Anything to declare? Yes, it’s of Canadian interest

By Louise Tousignant

The mandate of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) includes acquiring published material that is Canadian or of Canadian interest. In collecting this material, LAC aims for a national Canadiana collection that is as comprehensive as possible. Canadian material published in Canada is received through legal deposit while material of Canadian interest is published in other countries but has a Canadian creator or subject. Creators could be authors, illustrators, translators or artists. Works of Canadian interest, being published abroad, are acquired through gifts or targeted purchases.

Of those titles of Canadian interest received recently, there are studies on, and analyses of, Canada: Canada/États-Unis : les enjeux d’une frontière, Comparative North American Studies: Transnational Approaches to American and Canadian Literature and Culture, and Canadian Perspectives on Immigration in Small Cities.

Other works are also related to Canada; for instance, Negotiations in the Indigenous World: Aboriginal Peoples and the Extractive Industry in Australia and Canada and Indian Agents: Rulers of the Reserves delve into Indigenous matters.

Famous Canadians have also been the subject of scrutiny: painter Alex Colville in The Mystery of the Real: Letters of the Canadian Artist Alex Colville and Biographer Jeffrey Meyers; journalist and author Jane Jacobs in the biography Becoming Jane Jacobs; and singer and musician Alanis Morissette, whose work is explored in The Words and Music of Alanis Morissette. Canadians who made their names in Hollywood have also been featured in several books. William Shatner, born in Montréal and an ambassador for his hometown’s 375th anniversary celebrations and best known for his role as Captain James T. Kirk in the “Star Trek” television series, recently released Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man. Acclaimed Hamilton-born actor Martin Short, who became a star on the “Saturday Night Live” TV show, authored the memoir I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend.

A black-and-white photo of a woman with long hair leaning against a wrought iron fence.

Portrait of Alanis Morissette by Bryan Adams. Photo signed by Alanis Morissette. 1999 (MIKAN 3614421)

Here at home, Canadians have also had their works published in other countries: Quebec’s Guy Delisle, with the comic book S’enfuir : récit d’un otage, published by Dargaud; illustrator Yanick Paquette, the man behind Wonder Woman, with his Wonder Woman, Earth One. Volume 1 comic book; and Louise Penny, with The Long Way Home, which was published by Minotaur Books and became a New York Times number 1 bestseller.

Finally, some titles of Canadian interest in the national collection are directly linked to LAC’s archival fonds. These holdings allow for greater in-depth study of authors and their international profiles, and support research into Canadian literature. Examples include translations of works by children’s writer and illustrator Marie-Louise Gay, and by Sri Lankan–born Canadian poet, novelist and filmmaker Michael Ondaatje. Regarding Marie-Louise Gay, ¿Alguna pregunta?, a Spanish translation of Any Questions?, was published in Mexico in 2015; Angela en de ijsbeer is a Dutch version of Angel and the Polar Bear; and Bolle-Bertils sirkus is Fat Charlie’s Circus translated into Norwegian. As for Michael Ondaatje, LAC holds no fewer than 20 translations of his best-known novel, The English Patient, including versions in Bulgarian, Japanese and Italian. His novel won the Booker Prize and the Governor General’s Award in 1992, while the film adaptation received nine Oscars at the Academy Awards in 1997.

A colour photo of a seated, smiling woman. Blurred pencil crayons can be seen in the foreground.

Marie-Louise Gay. Canadian children’s writer and illustrator. @Groundwood Books

Colour photograph of a book open at the title page written in Bulgarian.

The English Patient published in Bulgarian by Delfi in 2000 (AMICUS 32172817)

Colour photograph of a book open at the title page written in Japanese.

The English Patient published in Japanese by Shinch⁻osha in 1996 (AMICUS 15875585)

Colour photograph of a book open at the title page: Michael Ondaatje Il Paziente Inglese.

The English Patient published in Italian by Garzanti in 2004 (AMICUS 32785464)

This brief overview is just a sampling of the variety of publications about Canada and of Canadian interest. The painstaking work of sorting through published material continues to ensure the growth of Canada’s documentary heritage and the development of the collections, and to make the national Canadiana collection the most extensive in the world.

Louise Tousignant is an acquisitions librarian in the Published Heritage Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Library and Archives Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Web Archive collection is now available

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to announce the launch of its Truth and Reconciliation Commission Web Archive collection.

This collection was created in collaboration with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, and the University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba libraries, both of which have also launched their own web archival collections.

LAC‘s Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) web archive collection provides access to archival copies of the English- and French-language websites of organizations connected with the TRC, either as active partners at national events or through initiatives to support commemoration.

While the majority of this collection was harvested at the time of the TRC‘s final report in 2015, the collection is an ongoing project that continues to add new resources. It currently contains approximately 300 resources, consisting of full or partial websites, videos, newspaper and media content, and blogs.

Get more details or access all of the collections on the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website.

Images of fishing now on Flickr

Indigenous peoples have been fishing the rivers and waterways of Canada for thousands of years, using a variety of fishing methods, such as hooks, lines, nets, traps and spears.

A black-and-white photograph of a man wearing a hat, coat and tie leaning against a fence post and holding a string of fish.

First Nations man with a string of fish (MIKAN 3385816)

Plentiful fish stocks in Canada provided a dietary staple for local communities and contributed to European exploration and eventual settlement. Harvesting this natural resource evolved with time, running the gamut from subsistence to sport to commercial fishing. The French were one of the first colonial powers to establish seasonal fishing stations for cod in Canada. And later, when the British arrived, the number of stations increased steadily, along with the diversity of species that were sought.

A black-and-white photograph of a man posing in front of Rupert Brand crates with two large salmon and two large halibut.

Halibut and salmon, Rupert Brand Fish (MIKAN 3359156)

Despite technological advances in commercial fishing, the pastime of solitary or small-group fishing continues to thrive, and is encouraged and supported in Canada to this day.

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Montréal: Mount Royal and Frederick Olmstead

By Judith Enright-Smith

If you have ever visited Montréal or grew up there (as I did), you have in all likelihood, climbed or strolled along the many trails of Mount Royal.

The first European to scale “The Mountain” was Jacques Cartier who, after his climb in 1535, wrote in his diary “… among these fields is situated and seated the said town of Hochelaga, near to and adjoining a mountain. We named this mountain Mount Royal” (translated). A little over a century later, Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve, founder of the city of Montréal, fulfilled a pledge to the Virgin Mary for keeping the city safe from flood waters by erecting a cross at the top of the mountain.

A watercolour of a group of men standing on a hill looking over a forested landscape with water, and on the horizon are islands and low mountains.

Jacques Cartier on Mont Royal, painted by Lawrence R. Batchelor, c. 1933 (MIKAN 2833444)

Work on planning and sculpting today’s Mount Royal Park was started in the 1870s. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, the same man responsible for the design of New York City’s Central Park, was hired to do the job. Many of Olmstead’s original plans were quite grandiose; they included the creation of a wide pasture and a lake along with a varied and eclectic selection of vegetation. However during the 1870s, Montréal fell victim to an economic depression and most of Olmstead’s fanciful ideas were abandoned. Still, Olmstead’s vision was maintained—bucolic, winding paths similar to Central Park, and accessible to everyone regardless of social standing.

A black-and-white photograph showing a grove of trees, possibly in the fall.

Grove of Trees, Mount Royal Park, photograph by Philip J. Croft, ca. 1936 (MIKAN 3206464)

Preceded by a parade through the streets of Montréal, Mount Royal Park was officially opened with much fanfare including speeches, cannon fire, and a grand picnic lunch on May 24, 1876. In 1884, a toboggan run close to today’s Beaver Lake or Lac aux Castors was opened and a year after that, a steam-powered funicular was launched that shuttled paying passengers to the mountain’s summit. It closed in 1918.

A black-and-white photograph of a winter scene of people on toboggans and others on snowshoes descending a hill.

Tobogganing “The Spill” ca. 1900–1925, unknown photographer (MIKAN 3335229)

A black-and-white photograph of a funicular going up a densely wooded slope. At the bottom of the hill stands a horse and carriage with a few people standing around looking towards the photographer.

“Incline Railway, Mount Royal Park,” ca. 1885 (MIKAN 3192950)

A black-and-white photograph of a funicular. One tram is going up the hill and the other is going down.

Funicular, ca. 1909 (MIKAN 3336180)

The handsome semi-circular stone balustrade, known as the “Lookout” was constructed in 1906 and today still offers the viewer the most stunning views of the Montréal skyline, the St. Lawrence River and its bridges.

A black-and-white photograph of an elegant path with a stone fence on one side leading to a small building. Horses rest under the trees.

Mount Royal Lookout (before the Chalet was built), photographer unknown, ca. 1906 (MIKAN 3335240)

A colour photograph of a couple standing with binoculars looking over the city on the edge of a lookout.

The Lookout, photographed by Chris Lund, ca. 1950 (MIKAN 4311969)

A black-and-white photograph of a bird’s eye view of a city.

A view of the city ca. 1906–1920, photographer unknown (MIKAN 3335382)

Adjacent to the Lookout is Mount Royal’s Chalet. The Chalet was designed by Montréal architect Aristide Beaugrand-Champagne in the Beaux Arts style and was constructed in 1932 as a make-work venture during the Great Depression.

But perhaps Mount Royal’s most renowned feature is The Cross.

Mount Royal acquired its first illuminated cross in 1924. It was commissioned by the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society and then given to the city of Montréal in 1929. Today’s cross is lit with LED bulbs and usually shines white although a custodian is able to change the colour for special occasions.

A black-and-white photograph showing a large metal cross with the text, “The Mount Royal Cross—100 feet high, daytime view.”

The cross on Mount Royal ca. 1935 (MIKAN 3322797)

Most recently, the group, Les amis de la montagne, has begun collecting signatures in an attempt to make Mount Royal a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to Sylvie Guilbault, the executive director of Les amis de la montagne, “Mount Royal is an iconic symbol of the city [and] … fundamental to the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of Montrealers.

Judith Enright-Smith is an archival assistant in the Aboriginal and Social Affairs Section of the Private Archives Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Bowling and Lawn Bowling now on Flickr

There are two types of bowling—lawn and indoor—and both versions of the game can trace their origins to ancient Egypt.

Lawn bowling, or “bowls,” is played outside on a flat lawn known as the “green.” The object is to roll your “bowls” (bowling balls) so that as many of them as possible come as near as possible to the “jack,” a smaller white bowl, as compared to your competitor’s attempts. Lawn bowling was brought to Canada by British officers, and the first green was installed in the garrison at Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

Colour photograph of two lawn bowling teams. A woman and man are both in the midst of throwing their bowls down the lawn.

Nine people lawn bowling at Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba (MIKAN 4292934)

Black and white photograph of a male pinsetter sitting above the alley of a five-pin game as a ball strikes the pins.

Pinsetter at work in bowling alley, No. 2 Convalescent Hospital, RCAF, Young Division, Hamilton, Ontario (MIKAN 3384689)

Indoor bowling consists of a long wooden lane and pins set up at the far end. A player propels a ball down the lane in an attempt to knock down as many of the pins as possible. There are two types of indoor bowling: ten-pin and five-pin. Ten-pin bowling was developed in the United States in the 19th century. Five-pin bowling is a Canadian variant created in Toronto between 1908 and 1909. It uses only five pins, a smaller ball and a modified scoring system. This game quickly gained popularity across Canada along with its American ten-pin cousin.

Canadians enjoy lawn bowling and indoor bowling at numerous clubs and lanes across the country, as well as at international competitions. Both games have a long history as participatory sports in Canada.

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Buttery discoveries at Library and Archives Canada

By Rebecca Murray

Butter—what could be better? You don’t have to look far, or very hard, to be inspired when working with Canada’s documentary heritage. Think documents of great historic importance, photographs and artistic works of iconic significance, and objects that tell stories we can only dream of living ourselves. Oh, and butter wrappers. What? Those icky, waxy wrappers that are harder to manipulate than fitted sheets? They are helpful for measuring how much butter to cut into my baking or cooking, but are otherwise destined for the garbage bin, as soon as I can wrangle them off the stick of butter. Yet, one day while reading a finding aid, I happened upon a file titled “Collection of butter wrappers and boxes used in retailing.” My friends, I just had to see what was in this file.

Let’s cut to the chase: yes, it was full of butter wrappers. They were lovely. They weren’t waxy or buttery or crinkled. They were all flat and shiny and quite well preserved, although I don’t think they were actually ever wrapped around fatty sticks of butter.

As a reference archivist, I read a lot of finding aids and open a lot of archival boxes. I get to hold history in my hands. Each of these three butter labels represented an agricultural product that comes from our great land and the people who inhabit and work it. Do you recognize any of these labels?

A colour wax-paper wrapper with a picture of a farm with trees. The text above the image reads: “Marshall’s Brand. Creamery Butter. Pasteurized. Canada First Grade.” Another text box (on the wraparound portion of the paper) reads: “Reg. No. 1018. Only butter that conforms to Government standards for first grade are allowed to display on the wrapper CANADA FIRST GRADE.”

A butter wrapper from Jarvis, Ontario (MIKAN 156294)

A colour printed foil wrapper with an image of cows grazing in a meadow. The text reads: “Co-op. First Grade. Creamery Butter. Reg. No. 4054.” One of the other sides has the following text: “Saskatchewan Co-Operative Creamery Association Limited. One lb net weight.”

A butter wrapper from Saskatchewan (MIKAN 156294)

A wrapper with the following text: “Crapaud Creamery Butter. Canada First Grade. Pasteurized.”The words are in an oval medallion adorned with red flowers.

A butter wrapper from the Crapaud Creamery Company from Prince Edward Island (MIKAN 156294)

Something that struck me while consulting the wrappers is that they represent a long, rich tradition of dairy farming in our country. Wrappers like these must have been found in kitchens and cold rooms in big cities and small towns alike, uniting Canadians in their daily rituals of butter consumption.

Each of these butter wrappers represents a jumping off point from which any number of archival documents or published items could be identified, allowing a researcher to discover the history of the company or the region-specific industry.

Does the history of the production and consumption of dairy in Canada pique your interest? You might want to check out some of the following holdings:

Or, you can search for keywords like dairy, butter or cheese in Archives Search and see what comes up! You never know what you will find in the holdings of Library and Archives Canada.

Rebecca Murray is a reference archivist in the References Services Division, Library and Archives Canada

Images of moose now on Flickr

Moose are the largest members of the deer family.

A coloured print of two moose calves lying on the ground and an adult bull moose standing next to them.

“Moose Deer,” coloured lithograph by John James Audubon, 1845 (MIKAN 3025621)

They are typically very tall, having long legs to help them wade through water or snow. Other characteristic features include a humped shoulder region, dark-coloured fur, an elongated face with prominent snout and lips, large ears, and broad flat antlers on the male. They inhabit the boreal forests across Canada and similar regions over the world. Preferring a colder climate, they seek out habitats with seasonal snow cover and move further north during the summer months.

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The first European settlers in Montréal

By Karine Bellerose Caldwell

On May 17, 1642, Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, Jeanne Mance and a group of settlers founded Ville-Marie on land granted by the Compagnie des Cent-Associés, despite attempts by Governor Charles Huault de Montmagny to convince them to choose Île d’Orléans. Their settlement, known today as Pointe‑à‑Callière, had a specific purpose: Maisonneuve and his companions, members of the Société Notre-Dame de Montréal for the conversion of “savages” in New France, wanted to convert the Indigenous peoples to Catholicism and to live piously in the new colony.

As elsewhere in New France, it was difficult to settle Ville-Marie, because of climatic and geographic challenges, fear of Iroquois attack, and low numbers of settlers arriving in the colony. A decade after the arrival of the Société Notre-Dame de Montréal, the total population was only around 50. To compensate for the lack of settlers and maintain a French presence on the island, Maisonneuve returned to France in 1651 hoping to recruit people prepared to follow him to that distant island. He went back to Ville-Marie two years later with some 100 colonists. While those settlers substantially increased the population of the colony, it was only near the end of the 17th century, after the arrival of the Filles du roi and the Carignan-Salières Regiment, that the population of Ville-Marie grew significantly, as was the trend across New France. To mark the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montréal, Library and Archives Canada is sharing a small collection of original documents that tell the story of colonization attempts on the island of Montréal in the first decade after the arrival of the Société Notre-Dame de Montréal. One of the documents shows the names of individuals who played a key role in establishing the colony. The list includes Jean Saint-Pierre, the first clerk and notary in Ville-Marie; Gilbert Barbier, surveyor and churchwarden for Ville-Marie; and Lambert Closse, merchant, lord and interim governor of Ville-Marie. The three declared in writing that the Compagnie de Montréal was free of any obligations to them, in return for concessions granted and specific promises by Maisonneuve.


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Carlyle Smith Beals: a great Canadian astronomer

By François Larivée

Canada’s Dominion Astronomer and the Dominion Observatory

It may be a little-known fact now, but for several decades, Canada had a Dominion  Astronomer. This person was in charge of the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa, located on the Experimental Farm. The observatory was built in 1905 by the Geological Survey of Canada to provide precise temporal and spatial data for its mapping and topographic surveys. In those days, there were no atomic clocks to tell the exact time, so the movements of certain reference stars were used. Spatial coordinates were also determined by observing the precise position of a large number of stars. All of these observations were made using the telescope at the observatory. The Dominion Observatory was in operation until 1970, when its activities were transferred to the National Research Council of Canada.

View of a building under construction. The building’s construction is almost complete, but there is scaffolding in front of the building, and the metal structure of the cupola is still under construction.

The Dominion Observatory in Ottawa under construction, ca. 1905 (MIKAN 3369377)

Documents on the Dominion Observatory are archived in the Department of the Interior fonds and the Natural Resources Canada fonds. In addition, Library and Archives Canada has the fonds of the astronomer who was one of the Observatory’s most important directors, Carlyle Smith Beals (1899–1979), Dominion Astronomer from 1947 to 1964. During his career, Beals garnered international acclaim for his high-quality research and important discoveries. He not only was the director of the Dominion Observatory for nearly 20 years, but also carried out research in the vanguard of his field since the 1930s, when he began his career as assistant astronomer at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, British Columbia.


A black-and-white photograph of two men standing side by side in doctoral gowns.

C.S. Beal (left) receiving an honorary doctorate from Queen’s University, 1960 (MIKAN 4944374)

From studying very hot stars and interstellar matter to studying impact craters

Beals conducted research at first on certain kinds of hot stars (P Cygni and Wolf-Rayet stars) and the chemical composition of interstellar matter. Among his important discoveries, Beals proved that hot stars are made up of large gas pockets and that interstellar matter is not distributed evenly throughout space. These discoveries were made while Beals was at the Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, before he went to the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa. Another interesting fact about the Victoria Observatory, which is still in operation, is that when it first opened in 1918, the telescope, with its 1.83-metre-wide mirror, was for some months the largest in the world.

A black-and-white photograph of a cylindrical building, with an observatory cupola, on top of a hill.

Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, British Columbia, ca. 1925 (MIKAN 3335569)

A black-and-white photograph of the inside of an observatory.

Telescope in the Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria (MIKAN 494435)

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Images of Quebec now on Flickr

Quebec is the largest province in Canada, sharing borders with Ontario to the west, Newfoundland and Labrador to the east, and New Brunswick to the south. First Peoples in Quebec are generally from three main language groups: Algonquin, Inuit and Iroquoian. The arrival of Jacques Cartier in 1534, and Samuel de Champlain in 1608, signalled the beginning of early interactions between First Peoples and Europeans. Champlain established a fort at the site of Quebec City and French colonists settled within the area. However, in 1763 all French possessions in North America were surrendered by treaty to the British. New France became the Province of Quebec.

Black and white photo of tobogganists sliding past a group of people walking up to the top of the run.

The Toboggan Slide, Quebec City, Quebec (MIKAN 3387443)

In 1774, the Quebec Act was created to provide the people of Quebec with their first charter of rights. This paved the way for the recognition of French language and culture. The province was known as Lower Canada from 1791 until 1841, when it was merged with Upper Canada, following the 1837 Lower Canada Rebellion, and renamed Canada East. The merger was aimed at assimilating French-Canadians into the predominantly English-speaking culture of Upper Canada, but this was not to be. In 1848 the colony was granted self-government, and its French-Canadian identity was taken into account during the road to Confederation. In 1867, Canada East once again became the Province of Quebec, and part of a greater Canadian Confederation.

Did you know?

  • Quebec is the only province to have French as its sole provincial official language.
  • Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Quebec underwent the Quiet Revolution, a period of intense social, political and cultural change.

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