The statue of Sir Arthur Doughty, Dominion Archivist

By David Rajotte

There are two statues dedicated to civil servants in Ottawa. One is of Sir Galahad, on Parliament Hill. This monument pays tribute to young Henry Albert Harper, a friend of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King; Harper lost his life trying to save a young girl from drowning. The other is of Sir Arthur George Doughty, Dominion Archivist from 1904 to 1935. Doughty headed the institution that would, many decades later, become Library and Archives Canada (LAC). He was also a renowned historian who wrote several books, including a 23-volume history of Canada. His statue is located behind the LAC building at 395 Wellington Street.

Colour photo of a statue of a seated man with a large building in the background.

Statue of Sir Arthur Doughty, c 1967. (e011309258)

Mackenzie King was also the sponsor of the Doughty statue. The two were close friends, as Ian Wilson, former Librarian and Archivist of Canada, points out in a collection of essays titled Mackenzie King: Citizenship and Community. The idea for a statue came to the Prime Minister on December 2, 1936, the day after Doughty died. In his journal, Mackenzie King recounts how he convinced his Cabinet to spend money on a monument honouring the national archivist. He explains, “I thought this was a chance to honour the Public Service, and at the same time an outstanding public servant who had given his entire life to the country’s work …” In 1937, the federal budget allocated $15,000 for the statue, equivalent to $270,000 in 2020.

Mackenzie King was actively involved in various stages of the design of the statue, including the choice of sculptor. The project was first entrusted to Robert Tait McKenzie, an internationally renowned artist from Ontario who was living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. However, the artist had only completed a scale model of the statue before he died suddenly. According to his widow, he was working on it some 10 minutes before his death.

Black-and-white photo of a man’s face in close-up. He has a moustache and is wearing small round glasses.

Portrait of Robert Tait McKenzie, circa 1935 (a103150)

After Tait McKenzie’s death, the project for the statue was given to Emanuel Otto Hahn, a professor at the Ontario College of Art, who was particularly known for the design of the Bluenose ship and the caribou that appear on the Canadian 10-cent and 25-cent coins respectively. Hahn took several months to complete the work on the statue. The Thompson Monument Company in Toronto carved the granite base, while the Vandevoorde Art Foundry in Montréal casted the bronze statue. The monument was erected on December 20 and 21, 1940, in front of the Archives Building at 330 Sussex Drive.

Black-and-white photo of a man wearing an apron, standing next to a model of a statue. He is wearing glasses and has his fist on his hip.

Emanuel Otto Hahn standing in front of a model of the statue of Sir Arthur Doughty, circa 1940 (e010979771)

The statue shows Doughty sitting. Mackenzie King wanted a monument similar to the John Harvard Monument in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Doughty is shown with a quill in his hand because he preferred ink to pencil. Over the years, the quill has often been broken by vandals. Doughty is wearing a toga from Laval University because the designers wanted to reference the honorary doctorate he received from the university in 1901. The statue is on a pedestal that bears several inscriptions. The front shows the coat of arms and motto of the Doughty family, Palma non sine pulvere (No success without effort). The back recalls the diplomas and career of the eminent archivist. Both sides feature a quotation from a work by Doughty, The Canadian Archives and Its Activities:

“Of all national assets, archives are the most precious: they are the gift of one generation to another and the extent of our care of them marks the extent of our civilization.”

Sketch of a plan, with inscriptions reading “Sussex St.” at the bottom, “Roadway” on the right, “Grass” in the centre and “Entrance” at the top. A square marks the desired location of a statue at the end of an access road leading to the entrance of a building.

First sketch showing the desired location of the Sir Arthur Doughty statue in front of the building at 330 Sussex Drive, circa 1938 (e011442899)

In the 1960s, the National Archives moved from 330 Sussex Drive to 395 Wellington Street, along with the National Library. The statue of Doughty was then installed at the back of the building. According to Wilfred Smith, Dominion Archivist from 1968 to 1984, there was not enough space at the front for the monument. He also stated that the statue weighed too much to be moved through the streets of Ottawa. The monument was therefore put on a barge and transported by river. To this day, the Sir Arthur Doughty statue can be seen overlooking the Ottawa River behind the LAC building at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa.


David Rajotte is an archivist in the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

1 thought on “The statue of Sir Arthur Doughty, Dominion Archivist

  1. “Of all national assets, archives are the most precious: they are the gift of one generation to another and the extent of our care of them marks the extent of our civilization.” Words every employee of LAC should memorize and take to heart. Tim B.

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