Spanish flu pandemic centenary: new Co-Lab challenge and travelling exhibit

By Jenna Murdock Smith and Alexandra Haggert

The Spanish flu, a particularly virulent form of influenza, struck Canada in 1918, killing an estimated 50,000 Canadians. It was an international pandemic; an additional 20 to 100 million people worldwide succumbed to the disease before it ran its course in 1920. The virus was brought to Canada by troops returning from the First World War, and soon spread to even remote parts of the country. Unlike most diseases, which typically target vulnerable members of the population, the Spanish flu tended to attack young adults in the prime of their lives. For a country that had already suffered the loss of 66,000 war dead, the impact of the Spanish flu was profound, leaving a number of families without a primary wage earner and thousands of children orphaned.

1918 marks not only the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, but also the centenary of the Spanish flu pandemic. It is an opportunity to reflect on this grim chapter in our history. Library and Archives Canada has a number of records in its archival collection documenting the political, social, economic, and cultural impact of the flu on the lives of Canadians.

Library and Archives Canada is also launching a Co-Lab challenge on this topic. Co-Lab is a crowdsourcing tool that invites the public to contribute transcription, translation, tags and description text. The public contributions then become metadata that improves our search tools and enhances everyone’s experience of the historical record.

The images that have been made available as part of this Co-Lab challenge make up a complete file created by federal public health authorities in response to the outbreak in 1918. At the time, public health was primarily the responsibility of provincial and local authorities, with the federal government coordinating quarantine services as a branch within other larger departments (i.e., the Department of Agriculture, and later the Department of Immigration and Colonization). The file includes correspondence documenting various attempts at quarantining ships carrying soldiers returning home from the front. Maritime quarantines, which had successfully contained the spread of infectious diseases in the 19th century, did not prove to be an effective means of controlling the Spanish flu.

A colour reproduction of a telegram discussing the Spanish flu.

Quarantine and Immigration: Spanish Influenza – general, RG29, vol. 300, file 416-2-12 (image 82)

Alt-text: A typewritten page discussing the Spanish flu.

Quarantine and Immigration: Spanish Influenza – general, RG29, vol. 300, file 416-2-12 (image 85)

The federal government was widely criticized for failing to provide supplies and coordinate a response to the pandemic. With no vaccine or effective treatment for the Spanish flu, medical practitioners attempting to assist patients and contain the disease looked to the federal government for help. The file demonstrates a lack of coordination by government authorities and a growing sense of urgency amongst medical officials working in quarantine stations across Canada, as the mortality rate rose. This illustrates the need for the creation of a federal department of health, which was established in 1919 as a direct result of this devastating pandemic.

A typed letter and the handwritten response about the Spanish flu.

Quarantine and Immigration: Spanish Influenza – general, RG29, vol. 300, file 416-2-12 (image 6 and image 7)

If you are interested in seeing more historical content on the Spanish flu, Library and Archives Canada is hosting a travelling exhibit by Defining Moments Canada, an organization dedicated to providing digital storytelling tools and commemorative activities for Canadians. From September 4 to 24, Struggle Without Rest: Stories from the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918–1919 will be available for free in the lobby of the Library and Archives Canada building at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa.


Jenna Murdock Smith is a senior archivist in the Government Archives Division and Alexandra Haggert is a project manager in the Public Services branch of Library and Archives Canada

Œuvres complètes. Tome I by Normand Chaurette

By Michel Guénette

The Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada exhibition presents an unpublished work by Normand Chaurette entitled Œuvres complètes. Tome I. This work was chosen by our specialist Michel Guénette, a performing arts archivist.

Who is Normand Chaurette?

First, a profile of the author, to understand his creative context: Normand Chaurette is a Quebec playwright who was born in Montréal in 1954. Along with Michel Marc Bouchard and René-Daniel Dubois, he is in the generation of post‑referendum writers who turned away from the nationalist and realist theatre of the 1960s and 1970s, and instead created dramatic works that focused on artistic and linguistic renewal. Chaurette’s play Provincetown Playhouse, juillet 1919, j’avais 19 ans (1982) was a huge success and established his name. His theatrical career includes La société de Métis (1983), Fragments d’une lettre d’adieu lus par des géologues (1986), Les Reines (1991), Le Passage de l’Indiana (1996), Le Petit Köchel (2000) and Ce qui meurt en dernier (2008). His plays have been performed abroad as well, including the Comédie-Française’s 1997 production of Les Reines. He is also well known for the widely popular play Edgar et ses fantômes (2010), and its 2018 adaptation in France, Patrick et ses fantômes.

In addition to plays, Chaurette has also written a book, short stories, film scripts, translations, radio scripts and an essay. His work, which transformed the theatrical and literary landscapes, has earned much respect across the Canadian and international artistic world. Chaurette has received numerous awards, including four Governor General’s Literary Awards, four “Masques” from the Académie québécoise du théâtre, and a Floyd S. Chalmers Award. He also received a writing bursary from the Association Beaumarchais in Paris. Chaurette was appointed to the Order of Canada in the fall of 2004.

Black-and-white photo of a young man sitting with a sweater across his shoulders.

Portrait of Normand Chaurette around 1976; photograph by Linda Benamou (e011180592)

Œuvres complètes. Tome I

The Normand Chaurette fonds acquired by Library and Archives Canada includes documents about his career and personal life. The majority of the documents are annotated manuscripts and typescripts, outlines, drafts, notes and final versions of his writings. They include the original of Œuvres complètes. Tome I, which is in perfect condition.

The work is a kind of artist’s book, an illustrated book containing handwritten texts, drawings, watercolours and cut-out images. This magnificent book is divided into sections, including “Les dieux faibles,” “Orgues,” “Lettres au superbe,” “Texte de Londres,” “Nouveaux textes de Londres” and more. Chaurette began writing this early work in 1970 at the age of 16 and completed it in 1975; he later added some more pages in 1977 and 1978.

We might assume that Chaurette had literary ambitions at this time; the book is both strange and fascinating, with enigmatic and repetitive sentences. Readers might even see the influence of automatists like Claude Gauvreau and surrealists like Guillaume Apollinaire. But such assumptions would be erroneous. Chaurette had no artistic ambitions as an adolescent. In an email dated April 19, 2018, he explains that he had dropped out of school and did not dream of becoming a writer, at least not until 1976, when he won an award for a radio script, Rêve d’une nuit d’hôpital, that was broadcast on Radio-Canada.

Images of two pages of Normand Chaurette’s book Œuvres complètes. Tome I.

Images of two pages of Normand Chaurette’s book Œuvres complètes. Tome I (MIKAN 4929495)

Images of two pages of Normand Chaurette’s book Œuvres complètes. Tome I.

Images of two pages of Normand Chaurette’s book Œuvres complètes. Tome I (MIKAN 4929495)

So why did he fill page after page of a book with tiny words when he had no expectation of publishing it? Chaurette was going through a difficult time in his life: he had dropped out of school, was questioning his future and wanted to be out on his own. With the help of certain substances, he searched for his identity and retreated into his own world. As he explained in a telephone conversation, this was the time of the October Crisis, strikes, demonstrations and schools being closed down; it was a dark and very uncertain time for him. He could not talk to his parents about his fears or share some things in his life, so he took refuge in writing, drawing and painting, where he expressed all of his uncertainties and fears. He spent sleepless nights sketching and writing in books that served as his diaries.

Knowing this creative context sheds new light on the book and explains certain passages. The dark tone of the prose aligns with what Chaurette was experiencing, as this extract from his poem “L’ode au désespoir” illustrates:

Ma parole est une prison

Ma parole est carrée comme une prison dont le rebord noir perce les pages de ce recueil…

 

My words are a prison

My words are like a square prison with black edges that pierce the pages of this book …

[translation]

Readers are given access to the writer’s private thoughts. We also learn that the titles in this work are meaningful. For example, Chaurette had family in London, England, and he went to the city to learn English. So it is not surprising that some of his writing was done there. Chaurette envisioned a second volume, but the heavy demands of the first one led him to abandon this idea. With the passage of time, he moved on to other projects.

Chaurette wrote his texts in code, in tiny, almost illegible letters, worried that his journals would be discovered. He destroyed most of them as he went along so his parents would not find his compositions. Only the book Œuvres complètes. Tome I survives. Chaurette is pleased that Library and Archives Canada will preserve and make accessible to researchers the confidences of a troubled youth who became a major author. We can already see in this work the talents of a young writer who would develop over time.


Michel Guénette is a performing arts archivist in the Social Life and Culture Private Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Canada’s Earliest Printers

By Meaghan Scanlon

As you walk through the exhibition Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada, you will see two items from Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC’s) Rare Book Collection. One is a short medical pamphlet published in Quebec in 1785 that explains the symptoms and treatment of a disease thought to have been a form of syphilis. The other is a proclamation on the subject of French fishing rights, issued by the Governor of Newfoundland in 1822.

A colour photograph of a book open to the title page. It reads: Direction pour la guerison du mal de la Baie St Paul. A Quebec : Chez Guillaume Brown, au milieu de la grande cote. M, DCC, LXXXV.

Title page of Direction pour la guerison du mal de la Baie St Paul. Printed by Guillaume (William) Brown at Quebec City in 1785 (AMICUS 10851364)

These two publications may not appear to have much in common. In fact, though, they share an interesting historical connection: both are the work of the first printers in their respective provinces. William Brown, publisher of Direction pour la guerison du mal de la Baie St Paul [A guide to treating the Baie St Paul malady], and his partner, Thomas Gilmore, became the first printers in the province of Quebec when they set up shop at Quebec City in 1764. John Ryan, who produced the Newfoundland broadside, holds the distinction of having been the first printer in two separate provinces. Ryan and his partner, William Lewis, were already in business in Saint John when the province of New Brunswick was created in 1784. Ryan then relocated to St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1806, and opened the island’s first press.

A black-and-white document proclaiming the rights of French fishermen under the Treaty of Paris, which confirmed the rights laid out in the Treaty of Utrecht, to fish in the waters off Newfoundland without hindrance or harassment by British subjects. The proclamation directs officers and magistrates to prevent British subjects from obstructing the French fishery, and gives warnings about potential actions to be taken against those British fishermen who refuse to comply.

By His Excellency Sir Charles Hamilton … a proclamation. Printed by John Ryan at St. John’s, Newfoundland, ca. 1822 (AMICUS 45262655)

Johann Gutenberg introduced printing to Europe in the middle of the 15th century, completing his famous Bible in Mainz, Germany, around 1454. By 1500, Gutenberg’s innovation had been adopted widely in Europe. European colonists then transported printing technology to the Americas. It was not until 1751—almost 300 years post-Gutenberg—that the first press reached Canada. This alone seems to us like an incredibly lengthy interval, accustomed as we are to rapid changes in technology. But it actually took close to another 150 years for printing to spread to all regions of the country. Through holdings like these items printed by William Brown and John Ryan, LAC’s Rare Book Collection documents the long and fascinating history of how printing made its way across Canada.

A colour reproduction of the cover page of a newspaper. The newsprint is creased near the top and sepia-tinged.

The Halifax Gazette, no. 1 (March 23, 1752). Printed by John Bushell (AMICUS 7589124)

This history begins with John Bushell, Canada’s first printer. In 1751, Bushell moved from Boston, Massachusetts, to Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, he published the country’s first newspaper, The Halifax Gazette, on March 23, 1752. As previously noted, Quebec and New Brunswick got their first presses in 1764 and 1784, respectively. By the end of the 18th century, printers had come to Prince Edward Island and Ontario, where Louis Roy established the first press in Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) in 1792. After John Ryan’s arrival in Newfoundland in 1806, there were presses in all of the eastern provinces. Many early eastern Canadian printers, including Ryan and Prince Edward Island’s first printer, James Robertson, were Loyalists—Americans who left the United States during the American Revolutionary War out of loyalty to the British monarchy.

The advent of printing in Western Canada and the North occurred before the close of the 19th century. In both Alberta and Manitoba, the first printers were missionaries who produced Indigenous language translations of Christian religious texts. Using a makeshift press and type he had cast himself, Methodist minister James Evans started printing in Cree syllabics at Rossville, Manitoba, in 1840. The Oblate priest Émile Grouard brought the first press to Alberta when he settled at Lac La Biche in 1876. In 1878, Grouard completed the province’s first book, entitled Histoire sainte en Montagnais (“Montagnais” was the term non-Indigenous people used for the Dene language). That same year, Saskatchewan’s first printer, Scottish-born Patrick Gammie Laurie, began publishing his newspaper, the Saskatchewan Herald (AMICUS 4970721), in Battleford. Laurie had walked to Battleford from Winnipeg—a distance of about 1000 kilometres!—leading an ox cart that carried his press.

The Fraser River gold rush lured prospectors to the west coast in 1858. A demand for printed news accompanied this influx of people, resulting in the establishment of British Columbia’s first five newspapers, all in Victoria. One of the five was The British Colonist (AMICUS 7670749), founded by the future premier of British Columbia, Amor de Cosmos. Gold also spurred the introduction of the press to Canada’s northern territories. During the Klondike gold rush in 1898, printer G.B. Swinehart left Juneau, Alaska, with the intention of starting a newspaper in Dawson City, Yukon. Swinehart’s journey stalled at Caribou Crossing due to the weather, so he published a single issue there while he waited. This paper, the Caribou Sun (AMICUS 7502915) for May 16, 1898, is the first document known to have been printed in Canada’s North.

A black-and-white photograph of a group of men standing in front of a log building with a sign that reads The Yukon Sun.

Office of G.B. Swinehart’s paper, renamed The Yukon Sun, at Dawson City, 1899. (MIKAN 3299688)

LAC’s published collection holds a lot of early Canadian printed material, including over 500 items printed in Canada before 1800. This is a significant number, but the collection still has many gaps. It is always exciting for LAC staff when we come across imprints that aren’t already in the collection because documents printed by Canada’s first printers tend to be very rare. The two publications featured in the Premiere exhibition are good examples. Only about five copies of Direction pour la guerison du mal de la Baie St Paul survive today. The John Ryan broadside was previously unrecorded, meaning that no other copies are known to exist.

If you’re in the Ottawa area, check out Premiere: New Acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada to see these rare early Canadian imprints in person, along with new acquisitions from other parts of LAC’s collection. The exhibition runs at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa until December 3, 2018. Admission is free!

Additional resources


Meaghan Scanlon is Senior Special Collections Librarian in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

What lies beneath the fig tree: Solomon Ibn Gabirol and the search for wisdom

Web banner with the words: Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada showing a small picture of an otter fishing on the rightBy Dr. Guy Berthiaume

There is a legend that a jealous poet murdered Solomon Ibn Gabirol, the 11th- century Jewish poet and philosopher, and buried him under a fig tree. The fruit of that tree was so sweet and so plentiful, the people of the town where the tree was located decided to dig it up and uncover the source of its richness. The legend finishes with the discovery of Gabirol’s remains beneath the tree, lending a truly poetic explanation of the tree’s abundant nature, one Gabirol himself might well have appreciated.

Legend aside, Gabirol was an important philosopher and the author of over 100 poetical works. His writings contain a fascinating blend of Jewish, Islamic, Neoplatonic, Pythagorean, Biblical, mystical and philosophical sources, bearing out Gabirol’s advice that we should “seek wisdom with the avidity with which thou wouldst search for hidden treasures, for it is more precious than gold and silver.” This sage instruction is taken from Mivachar Ha-Peninim, or Choice of Pearls, the most recent addition to Library and Archives Canada’s collection of incunabula, acquired with the generous donation of Ruth and Arnon Miller.

While incunabulum is actually a five-star Latin word for “cradle,” it has come to mean any book, pamphlet or broadside printed before the year 1501. In fact, before this term came into popular use, such books were known as “fifteeners,” which, while descriptive, lacks a certain syntactical mystique! But whichever way you choose to describe them, incunabula are compelling artifacts, both for their contents, and for their beauty as objects in and of themselves. Choice of Pearls is no exception.

Gabirol had a wide following in both Islamic and Christian circles, and this collection of proverbs, moral reflections and maxims was probably the equivalent of a New York Times bestseller in its day. Choice of Pearls feels surprisingly modern, with a relevance that applies as much today as it did in the 11th century. The book is studded with insights and observations such as these:  “Wisdom lying dormant is like an unproductive treasure”; “Man without wisdom is like a house without a foundation”; and the surprisingly prescient “Truth establishes all things; falsehood overthrows them,” which takes on a special meaning in this age of “post-truth”.

Although the text was originally written in Arabic by a Jewish philosopher who has been compared to Plato, its wisdom and wit was popular with both Jewish and Arab readers of the time. This demonstrates something I have long believed, that poetry and philosophy have a unique ability to transcend boundaries, and that libraries, by sharing works across cultures, can do the same.

The book is also significant because its publisher, Soncino Press, is one of the oldest and most influential printers in the history of Jewish books. Based in Northern Italy, Joshua Soncino set up one of the world’s first Hebrew printing presses in 1484.

A colour photograph of an open book with Hebrew writing.

Mivachar Ha-Peninim by Solomon Ibn Gabirol, 1484 (AMICUS 45283149)

Choice of Pearls was purchased at auction from the Valmadonna Trust Library, which was the world’s largest private collection of rare Judaica. It now joins its fellow incunabula in Library and Archives Canada’s Jacob M. Lowy Collection. The Collection, amassed over a lifetime, contains over 3,000 old and rare books printed between the 15th and 20th centuries in Hebrew, Latin, Yiddish and other languages. Highlights include first and early editions of the Talmud, 34 incunabula, and over 120 Bibles in many languages, including Inuktitut.


Dr. Guy Berthiaume is the Librarian and Archivist of Canada.

New podcast! Check out our latest episode, “Canada’s Canoe Archive”

Colour oil painting of a birchbark canoe, in profile, moving through calm water in front of a bare rock cliff. Eight men are paddling the canoe while a man in a black hat and a woman in a pale blue hat sit in the middle. A red flag is partly unfurled at the stern of the canoe. The bow and stern of the canoe are painted white with colourful designs added.

Our latest podcast episode is now available. Check out “Canada’s Canoe Archive.”

For many Canadians, paddling in a canoe serves as a refuge from our hectic day-to-day lives, and as a means of reconnecting with nature, family and friends. But thousands of years before European settlers arrived in what we now call Canada, the lakes and rivers served as vital trade routes for the Indigenous peoples here, with the canoe at the heart of that experience. In this episode, we pay a visit to the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario, and get a behind-the-scenes tour of its incredible canoe collection. Curator Jeremy Ward takes us through this storied collection of iconic watercraft.

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.

The mystery of the Franklin expedition

By Catherine Butler

The lost expedition

The story of the lost Franklin expedition is well known to many Canadians. Led by Sir John Franklin, the expedition comprised 24 officers and 110 men and set sail from Greenhithe, England, in May 1845 in search of the Northwest Passage. On board the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus, the voyage initially progressed relatively smoothly.

The crew made it to the Whale Fish Islands off the coast of Greenland to stock up on supplies, and arrived in Baffin Bay in July 1845. There, the captains of two whaling ships, the Prince of Wales and the Enterprise, saw the crew while waiting for favourable conditions to cross Lancaster Sound. This was the last time they were ever seen.

What happened next is as horrifying as it is legendary. The crews of the Erebus and Terror spent the winter of 1845–1846 on Beechey Island, where three crew members died and were buried. Things would only get worse from there. In September 1846, the ships got stuck in ice off the coast of King William Island, where they remained for the winter and spring of 1847. By June 1847, Sir John Franklin was dead. The remaining crew, now captained by Francis Crozier, spent the rest of 1847 stuck in the ice, unable to continue their voyage.

By April 1848, the Erebus and the Terror were abandoned and the remaining crew set off on foot for the mainland. All the men perished along the way, and it would be years before anyone would learn of their fate.

Unlocking the mystery

In the years immediately following the expedition, when no word from the crew was received, the British government made efforts to locate the men, offering rewards for information about their whereabouts or their discovery. The first mission dispatched to search for the Franklin expedition set off in 1848. The mission failed. No sign of the lost men emerged until 1850, with the discovery of their winter camp at Cape Riley and the graves of the men who died during the first winter on Beechey Island.

Poster offering a £20,000 reward for the discovery of the Franklin expedition.

£20,000 reward for the discovery of the missing Franklin expedition, March 7, 1850 (e010754422)

During an 1854 expedition sponsored by the Hudson’s Bay Company, John Rae arrived in the Boothia Peninsula, where he met an Inuit man who told him of a group of white men who had starved to death a few years earlier at the mouth of a large river. After speaking with a number of other Inuit people from the area, Rae was able to identify the Back River as the likely site of the sighting. During this voyage, Rae acquired a number of relics belonging to the lost expedition, including inscribed silverware.

Drawing of a number of different items recovered during various search operations dispatched by the British government to locate the lost Franklin expeditions. Items include silverware, blades, pocket-watches, knives and flasks.

Relics of the Franklin expedition, ca. 1845 (e010958396)

Throughout the years, numerous expeditions sought to locate the lost ships and recover the bodies of the crew. RCMP patrols, intrepid travellers and archeologists attempted to uncover the fate of the men and to locate the abandoned ships. Graves, skulls and countless artifacts were located, but the ships remained hidden. Crews would search for ships, but it would take nearly 170 years for them be found.

Black-and-white photograph depicting 5 skulls against black rocks. The skulls were found in 1945 during an expedition by William Skinner and Paddy Gibson.

Skulls of members of the Franklin expedition discovered and buried by William Skinner and Paddy Gibson in 1945 (a147732)

Uncovered at last

In 2008, the Canadian government launched a renewed effort to locate the wreckage of the Franklin expedition’s lost ships. Working more closely with Inuit historians and local communities, these efforts would soon pay off. In September 2014, the HMS Erebus was discovered near King William Island in the Queen Maud Gulf. Locating this ship, which had eluded so many experts for so many years, was made possible largely because of the oral histories known to historian Louie Kamookak.

Almost exactly two years later, the wreckage of the HMS Terror was located, thanks in large part to Sammy Kogvik, an Inuit hunter and Canadian ranger who joined the crew of the Arctic Research Foundation that lead search and recovery efforts. Without the assistance and knowledge of local Inuit communities, it is quite possible that the abandoned ships might never have been located.

Find out more

Library and Archives Canada holds a number of archival records relating to the search for the lost expedition, including journals kept by Francis McClintock during his four Arctic expeditions in search of Sir John Franklin between 1848 and 1859.

For more information on the importance of oral histories and Inuit knowledge, David Woodman’s Unravelling the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony is an excellent source (AMICUS 43188964).

For an interactive experience about the plight of the crewmen and the role that Inuit communities played in the discovery of the wreckages, visit the Museum of History’s exhibition, Death in the Ice—The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition, on until September 30, 2018.


Catherine Butler is a Reference Archivist in the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

A “world-startling discovery”!

By Roddy McFall

“In August, 1896, the world-startling discovery of the Klondike was made.” So wrote William Ogilvie in his memoir Early Days on the Yukon & the Story of its Gold Finds. Prior to becoming the second Commissioner of the Yukon Territory in 1898, Ogilvie was a noted Dominion land surveyor working in western and northern Canada. In 1895, Ogilvie was commissioned to make all the required surveys for town sites, mining claims and mineral deposits in Yukon. He previously surveyed the Yukon River in 1887–88 and determined the approximate location of the 141st meridian—the current boundary between Alaska and the Canadian territories.

In 2015, the Surveyor General’s Branch of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) approached Library and Archives Canada (LAC) regarding the potential transfer of approximately 80,000 records from the Canada Lands Survey Records (CLSR) collection, a total of 1.5 km of archival holdings. In early 2017, LAC completed the transfer of this major acquisition to its permanent holdings.

The collection consists of the official textual surveys and their associated documentation of Canada Lands (First Nations Reserves, National Parks lands, Crown lands, and territorial lands) since 1769. It includes the original maps, survey files, survey plans and field books that Ogilvie created of the Klondike Gold Rush, marking the discovery of gold at the Klondike goldfields of Bonanza Creek and Eldorado Creek.

The 80,000 records are being processed, described, arranged, and made available to the public via online finding aids, exhibitions, and in concert with NRCan’s online database. At the same time, this acquisition complements LAC’s existing collection of 1,034 official survey plans of Indian reserves and Indian school lands across Canada, transferred from the Legal Services Division of the former NRCan in 1959. LAC is digitizing these earlier official surveys of Indian reserves and Indian school lands, reaffirming its commitment to making historical records available online.

The CLSR collection tells countless stories—one of the more significant ones involves the mapping of the claims discovered in the Klondike Gold Rush and the role of Indigenous players in this endeavour.

The map, Plan of Placer Mining Claims on Part of Bonanza Creek in the Klondike Mining Division of the Yukon Territory (below) was plotted in Ogilvie’s surveying field books. It documents the discovery claims made by Jim (Kèsh) Mason (also known as “Skookum” Jim, meaning strong, and identified as “Tagish Jim” on the map), a member of the Tagish Khwáan First Nation (Image below), his American brother-in-law George Carmack, and his sister Shaaw Tláa, also known as Kate Carmack. These three are credited with discovering gold in Bonanza Creek, an event that triggered the Klondike Gold Rush. This survey map and accompanying field book reflect the important roles that Ogilvie, George and Kate Carmack, and Mason played in the Gold Rush. These records are even more remarkable considering that at the time it was unusual for discovery claims made by First Nations prospectors to be accepted by mining authorities.

A detailed map showing three sections of Bonanza Creek with the identity of the discovery claims.

Plan of Placer Mining Claims on Part of Bonanza Creek in the Klondike Mining Division of the Yukon Territory, Library and Archives Canada, R214, Vol. 2089 (8284 YT CLSR), e011202237

Through these records, Ogilvie put Indigenous prospectors like “Skookum” Jim Mason on the front page of history. Mason also figured prominently in Ogilvie’s memoir, with the chapter “Discovery of the Klondike” including a section dedicated solely to him. Mason was described as Ogilvie’s “old friend”. Ogilvie even used the sobriquet “Tagish Jim” in his field books and on his survey maps. He also spoke of how he “employed Jim in various capacities, and always found him reliable, truthful, and competent to do any work I gave him. Afterwards, while working on his claim on Bonanza, I had more experience with him, and it only corroborated the opinion I have expressed of his character.”

A black-and-white photograph of a man holding some prospecting equipment with one hand and the other hand on his hip looking directly at the viewer. Behind him is a loaded wheelbarrow.

“Skookum” Jim Mason, Yukon pioneer. Credit: Canada. Dept. of Interior / Library and Archives Canada, a044683

These underused archival records assist in documenting aspects of Canada’s Indigenous history and culture such as the distribution of language groups, treaty rights, the location of residential schools and Indian reserves, and Indigenous land use and occupation. Through these, we can see the history and evolution of Indian reserves, National Parks, military bases, railway development, the fur trade, the Arctic, as well as defining events such as Ogilvie’s “world-startling” Klondike Gold Rush.

Two handwritten pages from a Dominion land surveyor’s field book explaining the daily details about the modes of transportation, places for food, etc.

Field book of surveyor William Ogilvie, Library and Archives Canada, Field book no. FB6192 CLSR YT, R214, Vol. 4044, MIKAN 5012291. NRCan database: FB6192CLSRYT.PDF


Roddy McFall is a senior archivist in the Finance, Industry, Law, Environment, and Science Section of the Government Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Imagining Canada – Metsia’at ha-Arets ha-Hadashah

Web banner with the words: Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada showing a small picture of an otter fishing on the rightBy Michael Kent

I had the great pleasure recently of being one of the librarians responsible for selecting an item for Premiere, the new acquisitions exhibition at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). This opportunity allowed me to look back and reflect upon the acquisitions work I have done for LAC, specifically in the Jacob M. Lowy Collection of rare Judaica, which I curate. Working with this collection, I am immensely privileged to be able to tell the story of Canada’s Jewish community through its published heritage. Much of my selection work focuses on books printed in Canada. However, sometimes I am able to look farther back in time and tell the story of how the Jewish community came to Canada.

One example of looking farther back is my selection for the Premiere exhibition of the Metsia’at ha-Arets ha-Hadashah, published circa 1806. It is the first book in Hebrew to tell the story of the discovery of the Americas. The book, whose title translates as “the discovery of the New World,” is an item that I was especially pleased to be able to add to the Jacob M. Lowy Collection.

A colour photograph of an open book with Hebrew text and a map of the world.

The Metsia’at ha-Arets ha-Hadashah opened to the introductory section, which includes a map of the Americas (AMICUS 44961986)

The original German work Die Entdeckung von Amerika, by Joachim Heinrich Campe, was a book for children. The Hebrew translator, Moses Frankfurt Mendelsohn, adapted it by changing the style from a dialogue between a father and his children to a straightforward historical narrative. He was motivated to produce this book because of the widespread interest in Columbus among European Jews at the time. There was serious speculation that the Italian explorer was in fact Jewish.

Originally produced because of interest in Columbus, the book was also created during an important period for what would later become the Jewish community in Canada. The 1800s brought many changes to the lives of European Jews. Emancipation, pogroms and opportunities for emigration to North America would profoundly reshape the community. These changes helped give birth to a Canadian Jewish community.

When I open this book, I do not just see a book about Columbus, I see a work that is probably the first exposure that many Jews in Europe would have had to information about the Americas. When I examine the map included in the book, I see what was probably the first representation for many Jews of the lands that would become Canada. In short, I consider this book to be an important step in raising awareness about the Americas and a tool in allowing this community to imagine a new life in Canada.

Canada is a country made up of diverse immigrant communities. In acquiring the Metsia’at ha-Arets ha-Hadashah, I am honoured to help tell the story of one of these communities, and of an early step in that community’s journey of becoming Canadian and building the Canada we know today.


Michael Kent is Curator of the Jacob M. Lowy Collection at Library and Archives Canada.

A Unique Example of Canadian Research: HMCS Bras d’Or

Web banner with the words: Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada showing a small picture of an otter fishing on the rightBy Marcelle Cinq-Mars

What is the connection between a digital watch, a GPS in a car, a microwave oven in a kitchen, and an epinephrine auto-injector for allergic reactions? Hint: It is the same as the link between radar, night vision goggles and the Internet. They are all technological developments from scientific research for military purposes.

Military-related scientific research has led to countless technological developments. And it goes back a long time!

In Canada, the Defence Research Board (DRB) was created in 1947; its mandate concerned military research in areas of Canadian expertise such as the Arctic, ballistics and biochemical warfare. Over the years, the DRB developed Canada’s first (and only) air-to-air missile, called the Velvet Glove. The DRB was also directly involved in the development of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, an extensive network of radar stations to detect enemies in Canadian airspace.

A colour photograph of the red nose cone of a rocket next to two men working on the instruments that will go inside it.

Defence Research Board technicians adjust an antenna in a Javelin rocket in 1961 (e010975999)

At the height of the Cold War, the detection of enemies was also needed in the oceans. Submarines posed a real threat there, especially when they became armed with nuclear warheads. Accordingly, DRB scientists started working on a type of boat designed specifically to hunt enemy submarines. What they developed was a hydrofoil.

Hydrofoil technology dates back to the early 1900s. The famous inventor Alexander Graham Bell even made prototypes of them, which he tested on Bras d’Or Lake in Nova Scotia. Wing-like structures called “foils” are mounted under a vessel and lift it out of the water as the speed increases. As a result, water friction on the hull is reduced, and the vessel can reach impressive speeds.

In the 1960s, Marine Industries Limited in Sorel, Quebec, started building a hydrofoil for the Royal Canadian Navy. The hull was made of aluminum, the foils of steel. This special boat had features and technologies from both aeronautics and nautical science, so the captain had to be both an aircraft pilot and a naval captain.

The new vessel was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy on July 12, 1968, as HMCS Bras d’Or. Sea trials began off Halifax in April 1969. During the trials, the vessel reached an impressive speed of 63 knots (117 km/h), a record speed for a warship at the time.

A colour photograph of a hydrofoil in motion.

HMCS Bras d’Or, Royal Canadian Navy, demonstrates its hydrofoil system on February 18, 1970 (e011154076)

HMCS Bras d’Or saw service for a short time only. On November 2, 1971, the Government of Canada ended the hydrofoil program. Canada’s priority shifted from anti-submarine warfare to the protection of sovereignty. The Bras d’Or was donated to the Musée maritime du Québec in L’Islet-sur-Mer, where it remains on display.

Related resources


Marcelle Cinq-Mars is a senior military archivist.

The Artist’s Mirror: Celebrating a new exhibition of artist self-portraits at Glenbow

On June 15, 2018, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and Glenbow Museum come together in Calgary, Alberta, to officially celebrate the beginning of a very successful collaboration. March 10th marked the opening of the first in a series of five co-curated exhibitions. All of the exhibitions feature portraits from LAC’s collection. In some cases, they also include portraits from Glenbow’s collection.

This exciting collaboration provides the opportunity for more Canadians to see many of Canada’s most important national treasures: all of the exhibitions will be presented at Glenbow, in Calgary. Each of the exhibitions in the series has a different theme related to portraits and portraiture.

A colour photograph of the entrance to the exhibition space at the Glenbow Museum.

Installation photograph of The Artist’s Mirror at Glenbow, courtesy of Glenbow Museum

A special kind of portrait

The first exhibition in the series focuses on one of the most fascinating types of portrait: images that artists create of themselves. The proliferation of mirrors during the 15th century is said to have contributed to the popularization of artist self-portraits. When artists hold the mirror to themselves, it is very difficult not to be drawn in.

A painting of a mirror and a still-life arrangement on a dressing table with several books, a brush, a radio, and two oranges on a plate on top of a newspaper. The mirror’s reflection shows the artist and another painting.

Self-portrait in Mirror, William Lewy Leroy Stevenson, ca. 1928, e011200954

Artist self-portraits are particularly intriguing because they appear to give privileged insight into the creative process. They are also exciting for their variety. The choice of medium is just one way in which artists have experimented with self-portraits, over the years, as statements of creative identity.

The exhibition includes 17 historical and modern self-portraits of Canadian artists, drawn from LAC’s collection. There are examples of video and sculpture self-portraiture as well as paintings, drawings and prints.

Many faces, many stories

A stand-out self-portrait in the exhibition is this sculpture by Inuit artist Floyd Kuptana.

A colour photograph of the front of a stylized sculpture of a man with his tongue sticking out.

Self-portrait by Floyd Kuptana, 2007, MIKAN 3922914

It is important to view this self-portrait from a variety of angles. The playful stone sculpture smiles, when viewed from one angle, and sticks out his tongue when viewed from another:

A colour photograph of the front of a stylized sculpture of a man with his head tilted to the side. A colour photograph of the front of a stylized sculpture of a man sticking his tongue out.The humour in this self-portrait masks a much more serious exploration of self, on a variety of levels. Kuptana created this self-portrait with traditional ideas as well as modern ones. The multiple faces and angles reflect shamanic beliefs about transformation. Yet, the idea of multiple personalities, within one self, is also associated with modern psychology.

A colour photograph of the side of a stylized sculpture of a man.Self-portrait… or portrait?

The exhibition provides a chance to see a portrait that remains at the centre of one of Canadian art history’s most interesting unresolved mysteries. Certain scholars feel strongly that this portrait, created by important British Columbia artist Emily Carr, is a rare, early self-portrait. However, others have argued that this drawing is merely an image Carr may have made of somebody else.

A charcoal drawing on paper of a young woman with bare shoulders seen from the back with her face in profile. Her hair is styled in a loose bun with short curls framing her face. Her gaze is off to the right.

Self-portrait thought to be of Emily Carr, ca. 1899, e006078795

Most agree that Carr created the drawing when she was an art student in London, United Kingdom. The drawing is done in a traditional academic style, not typical of Carr’s later work, but very much typical of a student demonstrating her mastery.

Those who believe this to be an image of Carr herself point to the strong resemblance between the drawing and contemporary photographs of her. They acknowledge that Carr was notoriously prudish and thus unlikely to pose with bare shoulders. However, they point out that it would be quite common, in women’s drawing classes of the day, to practise drawing the human form from suitably draped ancient classical sculptures. An artist could place their own head on a body copied from one of these unexceptionable nudes.

A vignette of the Emily Carr portrait showing the drawing’s classical lines of the shoulders and chin.With this image, Carr may have been striving to project herself within a particular style, fashionable when she was a young woman.

The exhibition invites you to judge for yourself.

A western connection

The exhibition provides a chance for LAC to present self-portraits that have a particular connection to Calgary.

One example is this amusing self-portrait by Calgary-based artist Gary Olson.

A pencil drawing of a man’s face squished up against a piece of glass. Most of the left side of his face is indistinguishable, but his right eye is keenly focused.

I Am Up Against the Picture Plane Again, by Gary Olson, 1977, e011195950. @ Gary Olson

The image is part of a series created by Olson while he was a college art instructor. He came up with these lighthearted images to convey the difficult theoretical art concept of the picture plane to his students. He portrays the plane literally, in these images, by flattening and distorting his own features against it. At the same time, Olson takes the opportunity to poke fun at the theory of art, capturing something of his own irreverent desire to push the envelope

Come see the exhibition

A colour photograph of a dimly lit room with various art pieces hung on the walls.

Installation photograph of The Artist’s Mirror at Glenbow, courtesy of Glenbow Museum

Be sure to visit The Artist’s Mirror, if you happen to be in Calgary. The exhibition runs from March 10, 2018 to January 6, 2019 and is open every day. For more information, please contact Glenbow Museum.