allowing greater access to many LAC archival government records covering a myriad of federal departments and documenting all operations and functions of the Canadian federal government.

Of particular interest is the opening of approximately two million pages documenting the federal government’s centennial celebrations in 1967. The records, held by the Expo 67 fonds and the Exhibitions Branch of the former Department of Trade and Commerce, cover all aspects of the preparations and operations of Expo 67. They complement previously opened material in the records of the Centennial Commission. Together, they constitute a body of archival records ready for research, as Canadians prepare to celebrate our sesquicentennial in 2017.

Also opened are over four million pages from the former Canadian Department of Trade and Commerce, documenting Canada’s international trade functions from the 1880s to the 1980s. Canada’s international trade relations with the Commonwealth and other countries have been an important government function from the time of Confederation to the present. The records provide evidence of this long and illustrious history, documenting our trade relations with specific countries and all international trade functions.

The Expo 67 and international trade records are just two of a number of federal government collections to which the block review is now allowing greater access.

A black and white photograph of a building with native art on the front wall and a tipi-like structure adjacent to it. The top of a totem pole can be seen behind the building.

Native People of Canada Pavilion – Expo 67 (MIKAN 3192403)

Ghost towns, roads less travelled, and even lesser known places—how to find them, how to research them

By Marthe Séguin-Muntz

With the summer season here, many of us anticipate road trips, family reunions or exploring areas of interest—some destinations may be quite secluded while others are better known.

Are you wondering about that old mill, church or schoolhouse on the recreational trail that you recently discovered? Perhaps your daily commute takes you by a vacant old house, or maybe a small hamlet on your way to the cottage piques your curiosity. Or are you trying to locate the residence where your ancestor lived in 1905, but have been unable to find it?

A black-and-white photograph showing a boarded-up church with construction material scattered around it

A boarded and abandoned St. Andrew’s Church, 1901, Dawson City, Yukon Territory—a reminder of the Klondike Gold Rush (MIKAN 3407583)

Ghost towns are villages, towns or cities that experience a considerable population decrease and show signs of abandonment and decay. One might think of ghost towns as “geographical ancestors”—predecessors that no longer exist.

A black-and-white photograph showing a river with a heavy current, trees on both sides, and an old mill to the left in the background

Habitant series: the old mill at Val-Jalbert (MIKAN 3349504)

Where to begin?

Library and Archives Canada holds many archival resources and publications to help you find out more about that lesser-known place.

Census records list the residents of a location and in many cases provide details such as the year of birth, occupation and religious denomination of the residents. You can find more information about Canadian provinces and territories on our Places page. The Post Offices and Postmasters database documents the establishment and closing of post offices and gives helpful timeline information. The Search Help pages accompanying each database will help you understand the records and how to search them.

A black-and-white photograph showing a long wooden dock by the shore and grain elevators in the background

Depot Harbour, Ontario (MIKAN 3309998)

Discover what has been written about ghost towns (such as Val-Jalbert or Depot Harbour) and abandoned places using the Library Search function in our AMICUS library catalogue to research a specific area using the location’s name, or subject keywords such as “ghost town” or “abandoned.”

A black-and-white photograph showing two small abandoned buildings, one possibly a school, behind a white picket fence

Abandoned mission at [Fort] Norman, N.W.T. (MIKAN 3327910)

Photographs, illustrations and information in archival fonds

Our archival collections may contain some photos or illustrations of former communities. Consult our blog articles on how to find photographs online and how to find photographs that are not yet available online.

Safe travels and happy discoveries on your road trip!

A black-and-white photograph of an abandoned wooden church

The Presbyterian Church on the shores of Lake Bennett, B.C. (MIKAN 3383929)

 


Marthe Séguin-Muntz is a Project Officer in the Private Archives Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

The XXI Summer Olympic Games opened July 17, 1976 in Montréal

By Dalton Campbell

A colour photograph depicts two young people standing on a raised platform in a crowded stadium. They each have a hand on a torch which they are holding aloft. Beside them is a large ceremonial cauldron that is lit with a flame.

The Olympic cauldron is lit during the opening ceremonies of the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 17, 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Montréal, Quebec was awarded the games in the second round of voting by Olympic delegates in 1970. After the first ballot, Moscow was leading Montréal 28 votes to 25, resulting in third-place Los Angeles being automatically eliminated. The Montréal bid received most of the Los Angeles support and was selected as host city.

A colour photograph depicts the inside of Olympic Stadium, Montréal. The athletes of the competing nations assemble on the infield of the stadium. The flags of the competing nations hang from the rafters.

The delegations of participating countries gather during the opening ceremonies for the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 17, 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Construction of the Olympic facilities was slow due to complicated architectural designs, the rapid inflation rate and governments reluctant to commit to funding. Exceptionally cold weather halted construction in January 1976. When the games started, 19 of the 21 facilities were finished; however the Olympic Stadium, the centrepiece, was not completed when the games began.

Nadia Comaneci, a 14-year-old gymnast from Romania, was perhaps the biggest star of the Montréal games. In the opening days of the Olympics, she earned an unprecedented perfect 10.00 for her routine on the uneven bars. However, as the score board was equipped with only three digits, the judges—in uncharted territory—displayed scores of “1.00.”

A colour photograph depicts a young woman standing on the podium waving to the crowd. She is wearing a white track suit with “Romania” written on it. Behind her on the floor are two other young women.

Romania’s Nadia Comaneci (centre) waves to the crowd after her gold medal win in the uneven bars during the gymnastics competition at the XXI Summer Olympic Games. She went on to earn five medals, including three gold. The silver medal is awarded to Teodora Ungureanu of Romania (left) and the bronze to Márta Egervári of Hungary (right). Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Apparently at a meeting before the 1976 Olympics, there had been a discussion to use score clocks with four digits. The decision was to use three-digit clocks because a perfect ten was impossible.

Michel Vaillancourt, riding his horse Branch County, was the first Canadian to earn an individual equestrian medal at the Olympics. Born northeast of Montréal, he was performing in front of his hometown crowd when he won a silver medal in individual show jumping.

Colour photograph of a man riding a horse as they complete a jump over a fence in the equestrian competition. The audience is seated in the background.

Canada’s Michel Vaillancourt rides Branch County in an equestrian event at the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

On the last day of the games, the high jump competition was held in the rain. The world record holder, Dwight Stones of the United States, had been favoured to win. After an interview in which he appeared to criticize the facilities and the hosts, he was booed by the crowd. Stones, who disliked jumping in wet conditions, struck the bar and was eliminated. The next athlete, Canada’s Greg Joy, cleared the bar, bringing the crowd of almost 70,000 to their feet in a standing ovation. Joy would finish with the silver medal, ceding the gold to Jacek Wszola of Poland.

Colour photograph of a man competing in the high jump event. The photo depicts him in the air approaching the bar. Behind the mat are photographers. The crowd is seated in the background.

Canada’s Greg Joy competes in the high jump event at the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Although no Canadian earned a gold medal at the 1976 games, Greg Joy was cheered and honoured as if he had. He was named flag bearer for the closing ceremonies. Later that year he received the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada’s male athlete of the year, beating out jockey Sandy Hawley and hockey superstar Guy Lafleur. For many years afterwards, his jump and celebration were replayed nightly across the county; it was the second-last clip in the O Canada video shown on CBC television immediately before the network signed off for the night.

Colour photograph of a man, dressed in shorts and sleeveless t-shirt, standing with his arms raised in the air. In the background are people dressed in rain gear.

Greg Joy after winning the high jump event at the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

The closing ceremonies were held on August 1, 1976. Canada finished the games with five silver and six bronze medals—more than double the number of medals won by Canada in 1968 or 1972.

Additional Resources


Dalton Campbell is an archivist in the Science, Environment and Economy Section of the Private Archives Division.