Guest curators: J. Andrew Ross and Michael Smith

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.


Signing of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982 bringing into force the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by Robert Cooper, 1982

Woman in blue sitting at a desk signing a paper. Four men in suits surround her; two leaning over the desk, one sitting to the side, and the fourth standing back to the side.

Photograph of the Signing of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982 by Robert Cooper. (MIKAN 3206003) © Government of Canada

The Signing of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982, photographed by Robert Cooper in 1982.


Tell us about yourselves

Michael Smith spearheaded an initiative to design and fabricate custom preservation storage cases for two of LAC’s most prestigious documents, both copies of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982. J. Andrew Ross is responsible for the records of the Registrar General (RG68), which is the repository for all the proclamations of the Government of Canada.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

Pale yellow-white document in red and black ink with Canada’s coat of arms at the top.

Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982. (MIKAN 3782519) © Government of Canada

The Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982 was signed on the steps of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa on April 17, 1982 by Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Attorney General (Minister of Justice) Jean Chrétien, and Registrar General (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs) André Ouellet. The Proclamation, which is the only Canadian foundational document signed by the monarch, brought into force the Constitution Act, 1982, amending Canada’s constitution and enacting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The signing followed several years of constitutional negotiations in Canada that culminated in the patriation of the Constitution, the transmission of full constitutional amendment power from the United Kingdom to Canada.

There are actually two copies of the Proclamation: the one signed outside, which suffered water damage (seen above) and became known as the “raindrop” copy, and another that was signed later inside the Parliament Buildings. Originally pristine, the latter was defaced with red paint by a protestor in 1983, and has since become known as the “stained” copy. Both copies of the Proclamation are held by LAC and have been exhibited extensively since 1982. The raindrop copy was recently on display at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg and was returned to LAC in early September. In 2017 it will be on display at the Library of Parliament in Ottawa.

Copy of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982 with a large red splotch in the middle.

Stained copy of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982. (MIKAN 3782551) ©Government of Canada

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition

LAC also has the two pens used to sign the raindrop Proclamation. These were donated in 2000 to the National Archives of Canada by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who had a special connection to the pens. He later recalled his humorous interaction with the Queen at the signing:

“I picked up the pen and I start to try to sign and it was not working and I said to myself ‘merde’ and she had a big, big laugh,” he said. “Everybody was asking me what the hell you told her that she had such a spontaneous laugh and I refused to say so for years.” (Source)

You can watch the moment of the signing, and the Queen’s reaction here on CBC (after 7:45 minutes), or here on Radio-Canada (about 0:47 minutes).

Two gold and black pens standing upright in a gold and black pen stand resting on a velvet pad in a wooden box.

Pens used by Queen Elizabeth II and the signatories of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982. ©Government of Canada. (MIKAN 4105375)

Although the pens were purchased from Birks’ Jewellers, a high-end retailer in Ottawa, apparently little thought was given to the durability of the ink, and over time the popularity of the Proclamations as exhibit items prompted concern about the fading of the signatures due to cumulative exposure to light. A conservative estimate of total exposure time was approximately 4,000 hours of display for each document at varying intensity levels and from different light sources. By 2011, microfade testing on the signature inks done by the Canadian Conservation Institute indicated that the synthetic dyes used in the ink are susceptible to fading, and had almost certainly done so since 1982.

Fading ink has affected several important signatures on historical documents held at LAC, but while many remain on limited circulation, the importance of the Proclamations prompted a project to fabricate a custom storage case and a secure display case that would keep the documents safe from future harm.

It was decided to design and construct two permanent storage cases, one for each copy of the Proclamation. In addition, one secure display case would be made for exhibition purposes (it was anticipated that only one Proclamation would be on display at any one time.) The storage cases can be hermetically sealed to accommodate a low-oxygen environment (which might be implemented in the future to slow fading), and are glazed with UV filters and anti-reflective glass. In addition to security, the display case also incorporates features to limit and monitor light levels. With these new cases, Canadians will be able to see the Proclamations on display for years to come.

Four-legged black case with glass window showing the Proclamation.

Preservation storage case for one copy of the Proclamation. © Government of Canada

Close up of the preservation case displaying a copy of the Proclamation under glass in a black frame.

Close up of the preservation case. © Government of Canada

The case of the Proclamation has also led to a change in LAC’s approach to signature preservation. While many Government of Canada documents are now signed digitally, most of the prestigious documents are still signed in ink. Concern over the permanence of these signatures led the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Dr. Guy Berthiaume, April 14, 2016 email to advise government departments to use pens with lightfast pigmented ink of high permanence for signing official and prestigious documents. He cited the case of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982 as a prime example of the risk of fading, and advised that special attention be paid when choosing pens to sign official documents, “particularly documents of national importance destined for our archives…to ensure the documents placed in our care remain in legible condition for future generations.”

Biographies

Michael Smith is the Collection Manager responsible for the textual and cartographic (unbound) collection at Library and Archives Canada. J. Andrew Ross is an archivist in the Government Records Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Related resources

 

Project Naming: celebrating the past and looking to the future

By Julie Dobbin

Since its beginnings in 2002 as an Inuit-focused project, Project Naming has expanded to engage all Indigenous peoples to identify photographs in Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) collection.

The majority of individuals in the images of the collection have never been identified; they are anonymous. Additionally, archival descriptions relating to events or activities are absent or have outdated information (e.g., place names, band names or terminology). The information is based on original inscriptions and captions found on the records, and hence it reflects the biases and attitudes of non-Indigenous society at the time. Since 2002, approximately 10,000 images have been digitized, and approximately 2,500 mainly Inuit individuals, activities and places have been identified.

In honour of the project’s 15-year anniversary, a celebratory event took place over the course of three days in March 2017. It was held at LAC and Carleton University in Ottawa and involved Inuit, First Nations and Métis peoples as well as the general public.

Project Naming’s 15th anniversary event was not only a celebration of all the individuals who have been identified and of partnerships with Inuit communities, but also a celebration of Indigenous cultures as well as a chance to look back at the past to build a better future. Throughout the three days, Inuit, First Nations and Métis Elders shared their knowledge and made important recommendations on the future direction of Project Naming, and on the future of a country where Indigenous peoples are no longer unidentified, silenced and forgotten.

A colour photograph of a man from the Métis Nation wearing a beaded vest standing at a podium.

Clément Chartier, President of the Métis National Council, at LAC for the 15th anniversary event of Project Naming, March 3, 2017.

Although Project Naming has taken some important strides in undoing past wrongs, much more work still needs to be done. To mark the 15th anniversary, new official Facebook and Twitter pages for Project Naming have been launched. This greater presence on social media provides a new platform for non-Indigenous Canadians and Indigenous peoples to recount their stories, share their histories and continue the significant work that Project Naming has begun.

A colour photograph of two Inuit women looking closely at a picture. The older one holds the picture while the younger one takes a photo on her iPhone of it. Behind them are people talking and tables covered with papers.

Manitok Thompson (left) and Kathleen Ivaluarjuk Merrit (right) identifying photographs at the Carleton University Art Gallery in Ottawa, March 2, 2017.

“When you see those pictures, it’s like coming home,” Inuit Elder Piita Irniq declared during the event. His statement indicates just how much power a photograph can have. Project Naming is therefore not simply about identifying people, places and things; it is about regaining what has been lost, finding oneself and being able to return home. Sessions at the event became about more than just identifying names. These sessions were about sharing knowledge, whether about clothing, physical traits, hunting, fishing, trapping, families or traditional ways of life. Most importantly, every photograph in every session was a means of sharing a story or personal memory.

A colour photograph of an older Inuit man wearing a traditional Inuit jacket who is standing in front of a monitor pointing to an image on the screen. Two young Inuit are watching and listening closely.

Elder Piita Irniq (right) and Nunavut Sivuniksavut students Gabe Klengenberg (left) and Aislyn Gizelle (centre) during a session at LAC for the 15th anniversary event of Project Naming, March 1, 2017.

I cannot speak for others, but I had the sense that those who attended the event left with more awareness than when they arrived. It was truly three days of education, an education that every Canadian would benefit from, and one that Project Naming is intended to foster. Every time a face was identified during the event, it felt like a victory, like a difference was being made and an identity restored. Having the chance to watch the Elders identify people and places was remarkable. What was even more incredible was the energy in the air, the feeling of collaboration, respect and reconciliation. Project Naming will continue the meaningful work it has done over the past 15 years; with new partnerships with Inuit, First Nations and Métis peoples, a positive difference will continue to be made. To all those who may not know about Project Naming and how to help, visit the web page and social media accounts, “like” the page, share the photos and help make a better Canada, one where people’s identity will not be erased but will instead be celebrated and honoured.

Promote and learn more about Project Naming:

A colour photograph of a young Inuit man looking at several large photographs on easels.

Curtis Kuumuaq Konek at LAC during the 15th anniversary event of Project Naming.


Julie Dobbin is doing her MA in Indigenous and Canadian Studies at Carleton University. She wrote this article during a practicum in the Exhibition and Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.

New additions to Newfoundland and Labrador album now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of four men in kayaks with a rocky outcropping in the background.

Four men kayaking, Turnavik, Labrador (MIKAN 3377220)

Land was sighted in June 1497 after just over a month of travel, and John Cabot is credited with the second discovery of North America, and Newfoundland which celebrates the event as Discovery Day.

Visit the Flickr album now!

The Battle of Vimy Ridge – war art

A banner that changes from a black-and-white photograph of a battle scene on the left to a colour photograph of the Vimy Memorial on the right.By Katie Cholette

The Battle of Vimy Ridge captured the imagination of professional and amateur artists alike. Some of these artists served in uniform and participated in the battle. Other artists were not present, but painted the battlefields after the fact or from imagination. In a variety of styles and media, male and female artists, both Canadian- and British-born, responded to a number of aspects of the battle: the heroism of the soldiers, the massive number of casualties, the widespread destruction of buildings and the devastation of the natural landscape.

A colour lithograph of a desolate landscape showing a large crater in the middle of which is a cross drawn out with white stones. At the top and the bottom of the crater are two other stone crosses: one Roman and the other Celtic. Barbed wire circles the crater and stumps of bombed trees can be seen in the distance.

A Mine Crater – A Cemetery in the Old “No Man’s Land” on Vimy Ridge, 1917, a lithograph by Frederick Thwaites Bush (Library and Archives Canada – MIKAN 4014020)

British-born Canadian soldier Frederick Thwaites Bush created some of the most evocative images of the battle. Trained as an architect before the war, Bush served as a lieutenant with the 29th Battalion and the Canadian Engineers. While in Belgium and France he sketched a number of sites, including Ypres, Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge. Based on a pencil sketch done on site, Bush’s colour lithograph of the mine crater and gravesite set within a degraded landscape captures the feeling of desolation and loss.

An etching of a group of soldiers around a canon being pulled by a team of horses, with the shell of a destroyed farmhouse in the background.

Berthonval Farm by Lieutenant C.H. Barraud, c. 1917–1918 (Library and Archives Canada – MIKAN 4936627)

Lieutenant Cyril Henry Barraud worked as an artist and commercial illustrator prior to the First World War. Born in England, Barraud emigrated to Canada in 1913, and when war broke out he attested in the Winnipeg Grenadiers. He was sent overseas in August 1915 with the 43rd Battalion, and in November 1917 was appointed an official war artist. During his time in France and Belgium, Barraud sketched along the front. Based on these sketches, he later created many etchings for the Canadian War Memorials Fund. Images such as Berthonval Farm are typical of his carefully-composed style and combine war-damaged buildings with romanticized idyllic landscapes. This work was part of the Canadian War Memorials Exhibition held in London in 1919.

A watercolour of a broken brick and concrete wall scattered over a little hill with broken trees behind it and airplanes flying overhead.

Wrecked German Strongpoint During Battle of Vimy, 1917 by Reuben Alvin Jukes, 1917 (Library and Archives Canada – MIKAN 3838519)

Reuben Alvin Jukes (Jucksch) was born in Hanover, Ontario. Listing his occupation as an artist, he attested in the 20th Canadian Battalion in 1914 and was sent to train in England. Jukes was sent to the front in January 1916. Although he was not an official war artist, a lenient commanding officer allowed him time to paint scenes while at the front. Due to an episode of what was then called shell shock, he was not present at the Battle of Vimy Ridge; however, he returned to active service in May 1917. He subsequently painted a number of highly detailed, almost surreal watercolours, such as Wrecked German Strongpoint During Battle of Vimy, 1917, depicting the aftermath of the battle.

A colour painting of several crosses festooned with flowers in the middle of a gaping stone wall. Behind is a brown structure and the sky is blue with white clouds.

Gun Emplacements, Farbus Wood, Vimy Ridge by Mary Riter Hamilton, 1919 (Library and Archives Canada – MIKAN 2836031)

Some of the most expressive paintings of Vimy Ridge were produced by Canadian-born professional artist Mary Riter Hamilton. Although Hamilton was unsuccessful in her attempts to be appointed as an official war artist, she was commissioned by The War Amputations Club of British Columbia to provide images for The Gold Stripe, a veterans’ magazine. Hamilton was anxious to paint the sites where so many men died before any reconstructive efforts were undertaken, and left for Europe shortly after the war ended. She painted in Europe from 1919 until 1922 and produced over 300 works, including Gun Emplacements, Farbus Wood, Vimy Ridge and Petit Vimy and Vimy Village from the Lens – Arras Road. In both of these works, Hamilton’s spontaneous and loose handling of paint combined with a light palette demonstrate a sense of optimism despite the circumstances. Hamilton refused to sell her war paintings. Hoping that they would benefit the men who fought and their families, she exhibited them several times in fundraising exhibitions. In 1926 she donated 227 paintings, drawings and prints to the Public Archives of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada).

A colour painting of a road lined with broken trees leading down to a town. In the distance can be seen other villages and hills.

Petit Vimy and Vimy Village from the Lens – Arras Road by Mary Riter Hamilton, 1919 (Library and Archives Canada – MIKAN 2836011)

A colour painting of a group of soldiers charging forth, in various poses of throwing grenades. Others are moving forward with guns and bayonets, while others lay on the ground, dead. The colours of the painting are very light pastels and the soldiers are painted with great delicacy.

Cede Nullis, the Bombers of the 8th Canadian Infantry on Vimy Ridge, 9th April 1917 by Lady Elizabeth Southerden Butler, 1918 (Library and Archives Canada – MIKAN 2883480)

The Battle of Vimy Ridge captured the imagination of another professional female artist—Lady Elizabeth Southerden Butler. Lady Butler (née Elizabeth Thompson) was an academically-trained English artist who specialized in realistically rendered paintings of battlefield warfare. In the late 19th century she gained popularity from her romanticized, heroic depictions of the Crimean and Napoleonic wars. Stylistically similar to her earlier works, Cede Nullis, the Bombers of the 8th Canadian Infantry on Vimy Ridge, 9th April 1917 depicts the 8th Canadian Infantry (part of the Canadian 3rd Division) on the day that the Canadians took the ridge. The watercolour was painted while she was living in Ireland, and was exhibited in May 1919 in London. The work was acquired at auction in 1989.

The victory at the Battle of Vimy Ridge was one of the most important moments in Canadian history. Immortalized in art, the bravery of the soldiers and the sacrifices of the battle have become integral parts of our national mythology.

Biography

Katie Cholette has a BA (Hons.) in Art History, an MA in Canadian Art History and a PhD in Canadian Studies. She has previously worked as the Curator of Acquisitions and Research at the Portrait Gallery of Canada, held two Research Fellowships in Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada, and taught courses in Art History, Canadian Studies and the Humanities for the past 14 years at Carleton University. She has also worked on a number of freelance curatorial and research projects and is on the editorial board of the Underhill Review.

This blog was developed under a collaborative agreement between Library and Archives Canada and The National Archives.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge – memorialization

A banner that changes from a black-and-white photograph of a battle scene on the left to a colour photograph of the Vimy Memorial on the right.By Andrew Horrall

In the days following the battle of Vimy Ridge, newspaper headlines throughout the allied countries proclaimed that Canada’s soldiers had captured an objective that had long-seemed impossible. Families of those in uniform greeted the news with excitement and worry; as one father wrote to his son who had fought at Vimy: “The press are giving the Canucks great praise. They certainly had the place of honour, but according to the casualties, they are paying a price for it.” Over 10,000 Canadians had been killed or wounded.

An immense sense of pride about this all-Canadian victory was felt by those who had fought at Vimy, their families, and civilians. The battle almost immediately became a symbol of Canada’s emerging nationhood. The battle’s first anniversary was marked with fundraising drives, and by the end of the war many Canadians believed that France was planning to give Vimy Ridge to Canada in grateful tribute to this military triumph. Over the following years, the battle’s anniversary was marked by banquets, concerts, and church services on what was known as “Vimy Ridge Sunday.” Towns, streets, parks, businesses, and lakes throughout the country, as well as a mountain and quite a few babies were named for the battle, becoming ever-present reminders of what Canadians had achieved in 1917.

A colour photograph of a group of people on horseback by a river with a mountain peak in the background. One is dressed in “cowboy” attire and appears to be leading a family on a trail.

Vimy Peak, Alberta, 1961. (Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 4314396)

A map titled, “Canadian Battle Exploit, Memorial Site. Hill 145.”

Map of the proposed site of the Vimy memorial, undated. (The National Archives, WO 32-5861)

Amid this widespread commemoration, in October 1921, the federal government chose Toronto sculptor Walter Allward to design the Canadian National Vimy Memorial that now commands Vimy Ridge’s highest and most important feature, situated on land given to Canada by France. Over the next 15 years, the ground was cleared of unexploded shells, bombs and grenades and landscaped, a system of trenches was preserved and the memorial was erected.

A black-and-white photograph of a dramatic view of a larger-than-life sculpture from the Vimy Memorial, a man in mourning with his foot resting on a sword. In the background are side panels bearing the names of Canadian dead.

One of the statues on the Vimy Memorial. (Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 3329415)

A typewritten letter reading: His Majesty’s Minister at Paris presents his compliments to His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and has the honour to report that the “Journal Officiel” for June 29th contains the text of a law promulgating the agreement concluded on December 5th, 1922 between the French Government and His Majesty’s Government in Canada concerning the cession to the Government of Canada of the use and free disposal of 100 hectares of land on the Vimy Plateau destined for the laying out of a park and the erection of a monument to the memory of Canadian soldiers fallen on the field of honour in France in the course of the war, 1914–1918.

Letter confirming the transfer of land in France to the Canadian Government, June 30, 1927. (The National Archives, FO 371/12638)

In the late 1920s, veterans groups began planning a pilgrimage of those who had fought at Vimy and their next of kin to ensure that a large Canadian contingent would attend the memorial’s dedication ceremony. In July 1936, over six thousand pilgrims boarded five specially chartered ocean liners in Montréal. Pilgrims were given distinctive berets and badges and told that they were Canada’s ambassadors to Europe. For many British-born pilgrims, the voyage was also an opportunity to visit their families, which had been one of the allures of joining the Canadian Expeditionary Force two decades earlier.

Among the pilgrims was Charlotte Wood, who had immigrated to Alberta from Chatham, Kent, England in 1904. Eleven of her sons and step-sons had served in uniform. Five of them had been killed, including Peter Percy Wood who had died near Vimy Ridge shortly after the battle. He has no known grave and is among more than 11,000 Canadians declared missing and presumed dead in France, and whose names are inscribed on the memorial. Mrs. Wood was the first Silver Cross Mother, a woman chosen annually to represent all Canadian mothers who have lost children in the service of the country. The Japanese-Canadian community also sent two representatives to commemorate the members of the community who had served during the war.

A black-and-white photograph of a woman saluting wearing a beret and coat with many medals pinned upon it.

Charlotte Wood at the Vimy Ridge Memorial, July 26, 1936. (Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 3224323)

The pilgrims first disembarked in Antwerp, Belgium where they boarded buses that carried them past First World War battlefields and cemeteries to Vimy Ridge. The memorial was dedicated by King Edward VIII on July 26, 1936 before a huge crowd of pilgrims, veterans from many nations, military personnel and dignitaries. The King was very popular in Canada and even owned a ranch in Alberta. The pilgrims then sailed to London where they laid wreaths at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. These veterans were now in London as the representatives of a country that had gained significant autonomy since the war. The pilgrimage concluded in Paris where wreaths were laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

A black-and-white photograph of a large crowd lined on the sidewalk of street while a cenotaph ceremony is taking place in the centre with soldiers in formation in front of a large white cenotaph.

Vimy pilgrims at the Cenotaph, Whitehall, London, July 29, 1936. (Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 4939444)

In 1940, the Vimy Memorial’s Canadian caretaker was captured by German forces as they overran northeastern France at the start of the Second World War. Rumours abounded throughout the war that the memorial had been damaged or destroyed. On September 11, 1944, Lieutenant-General Harry Crerar, who had fought in the battle of Vimy Ridge and now commanded the First Canadian Army, made a highly publicized visit to this symbol of national military strength. Photographs of his visit proved that the newly liberated memorial was in remarkably good condition, thanks in large part to Paul and Alice Piroson, a Belgian couple who had looked after it throughout the war.

A colour photograph of man standing in front of a large stone structure. Two people are on the left side of the photograph, one is in uniform and mostly cut off and the other is wearing a vest, sweater and beret.

Lieutenant-General H.D.G. Crerar and Paul Piroson at the Vimy Memorial, September 11, 1944. (Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 4233251)

Paul Piroson continued working at Vimy after the war. When he retired in 1965, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson personally invited the Pirosons to make their first visit to Canada. They toured the country in 1967, being honoured at a series of events that marked the battle’s fiftieth anniversary.

A colour photograph of a bugler in Highland uniform in front of the Vimy Ridge memorial.

View of Vimy Memorial, undated. (Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 4234839)

The men who fought at Vimy Ridge believed it was the moment when they became Canadian and in which the nation was born. The idea grew over the years, and today the battle symbolizes Canadian service and sacrifice in all wars. The name “Vimy” is invoked in many military commemorative projects, while thousands of people from Canada and elsewhere visit the memorial each year to learn what Canadians achieved there in 1917.

Biography

Andrew Horrall is an archivist in charge of military records and an historian of English music hall. He holds a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge.

This blog was developed under a collaborative agreement between Library and Archives Canada and The National Archives.

Images of New Brunswick now on Flickr 

New Brunswick is one of Canada’s three Maritime provinces, sharing  its border with Quebec to the north, Nova Scotia to the southeast, the United States to the west, and Prince Edward Island, which lies off its east coast. First Nations in New Brunswick (the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy) are the descendants of First Peoples that inhabited the area around 9,000 years ago. When the French arrived in the region in 1604, the Mi’kmaq welcomed them and taught them how to survive off the land. However, the French eventually claimed the Maritimes as a colony, naming it Acadia.

A black-and-white photograph of three women ad two children standing in a potato field.

Three First Nations women, a young girl and infant standing in a potato field, Woodstock, New Brunswick (MIKAN 3425858)

Over the course of the 18th century, the French gradually lost the territory to the British. The Acadians, descendants of French settlers, refused to pledge allegiance to the British, preferring to remain neutral. As a result, thousands were subjected to deportation in 1755 and 1758. Throughout the 19th century, New Brunswick would experience a significant population growth as a result of migration from the British Isles, Loyalists from the United States, and the return of some Acadians. New Brunswick would eventually become one of the four original provinces of Canadian Confederation in 1867, with Fredericton as its capital.

Did you know?

  • New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada. The majority of the population is English-speaking, but there is a large Francophone community (33%).
  • Forestry traditionally dominated the New Brunswick economy as forests cover about 83% of the province. This industry was connected to shipbuilding and to the pulp and paper industry.

Visit the Flickr album now!

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

As of today, 427,651 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 7260 and last name Nelles.

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.

Guest Curator: Arlene Gehmacher

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.


Bunch of Wildflowers by Susanna Moodie, ca. 1870

Yellow dandelion in front of blue and pink wildflowers mingled with leaves, painted on sepia card.

Bunch of Wildflowers by Susanna Moodie, ca. 1870. (MIKAN 2837436)

Susanna Moodie called Canada’s woods “the prison house.” Flower painting may have been her form of therapy. It allowed her to impose order and refinement on one small piece of nature.


Tell us about yourself

Studying the visual culture of Canada has been a pursuit of mine since first being hired to research primary archival and printed sources for an exhibition on historical art produced in Canada. I was hooked—the material satisfied both my love of fine art as well as cultural context. I feel very fortunate to have been able to make it my career.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

Watercolours, such as Bunch of Wildflowers, were for Moodie not just a pastime to create gifts for family and friends, but also a commodity that could be used for cash income or trade. With a price tag of $3 to $5, she could pay her servant. William Notman, the famed Canadian photographer, is known to have accepted—at his own suggestion—an autographed watercolour as payment for his photographs. (Moodie obliged with A Group of Crimson, White, Yellow, and Pink Roses.)

The bunch of wildflowers—including periwinkle, dandelion, and clematis—may well have been picked by Moodie herself, but her arranging them into a watercolour was part of her domestic economy.

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition.

Two colour plates of colourful flowers with green leaves. Left: Wild Orange Red Lily, Harebell, and Showy Lady’s Slipper. Right: Sharp-lobed Hepatica, Large-flowered Bellwort, Wood Anemone, and Spring Beauty.

Image on the left: Wild Orange Red Lily, Harebell, and Showy Lady’s Slipper (MIKAN 2905466) Image on the right: Sharp-lobed Hepatica, Large-flowered Bellwort, Wood Anemone, and Spring Beauty (MIKAN 2905471) Plates from Canadian Wild Flowers by Agnes FitzGibbon, published by John Lovell, Montréal, 1868 (AMICUS 49189)

Agnes FitzGibbon, daughter of Susanna Moodie, collaborated with her aunt Catharine Parr Traill (Susanna’s sister) on Canadian Wild Flowers, published in 1868 and praised for its scientific accuracy. Susanna Moodie’s Bunch of Wildflowers bespeaks her joy and passion in picking and aesthetically arranging flowers, and immortalizes her artistry in watercolour. In contrast, FitzGibbon’s fine illustrations are informative, her delineation precise to ensure legibility of specimen.

FitzGibbon’s project was from the start a business venture, each of the 500 copies containing 10 lithographed plates, each hand coloured (with help!), and accompanied by Parr Traill’s descriptions both poetic and naturalist. Executed over 1867 and 1868, Canadian Wild Flowers in subject and timing surely assumed a mantle of national relevance.

Biography

Colour photograph of a woman standing against a turquoise tiled wall.Arlene Gehmacher, PhD, is Curator of Canadian Paintings, Prints & Drawings at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Ontario, where she develops collections-based research and exhibits. She also teaches; her course “Collecting Canada” deals with the acquisition, interpretation and display of the ROM’s picture collection and is offered through the Art History Department of the University of Toronto. Her publications cover the 19th to 21st centuries, and include articles on Ozias Leduc (1996), Cornelius Krieghoff (2003), Naoko Matsubara (2003, 2016), Paul Kane (2010, 2014), Arthur Heming (2013), and William Blair Bruce (1999, 2014).

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The Battle of Vimy Ridge—the assault

A banner that changes from a black-and-white photograph of a battle scene on the left to a colour photograph of the Vimy Memorial on the right.By Dr. George Hay

The actual fight for the high ground of Vimy began in the half-light of the morning of Monday April 9, 1917. The morning began bitterly cold and overcast, something which may have helped the assaulting waves to make their positions without being noticed. Once there, they waited until precisely 5:30 am when the bombardment began and the mines dug and laid by the engineers were blown.

Rising from their jumping off points, the infantry pursued the barrage forwards towards the German lines. Protracted mining activity by both sides in the months before the operation had torn apart the ground into a chain of mine craters, which combined with the maze of shattered trenches and scattered wire entanglements, and made early progress difficult for the Canadians. The inclement weather of the preceding days had also reduced the surface to a slippery quagmire, something made worse by deteriorating conditions on the ground. By 6 am, a northwesterly wind began blowing up snow and sleet which continued on and off for the rest of the day.

In spite of the conditions, at 7:10 am the 3rd Canadian Division reported to Corps HQ that the whole of their Black Line—or primary—objective had been secured, and the same was confirmed by the 4th and 5th Brigades of 2nd Division at 7:20 am, and by 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division at 8:25 am. Events continued to develop rapidly—too rapidly for Corps HQ to keep up—and by 9:25 am, the 1st Division was reporting that it had secured all of its Red Line—or secondary—objectives and the 2nd Division reported the same soon after. The push on to their final objectives—the Blue and Brown lines—was met with remarkably little opposition, with the advance going according to programme; the battalions in the vanguard of both divisions marched on to the eastern slopes of the ridge and were the first Allied soldiers to look down on the Douai Plain since the German reoccupation in 1915. By early afternoon the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions were able to communicate the complete success of their operations.

Similarly favourable reports were initially received from 4th Division, but as the morning wore on it became clear that elements of the German line were continuing to resist in its sector, potentially the result of a bypassed pocket of resistance. Elsewhere it was clear that the enemy had emerged from caves and tunnels once the attacking force had passed, re-occupying the line now behind them.

One area left in the enemy’s hands was Hill 145—the highest and thus most significant portion of the ridge where the Canadian Expeditionary Force monument now stands—from which heavy fire was poured down onto the troops of the 4th Division to the right and left. The situation was made worse by a supporting position further north which was also still in German hands—“the Pimple”—from which enfilading fire was also being drawn. These significant points were held with great sacrifice and determination due to their significance to the German defence.

Despite energetic and courageous endeavours, these positions remained in the enemy’s hands into the afternoon when it was decided to pause operations on these fronts. Despite these gaps in the advance, the ridge to a width of 7,000 yards and a maximum depth of 4,000 yards had been successfully captured, along with more than 3,000 prisoners and large quantities of artillery and military hardware. Though losses had been serious, this first day had undoubtedly been a success for the Canadians.

A black-and-white photograph of a group of soldiers working on an earthen trench, digging and consolidating their position.

Canadians consolidating their positions on Vimy Ridge, April 1917. (Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 3521877)

The counter-attacks expected during the night fortunately failed to materialise, providing some welcome respite to soldiers in the frontline. For the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions, the work of consolidation progressed favourably; for the 4th Division, however, part of their main task remained unfinished. Early in the morning of Tuesday April 10, the 10th Canadian Brigade received orders for the capture and consolidation of Hill 145, while during the day, the 11th Canadian Brigade were to push forward and establish themselves on the crest of the hill.

In the continuing snowstorms that swept the ridge, the 44th (Manitoba) and 50th (Calgary) Battalions moved into position by 2:30 pm, attacking with the barrage at 3:15 pm and storming the ridge. As the light faded, the only objective still not in Canadian hands was the Pimple. The attack had been costly, with the two battalions suffering more than 300 casualties, but they in turn had captured four machine guns, a trench mortar and 200 prisoners. The 4th Division had now completely captured all of its original primary objectives. All along the rest of the line the Canadian divisions had pushed out patrols to probe the enemy’s defences and had continued its work consolidating its own.

During the night and through Wednesday, the consolidation and probing of the enemy line continued and orders for a general attack for the following day were issued to prevent the Germans from straightening their lines for defensive or counter-attacking purposes. Meanwhile, with observation posts now established along the whole of the ridge, the artillery was able to keep up vigorous harassing fire on the German forces moving behind their lines and dispersing concentrations of soldiers. In view of the success on the Ridge and to press and exploit the advantage of his dominant position, the Corps commander—Lieutenant-General Julian Byng—then issued orders to 10th Brigade, 4th Canadian Division to push on with the attack on the last vestige of the German defensive line, the Pimple.

The Pimple had been a secondary objective for the original assault, but the necessary troops had not been available on the day and the attack had been postponed and made contingent on the success of the wider operation. Though not critical to the seizure of the Ridge, in German hands it had the potential to disrupt operations going forward.

At 5 am on Thursday April 12, after an intense artillery bombardment and under the cover of another rolling barrage, the 44th and 50th Battalions—who had so gallantly carried the line beyond Hill 145 the previous day—advanced on the Pimple. This formidable position was a maze of trenches and dugouts, but perhaps the greatest challenge was the steep sides and muddy ground—reported by the 50th Battalion to be waist deep in places—and the blinding snowstorm that met their advance.

Though unpleasant, the snow allowed the advance to close on the position to within 30 yards before the force was spotted, and though vicious hand-to-hand combat with the German garrison ensued in places. By just after 8 am, the Corps HQ was informed that the attacking battalions were on their objectives.

A black-and-white graph showing First Army’s ammunition supply and expenditure in April 1917. There is a higher, peaked line for the expenditure and a lower, less dramatic line for supply. The expenditure line is annotated with the major attacks of the month, with a particularly large spike on April 8–9 for the attack on Vimy Ridge.

Graph showing First Army ammunition supply and expenditure in April 1917, with a substantial spike on April 8–9 annotated “Attack on Vimy Ridge.” (The National Archives, WO 153/1284)

Though further operations were planned for the following day, the German command had already committed to retire and abandon the ridge and supporting positions, along with sizable quantities of materiel. As the report on operations written up for the Canadian Corps stated, “if Monday the 9th had been a great day of victory in battle, Friday the 13th was the day when the fruits of victory were enjoyed, for on that day the enemy accepted his defeat.” The villages of Thélus, Farbus, Givenchy, Willerval, Vimy and La Chaudiere were in the possession of the Canadians, along with Vimy Ridge, Hill 145 and the Pimple, and more than 4,000 prisoners had been captured as well as in excess of 60 guns and large numbers of machine guns, trench mortars and other arms. As the commanding officer of First Army, General Henry Horne, noted:

“The Vimy Ridge has been regarded as a position of very great strength; the Germans have considered it to be impregnable. To have carried this position with so little loss testifies to the soundness of plan, thoroughness of preparation, dash and determination in execution, and devotion to duty on the part of all concerned. The 9th April 1917, will be an historic day in the annals of the British Empire.”

A typed and signed letter from General Horne, Commanding First Army to the Canadian Corps.

A message of congratulations from General Horne to the Canadian Corps for the capture of Vimy Ridge, April 12, 1917. (The National Archives, WO 95/169/7)

A typed and signed letter from General Horne, Commanding First Army to the Canadian Corps.

A message of congratulations from General Horne to the Canadian Corps, May 8 1917, in recognition of their continuous engagement since April 9. (The National Archives, WO 95/169/7)

A typed and signed letter from the Lieutenant-Colonel to the Royal Flying Corps.

A message of thanks to the Royal Flying Corps from Lieutenant-Colonel Grant, General Staff, Third Army, April 18 1917. (The National Archives, WO 95/169/7)

Biography

Dr. George Hay is a principal military record specialist at The National Archives of the United Kingdom and a historian of the British amateur military tradition. He holds a PhD in History.

This blog was developed under a collaborative agreement between Library and Archives Canada and The National Archives.

Images for Manitoba now on Flickr

Manitoba is the easternmost prairie province, situated roughly in the centre of Canada and bordered by Saskatchewan to the west and Ontario to the east. First Nations peoples have inhabited this region for over 10,000 years.

The Hudson’s Bay Company controlled the region from 1670 to 1869, when the land was sold to Canada with no consideration for its inhabitants. The sale of the land, the exclusion of its residents in the creation of a local government, and the start of infrastructure projects without consultation with the local inhabitants resulted in the Red River Resistances of 1869-70 and 1885, led by Métis leader Louis Riel and the supporters of the Métis Nation.

In response to the first Resistance, the Manitoba Act of 1870 created the province of Manitoba, which promised land grants to the Métis Nation. However, these promises were broken and the Métis were forced westward by increasing white settlement.

During this challenging period, the newly formed province covered little more than the Red River Valley area. However, increasing migration and settlement of the area by people moving westwards spurred the growth of settlements across the region and enhanced the importance of Manitoba within Confederation.

A black-and-white photo of a pregnant woman, two children and a man harvesting potatoes.

Harvesting potato crop, Manitoba (MIKAN 3367935)

Did you know?

  • Manitoba is considered to be the Métis Nation Homeland as the fur trade resulted in significant mixing in this area between First Nations peoples and Europeans.
  • Winnipeg experienced booming growth at the turn of the 20th century, but it was short lived and was followed by decades of depression, drought, labour unrest and two world wars.
  • In January 1916, Manitoba became the first province to grant women the right to vote and hold provincial office. However, First Nations and Asian Canadian women were excluded from these rights.

Visit the Flickr album now!