More than just books

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) receives a wide range of published heritage material through legal deposit, such as books, periodicals, government publications, etc. Occasionally LAC receives multimedia kits that must be re-boxed by the Preservation Services Unit. Multimedia kits contain more than books, but all items still need to be stored together, as much as possible. A good example of a multimedia item would be an educational kit designed for use in schools. A kit may include bound textbooks, binders with loose-leaf pages, posters, pamphlets, CDs and DVDs. Older kits may include items such as cassette tapes, slides, video tapes, and film strips—the popular media used when the kit was published.

A custom-made container and spacers are constructed for each kit to keep the components together for research purposes and to secure the different-sized items in the box. The container also provides protection from environmental harm such as light or water damage.

Before

A colour photograph showing a multimedia kit containing a variety of items spread across a worktable.

An example of the components of a multimedia educational kit.

After

A colour photograph of a custom container and a custom folder for a poster.

Sample of a custom folder for a poster and box created for a multimedia educational kit. All the items in the multimedia kit have their own space, making it ideal for access and preservation.

Large rolled posters are flattened, placed in a custom folder, and filed in a flat storage drawer. A separate box for CDs and DVDs is constructed and held in place with a custom spacer so that they don’t shift when the box is moved.

All materials used in the construction of these containers are archival quality so they are acid-free and meet strict standards for material composition and longevity.

This is another example of how the Collection Management Division ensures the preservation of collection items through the skills, craftsmanship, and dedication of its staff.

Preventive Care and Maintenance: Laura Secord and the Grassy Knoll

Chris Smith, Library and Archives Canada Collections Management Clerk, was recently assigned an interesting and challenging rehousing project. Chris found himself looking at a Laura Secord chocolate box filled with not sweets, but a tangled mess of Dictaphone belts: 27 in total.

Introduced by the Dictaphone Corporation in the 1940s, the Dictabelt was a voice recording system using a thin plastic belt. The Dictabelt Re-Recording Service describes how the recordings worked: audio could be impressed onto the belt utilizing a needle-type stylus to emboss or plough a groove into the soft plastic. They were predominately employed for business, medical and scientific recordings. After use, Dictabelts were usually stored flat in boxes or file folders. This caused creasing and damage to the recordings.

For the conspiracy theorists out there, certainly the most famous use of a Dictabelt was by the American House Select Committee on Assassinations, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Based on “acoustic evidence” supplied by a Dallas Police Department Dictabelt, the committee concluded that there were at least four shots fired in Dallas that fateful day, and that one of them came from the “grassy knoll.”

Following considerable research on Dictabelt preservation techniques and consultation with our audiovisual conservation experts, Chris began his rehousing process. He wrapped each belt around a piece of custom-cut acid-free board to reduce creasing. Chris then placed each wrapped belt in an envelope, built spacers, and rehoused all 27 belts. They now safely reside in an 18C and 40% relative humidity (RH) environment at our Preservation Centre.

A colour photograph shows how the Dictaphone belts were received, with rusty paper clips holding the paper captions to each belt. Below the belts are the archival supplies used: blue board and envelopes. The bottom left shows the blue board inside the belt and the paper caption affixed to the bottom of the board. Above are the items placed inside envelopes and the new container that they will now be stored in.

This photo demonstrates the steps required for properly housing Dictaphone belts for long-term preservation.

A colour photograph showing, on the right, the Laura Secord chocolate box that the material was original received in, and to the left, the new container the Dictaphone belts are stored in for the long-term preservation of this collection.

The Laura Secord box beside the new enclosure. Now the dictaphone belts will no longer be at risk.

The near-surgical precision in all this rehousing work is most impressive, and plays a vital role in our preservation activities. Well done, Chris!

A few of our favourite things

Collection Managers at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) frequently receive questions related to the preservation of a variety of objects. In addition, whenever we offer in-house training sessions to staff, we also like to include information about references and further reading.

We thought we’d share some of our go-to online resources, as it can be hard to sift through all the information out there. These, in our opinion, are trusted sources that keep up to date with changing information and best practices that reflect scientific developments. They generally include source references as well, such as suppliers and bibliographies.

Please note: Invasive treatment should not be attempted without conservation training in the relevant medium. While anyone who can wield a knife and a straightedge can successfully make protective enclosures, if actual repair work is called for, please consult a conservator.

These sites provide information on a variety of media. We recommend you consult the indexes to see if what you’re looking for is included.

Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI)

CCI’s site has preservation information on a variety of objects including books, paper, photos, musical instruments and outdoor art.

http://canada.pch.gc.ca/eng/1443109395421

Centre de conservation du Québec (CCQ)

CCQ’s site hosts Preserv’Art, a database of acceptable materials. It is a great source of information about supplies that are safe to use with particular media/objects. Note also that it contains info about what is NOT safe, which can be very useful as well.

http://preservart.ccq.gouv.qc.ca/index.aspx

Northeast Document Conservation Centre (NEDCC)

NEDCC’s series of Preservation Leaflets is also an excellent source of information. These publications are continually reviewed and updated as necessary.

https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/overview

National Park Service (NPS)

The United States’ NPS has an extensive series of Conserve O Grams, which are excellent publications on a variety of topics. While geared more toward the museum professional, they can still be useful sources of information about a range of subjects such as protective enclosures. Of particular interest are the new Conserve O Grams on the creation, care and storage of digital materials.

http://www.nps.gov/museum/publications/conserveogram/cons_toc.html

Ottawa’s Uppertown: A lost neighbourhood uncovered

By Andrew Elliott

A black-and-white photograph showing a streetscape at a crossroads.

Wellington and Bank, ca. 1900 (MIKAN 3325940)

On February 27, 1912, following what appears to have been at least a few years of behind the scenes deliberations, the federal government expropriated all properties located in Uppertown, an area bounded by Bank, Wellington, and Bay streets and the cliff along the Ottawa River. On March 9, 1912, a notice of expropriation was filed at the Ottawa City Registry Office (the area can be seen on these fire insurance plans: east view and west view (MIKAN 3816030).

The area was expropriated to make way for a new supreme court and other federal buildings. In 1913, the government launched a design competition, in response to which many of the major architects of the day submitted designs for the building complex. The designs can be found in the following LAC collection, which comprises 11 designs for the location of proposed departmental buildings. With the outbreak of the First World War, the fire and subsequent reconstruction of the Parliament Buildings, and changes in government, no concrete action was taken with respect to these plans until the early 1930s.

The area expropriated was both commercial and residential in nature. We have come to think of the stretch of Wellington between Bank and Bay streets as a boulevard flanked by grand, iconic government structures and large green spaces, but this is a relatively recent development. The towers of the Confederation and Justice buildings were built in the 1930s, followed by the Supreme Court building and, finally, the National Library building (now Library and Archives Canada), which was erected for the 1967 centennial. Continue reading

Library and Archives Canada releases its latest podcast episode, “La Bolduc: Queen of Canadian Folksingers”

Library and Archives Canada is releasing its latest podcast episode, “La Bolduc: Queen of Canadian Folksingers.”

In this episode we explore the story of Mary Travers Bolduc.  It is a rags-to-riches tale of a Quebec housewife who rose from impoverished obscurity to become a major 1930s recording phenomenon. This ordinary, traditional woman became a most extraordinary musical spokesperson for her time and her people, earning the title “Queen of Canadian folksingers.”

We sit down with Library and Archives Canada Music Historian and Archivist Rachel Chiasson-Taylor to discuss who La Bolduc was, what her influences were, who she influenced, and how her career, that started out of simple economic necessity and, building on the music of her own roots, became the stuff of legend.

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS or iTunes, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

For more information, please contact us at podcasts@bac-lac.gc.ca.

Jackie Robinson and the baseball colour barrier

By Dalton Campbell

In April 1946, Jackie Robinson took the field with the Montreal Royals baseball team, which played in the International League. He was the first Black man signed to a Major League Baseball team in the twentieth century. After signing a contract in October 1945 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was assigned by Dodgers’ management to the Royals, the Dodgers’ top minor league affiliate, in order to gain experience. They thought that Montreal would be a less hostile city for him to learn to deal with media scrutiny and fan attention and to endure on-field discrimination and physical intimidation.

Black-and-white photograph of a baseball player running the bases. His foot is on third base and he is turning and heading to home plate. In the background are other players, and in the distance the outfield fence and trees.

Jackie Robinson, in a Montreal Royals’ uniform, circles third base and heads for home during spring training. April 20, 1946 (a201547)

In the first game of the season, he more than held his own. He had four hits, three runs, and a home run. A famous photograph captures Royals’ teammate George “Shotgun” Shuba shaking Robinson’s hand as he crossed home plate after his home run. This is believed to be the first photograph of a white man congratulating a Black man on a baseball diamond. Continue reading

Photography of John Boyd now on Flickr 

John Boyd (1865–1941) was born in Emyvale, Ireland. His family immigrated to Toronto in the late 1860s. He was a railway official as well as a photographer. His work with the railroad gave him ample opportunities to take photographs as he travelled across Ontario. The John Boyd fonds consists of photographs portraying all manner of Canadian life, all worth exploring. There are images of towns and cities, royal visits, military life, modes of transportation, industry and agriculture, social conditions, pastimes, and nature.

John Boyd

As Canadians we appreciate discovering stories about our country through the works of our painters and photographers, past and present. Canadian archives hold many collections, and sometimes the collection of a particular artist or photographer may contain literally thousands of images for us to explore. This is the case with photographer John Boyd whose collection at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) boasts 28,959 black-and-white photographs.

John Boyd (1865–1941) was born in Emyvale, Ireland. His family immigrated to Toronto in the late 1860s. He was a railway official as well as a photographer. His work with the railroad gave him ample opportunities to take photographs as he travelled across Ontario.

These photographs represent Boyd’s amateur work from 1898 to 1926. A large collection in itself, it is nonetheless dwarfed by the collections held at the City of Toronto Archives. One collection in particular is that of The Globe and Mail, which contains 140,000 of Boyd’s photographic negatives taken from 1922 to before his death in 1941.

The collections at LAC and the City of Toronto Archives complement each other in their dates of creation and subject matter.

The John Boyd fonds consists of photographs portraying all manner of Canadian life, all worth exploring. There are images of towns and cities, royal visits, military life, modes of transportation, industry and agriculture, social conditions, pastimes, and nature.

During the First World War, Boyd focused mainly on the home front, photographing recruiting campaigns, training exercises, and the manufacture of munitions, airplanes and ships. He also photographed everyday Canadians who contributed to the war effort at home as soldiers fought overseas. The following selection of images provides a glimpse of the activities during that time.

A black-and-white photograph of well-dressed men, women and children looking at and exploring an outdoor exhibit of a reconstructed Canadian military trench.

Visitors to a reconstructed 35th Battalion trench, Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, Ontario, 1915 (MIKAN 3395547)

A black-and-white photograph of women, soldiers and children gathered outside a train. Other soldiers on the train are leaning out of the windows, presumably saying goodbye to their families.

Personnel of the Cycle Corps leaving Exhibition Camp for overseas service, Toronto, Ontario, May 15, 1915 (MIKAN 3194471)

A black-and-white photograph of two soldiers descending the steps of a train car. They are both looking down at the photographer and one is holding a kitten.

Volunteers for war and cat mascot with the 28th Regiment, Toronto, Ontario, August 22, 1914 (MIKAN 3403478)

A black-and-white photograph of soldiers re-enacting how they move out from their trenches for a crowd of spectators at an exhibition.

Soldiers moving out from their trenches, Exhibition Grounds, Toronto, Ontario, September 11, 1915 (MIKAN 3403554)

A black-and-white photograph of two soldiers stopped on a dirt road. One is taking a compass reading as the other takes notes.

Soldiers taking a compass traverse on the intelligence course at Camp Borden, Ontario, September 26, 1916 (MIKAN 3403628)

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier standing in a field holding a large wrench.

Private Vasili Salivarsky, D Company, 123rd Battalion, Toronto, Ontario, March 30, 1916 (MIKAN 3220871)

You can view a selection of Boyd’s images in this Flickr album. To explore the entire collection, start your exploration in the John Boyd fonds, and select “Lower-level descriptions.”

Happy searching!

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Tips for aviation accident research

Let’s be honest: Finding information on a civil aviation accident is no small feat. In the federal government, organizational changes involving aviation accident management and the evolution of records classification are making the researcher’s task even harder.

But seek and, generally, ye shall find! So let’s look at how to go about researching an aviation accident effectively.

First, you need to have certain basic information on the accident you’re researching:

  • Aircraft model
  • Accident date and location
  • Aircraft registration number
  • Aircraft type (civilian or military)

This will make things easier, because the finding aids related to aviation accidents are put together based on that basic information.

You must then determine where the records you are looking for might be located, i.e., select the right record group. The following reference table will help guide your first steps:

Years of Responsibility Department Record Group Number
1923–1936 Department of National Defence

Civil Aviation Branch

RG24 / R112
1936–1984 Department of Transport
Air Services Branch (1936-1970)
Canadian Air Transportation Administration (1970-1985)
RG12 / R184
1984–1989 Canadian Aviation Safety Board R13086
1990–present Transportation Safety Board RG156 / R1009

Each record group is divided into series and sub-series. For each of those subdivisions, you will need to consult a finding aid to determine whether a file exists pertaining to your research topic. It is a painstaking process, but some aids are available online (for example, the accession “Aviation Accident Reports 1919-1977“—RG12), which narrows down the research that needs to be done at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa.

Here are some things to take into consideration:

  • Two types of records pertain to accidents: the accident report and the occurrence investigation. They are not always filed in the same location, so you’ll have to check the entire record group to find them.
  • In the 1920s and 1930s, National Defence had the mandate to investigate accidents. Even if your research is on a civilian aircraft, consult RG24.
  • Your file could be located in the Central Registry (records originally stored in Ottawa) or in the regional registries (stored in the regions: Maritimes, Pacific, etc.).
  • Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) collection has gaps: we do not have all records pertaining to aviation accidents. Sometimes, a file simply does not exist.
  • Some records are still at the accession stage. They have been transferred to LAC but have not yet been processed by an archivist. If the description in our database contains a note to that effect, consult the links under the heading “Accession” (see “Scope and Content” in connection with the note “Please consult the related accessions”).

For example, here is a screenshot associated with the series Central Registry Files from the Transportation Safety Board fonds:

Screenshot showing that the files have indeed been acquired, but not yet processed.

List of accessions from Central Registry Files (RG156)

Each record group has its own challenges but the basic concepts explained here will help you to conduct your research effectively.