Images of sleep and beds now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of a single bed and furnishings at the Coligny Ladies’ College in Ottawa.

Bedroom at Coligny Ladies’ College on the southwest corner of Albert and Bay streets in Ottawa, Ontario [PA-027701]

Sleep is a part of everyone’s life.

A black-and-white photograph of a mother tucking her two sons into bed.

Mrs. Jack Wright tucking her two sons, Ralph and David, into bed at the end of the day, Toronto, Ontario [e000761767]

Human sleep patterns vary, even if our need for sleep does not. People go through great effort to make sleep more comfortable and safer. We even try to sleep more or less, which in turns affects our minds and bodies.

A black-and-white photograph of a man putting his slippers on before getting up from bed.

Major J.J. Busse getting out of bed at Fixed Team Headquarters in Samneua [Xam Neua/Sam Neua], Laos [e010956418]

Ideas about sleep differ from culture to culture, but sleep continually appears in our artwork, photographs and audiovisual materials.

A black-and-white sketch of four men in different sleeping positions.

Sleeping Deputies [e010958639]

Visit the Flickr album now!

New podcast! Check out our latest episode, “The Battlefield Art of Mary Riter Hamilton”

Our latest podcast episode is now available. Check out “The Battlefield Art of Mary Riter Hamilton.”

Colour image of a painting depicting two gun emplacements at the edge of a burnt out forest. In the foreground, there are two graves with white crosses. At the bottom-left of the painting is a signature and year: Mary Riter Hamilton 1919.

Gun Emplacements, Farbus Wood, Vimy Ridge [e000000656]

What drove a successful artist from a comfortable life in Canada to one of hardship in the battlefields of France and Belgium after the First World War? From 1919 to 1922, Mary Riter Hamilton undertook a “special mission” for The War Amps to document the scarred landscape where Canadian soldiers had fought and died.

Her canvases capture the devastation of war but also signs of hope and renewal. At great cost to her health, this artist created one of the few authentic collections of paintings of war-torn Europe. She considered her work to be a gift to Canada. She donated the majority of the collection of paintings to the Public Archives of Canada, now Library and Archives Canada, in 1926.

We sit down with retired assistant professor of history at the University of Manitoba, Kathryn Young, and Dr. Sarah McKinnon, former vice-president at the Ontario College of Art and Design, and former curator at the University of Manitoba.

To view images associated with this podcast, here’s a direct link to our Flickr album

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

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

Images of Donkeys and Mules now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of soldiers marching on a road. A soldier riding in a cart, pulled by a donkey, passes the group.

Canadian infantrymen on the march near Modica, Italy [PA-163669]

Donkeys are members of the equid family, which includes horses and zebras. They have similar physical attributes to their cousins, but tend to be stockier with floppy ears. Domesticated donkeys are bred for work all over the world to carry packs or pull carts. They have even become family pets.

A black-and-white photograph of soldier trying to coax two pack mules to move.

« Stubborn as a Mule” [PA-001202]

In addition to domesticated donkeys, there are also feral and wild types that vary in size, and they can all breed among themselves. This includes horses and zebras! When a male donkey mates with a female horse, their offspring results in what we call a “mule.” A male horse and female donkey pairing results in “hinny.”

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier standing on a road holding the reins to his mare (horse) and its foal (mule).

Canadian soldier from the 20th Battery, Canadian Field Artilery stands with “Vimy” the foal and its mother, Vimy Ridge, France [PA-001616]

These hybrids are mostly sterile and cannot produce offspring. However, they inherit many of their parents’ traits and are used for work around the world.

A black-and-white photograph of two donkeys standing in an enclosed yard.

Alice E. Isaacson’s birthplace, Bray, Ireland [e007151455]

Visit the Flickr album now!

The Inuit Ulu – Diverse, Strong, Spiritual

On the left of the graphic, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] in traditional regalia on horse. In the middle, Iggi and girl engaging in a “kunik”, a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide stands holding a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.By Ellen Bond

A colour photo of an Inuk woman using an ulu to cut meat

Rynee Flaherty cleaning an animal skin with an “ulu” (a short knife with a crescent-shaped blade used by Inuit women) on a stony landscape, Ausuittuq, Nunavut ( e002394465)

The ulu is a knife with a semi-circular shaped blade which translates as “women’s knife” in the Inuit language of Inuttut. Ulus date back 4,519 years ago (2500 BCE). Ulus from 1880 discovered on Baffin Island were found with the blade adhered to the handle by an adhesive made from clay, dog hair and seal blood. In the 1890s, some ulus created by Western Inuit had holes through the handle and the blade. The two pieces were joined together using rawhide, whalebone and pine root. The Copper Inuit of Victoria Island (the eighth largest island in the world and part of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories) used copper they mined to make ulu blades. When slate and copper were scarce, some Inuit turned to whale baleen or ivory for the blades. The crescent-shaped blade was originally made of slate, but today it is made of steel. Steel was available after 1719, through the Hudson’s Bay Company. Blades could be semi-circular or triangular and were attached to the handle with a single post or with the post having a piece in the centre taken out. The handle of the ulu might include ornate drawings and engravings specific to the woman who owned the knife. Handles are usually made of wood but can also be made of bone, antler or ivory.

A black-and-white photo of an Inuk woman using an ulu.

Taktu cleaning fat from sealskin with an ulu, Kinngait, Nunavut (e010836269)

The size of an ulu depends on the personal preference of its owner or the region where it was made. A husband or other male relative sometimes presents an ulu to a woman or they are passed down from one generation to the next.

A black-and-white photo of an Inuk woman using her ulu

Sheouak Petaulassie using an ulu, Kinngait, Nunavut (e010868997)

The cutting and slicing power of the ulu blade comes from the handle, allowing the force of the blade to be directed over the object to be cut. This allows the woman to cut through strong, dense objects, such as bone. The design of the ulu makes it easy to use with one hand. Ulus are multi-faceted tools that vary in design to suit diverse needs. Larger ulus cut game or fish and a smaller ulu removes blubber and shaves skin. Even smaller ulus cut skins or trim small pieces. Tiny ulus help sew or cut ornate pieces used as inlays in sealskin clothing.

A black-and-white photo of an Inuk woman using her ulu to cut meat

Noanighok, mother of William Kakolak, Kugluktuk, Nunavut (a143915)

Looking at most tools designed by humans, the ulu holds a special place. It is one of the only tools that is female-centric and has become an important cultural symbol. Its likeness serves as an award medal in events such as the Arctic Winter Games and is a prominent design element in contemporary Inuit art, crafts, and fashion design. They are often displayed prominently in the home as works of art in and of themselves.  Used for thousands of years across the northern regions of North America, the ulu continues to be functional, powerful, and diverse.


Ellen Bond is a Project Assistant with the Online Content Team at Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Pigeons now on Flickr

The pigeon family is large and consists of approximately 300 species. Only three species now breed in Canada.

A black-and-white photograph of a little girl (Ann MacDonald) standing next to a door looking at a pigeon on the sidewalk.

Ann MacDonald with a pigeon in front of a building [e010966947]

The bird commonly referred to as a “pigeon” is the rock dove, or rock pigeon. It lives in cities and towns and on farmland. The mourning dove lives in open groves and woods. The band-tailed pigeon also inhabits open woods. A fourth species, the passenger pigeon, was hunted into extinction at the end of the 19th century.

A watercolour painting of large nets set up in the woods to catch passenger pigeons.

Passenger Pigeon Net, St. Anne’s, Lower Canada [C-012539k]

Love them or hate them, pigeons were considered companions in ancient times, and they were the first birds to be domesticated. During the First World War and the Second World War, pigeons were used to carry messages for the military.

A black-and-white photograph of a carrier pigeon held in a bush pilot’s hands.

Carrier pigeon used for emergency communication by bush pilots [e006079072]

A black-and-white photograph of two soldiers in a trench watering their carrier pigeons in a portable carrier with a canteen.

Canadian pigeon carriers watering the birds in captured German trenches on Hill 70, Lens, France [PA-001686]

Visit the Flickr album now!

Images of Squirrels now on Flickr

There are twenty-two squirrel species found across Canada in every province and territory. Six species live in trees while the other sixteen live on the ground.

A colour print depicting a Hudson’s Bay squirrel and a Chickaree Red squirrel foraging for food amongst trees branches.

Hudson’s Bay Squirrel, Chickaree Red Squirrel [e002291722]


A black-and-white photograph of a squirrel with a butternut in its mouth exiting a building from an open window.

Squirrel stealing a butternut from a pantry, Ottawa, Ontario [PA-133432]

Views on theses rodents vary. Some people consider them pests as they damage gardens and crops; others point to their role in forest regeneration as forgotten seed caches may germinate in spring.

A black-and-white photograph of a girl and a squirrel on her left shoulder.

Rose Sobkow with a squirrel on her shoulder [e011177232]


A black-and-white photograph of two girls standing next to a tree in winter. One of the girls feeds a squirrel clinging to the trunk.

Two girls feeding a black squirrel [PA-070989]

Visit the Flickr album now!

Butterflies, love triangles and the northern lights

By Shane McCord

The recently concluded Library and Archives Canada (LAC) exhibition Premiere included four drawings by midshipman Robert Hood (c. 1797–1821). These drawings were first presented on the Discover Blog in April 2015, shortly after they had been acquired by LAC. Robert Hood was a talented draftsman, cartographer, scientist, natural historian, and anthropologist before the term existed. He is remembered today for his participation in the 1819–1822 Coppermine Expedition, led by John Franklin. While on this expedition, Hood was the first to document various species of animals and insects. He was also the first to note the electromagnetic nature of the aurora borealis. Posthumously, some of his drawings were reproduced and published in Franklin’s account of the expedition, which included a glowing report on Hood’s work and conduct.

While Hood is known, to a degree, for the contributions to scientific knowledge he made during the expedition, his story is also remembered for the part he played in a now infamous love triangle between himself, a Dené woman known as Greenstockings, and Sir George Back, another artist who was part of the expedition. The story, which includes a failed duel between Back and Hood, has been told many times and is neatly summarized in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry for Hood.

A colour lithograph of a woman sitting on the ground and mending a snowshoe, with a man standing on the right. Both figures are wearing long fur cloaks.

Keskarrah a guide from the Yellowknife Denes and his daughter Green Stockings, mending a snow shoe (e011156563)

All the members of the expedition were suffering from malnutrition and exhaustion, and Hood did not survive. He was likely near death when he was killed by a fellow member of the expedition, the voyageur Michel Terohaute. Terohaute was executed for the murder, and was later suspected of cannibalism.

A watercolour of two young Inuit men wearing western-style clothing. One is captioned “Augustus”, the other “Junius”.

Portraits of the [Inuit] interpreters from Churchill, employed by the North Land Expedition. (e011154367)

The first of the four drawings shown in the Premiere exhibition is a double portrait of two Inuit guides and interpreters, Tattanoeuck (“Augustus”) and Hoeootoerock (“Junius”). Tattannoeuck was a member of three expeditions, two with Franklin (1819–1821, 1825–1827) and one with Back (1833–1835). He was heavily involved in these expeditions and was well respected by his companions, to the point that Sir John Richardson, a member of both the first and second Franklin expeditions, named a species of butterfly Callophrys augustinus in his honour. Hoeootoerock was separated from the members of the Coppermine Expedition during the crossing of the Coppermine, and is presumed to have died there.

Two of the drawings are depictions of northern mammals: a mink and a cross fox. At the time these works were produced, such species were becoming objects of study in Western European science. Images such as these were among the primary reasons why Hood, an officer with a talent for drawing, was selected for the expedition. Apart from their aesthetic value, these images were important as evidence of wildlife in the region of the expedition and provided valuable information for the expansion of the fur trade.

A watercolour of a mink peering into the water by a rocky river shore.

[Mink] (e011154368)

A watercolour of a white fox hunting a mouse in a snowy landscape.

[Cross Fox catching a Mouse] (e011154369)

The final and most interesting drawing shows the interior of a Cree tent. The inscription is “Interior of a Southern Indian tent; taken on the Basquiase Hill, Cumberland House, Hudson’s Bay. The tent is made of Moose skin parchment; the cloathes [sic] of the indians are made of skins. The cloth obtained from the English factories. March 25th 1820 Robert Hood North Land Expedition.” The drawing is valuable for the anthropological information it provides and for its historical context. In Hood’s journal from the expedition, he describes making such a drawing on March 31, and he provides several anecdotes regarding the people in the tent. It is yet to be determined if this is that same drawing and there is an inaccuracy in the dates, or if Hood made a second drawing.

A watercolour showing the interior of a tent. Seven people are sitting around a fire. One is a mother with a child in a cradleboard. Pelts or meat are drying on a cross beam and a pot of food is over the fire. A musket and a bow and arrows are leaning against the side of the tent. One person is eating and another is smoking a pipe, while the others appear to be observing the artist (Hood) at work.

[Interior of a Cree tent] (e011154370)

All four of these drawings relay important documentary evidence about the region of Cumberland House, in what is now northern Saskatchewan. These drawings are also fascinating simply as items carried on that ill-fated journey. The Franklin expeditions are an important part of the history of Canada’s development as a nation, and the tragic aspects of the first expedition in particular have made it one of the most popular and well-known episodes in Arctic history.


Shane McCord is an art archivist in the Archives Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Chickens now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of a small boy. To the boy’s left is a white rooster on top of a pedestal.

Portrait of Henri Groulx, Lachine, Quebec [MIKAN 3194088]

Chickens are domesticated birds that we use for eggs and meat. There are a number of chicken producers and egg-laying hatcheries in each province. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ontario and Quebec have the highest concentration of producers followed by British Columbia and Alberta respectively.

A colour photograph of a man placing water dishes in an enclosure for chicks.

A man provides water for chicks in one of the Marshall Chicken Ranch hatcheries, Toronto, Ontario [MIKAN 4301626]

A black-and-white photograph of two women inspecting eggs, as they move along a conveyor belt, and placing them in cartons.

Ms. Hines and Ms. Dominey preparing eggs for consumers, Port Williams, Nova Scotia [MIKAN 4948583]

Chickens are not migratory, have a small territorial range, and cannot swim or fly well. People easily captured the birds and brought them along when moving to new locations. Domestication happened quickly. From family use to businesses servicing large urban populations, chickens have proven to be extremely versatile in terms of care and breeding.

A black-and-white photograph of a man feeding chickens next to their coop.

Poultry raising, Oromocto, New Brunswick [MIKAN 3643515]

Visit the Flickr album now!

Unemployment insurance revenue stamps and the Danny Leong collection

By James Bone

The Canadian government studied and established the first building blocks of our current social safety net in the early 1940s, during the Second World War. The government was looking to avoid or abate a repetition of Canada’s experience of increased unemployment when soldiers returned from the First World War, especially in manufacturing with the end of wartime production and the resulting lower demand. One of the ideas that it seized upon was unemployment insurance: a mandatory program to which both employees and employers would contribute based on a given employee’s wages; if the job was lost, that person would have some guarantee of a continued income for a specified period. The legislation establishing the program received royal assent in August 1940 and took effect on July 1, 1941. While unemployment insurance has been modified and reformed since then, the essence remains the same under the present Employment Insurance program.

A colour photograph of a red-brown stamp with the following text: Canada. Unemployment Insurance. Assurance-Chomage. 1/6 27¢. Insured 0 Assuré.

An uncancelled 27-cent unemployment insurance stamp from 1941 (MIKAN 4933817)

A colour photograph of a green unemployment insurance stamp.

A 51-cent unemployment insurance stamp from 1941 (MIKAN 4933828)

At the time, of course, there was no computer-based record keeping, and a means had to be devised to show not only that payments for contributions had been made but also that a given employee was entitled to coverage. The most common method of proving that taxes or fees had been paid for government services during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was through the use of revenue stamps. Similar to postage stamps, revenue stamps specify the amount of money paid to purchase the stamp and the tax or fee that they were created to pay for. When used, revenue stamps were cancelled by an official to indicate that their value had been used for the intended purpose. Unemployment insurance stamps were available for purchase at post offices, and employers were required to withhold a set proportion of an employee’s wage, while also making their own contributions, to purchase these stamps. The stamps would then be affixed to booklets, generally kept with the human resources or management unit of a company, and then submitted annually to the local Unemployment Insurance Commission office. Each employee would have a booklet every year held by each employer for whom he or she worked. To ensure that the wages withheld were going toward the purchase of unemployment insurance stamps, employees were permitted by law to inspect their booklets twice a month.

A colour photograph of a page from a used unemployment insurance booklet with seven attached unemployment insurance stamps, dated May, June and July 1949.

A used Unemployment Insurance Commission booket from May to July 1949 (MIKAN 4937508)

A colour photograph of a page from a used unemployment insurance booklet with several attached unemployment insurance stamps, dated October and November 1949. The stamps are very colourful, and there is a handwritten note with a date and initials.

Caption: A used Unemployment Insurance Commission booklet from October and November 1949 (MIKAN 4937509)

At the launch of the unemployment insurance program, many forms of employment were not eligible for coverage. These included agriculture, fishing, forestry and logging, hunting and trapping, air and water transportation services, medicine, nursing, teaching, military, police, and civil services. Over time, more forms of employment were made eligible for coverage. Most notably, in 1957 employment in the fishing industry was covered, providing a much-needed income guarantee to people in the newly confederated province of Newfoundland and throughout the Maritimes. At first, existing stamps were overprinted with the image of a fish to indicate their intended use in the fishing industry. In later years, fishing unemployment insurance stamps were issued without an overprint.

A colour photograph of a block of 50 specimen red unemployment insurance stamps.

Unemployment insurance stamps from 1959 (MIKAN 4933286)

Among the various types of revenue stamps used by federal and provincial governments, unemployment insurance stamps are relatively scarce. This is because under the program’s legislative act and regulations, it was illegal to sell unused stamps, and only an employer or an employer’s human resources designate could be in lawful possession of unused stamps. Further, most of the booklets and used stamps submitted to the Unemployment Insurance Commission as well as most of the unused stamps were intentionally destroyed after their designated five years of retention. Also, unsold stamps were returned from post offices to the Unemployment Insurance Commission for destruction once they were no longer eligible to be sold, which happened when changes to unemployment insurance premiums required stamps to be issued in new denominations.

The Danny Leong collection

It is thus fortunate that Library and Archives Canada was able to acquire the Danny Leong Unemployment Insurance Stamp collection (R15771), which includes more than 11,000 stamps, unemployment insurance booklets from all the years of their use, and other associated materials. Both Danny Leong and his widow, Violet Anne Leong, were employees of the Unemployment Insurance Commission in British Columbia. Through this employment, Danny Leong was able to collect specimens of the stamps and booklets that were no longer needed for business use, training or reference in the office.

Most of the stamps in this collection are pre-cancelled specimens, printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company in Ottawa and forwarded to the Unemployment Insurance Commission as examples of stamps to be issued and sold at post offices. The collection also includes specimen and used insurance booklets, possibly retained for training purposes. The most curious item is a singular engraved die proof dated March 1959. This unique proof is for a never-issued agriculture unemployment insurance stamp—as mentioned above, agriculture was not covered by unemployment insurance during this period. Evidently, consideration was given to including agricultural work in the program, and this consideration was serious enough to have involved having a stamp for that purpose designed and engraved. In discussion of this item, Yves Baril attributed the work as most likely that of the Canadian Bank Note Company’s letter engraver Donald Mitchell, while the design appears to be that of Harvey Prosser, with supervision by John Francis Mash.

A colour photograph of a die proof of an orange agriculture stamp.

Unissued agriculture unemployment insurance stamp die proof, from March 12, 1959 (MIKAN 4933808)

The use of revenue stamps and unemployment insurance booklets to record payments for insurance continued until the early 1970s. Thereafter, the program was reformed with computerized records and the first issuing of Record of Employment forms, which are still in use. Most importantly, the 1971 reform of the Unemployment Insurance Act made coverage almost universal regardless of industry. The final issue of unemployment insurance stamps, printed in 1968, went mostly unused, with only a few used examples having ever been found by collectors. Of interest to both those who study philately and labour history in Canada, the Danny Leong Unemployment Insurance Stamp collection is available for consultation at Library and Archives Canada. For further reading on Canadian revenue stamps, including unemployment insurance stamps, Edward Zaluski’s Canada Revenues is an outstanding resource.

A colour photograph of a sheet of gold unemployment insurance stamps overprinted with SPECIMEN.

A sheet of unused unemployment insurance stamps from 1948 (MIKAN 4933742)


James Bone is an archivist in the Social Life and Culture Private Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Recordings for Children: 78rpm discs, 1918-1962 now on Flickr

These colourful, playful discs represent some of Canada’s earliest recordings for children. Some were simply recordings of nursery rhymes or well-known tunes in English and French.

A colour image of a record label for the Canadian Music Corp., Ltd. Side 2 depicts an outline of Canada with the name Dominion overlaying it. The recording title listed is “Ma mère m'envoit-au marché” followed by the artists Hélène Baillaregion – vocals, and Gilbert Lacombe – guitare.

“Ma mère m’envoit-au marché, Side 2” [Ma_Mere.jpg]

Some of the discs would have come as part of a package of items. The Dee & Cee Company was a doll manufacturer, rather than a record company, that produced the “Pretty Baby” discs. Dee & Cee presumably included the discs with the sale of some of their dolls, probably as an attempt to increase sales.

A colour image of a record label for the Dee & Cee Toy Company, Ltd. Side 1 depicts a small girl sitting and holding an open book. The company name and the recording title “Pretty Baby” are on the book cover.

Pretty baby, Side 1 [Pretty_Baby_1.jpg]

These beautiful labels captured the attention and entertained many children in the early 20th century when they were released.

Visit the Flickr album now!