Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of January 2017

As of today, 387,710 of 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to 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 6526 and last name Murray.

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 from the Peter Winkworth Collection now on Flickr 

The Peter Winkworth Collection at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is a nationally significant, rare and valuable art collection that documents more than four centuries of Canadian history. This comprehensive collection is a testament to Peter Winkworth’s commitment to preserving Canada’s early art forms and heritage.

Peter Winkworth inherited his love for collecting from his family. He had all the qualities and attributes necessary to make a great collector: knowledge, a keen eye, resources and a sustained passion. After a devastating accident that cost him his leg, Winkworth began studying Canadiana seriously and devoted the next 50 years of his life to building one of the largest private collections of Canadiana art. He passed away in 2005 at the age of 76.

In 2002, with the assistance of funds from the Government of Canada, the National Archives of Canada purchased more than 700 watercolours and drawings, more than 3,300 prints and nine paintings from Winkworth’s London-based collection. In 2008, LAC acquired a further 1,200 works of art from his collection, thus keeping the bulk of this irreplaceable treasure intact. These works of art are now preserved at LAC for future generations to discover.

Visit the Flickr album!

Guest curator Meaghan Scanlon

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.


Les voyages du sieur de Champlain…, Samuel de Champlain, 1613 and its map, the Carte geographique de la Nouvelle Franse faictte par le sieur de Champlain [Geographical map of New France by Samuel de Champlain, 1613]

Engraved map of New France. The land mass with trees, mountains and rivers is bordered by the ocean, which depicts ships and sea life. A compass, seal and sun are also included. A scene of First Nations people is set above a band of plant life surrounding the legend.

Carte geographique de la Nouvelle Franse faictte par le sieur de Champlain [Geographical map of New France by Samuel de Champlain], from Les voyages du sieur de Champlain…, 1613, engraved by David Pelletier in 1612. (MIKAN 3919638) (AMICUS 4700723)

Explorer Samuel de Champlain saw Canada as a land of potential. He published this book, with an eye-catching map, to advertise its possibilities to investors. The beautiful drawings of plants are probably his own. Continue reading

From the Lowy Room: Canada’s Talmud

By Michael Kent

One of the most common questions I am asked as the curator of the Jacob M. Lowy collection is “which is your favourite book in the collection?” While I am unsure if I will ever be able to pick one, there is a work in the collection which I often highlight. Visitors are not surprised when I mention it is one of our Talmuds, the written compendium of Jewish oral law codified in antiquity and arguably the most important Jewish text after the Torah, after all we have impressive volumes from Soncino from the 1400s and Bomberg from the 1500s. I often get a surprised look when instead of selecting a 500 year old volume, I pick a volume that is not even 100 years old.

The item, and one of my favourite works in the collection, is the 1919 Montreal Talmud, which’s publication was termed “the most important event in the annals of Canadian Jewry,” by Canadian Jewish Congress president Lyon Cohen.

To truly appreciate my admiration for this printing of the Talmud, one needs to understand Canadian Jewish history. While some Jews did arrive in Canada during the 1700s, large scale Jewish immigration to Canada did not begin until 1880s. In the early 1900s, the majority of Canadian Jews were actually born in Eastern Europe.

A colour photograph of an open book showing Hebraic writing.

Frontispiece of the 1919 Montreal Talmud in the Jacob M. Lowy Room at Library and Archives Canada.

Continue reading

Word recognition: Governor General’s Literary Awards winners in LAC’s collection

By Sara Viinalass-Smith

The Governor General’s Literary Awards are one of Canada’s most prestigious suites of literary prizes, and the awards’ long history can shed light on the evolution of publishing, writing and reader tastes within Canada over the past eight decades. Created by the Canadian Authors Association and supported by prolific author and Governor General John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, the awards originated in 1937.  This year marks their 80th anniversary. At first honouring works of fiction and non-fiction, over the decades the awards have expanded to include, also, poetry, translation, drama and children’s literature in both French and English.

Since 1969 Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has been building a literary archives collection that includes the papers of many of the English- and French-language Governor General’s literary award winners, such as Robertson Davies, Marie-Claire Blais, Dionne Brand, Gabrielle Roy and Carol Shields. In examining their papers you can, for instance, track the life of an award-winning novel from the author’s original kernel of an idea, developed in notes and drafts, through heavily edited galley proofs and proposed cover art to review clippings and even the author’s invitation to the Governor General’s awards ceremony.

A yellowed black-and-white photograph of an officer in uniform.

Thomas Findley, the source of inspiration for Timothy Findley’s The Wars. (MIKAN 4933177)

The long path a work can take from idea to publication to recognition is well illustrated by Timothy Findley’s The Wars. Findley won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction in 1977 for his novel, which tells the story of a young Canadian soldier who enlists in the First World War. The protagonist of the novel was inspired in part by Findley’s uncle, Thomas Irving Findley. Contained within Findley’s archives is a family album of letters from the front written by Thomas Irving Findley to his relatives in Canada. The album also includes one of the few known photographs of Findley’s uncle, dressed in uniform. Findley used these records as source material for the development of the characters in The Wars. From the letters, you can trace how Findley used the thoughts, feelings and actions of his uncle to create the character of Robert Ross and his fictional, wartime experience. Findley’s research, notes, outlines and drafts show the evolution of the text, and a mock-up of the final cover art shows how the book was physically presented to its original audience. Reviews from the year of publication reveal the book’s initial reception by critics. Finally, scripts Findley wrote for radio and film adaptations of The Wars speak to the overwhelming success of the novel and show how he carried his beautifully crafted prose through to different genres.

To honour this milestone anniversary of the awards, the Canada Council for the Arts, which administers the awards, is hosting an exhibition in Ottawa entitled People – Places – Things: Reading GG Books. The exhibition celebrates the more than 700 winning titles from the awards’ history, the people who write them and the places where we read them. Archival records from LAC’s literary archives collection make up part of the exhibition. These include the photograph of Thomas Irving Findley, the first page of Gabrielle Roy’s handwritten manuscript of Ces enfants de ma vie (1977), and notes and a manuscript for the children’s book Pien (1996) by Michel Noël. The exhibition is on until February 24th.

Related resources


Sara Viinalass-Smith is a literary archivist (English language) in the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Introducing LAC’s guest curator blog series and our upcoming exhibition!

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Over the next year, keep your eyes open for a new and exciting series of blog articles, promoting Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) upcoming exhibition, Canada: Who Do We Think We Are?, developed in recognition of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. The exhibition opens on June 5, 2017, while the year-long blog series starts in January 2017.

Reading the blogs

Through this series, you will hear from staff who helped develop the exhibition, including anecdotes about their work at LAC. The series also includes articles by scholars, experts and ordinary Canadians, who all depend upon LAC’s collection, from across Canada—and even the other side of the globe!

In each article, a different “guest curator” will examine one item from the exhibition. We have come up with four questions, which we have had each of our guest curators answer. The questions give the curators a chance to tell us a bit about themselves, to provide extra information about their item and, finally, to virtually add an item or two to the exhibition.

The guest curator blog series will be published every month, between January and December 2017. Be sure to stay tuned all year, in order to find out who our guest curators are and what they chose.

Visiting the exhibition

And be sure to visit the physical exhibition in downtown Ottawa where you can see these, and many other Canadian treasures, in person. Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? will be on display free of charge at 395 Wellington Street between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018.

The exhibition explores different ideas of Canada, and being Canadian, over time.

Some of these ideas will be familiar today, and rather comfortable to us all—something like old, worn-down slippers. The idea of Canada as a “northern” nation, for example, goes right back to the colony’s earliest days. Others may simply seem old fashioned, like a 1944 image of the “typical” Canadian family. And still others may seem wrong, or even shocking, to modern eyes. These include certain past attitudes towards immigration, for example, and the country’s First Nations peoples.

Engraved map of New France. The land mass with trees, mountains and rivers is bordered by the ocean, which depicts ships and sea life. A compass, seal and sun are also included. A scene of First Nations people is set above a band of plant life surrounding the legend.

Carte geographique de la Nouvelle Franse faictte par le sieur de Champlain, 1613 [Geographical map of New France by Samuel de Champlain, 1613]. Samuel de Champlain’s beautiful illustration advertises the land’s wealth to investors (MIKAN 3919638 or AMICUS 4700723)

Continue reading

125 years ago today: the invention of basketball and the Canadian participants in the first ever basketball game

By Normand Laplante

December 21, 2016 marks the 125th anniversary of the invention of basketball by Canadian James Naismith and of the first game ever played. In the fall of 1891, Naismith was studying to become a YMCA physical education instructor at the International YMCA Training Institute in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was given the task of finding a suitable indoor recreational sport for a physical education class for men aspiring to become executive YMCA secretaries. This group of “incorrigibles” had shown little interest in undertaking traditional calisthenics and gymnastics exercises and their reluctance had led the two previous physical instructors assigned to the group to quit. Naismith first attempted to have the class play modified indoor versions of football, soccer and even the Canadian game of lacrosse. However, these initiatives proved unsuccessful, largely due to the physical restraints imposed by a small gymnasium. Naismith then came up with the idea of a new sport, based on a children’s game Duck on the rock, where two teams would battle each other to throw a ball into the opposing team’s basket to score points. On December 21, 1891, Naismith presented his 13 rules for the new game to the class and separated the group into two teams of nine players. While the final score of the game was only 1-0, the new sport proved to be a big hit with the players.

A black-and-white photograph with a list of all the players pictured, as well as those missing from the photograph who were part of the first team.

Members of the world’s first basketball team, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1891 (MIKAN 3652826)

The participants in the first game included four Canadians who, like Naismith, were studying at the International YMCA Training Institute in Springfield: Lyman W. Archibald, Finlay G. MacDonald and John George Thompson, from Nova Scotia, and Thomas Duncan Patton, from Montreal. As graduate trainees of the Institute returning to their new duties in Canada, some members of the “First Team” were
instrumental in spreading the new sport through the YMCA network in different regions of Canada.

Detail from a black-and-white photograph of the first basketball team.

Lyman W. Archibald, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1891 (MIKAN 3652826)

Originally from Truro, Nova Scotia, Lyman W. Archibald (1868-1947) became general secretary and physical director of the St. Stephen, New Brunswick, YMCA in 1892 and organized one of the first basketball games played in Canada in the fall of 1892 in this town on the Canada-US border. In 1893, Archibald moved on to Hamilton, Ontario where, as a YMCA physical instructor, he brought the sport to that region.

Detail from the black-and-white photograph of the first basketball team.

John G. Thompson, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1891 (MIKAN 3652826)

After graduating from the YMCA Training Institute in 1895, John G. Thompson (1859-1933), from Merigomish, Nova Scotia, returned to his home province and, in 1895, was appointed physical education director at the new YMCA building in New Glasgow, where he introduced basketball to the Pictou County region.

Detail from the black-and-white photograph of the first basketball team.

T. Duncan Patton, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1891 (MIKAN 3652826)

T. Duncan Patton (1865-1944), originally from Montreal, was one of the two team captains selected by Naismith for the first game. He is said to have introduced the sport to India as a YMCA missionary in 1894. Later on, as YMCA secretary in Winnipeg in the early 1900s, Patton influenced the early organizers of the game in that city.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds the D. Hallie Lowry collection which includes photographs of Naismith and of participants of the first basketball game in Springfield. The National Council of Young Men’s Christian Associations of Canada fonds includes a copy of James Naismith’s 1941 book, Basketball: Its Origins and Development, autographed by some of the members of the first basketball team, including Canadians T. Duncan Patton and Lyman W. Archibald; and Patton’s personal published account of the origins of the sport, Basketball: How and When Introduced, written before 1939. LAC’s collection also has photographs of early basketball teams which provide visual documentation of the development of the sport in Canada.

A black-and-white photograph showing four young men posing around a basketball.

An early photograph of a Canadian basketball team which included Norman Bethune (second from the bottom) with Clark, Lewis and McNeil, members of the Owen Sound Collegiate Institute basketball team, ca 1905 (MIKAN 3192129)

Related Links


Normand Laplante is a senior archivist in the Society and Culture Division of the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Images for Mining and Miners now on Flickr

Mining is one of Canada’s primary industries, involving the extraction and processing of valuable ores. The country produces a wide range of minerals, including gold, silver, aluminum and many more. The industry and its workers have played a critical role in Canada’s industrial and social development. Over time, the mining industry has experienced a variety of advancements, challenges and even opposition related to its environmental effects. However, Canada remains one of the world’s foremost mining countries, a leader in mining-related exploration, expertise and finance.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of December 2016

As of today, 378,229 of 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to 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 6355 and Morello.

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 digitized through the Documentary Heritage Communities Program

This album features examples of images that have been digitized by external heritage communities and that have received funding for digitization and access projects.

The Documentary and Heritage Communities Program (DHCP) ensures that Canada’s continuing memory is documented and accessible to current and future generations by adopting a collaborative approach with local documentary heritage communities. The program is delivered in the form of contributions that support the development of Canada’s local archival and library communities by increasing their capacity to preserve, provide access to and promote local documentary heritage. Additionally, the Program provides opportunities for local documentary heritage communities to evolve and remain sustainable and strategic.

The DHCP provides financial assistance to the Canadian documentary heritage community for activities that:

  • increase access to, and awareness of Canada’s local documentary heritage institutions and their holdings; and
  • increase the capacity of local documentary heritage institutions to better sustain and preserve Canada’s documentary heritage.