The Parliament Hill Precinct

The Parliament Buildings in Ottawa are some of the most recognizable structures in Canada. Although the Peace Tower may be the most iconic part of the exterior of the buildings, it’s the newest addition to the precinct. Originally built between 1859 and 1866 in the Victorian High Gothic Revival style, Centre Block officially opened on June 6, 1866 as Parliament for the Provinces of Canada. The location was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1857 and was the biggest construction project of its time in North America, running way over budget, in part due to the cost of blasting out the bedrock to build the foundation. On July 1, 1867, Centre Block was chosen to be the official Parliament for the Dominion of Canada. Its location was considered ideal for many reasons, namely its distance from the American border, as well as its visibility to those who lived in the area.

A black-and-white photograph of the original Centre Block on Parliament Hill.

Parliament Buildings, Centre Block, by Captain Jacobs, c. 1886 (MIKAN 3319558)

Centre Block stood on Parliament Hill for 50 years until the evening of February 3, 1916 when a fire broke out in the House of Commons’ reading room. The flames spread quickly and seven lives were lost that night. While many of the stone walls remained standing, the only part of the building to truly survive was the library, which was built in 1876 with iron doors (which were closed by a clerk before leaving that evening). Although rumours claimed arson was the cause, the fire was a result of a discarded cigar.

A black-and-white photograph showing a very elaborate round building with pinnacles and flying buttresses in a wintry setting next to a building partly encased in ice. Firemen are putting out a fire.

View of the Library of Parliament and Centre Block on the day after the Centre Block fire, taken by William Topley in 1916 (MIKAN 3194673)

Despite Canada being heavily involved in the First World War at the time, it was clear that the buildings had to be rebuilt. With the country expanding, it was decided that the Parliament Buildings would follow suit. The plan was to keep the same Gothic Revival style as the original buildings without creating carbon copies of them. Construction started later that year and was completed in 1922. The Peace Tower, named in commemoration of Canada’s commitment to peace, was completed in 1927.

A black-and-white photograph showing the first three stories of a building with the rotunda of the Library of Parliament in the background. Cranes and construction materials surround the area.

Rebuilding of the Centre Block, Parliament Buildings, c. 1917-1918. Photo taken by Samuel J. Jarvis (MIKAN 3319865)

A black-and-white photograph showing the main Parliament building from the front with crowds of people filling Parliament Hill.

Jubilee celebrations on Parliament Hill in 1927 (MIKAN 3549627)

Today, Centre Block is bordered by the East and West Blocks and by a large public open space that serves many purposes—it’s a celebration area on Canada Day, a place for demonstrations and protests, a spot for noontime yoga in the summer, etc. Tours of Centre Block are given throughout the year and it’s become one of Ottawa’s most popular attractions.

Other resources

Underwater Canada: A Researcher’s Brief Guide to Shipwrecks

Shipwrecks, both as historical events and artifacts, have sparked the imagination and an interest in the maritime heritage of Canada. The discovery of the War of 1812 wrecks Hamilton and Scourge, found in Lake Ontario in the 1970s, and the discovery of the Titanic in the 1980s, served to heighten public awareness of underwater archaeology and history.

Whether you are a wreck hunter on the trail of a lost vessel, or a new shipwreck enthusiast eager to explore images and documents that preserve the epic tales of Canadian waters, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has something for you.

Starting your research

First, gather as much information as possible about the shipwreck(s) you are researching. Specifically, you will ideally want to obtain the following information (in order of importance):

  • Name of Vessel
  • Location of accident
  • Date of accident
  • Ship’s port of registry
  • Ship’s official number
  • Year of vessel’s construction

The Ship Registration Index is a helpful resource. The database includes basic information about more than 78,000 ships registered in ports of Canada between 1787 and 1966.

Can’t locate all of the information listed? There’s no cause for concern! Not all of the information is necessary, but it is essential that you know the name of the vessel. All Government records relating to shipwrecks are organized according to the ship’s name.

What is Available?

Using Archives Search, you can locate the following types of material:

Photographs

Maps

  • In Archives Search, under “Type of material”, select “Maps and cartographic material” to narrow your results.
    Government Records

All records listed are found in the documents of the Marine Branch (Record Group 42) and/or Transport Canada (Record Group 24).
Official Wreck Registers, 1870‒1975

  • Wreck Reports, 1907‒1974
  • Register of Investigations into Wrecks, 1911‒1960
  • Marine Casualty Investigation Records, 1887‒1980

Important: Government records contain information about shipwrecks that occurred in Canadian waters, and include all accidents involving foreign vessels in Canadian waters.

Please note: this is not an exhaustive list of resources, but rather a compilation of some of the major sources of documentation available on shipwrecks held at LAC.

Helpful Hints

You can find a number of digitized photographs, maps and documents on the Shipwreck Investigations virtual exhibition. More specifically, check out the collection of digitized Official Wreck Registers in the Shipwreck Investigations Database. Simply check if the name of the vessel you are researching is listed.

Another excellent source of information on shipwrecks is local public libraries. There are many maritime histories and bibliographies that offer reference points to begin your shipwreck research.

Sir John Coape Sherbrooke: Military Hero, Governor General, Clairvoyant?

Last year, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) acquired an important collection of documents relating to the Canadian career of Sir John Coape Sherbrooke (1764-1830). His pivotal role in the defence of the British colonies that would become the Atlantic Provinces during the War of 1812 led to his appointment as Governor General of British North America in 1816. However, his arrival in Nova Scotia in October of 1811 was not his first time in Canada.

Detail from an engraving. Portrait of Sir John Coape Sherbrooke

Portrait of Sir John Coape Sherbrooke (Mikan 4310479)

Continue reading

Samuel de Champlain’s General Maps of New France

In the fall of 1612, Samuel de Champlain had an engraving of his first detailed map of New France made in Paris. The map contained new geographic information, based on his own explorations from 1603 onward. The site of Montreal is clearly identified. Using information obtained from Aboriginal peoples, he was able to include previously uncharted areas, such as Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls. He also made use of other maps to depict certain regions, including Newfoundland. Although the engraving was made in 1612, the map was not published until the following year as an appendix to Voyages, Champlain’s 1613 account of his journeys.

Carte geographique de la Nouvelle Franse faictte par le sieur de Champlain Saint Tongois cappitaine ordinaire pour le roy en la marine. Faict len 1612.

Carte geographique de la Nouvelle Franse faictte par le sieur de Champlain Saint Tongois cappitaine ordinaire pour le roy en la marine. Faict len 1612. Source

While back in France in the summer of 1613, Champlain had an engraving made of a second version of a general map that he had begun the previous year, which he also published in his 1613 book. In that map, he incorporated his most recent geographic findings, including the Ottawa River, which he was the first to depict. His depiction of Hudson Bay was deliberately inspired by a map of Henry Hudson’s voyages (source: MIKAN 4145717).

Carte geographique de la Nouvelle Franse en son vray meridiein. Faictte par le Sr Champlain, Cappine. por le Roy en la marine – 1613.

Carte geographique de la Nouvelle Franse en son vray meridiein. Faictte par le Sr Champlain, Cappine. por le Roy en la marine – 1613. Source

An incomplete general map by Champlain also exists. The engraving was made in 1616, although the map was never published. The only known copy is held by the John Carter Brown Library.

In 1632, Champlain published his last major map of New France, which was included in his final book, Les Voyages de la Nouvelle France occidentale, dicte Canada. He had been living in France for nearly three years, having been driven out of Quebec by the Kirke brothers in 1629. This updated map contains little new information verified by Champlain himself, as his own explorations came to an end in 1616. He based the revised version on the invaluable information conveyed to him by others, chief among them Étienne Brûlé. Nevertheless, this map represents an important milestone in the history of North American cartography and was widely used by other mapmakers. There are two versions of this map. Among the differences between them are the representation of Bras d’Or Lake or a chain of mountains on Cape Breton Island. Both versions of the map are held by Library and Archives Canada. The first can be seen here:

Carte de la Nouvelle France, augmentée depuis la derniere, servant a la navigation faicte en son vray meridien, 1632.

Carte de la Nouvelle France, augmentée depuis la derniere, servant a la navigation faicte en son vray meridien, 1632. Source

Suggested reading to learn more about this subject: Conrad E. Heidenreich and Edward H. Dahl, “Samuel de Champlain’s Cartography, 1603-32”, in Raymonde Litalien and Denis Vaugeois, eds., Champlain: The Birth of French America. Sillery: Les éditions du Septentrion; and Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004, pp. 312-332.

Royal Proclamation of 1763

October 7, 2013, marks the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, issued by King George III of Britain. With the end of the Seven Years War, Great Britain took possession of all North American territories east of the Mississippi River. The Royal Proclamation was a key legal document for the British to organize and manage their expanded North American empire.

The Royal Proclamation regulated the expansion of the newly ceded colonies of Québec, East Florida, West Florida and Grenada, and stabilized relations with Aboriginal peoples through the regulation of trade, settlement and land purchases on the frontier. It also set a boundary for European settlement, known as the “proclamation line”, along the Appalachian Mountains. Land along rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean would be available for European settlers, while territory along rivers flowing into the Mississippi would remain First Nations’ lands. The proclamation line was to be temporary and extend westward in an organized manner.

A new map of the Province of Quebec according to the Royal Proclamation October 7, 1763.

A new map of the Province of Quebec according to the Royal Proclamation October 7, 1763 Source

The Royal Proclamation became the constitutional framework for the negotiation of Indian treaties in British North America. It recognized Aboriginal peoples as autonomous and capable of negotiating agreements with the Crown. The document also acknowledged that First Nations are entitled to continue owning their territories, including hunting and fishing grounds, until they surrendered them to the Crown. The first attempt to enforce the treaty took place north of the Great Lakes and resulted in the Treaty of Fort Niagara on August 1, 1764.

To learn more and to read a full transcription of the Royal Proclamation, consult the web page, 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s website.

The Mountain Legacy Project: An Archive-Based Scientific Project

Beginning in 1871, the Dominion Lands Branch had been surveying and mapping Canada from East to West. By 1886, the Dominion Lands Survey had extended to the Rocky Mountains, but the rugged terrain made traditional survey methods impractical. Édouard-Gaston Deville, Surveyor General of Canada, devised a new methodology called “phototopography,” (also known as photogrammetry) based on the use of survey photography from hot-air balloons in France and Italy. A special camera was constructed for surveyors, who ascended thousands of peaks in Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon. They rotated and levelled their cameras on tripods to create 360-degree views of the surrounding terrain. Between 1887 and 1958, more than 100,000 glass plate negatives were used to create the first topographic maps of the Canadian Rockies, of which 60,000 are now part of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) collection.

Since 2002, LAC has been a major participant in the Mountain Legacy Project, an ongoing partnership led by the University of Victoria, which includes stakeholders in universities, archives, government, and non-governmental organizations.

LAC identifies, describes and digitizes the original negatives. These photographic records are the foundation of this multidisciplinary project, which uses “repeat” photography. It consists of re-photographing the landscape from the precise original locations to provide information about environmental changes that have occurred over the last 120 years.

To search LAC holdings of original photographs, follow these easy steps:

  1. Go to the Basic Archives Search.
  2. Enter the archival reference number R214-350-0-E in the search box.
  3. From the Type of material drop-down menu, select Photographic material and then click on Submit. Your search will generate a list of results.
  4. Select an underlined title to access the full description of a photograph. The descriptive records display images of photographs that have been digitized.

For more information about how to search for photographs at LAC, consult our articles “How to Find Photographs Online” and “How to Search for Images Online.”

If you wish to narrow your search:

  1. Go to the Archives Advanced Search.
  2. Select Photographic material from the drop-down menu labelled Type of material
  3. Use one or a combination of the following options as keywords in the Any Keyword search box:
    1. Name of the surveyor (e.g., Bridgland, McArthur or Wheeler).
    2. Year of the survey (must be used along with another keyword to limit search).
    3. Name of a survey (e.g., Crowsnest Forest Reserve, or Interprovincial Boundary Survey, although these may have taken place over several years, by various surveyors).
    4. Name of a particular landscape feature, such as mountain peak, river, creek, or valley (often the views are identified by the station/peak they were taken from, rather than by the peak or landscape featured in the photograph).
    5. Name of the park (Note: The LAC collection does not contain reproductions of the images from Jasper and Banff National Parks).
  4. Limit your search results by selecting a decade under the label “Date” on the right side of the screen.

For more information about the Project, and to compare the archival images with the repeat photography, visit the Mountain Legacy Project website. To view a sampling of paired photographs, visit our Flickr Set. To view some images of the surveyors, visit our Facebook Album.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

The Canadian Arctic Expedition—100th anniversary

At the beginning of the 20th century the Canadian government, led by Sir Robert Borden, wanted to strengthen Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic, in response to the presence of the United States and Russia in the North. The Canadian Arctic Expedition was established by Order-in-Council 406, dated February 22, 1913, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Naval Services and other government bodies.

The expedition was comprised of two groups, each with its own objective: the Northern Party, led by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, was responsible for geographic exploration of the Arctic to ensure Canadian sovereignty in the western part, while the Southern Party, led by Dr. Rudolph M. Anderson, focused on scientific discovery.

V. Stefansson on board the Karluk.

V. Stefansson on board the Karluk. Source

Rudolph Martin Anderson.

Rudolph Martin Anderson. Source

An expedition fraught with challenge

On June 17, 1913, the expedition set sail from Esquimalt Harbour in British Columbia aboard the Karluk headed for Herschel Island in the Beaufort Sea. In August, the ship became trapped in ice and drifted for over four months, eventually sinking in Siberia. The ship’s captain, Robert Bartlett, describes the final days of the voyage in his book Northward ho! The last voyage of the Karluk. Stefansson’s decision to leave the ship on September 19, 1913, to continue his exploration occurred in a climate of crisis. Stefansson’s departure remains a source of controversy and debate among historians.

The Karluk sails near Esquimalt Harbour.

The Karluk sails near Esquimalt Harbour. Source

To find out more

The following are some of the archival documents and government reports that constitute the information resources related to this expedition.

For consultation on-site at Library and Archives Canada:

Available online from Library and Archives Canada:

Other sources:

Please note that the majority of the documents are available in English only.

For more information, be sure to visit the virtual exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Civilization: Northern People, Northern Knowledge: The story of the Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913-1918.

Visit our Flickr album for more photographs.

Sir John Franklin Expedition

On May 19, 1845, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror left England under the command of Sir John Franklin in search of the Northwest Passage. This expedition was without a doubt a most ill-fated venture, as not a single member returned alive.

An iceberg, HMS Terror and some walruses near the entrance of Hudson Strait.

An iceberg, HMS Terror and some walruses near the entrance of Hudson Strait
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1979-49-1. Source

Major search efforts were launched to find the missing men, including three expeditions to the Arctic in spring 1848. Rewards were also offered in 1849 and 1850 for any information about Franklin’s expedition. These searches did produce results: in 1850, the first relics—the graves of three crewmen who died in 1846—were found at Beechey Island, west of Devon Island.

In July 1857, Lady Franklin also financed an expedition under the command of Francis McClintock aboard the ship Fox. On May 5, 1859, William Hobson, Lieutenant of the Fox, found a document placed beneath a cairn containing two messages. The first, written by Franklin on May 28, 1847, indicated that the crew of the two ships had spent the winter of 1845–46 off Beechey Island, and that all was well. The second message, dated April 25, 1848, indicated that the Erebus and Terror had been trapped in ice since September 1846, west of King William Island, and that 24 men had died, including Franklin on June 11, 1847.

In the wake of expeditions undertaken to find Franklin, numerous maps were drawn, including the Discoveries in the Arctic Sea, 1616-1927 and the Chart showing the vicinity of King William Island. These identified the sites Franklin visited, the places where his group wintered and the site in which his ships were abandoned. The second map also mentions the diverted courses the two wrecks may have followed.

Although we now know the fate of the members of this expedition, every attempt to find the wrecks of the Erebus and the Terror has been unsuccessful, despite the magnitude of the searches and modern technologies deployed.

For more information about the period prior to the expeditions:

For more information about the periods prior to and following the expeditions:

For more information about the period following the expeditions:

Publications, bibliographies and guides held at Library and Archives Canada:

Please visit our Flickr album for more photographs.

Patrolling the French Shore with Louis Koenig

Newfoundland in the summer, completely inaccessible because of its winged garrison. Library and Archives Canada. (Source)

Did you know that thanks to the collection of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) it is possible to patrol the French Shore of the island of Newfoundland with Lieutenant Louis Koenig and discover this particular area where the French had cod fishing rights for almost 200 years, because of two treaties signed between France and England? Accompany Koenig and the crew of the French frigate La Clorinde during a campaign that brought them to Newfoundland, Cape Breton Island and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon in 1885.

Recognized by the French Navy for his artistic talents, Koenig created the 145 drawings and watercolours, the hand-drawn maps and the logbook, which are found in the Louis Koenig fonds and Louis Koenig Collection. The illustrations, most of which were done on site, show the landscapes and military installations he observed, as well as daily activities on board La Clorinde. The maps give three views of the French Shore and include notes by the artist.The logbook, also written by Koenig, documents the voyage, the places visited and gives his candid impressions of his experiences; devoting particular attention to the mosquitoes, which were apparently delighted to welcome the French sailors! The collection also includes a small sketchbook containing an illustrated, much more personal, account of the voyage, full of humour and whimsy presented by Koenig as a gift to La Clorinde’s commander, Félix-Auguste Le Clerc. Koenig also wrote an article Le « French Shore » (souvenirs de campagne à Terre-Neuve) (The “French Shore”, Memoirs of a Newfoundland Campaign), embellished with his maps and illustrations and published in 1890 in the periodical Tour du monde.

To order published documents that are unavailable online, use our online Request for Retrieval of Documents, or call 613-996-5115, or toll-free 1-866-578-7777, to consult them in person at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa.

Enjoy the discoveries and view the Flickr set of images from Koenig’s albums!

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!