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.

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.

Images of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan now on Flickr 

During the Second World War, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) mobilized Canadian experts, initiated the building of airfields, conducted research into the development of equipment, and provided valuable training and resources to Commonwealth aviators.

Signed in 1939, the Agreement and Plan lasted from 1940 to 1945. During this time, about 151 schools were established across Canada with over 104,000 men and women serving the ground operations. By the end of the War, the BCATP had produced 131,553 aircrew; including pilots, wireless operators, air gunners, and navigators for the Air Forces of Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Dora de Pédery-Hunt

“Medals are my favourite form of expression,” Dora de Pédery-Hunt once said. “They are like short poems.” You may not know who Dora de Pédery-Hunt is, but chances are, at one time or another or even now, you have an example of her work in your possession.

Black-and-white photograph of a woman holding a ceramic model of a medal and looking at it intently.

Portrait of Dora de Pédery-Hunt working on a medal (MIKAN 2267060)

Dora de Pédery-Hunt (1913–2008), was a Hungarian-born sculptor and medalist. After graduating with a master’s diploma in sculpture from the Royal Academy of Applied Arts in Budapest in 1943, she came to Canada by way of Germany in 1948. In Hungary, she had studied bronze and plaster casting along with stone and wood carving. After arriving in Canada, however, her need for regular work to support herself and her family was paramount. Setting aside her artistic aspirations for a short while, Dora took work as a housekeeper. In due time, Dora was introduced to sculptors Frances Loring and Florence Wyle (often called the first women of Canadian sculpture) by her Canadian immigration sponsor Major Thomas S. Chutter. Realizing her talent, Loring and Wyle helped Dora acquire a job teaching sculpture. Now free to devote most of her time to her art, Dora de Pédery-Hunt flourished.

Photograph of a bronze medal showing the profile of a woman and the inscription “Celia Franca” along the bottom left.

Medal with a portrait of Celia Franca in profile (MIKAN 3704296)

Throughout the 1950s Dora received several private and public commissions. An entry Dora placed in the Canadian National Exhibition show caught the eye of Alan Jarvis, then director of the National Gallery of Canada. Through his support, Dora obtained a grant from the Canada Council enabling her to study and hone her talents in Europe for the next six months. Upon returning to Canada, Dora used the experience she gained abroad to begin working on larger scale projects, creating religious iconography such as ornate tabernacles and Stations of the Cross. At the same time, she continued to create smaller objects including many commemorative, award and portrait medals.

Colour photograph showing a a coin with the image of John A. Macdonald on it with a portrait of a queen behind it.

Coin commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation: 1867-1967 (MIKAN 3637375)
© The Royal Trust Company. Reproduced with the permission of The Royal Trust Company.

From teaching at a small vocational college, Dora would eventually become a faculty member of the Ontario College of Art. Throughout her industrious career she received several national and international awards and accolades including the Order of Canada.

Photograph of a bronze medal showing a stylized image of a person sitting down, inscribed with the words “Canada” along the top edge and “expo 67” on the bottom right.

Commemorative medal of Montreal’s Expo 67 (MIKAN 2834429).

And what about that example of Dora de Pédery-Hunt’s artwork you most probably have in your possession? That would be the profile of Queen Elizabeth II minted on late 20th century Canadian coins.

Photograph of the face of a Canadian quarter showing the profile of Queen Elizabeth II.

Profile of Queen Elizabeth II on a Canadian quarter.

Explore the Dora de Pédery-Hunt fonds.

Images of Hockey life now on Flickr

Hockey is so popular in Canada that a number of cities claim to have started, or invented, the game. Some notable claimants are the cities of Halifax, Windsor and Kingston.

There are early recorded events, such as the 1875 indoor game in Montreal at the Victoria Skating Rink, and the 1883 Montreal Winter Carnival hockey tournament where teams from Ottawa and Quebec City participated. There were even amateur associations formed to promote the growth of the game in Canada.

Happy 100th birthday, Hockey Canada!

On December 4, 2014, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is celebrating the 100th birthday of the national governing body for amateur hockey in Canada.

Hockey is Canada’s national winter game and is played by young and old on frozen ponds and arenas from coast to coast to coast. The centennial of Hockey Canada gives us an opportunity to understand and learn more about hockey’s roots in Canada.

Minister of State (Sport), the Honorable Bal Gosal, October 30, 2014

The Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) was founded in December 1914 in Ottawa, Ontario as the national administrative, regulatory and developmental body for amateur hockey in Canada. Representation at the founding meeting included the provincial hockey associations of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario; the Montreal City Hockey League; the Canadian Intercollegiate Hockey Union; the Allan Cup Trustees; the Canadian Olympic Association; and the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada. Other groups affiliated with the CAHA after its creation include the Quebec Amateur Hockey Association in 1919, the Ottawa District Amateur Hockey Association in 1920, the Maritime Amateur Hockey Association in 1928, the Newfoundland Amateur Hockey Association in 1966 and the New Brunswick Amateur Hockey Association in 1968.

Black and white composite photograph showing portraits of the entire team in little medallions with the inscription Monarch Hockey Club, Amateur Champions of Canada, Winners of Pattison Trophy’s Allan Cup 1913-1914,

Winnipeg Monarch Hockey Club. Allan Cup Winners 1913-1914 (MIKAN 3657113)

Library and Archives Canada, in partnership with, provides digital access to some of the important records from the CAHA fonds such as the official rule books governing amateur hockey going back to 1927.

Reproduction of a 1927 booklet describing the rules of the game by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association.

Rules of the Game from the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association in 1927 (source on page 77)

In 1994, the CAHA merged its activities with the Canadian Hockey Association, better known as Hockey Canada, which had been created in 1968. The new organization’s mandate was to select teams to represent Canada in international competition and to foster the development of skills in Canadian hockey players. LAC’s Hockey Canada material documents many international hockey series and tournaments, which captured the attention of all Canadians such as the 1972 Summit Series and the 1976 Canada Cup.

Black-and-white entry form for a draw to see a Canada/Soviet game in 1972.

Mail-in coupon for a draw to receive tickets for a 1972 Summit Series game
Source: Hockey Canada Fonds/ Chronological file July 4/72 to Aug 31/72/ (e001217378)

You can discover the evolution of hockey in Canada by exploring LAC’s records of Hockey Canada and its predecessor, the CAHA.

Also, be sure to explore the Hockey Hall of Fame, which has the largest collection of hockey history resources, and visit its new exhibit co-produced with LAC, The First World War and a Century of Military Ties to the Game.

Victoria Cross recipient and Second World War tough guy: Major David Vivian Currie

Seventy years ago, on August 18, 1944, Major David Vivian Currie led 200 men and a dozen M4 Sherman tanks into the town of St. Lambert-sur-Dives, France in order to block the escape route of the German 7th Army out of the Falaise Pocket. Though hugely outnumbered by a detachment of the German 2nd Panzer Division, the actions that Currie and his men took effectively sealed off the only escape route for the Germans. For his efforts, Currie earned the Victoria Cross, the highest military gallantry decoration in the British Commonwealth.

Black and white photograph showing a man peering out over a tank turret.

Major David V. Currie, VC, South Alberta Regiment, Breda, Netherlands, November 25, 1944. (MIKAN 3224834)

Major Currie was born in Sutherland, Saskatchewan in 1912 and trained as an auto mechanic and welder. A major in the 29th Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (South Alberta Regiment) in 1944, Currie had only ten days of combat experience when he was tasked with capturing, cutting off, and holding the road through St. Lambert.

Currie was leading “C” Squadron, a small force of tanks and anti-tank guns, together with two infantry companies of the Argyll and Southerland Highlanders, with no artillery support and little reconnaissance. When his first attack was repulsed, Currie snuck into the village on foot, surveyed the German defences, and rescued the crews of two disabled Canadian tanks. The following day, he had seized and consolidated a position half-way inside the village. Over the next 36 hours, Currie so skillfully organised his defences in the face of near-constant counterattack that he not only held the unit’s position but inflicted disproportionately heavy casualties on the German forces.

Black and white photograph showing a man sitting on top of a tank, leaning against the machine gun and looking off to the left.

Major David V. Currie, VC, of the South Alberta Regiment in a Humber I scout car, Halte, Netherlands, November 12, 1944 (MIKAN 3227188)

The Germans attempted their final breakthrough of the Canadian positions on the evening of August 20th but were routed by a surprise Canadian assault. Over 2,100 German soldiers were taken prisoner by Currie’s force of less than 200. Currie then completed the capture of the village, thus denying the remnants of the German armies their last escape route from the Falaise Pocket. The battle of St. Lambert was to be the final battle of the Normandy Campaign.

Black and white photograph showing a group of German soldiers with their arms raised in the air surrounded by Canadian soldiers.

Major David V. Currie (third from left with pistol in hand) of The South Alberta Regiment accepting the surrender of German troops at St. Lambert-sur-Dives, France, August 19, 1944. (MIKAN 3396233)

In the months following St. Lambert, Currie participated in the Battle of the Scheldt and the liberation of the Netherlands. He later achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel and served as sergeant-at-arms in the Canadian House of Commons from 1960 to 1978. He died in 1986. The armoury in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan is named the Lt. Colonel D. V. Currie Armoury in his honour, as is Currie Avenue in Saskatoon.

To learn more about Canada’s military past, visit the Military Heritage pages.