The Mountain Legacy Project: An Archive-Based Scientific Project

Beginning in 1871, the Dominion Lands Branch had been surveying and mapping Canada from East to West. By 1886, the Dominion Lands Survey had extended to the Rocky Mountains, but the rugged terrain made traditional survey methods impractical. Édouard-Gaston Deville, Surveyor General of Canada, devised a new methodology called “phototopography,” (also known as photogrammetry) based on the use of survey photography from hot-air balloons in France and Italy. A special camera was constructed for surveyors, who ascended thousands of peaks in Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon. They rotated and levelled their cameras on tripods to create 360-degree views of the surrounding terrain. Between 1887 and 1958, more than 100,000 glass plate negatives were used to create the first topographic maps of the Canadian Rockies, of which 60,000 are now part of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) collection.

Since 2002, LAC has been a major participant in the Mountain Legacy Project, an ongoing partnership led by the University of Victoria, which includes stakeholders in universities, archives, government, and non-governmental organizations.

LAC identifies, describes and digitizes the original negatives. These photographic records are the foundation of this multidisciplinary project, which uses “repeat” photography. It consists of re-photographing the landscape from the precise original locations to provide information about environmental changes that have occurred over the last 120 years.

To search LAC holdings of original photographs, follow these easy steps:

  1. Go to the Basic Archives Search.
  2. Enter the archival reference number R214-350-0-E in the search box.
  3. From the Type of material drop-down menu, select Photographic material and then click on Submit. Your search will generate a list of results.
  4. Select an underlined title to access the full description of a photograph. The descriptive records display images of photographs that have been digitized.

For more information about how to search for photographs at LAC, consult our articles “How to Find Photographs Online” and “How to Search for Images Online.”

If you wish to narrow your search:

  1. Go to the Archives Advanced Search.
  2. Select Photographic material from the drop-down menu labelled Type of material
  3. Use one or a combination of the following options as keywords in the Any Keyword search box:
    1. Name of the surveyor (e.g., Bridgland, McArthur or Wheeler).
    2. Year of the survey (must be used along with another keyword to limit search).
    3. Name of a survey (e.g., Crowsnest Forest Reserve, or Interprovincial Boundary Survey, although these may have taken place over several years, by various surveyors).
    4. Name of a particular landscape feature, such as mountain peak, river, creek, or valley (often the views are identified by the station/peak they were taken from, rather than by the peak or landscape featured in the photograph).
    5. Name of the park (Note: The LAC collection does not contain reproductions of the images from Jasper and Banff National Parks).
  4. Limit your search results by selecting a decade under the label “Date” on the right side of the screen.

For more information about the Project, and to compare the archival images with the repeat photography, visit the Mountain Legacy Project website. To view a sampling of paired photographs, visit our Flickr Set. To view some images of the surveyors, visit our Facebook Album.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

TD Summer Reading Club 2013

Graphical element: Logo for the 2013 TD Summer Reading Club

This year, the TD Summer Reading Club invited children and their parents to become explorers and discover the world. Under the theme, Go!, the young people set off on an adventure, uncovered fascinating cultures and explored exotic locations, all the while making unforgettable discoveries through the magic of reading.

The TD Summer Reading Club is a bilingual program that aims to instil in children the fun of reading during the summer. This summer’s edition, launched by the TD Bank, the Toronto Public Library and Library and Archives Canada on May 29th, was a great success: 600,000 young people participated in over 28,000 activities and read a total of 2 million books!

Graphical element: An illustration from the 2013 TD Summer Reading Club

To continue the fun, the TD Summer Reading Club’s website is full of exciting activities and surprises. Young readers are invited to leave comments about their favourite books, participate in a scavenger hunt, write silly stories and share their favourite jokes with their friends! Lastly, they can also learn to draw with the Club artist, Matt James, and share their creations online!

Children enjoy TD Summer Reading Club activities at Bibliothèque Sainte-Julie.

Children enjoy TD Summer Reading Club activities at Bibliothèque Sainte-Julie.

Britain’s Future King – A Silent film of the visit of Edward, Prince of Wales, to Canada in 1919– Now on YouTube

The visit of the Prince of Wales to Canada in autumn 1919 was one of the first major cross-Canada events covered by the motion picture newsreels. Library and Archives Canada has preserved silent film of the event, including the film entitled Britain’s Future King.

Black and white image of three women, smiling in a crowd.

The Prince’s Canadian tour began on August 11, 1919, when his ship arrived at Newfoundland. It ended on November 10, when he left Canada by train to begin his visit to the United States. His Canadian itinerary took him to many cities across the country. Canadians gathered in cities, towns and villages along the route to see the Prince.

Itinerary from “Prince of Wales’ tour of Canada, 1919, a volume of photographs published by the Canadian Pacific Railway.” The National Archives, UK. CO 1069-286-7.

The visit had all the ingredients ideal for media coverage: an itinerary packed with photo opportunities and a public fascinated by celebrity and eager to see its community celebrations depicted in the newsreels and newspapers. Radio broadcasting was in its infancy, so it was up to the newsreels and the print media to report on the visit. In addition, Canada was in the mood for celebrating after the hardship of the war years.

Canadian weekly newsreels carried reports of the tour as it unfolded, bringing to audiences film of such events as receptions with First World War veterans, the opening ceremony of the Québec Bridge, the Prince laying the cornerstone of the Peace Tower of the new Parliament building in Ottawa, and a visit to a British Columbia sawmill.

The Prince viewed films of his trip while he travelled across Canada. Newsreels in Britain and other countries also showed film from the tour. Some of the newsreel companies compiled their footage into documentaries. For example, Pathéscope of Canada Limited issued two films, Britain’s Future King, and The Prince of Wales in Canada.

Son of George V, Edward became Prince of Wales in 1911. When his father died in January 1936, he became King Edward VIII but abdicated 10 months later. After his abdication, he was given the title Duke of Windsor.

Discover more:

Mission Accomplished! Access to 15 Databases in One Stop!

On December 18, 2012, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) announced the upcoming deployment of a series of 15 databases on Canadian census returns. Following the online publication of the 1861 Census returns database a few weeks ago, LAC is proud to report: mission accomplished!

Now, using the LAC website, it is possible to consult nominal indexes for census returns from 1825 to 1916. That is a total of more than 32 million documents. Moreover, all these indexes are available at no cost!

This massive undertaking required continuous cooperation from members of a number of LAC teams, as well as highly organized operations, over a number of
months. Continue reading

From our rare book vault: What makes a book rare?

When you hear the words “rare book,” you might think of an old, valuable book that’s hard to find. That’s a pretty good general definition, but let’s take a closer look at some factors that can make a book “rare”:


Although old books are often rarer than new books, age can be relative. The first printing press did not arrive in Canada until 1751—about 300 years after the first books were printed in Europe. A book printed in France in 1760 might not be considered very old. By contrast, one printed in Canada in the same year is extremely old, in Canadian terms. And, at Library and Archives Canada (LAC), we consider anything printed in Canada before 1867 old enough to go in the Rare Book Collection.


A book’s provenance is the history of its origin and ownership. A book once owned by a famous person may have added value, particularly if the owner signed it or made notes in the margins.

Coloured photo of a book’s front inside cover, with William Lyon Mackenzie King’s inscription dated September 8, 1894 on the right page. The opposite page has a Public Archives Canada/Archives publiques Canada book plate.

William Lyon Mackenzie King’s inscription on the front page of An Introduction to the History of the Science of Politics by Sir Frederick Pollock. Source

Physical condition

A book in perfect condition is more desirable than one with a detached cover and missing pages. Maps or illustrations, or an intricate binding may also add to a book’s rarity. Old books do not always live their entire lives between the same covers, and it is common to find several copies of the same book that look different on the outside.


If there aren’t many copies of a book, it is, by definition, rare. Books printed in editions of fewer than 300 copies generally go into LAC’s Rare Book Collection, regardless of their publication date.


Some books, such as first editions of well-known novels, have more historical value than others. However, significance can be subjective; collectors may see value in a little-known edition of a favourite author’s work, while others might look at the same book and see no value at all.

That being said, a book might have all these qualities and still not be considered “rare” if no one is interested in it. In the end, rarity, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder.

Visit our Facebook album for illustrations of some of these points.

Stay tuned for upcoming articles as we explore the hidden gems in LAC’s rare book vault!