The Yves Baril fonds at Library and Archives Canada

By James Bone

Without a doubt, Yves Baril’s art has been printed more than that of any other Canadian artist. Yet, unless you’re absorbed in the world of Canadian philately or numismatics, you’ve also probably never heard of him. Known for his exquisite and detailed portraiture, Yves Baril is Canada’s master engraver, having produced engravings for more than 146 Canadian postage stamp issues, the Canadian bank notes printed from the late 1950s to 1990s, Canadian Tire money, share and bond certificates, labels and coupons. With millions of these products printed and circulating, and especially for the postage stamps and bank notes, Yves Baril’s work has passed through the hands of many—or perhaps most—Canadians.

Born in 1932 in Verdun, Quebec, Yves Baril grew up in Montreal’s southwest boroughs and studied the arts, including painting and typography, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts School and the Montreal School of Graphic Arts. Following his graduation, Baril would take up an engraving apprenticeship in 1953 in Ottawa with the Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited, a private printing company specializing in bank notes and security documents. Studying under master engraver Silas Robert Allen, Baril began by attempting to mimic the work of his teacher. His break came in 1955 when the Post Office Department rejected the engraving made by Allen for a stamp commemorating the immigration of homesteaders into Saskatchewan and Alberta. It was too late in the production cycle to start over, and in desperation Baril’s engraving was submitted as a substitute. Perhaps to everyone’s surprise, and to Allen’s chagrin, the Post Office preferred Baril’s version and accepted it, launching Baril’s career as an engraving artist.

An envelope from the Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited, sent to Yves Baril, Esq., c/o Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited, marked as First Day Cover, stamped with Day of Issue/Jour d’Émission, and signed by the engraver, Yves Baril.

Yves Baril’s autographed first day cover for the 1955 Alberta and Saskatchewan postage stamp he engraved, June 30, 1955 (MIKAN 3951112). Copyright: Canada Post Corporation (postage stamp), assigned to LAC (autograph).

Baril would spend the rest of his career with Canadian Bank Note, developing his craft with additional training with its parent company, American Bank Note, in New York City, and with its subsidiary, Bradbury, Wilkinson and Company, in London, England. In addition to Baril’s work on Canadian postage stamps, bank notes and company coupons, he is also credited with engravings for six United Nations postage stamps (used for sending mail from UN offices) and eleven United States postage stamps. His most notable work was in portraits of Queen Elizabeth II for postage stamps commemorating the royal visits in 1959 and 1964, based on a painting by Pietro Annigoni and a photograph by Anthony Buckley, respectively. These portrait engravings each required hundreds of hours of work and the Queen’s personal approval of the final product.

A red stamp featuring Queen Elizabeth II wearing a cape. An engraving of a crown is in the upper left corner.

Colour trial die proof for the 1959 royal visit (MIKAN 2212875). Copyright: Canada Post Corporation.

A block of four stamps depicting Queen Elizabeth II seated for an official portrait. Dressed in formal attire, she is wearing a crown and has a sash draped diagonally across one shoulder, clasped at the waist and adorned with jeweled pins.

Block of four postage stamps for the 1964 royal visit (MIKAN 2214233). Copyright: Canada Post Corporation

In 2009 and 2015, Yves Baril made donations of his archival material to Library and Archives Canada. These donations include log books that note which days and for how many hours he worked on each engraving, his own commentary on his work, commemorative first day covers for the issue of postage stamps featuring his work, and an album of philatelic treasures collected from material disposed by Canadian Bank Note. All of this material is available for consultation at Library and Archives Canada in the Yves Baril fonds. Also held at Library and Archives Canada in the Post Office Department fonds (RG3 / R169) are hundreds of other records related to the work of Yves Baril, including hundreds of proofs printed from his engravings and many of the original steel dies he engraved that were used to make printing plates for postage stamps.

A handwritten journal entry explaining the process for the production of a stamp.

Entry from Yves Baril’s commentary notebook on the 1973 caricatures postage stamp issues (MIKAN 4868428). Copyright: assigned to Library and Archives Canada.

Yves Baril recently visited Library and Archives Canada to discuss his fonds. While here, he spoke about his training, apprenticeship, work and experiences as a Francophone based in Ottawa through the latter half of the 20th century. He also showcased some of his other personal projects, including a steel die engraved to recreate Canada’s first postage stamp, the Three Pence Beaver, and a suite of engraving tools that he made by hand in the 1950s that are still functional today.

A picture of a stamp showing five generations of British sovereigns.

Design essay for an unissued postage stamp found in Yves Baril’s album featuring the British Monarchs from Queen Victoria to King George VI, including King Edward VIII, whose image does not appear on any Canadian postage stamp (MIKAN 4877973). Copyright: assigned to Library and Archives Canada.


James Bone is an archivist in the Private Specialized Media Division of the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

 

New additions to the Virtual Gramophone – Roméo Beaudry

By Margaret Ashburner

A black-and-white photograph of a man looking right at the camera and wearing a grey suit.

Roméo Beaudry. Source: Canadian Music Trades Journal, Toronto, Fullerton Pub. Co., September 1931, ISSN 0383-0705.

Roméo Beaudry was a key figure in the emerging gramophone music scene in Canada. He founded Starr Phonograph of Quebec and specialized in producing gramophone discs for the francophone market. In addition to this, Beaudry was a busy composer and translator. He wrote many unique and popular songs as well as adapting American songs to French. This selection of newly digitized 78’s provides examples of Beaudry’s extensive work as both a translator and a composer.


Margaret Ashburner is the Special Collections Librarian of the retrospective music collection at Library and Archives Canada

A diplomat, a Prime Minister, and a scholar: remembering Lester B. Pearson

By Mariam Lafrenie

It goes without saying that the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson achieved much in his life. Whether you look at his success politically, academically or even athletically—Pearson always excelled. Although Pearson served as Canada’s 19th prime minister, his legacy and indeed his influence began long before his prime ministership: as chairman of the NATO council (1951), as President of the United Nations General Assembly (1952), and as a Nobel Peace prizewinner (1957).

“Nevertheless, [Pearson’s] five-year legacy is very impressive: a new flag, the Canada Pension Plan, universal medicare, a new immigration act, a fund for rural economic development, and the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism which led to the foundation of a bilingual civil service.”

Excerpt from First Among Equals

A black-and-white photograph of a formally dressed couple. The man is holding a box with a medallion.

Lester B. Pearson and his wife, Maryon at the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony, Oslo, Norway, December 1957. Photograph by Duncan Cameron (MIKAN 3209893)

A black-and-white photograph of a man standing up and addressing a room of people.

Lester B. Pearson, at the United Nations Conference on International Organization, San Francisco, Calif., USA, 1945 (MIKAN 3193176)

Rising quickly through the ranks and moving from one portfolio to another, Pearson proved himself a worthy and talented diplomat. After a 20-year career in External Affairs, his success did not end there, but followed him throughout the next decade as leader of the Liberal Party (1958-1968). Without a doubt, some of his most exciting—if not his most significant achievements—came during his time as Prime Minister.

A flag for Canada

The quest for a Canadian flag—one that represented everything that Canada had become in the last century and all that Pearson hoped it could become—was fraught with bitter debate and controversy. Indeed, as many may recall, “The Great Flag Debate” raged for the better part of 1964 and saw the submission of approximately 3,000 designs by Canadians young and old.

“Under this flag may our youth find new inspiration for loyalty to Canada; for a patriotism based not on any mean or narrow nationalism, but on the deep and equal pride that all Canadians will feel for every part of this good land.”

Address on the inauguration of the National Flag of Canada, February 15, 1965

These words, spoken by Lester B. Pearson during the inaugural ceremony of the Red Maple Leaf flag on February 15, 1965 at Parliament Hill, highlight precisely what he aspired to achieve—a uniquely Canadian identity. Few prime ministers can attest to leaving a legacy so great as to have forged an entirely new cultural symbol for their country.

A black-and-white photograph of a man holding an illustration of the Canadian flag.

Lester B. Pearson’s press conference regarding the new flag, December 1964. Photograph by Duncan Cameron (MIKAN 3199509)

A year of celebration

Not only was Pearson responsible for championing a new Canadian flag, but he was also lucky enough to remain in office during Canada’s centennial year. In his Dominion Day speech on July 1, 1967, Pearson called on Canadians to celebrate their past and their achievements, but also encouraged them to think of the future and of the legacy that they could leave for the next generation of Canadians. Much like this year, when we celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation and were encouraged to think of our future as a nation, 1967 was also a year filled with celebrations.

The aim of the centennial celebrations were twofold: to create memorable events and activities for all Canadians and to create a tangible legacy that current and future generations could enjoy. In fact, both the provincial and federal governments encouraged Canadians to celebrate by creating their own centennial projects—films, parades and festivals, tattoos, recreation centres, stadiums, etc.—and agreed to match their spending. One of the most memorable celebrations was that of the 1967 International and Universal Exposition or Expo 67, as it was nicknamed. Open from April 27 to October 29, Expo 67 is considered one of the most successful World’s Fairs and one of Canada’s landmark moments.

A colour photograph of a group of men standing in front of an enlarged map of New France.

Expo 67’s opening day with its General Commissioner Pierre Dupuy, Governor General of Canada Roland Michener, Prime Minister of Canada Lester Bowles Pearson, Premier of Québec Daniel Johnson and Mayor of Montréal Jean Drapeau (MIKAN 3198338)

For many Canadians, 1967 characterized the peak of nostalgia and indeed a year filled with optimism. With this optimism and increased governmental spending, Pearson’s popularity boomed and further solidified his accomplishments as prime minister and widespread support for the Liberal Party amongst Canadians.

Conclusion

Forty-five years ago, on December 27, 1972, after a long and successful political career, Lester B. Pearson passed away. His passing struck a chord with many Canadians as more than 1,200 people attended his funeral service to pay their last respects. Pearson’s legacy and indeed his name are still present today in the numerous awards and buildings named in his honour. Paving the way for what many Canadians and the international community alike have come to love about Canada, Pearson can be said to have shaped and indeed laid the foundation for the Canada we know today.

A black-and-white photo of man standing under an interesting architectural building.

Prime Minister of Canada Lester Bowles Pearson in front of the Katimavik at Expo 67 (MIKAN 3198467)

The Lester B. Pearson fonds preserved by Library and Archives Canada consists of 435.71 meters of textual records, over 3,500 photographs, 315 audio recordings on various formats, 3 films totalling 47 minutes, 54 items of documentary art, and 98 medals.

Related links


Mariam Lafrenie is an undergraduate student research fellow from Queen’s University who worked in the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada during the summer of 2017.

Library and Archives Canada releases its latest podcast episode, “A Look inside the Preservation Centre

A colour photograph of a large modern building made out of glass with metal pillars.Ever wonder where Library and Archives Canada stores, protects and preserves Canada’s diverse and rich documentary heritage? Join us for this episode as we take you on a walking tour of LAC’s Preservation Centre in Gatineau, Quebec. This state-of-the-art facility is the crown jewel of documentary heritage preservation in Canada and we are celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017. In this episode, we will guide you through the Preservation Centre, discussing its award-winning architecture and offering insight into how we store and preserve our national treasures.

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 beginning of Canada: Through the eyes of Lady Susan Macdonald

By Ayla Maud

“Behind every great man, is a great woman.” Or at least that is how the old saying goes. But how often do we get the opportunity to really know these great women? We see them standing next to their successful partners, but do we ever know what they contribute behind the scenes? This summer Library and Archives Canada created an opportunity to get into the mind of one great woman in particular—Lady Susan Agnes Macdonald (née Susan Agnes Bernard).

Susan Bernard married Sir John Alexander Macdonald, first Prime Minister of Canada (or the Dominion of Canada, as it was known at the time), in 1867. Five days after Sir Macdonald’s inauguration, his wife began documenting their new life. The very diary Susan Macdonald used was digitized this summer, in commemoration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, and made available online for the public to transcribe. In addition to providing a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to take on an elite title, Lady Macdonald shares some of her insights into how the Dominion of Canada was formed. She gives a first-hand account of key historical moments that many of us have since learned about in school.

A journal entry written in cursive with ink.

A hand-written page showing the first entry in Lady Susan Macdonald’s diary, dated Friday, July 5, 1867 (MIKAN 122166)

One of the first things we notice as Lady Macdonald begins to share her thoughts and experiences is the love she had for her husband. Multiple entries gush about Sir John’s patience, love and ability to always put his best foot forward. Susan Macdonald was a strong supporter of her husband, in terms of both his career and character. Her love led her to join him on many confederate-related work missions, socials, voyages and more.

A black-and-white photograph of a woman who is looking slightly off to the left. Her hair is parted down the center, tied back away from her face, and she is wearing an off-the-shoulder evening dress.

Macdonald of Earnscliffe, Agnes Macdonald, Baroness. Photographed by William Topley, September 1873 (MIKAN 3194713)

Due to her strong interest in her husband’s political life, Susan Macdonald was able to witness multiple events that are taught as pivotal points in many history classes today. One example is a series of entries that follows the assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Father of Confederation, and the subsequent trial. Lady Susan’s writing gives insight into the details of McGee’s death (for instance, that he was killed while unlocking his front door after coming home one night), the thinking among the populace at the time, and the process of collecting evidence against suspected killer Patrick Whelan.

Susan Agnes Macdonald’s diary gives readers the opportunity to time-travel back to the late 1860s and bear witness (although from one person’s perspective) to a segment of early Canadian society. It was not just by sharing public opinion regarding specific events that Lady Macdonald painted an image of her life for future generations to discover; it was also in the way she described Ottawa at each time of the year, enabling us to compare it to the city we know today. She shares details of meals eaten and customs followed, some of which may be very different from current practices. The theme of religious faith recurs often throughout Susan Macdonald’s pages. Whether she was writing about going to a church service or documenting prayers she hoped would be answered, every few entries highlight moments in her and her husband’s spiritual lives.

A watercolour painting depicts an orange sailboat in the water near a beach. There are slight waves along the shore. Behind the sailboat is a cliff that descends into a valley. The painting uses a palette of orange, brown, green and blue.

A watercolour painted by Lady Susan Macdonald, undated (MIKAN 161120)

It is possible to relate to some of Lady Macdonald’s diary entries describing the stresses of her new responsibilities as the Prime Minister’s wife. Just as you or I might experience the pressures of a new chapter in our lives, she describes being nervous or fearful that she does not know what she is doing. At one point, she describes herself as “a novice” in her new life.

A black-and-white photograph of a woman wearing a long, dark-coloured dress. Her hair is white and is pulled back into a bun.

Macdonald of Earnscliffe, Agnes Macdonald, Baroness, photograph taken by William Topley, undated (MIKAN 3192012)

The transcription of Lady Susan Agnes Macdonald’s diaries is now complete, but the digitized diary is still available online. It gives insight into not only the type of woman Mrs. Macdonald was, but also the type of world Canada was as it first began.


Ayla Maud is a student archival assistant with Regional Services and the ATIP Division of the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

“Incited to Potlatch”

By Sevda Sparks

A potlatch is a ceremonial gift-giving feast practiced by indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest in Canada and the United States. The Canadian government’s potlach ban began in 1885, and underwent many amendments to strengthen it until its removal in 1951. Library and Archives Canada’s holdings include a wealth of material on the potlatch, including many letters and petitions on the suppression of the custom as well as efforts to continue it. Of special interest is the correspondence of Kwakwakawakw Chief Billy Assu, Indian Agent William Halliday, and British Columbia Chief Justice Matthew Begbie.

A black-and-white photograph of a streetscape with potlatch participants and items to be given away.

Potlatch, Alert Bay, British Columbia, June 1907 (MIKAN 3368269)

In the midst of the potlatch ban, Chief Billy Assu wrote to the deputy superintendent of Indian Affairs, J. D. MacLean, in 1919, explaining the potlach or “our old custom of giving away.” In describing the roots of the celebration, and the desire to retain it, Assu stated:

“We all know that things are changing. In the old days, the only things that counted were such things as food, dried fish, roots, berries, and things of that nature. A chief in those days would get possession of all these things and would pass them on to those who had not got any… ”

The potlach was a way to hold onto important cultural customs despite the changing times. Assu also commented more broadly on the potlatch in indigenous society:

“…some were trained to make canoes, some to hunt, some to catch fish, some to dry fish, some to get material to make our clothes, then we divided this up amongst the others. This was the beginning of our feast of giving away.”

Section 149 of the Indian Act, which banned the potlach, was a challenge to enforce, both practically and legally. It was difficult to determine exactly what the potlatch was, under the law, and to prove when it was happening. In 1889, Chief Justice Begbie found the legislation on the potlatch to be lacking when it came to sentencing, stating:

 “…if the legislature had intended to prohibit any meeting announced by the name of “potlatch” they should have said so. But if it be desired to create a new offence previously unknown to the law there ought to be some definition of it in the statute.”

The law was amended in 1895, and agents were particularly determined to prosecute those who were “incited to potlatch”, despite the lack of legal evidence in some cases, as demonstrated by William Halliday, agent to assistant deputy and secretary J. D. McLean in Ottawa. The methods of curtailing the potlach extended to holding meetings between agents and First Nations leaders, so that the agents could “read to them the specific article…and give reasons why the potlach should be condemned and done away with.” Agents deemed the tradition wasteful, leaving nations “near penury.”

After such a meeting, agent Halliday states:

“Yesterday and today they have been to a certain extent violating that section as they have been holding mourning ceremonies, part of which consists in singing mourning songs and part in receiving gifts from the surviving relatives, but I have not interfered with them in any way.”

Such accounts from agents and other departmental officials illustrate an attempt to monitor, control and suppress basic aspects of First Nations culture, even beyond the potlatch itself. This continued despite efforts by indigenous leaders to explain indigenous lifestyle and customs to government officials.

A black-and-white photograph of a group of potlatch participants with items to be given away.

Potlatch, 1907 (MIKAN 3572940)

The great contrast among Chief Assu’s letter, Justice Begbie’s remarks and Agent Halliday’s account allows for a more complete understanding of the potlatch ban issue. Assu’s letter is straightforward in describing the potlatch and its importance. Begbie’s comments speak to the challenges in attempting to use legislation to control cultural practices. Halliday’s account provides insight into the mindset and practices of the Canadian government at the time. Having access to these multiple perspectives highlights the importance of archival records in researching complex historical issues.

Additional resources


Sveda Sparks worked at Library and Archives Canada’s Vancouver public service point in the summer of 2017 as part of the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP).

 

The Halifax Explosion: Records at Library and Archives Canada

By Valerie Casbourn

On the morning of December 6, 1917, two ships, the Imo and the Mont-Blanc, collided in the Narrows of Halifax Harbour. The Mont-Blanc was a munitions ship on its way to join a convoy sailing to war-torn Europe. The cargo of the Mont-Blanc caught fire, and after burning for 20 minutes, the ship exploded. The blast ripped through the city killing almost 2,000 people, injuring thousands more and causing widespread devastation in Halifax, Dartmouth, and the Mi’kmaq community of Turtle Grove. The “Halifax Explosion” as it became known, brought the danger and destruction of the First World War home to Canada, and left an indelible mark on the city of Halifax.

A black-and-white photograph of several people walking down a street with destroyed buildings on both sides.

Aftermath of the Halifax Explosion. The building on the left was the Hillis & Sons Foundry. (MIKAN 3193301)

Guides to Records about the Halifax Explosion

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds various records that tell part of the story of the Halifax Explosion, its aftermath, and the relief work and investigations following the disaster. The first place to look is LAC’s thematic guide, Halifax Explosion. Some of the records listed in the guide are available on digitized microfilm reels on the Héritage website. Other records are available for onsite consultation at LAC.

The guide primarily lists records about the disaster and its aftermath kept by the Canadian federal government. This includes records such as the formal investigation into the collision of the Imo and the Mont-Blanc conducted by the Dominion Wreck Commissioner (RG42, Vol. 596 and RG42, Vol. 597). There is also correspondence of the wartime Chief Press Censor, Ernest J. Chambers (RG6, Vol. 621, File 350, Microfilm reel T-102) that documents both the urgent need to report news of the disaster accurately, but not to reveal any information about the defences of Halifax Harbour.

Image of a telegram that reads: “3:45 p.m. Telegram sent to Geo. D. Perry? Gen. Mgr. G.N.W. Telegraph Co, Toronto, Ont. Telegram sent to J. McMillan, Mgr. C.P. Ry. Telegraphs, Montreal. Ottawa, Ont., December 6, 1917. In view of contradictory reports abroad regarding Halifax explosion I hope everything possible is being done to facilitate a transmission of all press reports. This most desirable from a national point of view. Ernest J. Chambers, Chief Press Censor.”

from Ernest J. Chambers, Chief Press Censor, to G.N.W. Telegraph Co. and C.P. Ry. Telegraphs (T-102, Image 119)

Image of a telegram that reads: “Ottawa, December 7, 1917. C.O. Knowles, Toronto. In connection with reports of Halifax disaster it is important that nothing be published revealing information as to defences, strength and disposition of garrison, etc. Neither should details be given as to naval and transport activities at the port during war. No photographs of Halifax or vicinity taken since commencement of war should be published. Desirable that special correspondents despatched to Halifax inform themselves as to local censorship requirements. Ernest J. Chambers.”

from Ernest J. Chambers, Chief Press Censor, to C.O. Knowles, Canadian Press Limited. (T-102, Image 136)

If you are looking for images, try LAC’s Flickr album of digitized photographs taken after the Halifax Explosion. LAC also has a more detailed description of the explosion at First World War: Tragedy on the Home Front.

A black-and-white photograph showing a line of people digging through the rubble of destroyed buildings.

Aftermath of the Halifax Explosion. (MIKAN 3193299)

How to Search for More Records

You can find more records related to the Halifax Explosion by searching the Archives database for the keywords Halifax AND explosion OR disaster; or try searching for other keywords related to the disaster. You can then limit your search results by date, or by the type of material (i.e., photographs or textual material).

The records at LAC come from the Canadian federal government and from private individuals and organizations. Some records are available online, and others are available for onsite consultation by visiting in person, or by ordering reproductions.

Correspondence about the Halifax Explosion: Sir Robert Borden fonds

There are far too many different records about the Halifax Explosion to mention them all here, but correspondence in the Sir Robert Borden fonds (MG26-H) tells one small part of the story. Sir Robert Borden was the Prime Minister of Canada and the Member of Parliament for Halifax at the time of the explosion, and his papers include telegram messages giving news of the disaster, messages of sympathy for the people of Halifax, offers of assistance, and more.

To find records about the Halifax Explosion in the Sir Robert Borden fonds, search the Archives database for the keywords MG26-H AND Halifax AND explosion. You can also review the finding aids for the Borden fonds, available as PDF documents in the “Finding aid” section of the fonds description (scroll down).

Much of the correspondence related to the explosion is in the file “Halifax Disaster 1917–1918” (MG26-H, Vols. 89–90, Pages 46309–47016, microfilm reel C-4325, which is available on the Héritage website, starting at image 301).

A Great North Western Telegraph Company of Canada telegram, which reads: “Moncton, N.B. Dec. 6, 1917. J.D. Reid, Ottawa. It is reported that ship loaded with explosives at pier six as she was backing out of pier about half past eight this morning an inward bound ship ran into her and she caught fire, they tried to sink her before she exploded but failed. She blew up at nine o’clock. It is reported the city in bad state and much damage done but account wires being down unable to get any detail. Will give further information soon as obtained. Assistant General Manager Brown going to Halifax by Special. C.A. Hayes.”

This initial report of the disaster was sent to Ottawa from Moncton because the explosion damaged telegraph and telephone wires in Halifax and cut off communications to the city. (microfilm C-4325, image 321)

A Western Union telegram which reads: “RM Boston Mass. Dec 7 via Ottawa Ont. 8 1917. Robert Borden, Prime Minister, Halifax, NS. From your knowledge of conditions at Halifax what can we best do at once to help relieve the distress of the people at Halifax last night medical relief train left here at ten o’clock due at Halifax at eight pm tonight we have a ship here at our disposal that can leave here Sunday morning and would be due in Halifax Monday morning can she dock. H.B. Endicot Chairman Mass Halifax Relief Committee.”

An offer of help from Boston, sent to Sir Robert Borden by H.B. Endicott, Chairman of the Massachusetts-Halifax Relief Committee (microfilm C-4325, image 345)

Related Resources:


Valerie Casbourn is an archivist with the Regional Services and ATIP Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Digital preservation at the crossroads

By Faye Lemay

Did you know that Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has not only photos, books, paintings and manuscripts, but we also have a collection of digital material? Since we are the stewards of Canada’s documentary heritage, we need to make digital and analogue content available and usable.

Imagine creating a WordPerfect file in 1996, saving it to a floppy disk and then trying to open it today. Three things could occur: 1) you might not have a floppy drive, 2) the floppy disk might not work anymore, or 3) you might not have the software to open the WordPerfect file. Now imagine this on a scale that includes thousands of different types of files created by federal government workers, private Canadian citizens, publishers, etc., and stored on many different kinds of systems, diskettes and computers.

A colour photograph of an envelope containing different types of floppy disks.

Floppy disks in the Published Heritage collection.

Digital collections are inherently vulnerable to degradation and decay at a speed much faster than paper. To ensure the material lasts hundreds of years, digital preservation specialists must monitor and take action to prevent digital loss. These specialists monitor what types of file formats people are using (e.g., PDF, WPD), plan for changes in technology and create multiple copies, which are stored in climate-controlled vaults. We also make sure that the content of the files has not changed over time. Given how fast technology changes, we are always thinking ahead to prevent losing these treasured collections.

A colour photograph of a cabinet drawer containing hundreds of CD cases.

A small sample of the music CD collection, encompassing over 70,000 titles.

For LAC, our digital crossroads is now. We are in an era where digital collections are surpassing analogue collections in size. A recent inventory of our digital material revealed a vast and varied collection, both online and in physical media such as floppy disks, CDs and DVDs. This inventory also revealed that the volume of digital copies of university theses held at LAC is approaching that of analogue copies—and we only began acquiring theses in PDF digital formats in 1998. Since 2014, LAC has been acquiring theses in digital formats only. Official federal publications are also now primarily in digital format, since the government publishing regulations switched in 2013 to allowing online formats only. In addition, for the first time in its history, LAC received a private donation with 90 per cent of the collection in digital file format.

The LAC Digital Archive in the Preservation Centre serves as the central repository for LAC’s digital collections. Currently we preserve over five (5) petabytes of digital material, comprising primarily audiovisual material, the Government of Canada Web Archive, and digitized copies of paper records.  Five petabytes of data would be equivalent to 1,338 metres (4,390 feet) of DVDs stacked on top of one another!

Despite the considerable effort to preserve digital content today, we recognize that there is much more to be done to ensure all digital collections at LAC are protected.

November 30, 2017, marks the first annual International Digital Preservation Day. As a member of the Digital Preservation Coalition, we celebrate this day by launching the Strategy for a Digital Preservation Program. This strategy describes the additional steps needed to further preserve LAC’s digital treasures for the future and ensure that we are on the right path to success.

A colour photograph of a long white shelf on the left and high-density storage on the left.

Linear Tape Open (LTO) tape library of digital documentary heritage that are preserved in the LAC Digital Archive at the Preservation Centre.


Faye Lemay is a manager of digital preservation in the Digital Operations and Preservation Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Reading hockey at the Canadian Museum of History

By Jennifer Anderson

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is about more than just “stuff”; it is also the home of leading experts in Canadian history and culture. While LAC archivist Jennifer Anderson was at the Canadian Museum of History (CMH) on an Interchange Canada agreement, she co-curated the popular exhibition, “Hockey.” During the exhibition research, she consulted LAC staff and experts across the country. LAC also loaned 30 artifacts to the museum for this exhibition, and offered digital copies of hockey images from its vaults.

You can see the results that teamwork brings! Having run from March 10 until October 9, 2017 in Gatineau, the exhibition will start up again on November 25, 2017 (the 100th anniversary of the NHL) in Montréal at Pointe-à-Callière, before continuing its cross-country tour.

“Hockey”: the exhibition that started with a book…

…or two…or a few hundred. Biographies, autobiographies, histories—comic books, and novels for young people; we read those, too! And as many newspaper and magazine articles as we could find.

The exhibition team swapped books like fans trade hockey cards!

Books moved us, pushed us, challenged us and at times even frightened us. I cried and laughed over them, took notes and then forgot to because I was too engrossed in the reading. We read about big personalities like Maurice Richard and Pat Burns, about game changers like Sheldon Kennedy and Jordin Tootoo, and about Ken Dryden’s observations of young people and families in the game. We were deeply inspired by Jacques Demers’ work to advance youth literacy initiatives. Borrowing literacy teachers’ best practices, we chose to use fonts of different sizes and based the look of our exhibit on the style of a hockey card. The goal: make reading fun and accessible.

One of the first books I read was Paul Kitchen’s fascinating tale of the early history of the Ottawa Senators, Win, Tie or Wrangle (2008). Kitchen did much of his research from a desk at LAC, and he spun some of his discoveries into an online exhibition, Backcheck. From his book, we were able to identify a little-known shinty medallion depicting a stick-and-ball game, which took place on the grounds of Rideau Hall in 1852. Drawing on Kitchen’s footnotes, I reached out to the Bytown Museum, and was thrilled to learn they would be happy to lend the artifact for the exhibit. The conservators at the CMH buffed it up a bit, and images of this early piece of hockey history were included in the exhibition souvenir catalogue.

A colour photograph showing two sides of a silver medallion. The one side shows a game of shinty taking place outdoors and the second side reads “Bytown and New Edinburgh Shintie Club, Dec. 25th 1852.”

Front and back views of the silver New Edinburgh Shintie Club medallion, 1852, Bytown Museum, A203. Canadian Museum of History photos, IMG2016-0253-0001-Dm, IMG2016-0253-0001-Dm.

Paul Kitchen would probably be the first to acknowledge that any research project is a team sport, and our exhibition team reached out to many experts who had earlier worked with Kitchen, or had been inspired by him. Within LAC, Normand Laplante, Andrew Ross, and Dalton Campbell have continued the tradition of sports history, and their archival work led us to explore LAC’s collections for material to place in the exhibit. At the CMH, there are hockey experts galore, but Jenny Ellison is the “captain.” The team brought on Joe Pelletier as a research assistant to scout out images and hidden bits of information, based on the work he had already provided voluntarily. Hockey researchers and curators from across the country sent us artifacts, images and information.

Loaning originals is such an important part of the diffusion of any collection. Thirty individual items were loaned by LAC to the CMH for this exhibition. The LAC Loans and Exhibitions Officer admitted to being particularly touched by the team’s interest in The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier (now a popular animated film). As a child, she had received this book from one of her best friends, and only recently located this much-loved book. She has since shared it with her own children, and enjoyed telling them about her own childhood memories of this popular story about hockey.

A colour image of a book cover showing boys dressed like Maurice Richard getting ready for a hockey game

The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier and illustrated by Sheldon Cohen. Used by permission of Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited (AMICUS 4685355)

Carolyn Cook, LAC curator, was pleased to see Bryan Adams’ portrait of Cassie Campbell in the exhibition. This portrait was one of several taken by Adams for Made in Canada, a book of photographs of famous Canadian women sold as a fundraiser for breast cancer research. “Cassie Campbell is an iconic figure in the world of women’s hockey,” said Cook. “Her on-ice accomplishments opened the door to the next generation of girls coming up in the game and, as the first woman to do colour commentary on ‘Hockey Night in Canada,’ she has broken through the glass ceiling. This close-up portrait of her exudes strength, control and determination—qualities that have contributed to Campbell’s success.”

In the early research period, Richard Wagamese’s book, Indian Horse, hit a chord and resonated with the team. Michael Robidoux’s book on Indigenous hockey, Stickhandling Through the Margins, motivated us to ensure that space be put aside for the full integration of Indigenous voices in the game, whether from the early leadership of Thomas Green, or through the artwork of Jim Logan to spark discussion of hockey in society.

Drawing on Carly Adams’ book, Queens of the Ice, the museum acquired and exhibited a rare Hilda Ranscombe jersey. We also read the footnotes in Lynda Baril’s Nos Glorieuses closely, and as a result were able to secure a number of important artifacts that were still in private collections, including a trophy awarded to Berthe Lapierre of the Montréal Canadiennes in the 1930s. And when we read about Hayley Wickenheiser skating to school in the drainage ditches along the roadside, building up the muscles that made her a leader in the sport, on and off the ice, we put her story near the centre of the exhibition.

A few of our favourite books found their way directly into the museum cases, to tell their own stories.

For instance, where we highlighted the role of the team-behind-the-team, we gave Lloyd Percival’s book The Hockey Handbook a central spot in the case. Gary Mossman’s recent biography of Percival was a big influence here, and in particular, I was fascinated by the powerful impact Percival’s book had on how hockey players and coaches approached the game. Imagine a time when players ate more red meat and drank beer the night before a game, rather than following Percival’s advice to eat yogurt and fresh fruit! And yet it was not that long ago! Apparently the book was taken up by Soviet hockey coach Anatoli Tarasov, and we saw its impact on the ice in 1972. Percival also had an interesting perspective on burnout, or “staleness” as he called it—a theory that has application for both on- and off-ice players.

Stephen Smith, author of Puckstruck, lent the museum collectible and fun cookbooks that teams published—this spoke to the overlap between popular fan culture and the down-to-earth and very practical realities of nutrition in high-performance sport.

The Museum of Manitoba loaned bookmarks that had been distributed to school kids by the Winnipeg Jets, each with a hockey player’s personal message about the importance of literacy in everyday life. These were displayed next to the hockey novels and comic books from LAC.

The exhibition team wondered about how to tackle prickly issues like penalties, violence and controversy. Then we hit on the most natural of all approaches—let the books and newspaper articles tell the stories! So next to an official’s jersey, you will find our suggested reading on the ups and downs of life as a referee, Kerry Fraser’s The Final Call: Hockey Stories from a Legend in Stripes. In the press gallery section, the visitor gets a taste for the ways that sports journalists have made their mark on the game. Next to a typewriter, an early laptop and Frank Lennon’s camera, we placed Russ Conway’s book Game Misconduct: Alan Eagleson and the Corruption of Hockey.

To capture the importance of youth literacy, we carefully chose books that we tested ourselves for readability.

A book cover showing a man walking in a hockey arena carrying a large red duffel bag and a hockey stick.

C’est la faute à Ovechkin by Luc Gélinas, Éditions Hurtubise inc., 2012 (AMICUS 40717662)

A book cover showing a child playing hockey wearing a yellow-and-black uniform and chasing a hockey puck.

La Fabuleuse saison d’Abby Hoffman by Alain M. Bergeron, Soulières, 2012 (AMICUS 40395119)

A book cover showing an abstract illustration that incorporates a hockey stick.

Hockeyeurs cybernétiques by Denis Côté, Éditions Paulines, 1983 (AMICUS 3970428)

Literacy became a thread running through the exhibition, in ways big and small. Thanks to all the librarians who helped us get our hands on these books! It may be too ambitious, but I continue to cherish the hope that the exhibition and this blog will inspire you to pick up a book, visit a library, and enjoy the game as much as we did.

Wishing to bring a fresh read to the sport, Jenny Ellison and I are editing a group of new essays on the sport, to be published in 2018 (Hockey: Challenging Canada’s Game — Au-delà du sport national) Check it out!

Do you have a favourite book about hockey?  Let us know in the comments.


Jennifer Anderson was co-curator of the exhibition “Hockey” at the Canadian Museum of History. Currently, she is an archivist in the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Beating hearts: John Alexander Hopps and the pacemaker

By Rebecca Meunier

Quick! Think of five inventions that have revolutionized the way we live.

Now try to think of five Canadian medical inventions. Not so easy, is it?

Why is it that most of us are able to think of five inventions that have helped to shape the world we live in, such as the wheel, but struggle to name even two Canadian medical inventions?

Though we might have the impression that countries such as the United States or England have the upper hand when it comes to the total number of medical inventions, we must not forget that Canada has long been a leader in the advancement of healthcare across the world. Some Canadian inventions include the discovery of insulin by Sir Frederick Banting; the invention of Pablum, an enriched infant cereal; and cobalt therapy.

There is one Canadian medical invention, however, that outshines all others. It has the power to make your heart beat steadily when you exercise and even when you are in love. That invention is the artificial pacemaker. Canadian electrical engineer John Alexander Hopps is credited with the invention of the artificial pacemaker (also known as the stimulator-defibrillator), and it is through Hopps’s work with Dr. Wilfred Bigelow and Dr. John Callaghan that the device first began to save lives.

A black-and-white photograph of an operating room scene with four men in surgical gowns and masks gathered around a prone patient who is hidden from view.

Dr. John Hopps in the background overlooking an operation in an operating theater, undated (MIKAN 3588818)

John Alexander Hopps was born in Winnipeg on May 21, 1919. He graduated in 1941 from the University of Manitoba, where he had studied electrical engineering. He then worked at the National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa on wartime radar development. In 1949 he was assigned to work in Toronto with Dr. Bigelow, who had recently discovered that there was a reduced risk of complications if, before an open-heart surgery, the patient was kept in a state of hypothermia. His work with Dr. Bigelow and Dr. Callaghan led to the development of the cardiac pacemaker in the 1950’s—a device that, though he did not know it at the time, would help prolong his own life. From 1957 until 1958 Hopps worked in Sri Lanka, helping to establish the first colonial engineering unit in Southeast Asia. Fifteen years later, in 1973, he became the head of the NRC’s new Medical Engineering Section. He continued to work on new medical innovations and became a leading voice for the importance of hospital safety standards. He was especially concerned with the protective measures taken by hospitals to reduce the risk of operating room electric shock hazards.

Hopps’s unique knowledge of technology and medicine brought him into contact with all kinds of challenges relating to technology and human health. He even wrote a research paper detailing his findings on the potential health hazards of a microwave oven used by the staff at the Riverside Hospital, concluding that there were no significant harmful effects associated with its use.

Hopps also became the first president of the Canadian Medical and Biological Engineering Society, and in this role continued to promote the use of engineering in the medical world.

The pacemaker that we know today looks very different from its predecessor. The world’s first pacemaker was about the size of a microwave oven and had to be placed outside the body. Over the years, countless doctors and inventors helped to shrink the size of the pacemaker so that it was eventually small enough to be placed inside the human body during a less invasive surgery.

A black-and-white photograph of a small machine with various knobs and dials. Two black wands are connected to the machine by a cord.

Operating room model of the stimulator-defibrillator (MIKAN 4997380)

The pacemaker became quickly invaluable to doctors and was included in mobile cardiac units.

A black-and-white photograph of a man wearing a lab coat, surgical mask and surgical cap. He is looking at his watch and standing next to a large machine with many drawers, knobs and wires. The machine has a sign on it that reads Mobile Cardiac Resuscitator.

Mobile Cardiac Resuscitator (MIKAN 4982761)

Black-and-white photograph of a young man wearing glasses and a bowtie.

John A. Hopps, circa 1945 (MIKAN 4997379)

In 1986, Hopps became an Officer of the Order of Canada. He died in 1998, after having permanently altered how medicine and technology interact with one another.

If you would like to read more about John Alexander Hopps and the pacemaker, you can explore his fonds, which is housed at Library and Archives Canada. Hopps’s fonds includes a wide range of materials, from textual documents relating to his work to pictures that help shed light on the evolution of the pacemaker to images of cardiac operations.


Rebecca Meunier is a student orientation technician at Library and Archives Canada.