The Outaouais region is steeped in history. Library and Archives Canada collections reflect this history, and remind us of the enduring importance of the people who have lived here, their economic and commercial enterprises, and the natural beauty of the region.Visit the Flickr album now!
Race (noun) – a competition between runners, horses, vehicles, boats, etc., to see which is the fastest in covering a set course.Yes, Canadians race through all kinds of weather and situations too! Visit the Flickr album now!
On June 15, 2018, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and Glenbow Museum come together in Calgary, Alberta, to officially celebrate the beginning of a very successful collaboration. March 10th marked the opening of the first in a series of five co-curated exhibitions. All of the exhibitions feature portraits from LAC’s collection. In some cases, they also include portraits from Glenbow’s collection.
This exciting collaboration provides the opportunity for more Canadians to see many of Canada’s most important national treasures: all of the exhibitions will be presented at Glenbow, in Calgary. Each of the exhibitions in the series has a different theme related to portraits and portraiture.
A special kind of portrait
The first exhibition in the series focuses on one of the most fascinating types of portrait: images that artists create of themselves. The proliferation of mirrors during the 15th century is said to have contributed to the popularization of artist self-portraits. When artists hold the mirror to themselves, it is very difficult not to be drawn in.
Artist self-portraits are particularly intriguing because they appear to give privileged insight into the creative process. They are also exciting for their variety. The choice of medium is just one way in which artists have experimented with self-portraits, over the years, as statements of creative identity.
The exhibition includes 17 historical and modern self-portraits of Canadian artists, drawn from LAC’s collection. There are examples of video and sculpture self-portraiture as well as paintings, drawings and prints.
Many faces, many stories
A stand-out self-portrait in the exhibition is this sculpture by Inuit artist Floyd Kuptana.
It is important to view this self-portrait from a variety of angles. The playful stone sculpture smiles, when viewed from one angle, and sticks out his tongue when viewed from another:
The humour in this self-portrait masks a much more serious exploration of self, on a variety of levels. Kuptana created this self-portrait with traditional ideas as well as modern ones. The multiple faces and angles reflect shamanic beliefs about transformation. Yet, the idea of multiple personalities, within one self, is also associated with modern psychology.
The exhibition provides a chance to see a portrait that remains at the centre of one of Canadian art history’s most interesting unresolved mysteries. Certain scholars feel strongly that this portrait, created by important British Columbia artist Emily Carr, is a rare, early self-portrait. However, others have argued that this drawing is merely an image Carr may have made of somebody else.
Most agree that Carr created the drawing when she was an art student in London, United Kingdom. The drawing is done in a traditional academic style, not typical of Carr’s later work, but very much typical of a student demonstrating her mastery.
Those who believe this to be an image of Carr herself point to the strong resemblance between the drawing and contemporary photographs of her. They acknowledge that Carr was notoriously prudish and thus unlikely to pose with bare shoulders. However, they point out that it would be quite common, in women’s drawing classes of the day, to practise drawing the human form from suitably draped ancient classical sculptures. An artist could place their own head on a body copied from one of these unexceptionable nudes.
The exhibition invites you to judge for yourself.
A western connection
The exhibition provides a chance for LAC to present self-portraits that have a particular connection to Calgary.
One example is this amusing self-portrait by Calgary-based artist Gary Olson.
The image is part of a series created by Olson while he was a college art instructor. He came up with these lighthearted images to convey the difficult theoretical art concept of the picture plane to his students. He portrays the plane literally, in these images, by flattening and distorting his own features against it. At the same time, Olson takes the opportunity to poke fun at the theory of art, capturing something of his own irreverent desire to push the envelope
Come see the exhibition
Be sure to visit The Artist’s Mirror, if you happen to be in Calgary. The exhibition runs from March 10, 2018 to January 6, 2019 and is open every day. For more information, please contact Glenbow Museum.
The Canadian washroom, or bathroom, has its roots in medieval times. The basic toilet and sewage systems built into castles during that era evolved into modern architectural design features for homes and large buildings. Later technological advances included internal running water, piping and community sewage systems.
When not indoors, Canadians have improvised and innovated in cleanliness and discharging their bodily wastes as cleanly as possible. Whether for the outdoors or for journeys, the solutions are reminiscent of home.Visit the Flickr album now!
By Karine Gélinas
The DigiLab is a new hands-on facility for clients to digitize and contextualize documents from the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) collections. Since its launch in 2017, the DigiLab has hosted more than 30 projects that have resulted in the digitization of over 30,000 pages of textual material and 9,000 photographs.
One of the projects hosted in the DigiLab was with the National Capital Commission (NCC), which digitized stunning historical images of the National Capital Region. You will find below some of the material the NCC digitized that is now available on LAC’s website.
Albums from the National Capital Commission fonds
- Aerial views of Ottawa, 1952–1962 (8 images) – MIKAN 5025694
- Federal District Improvement Commission, 1927–1929 (56 images) – MIKAN 5016537
- Federal District Commission, 1927–1932 (291 images) – MIKAN 5023881
- Photos by R.A. Ramsay showing installation of a steel railway structure (4 images) – MIKAN 5025167
- Russell House block, Russell Hotel photographs (63 images) – MIKAN 3788413
- Ottawa Region, Federal District Commission, 1902 (20 images) – MIKAN 5050722
Ted Grant fonds
- Government House, State Ball – MIKAN 3344843
- Scenes at Rideau Falls, John Street, the Park – MIKAN 3344899
- Major’s Hill Park – MIKAN 3344902
- Historical Section, Old Houses – MIKAN 3346234
- Government House Gate with Guards – MIKAN 3346216
- The Driveway and Dows Lake – MIKAN 3346219
- Confederation Square – MIKAN 3344955
- Prime Minister John Diefenbaker with Six Nations Group – MIKAN 3344983
- Tulips along The Driveway [and Sparks Street Mall] – MIKAN 3345019
- NCC houses – MIKAN 3345030
- Rideau Hall interiors – MIKAN 3345038
- Alan May, Chairman of the NCC – MIKAN 3345040
- Views of Wakefield and Chelsea – MIKAN 3345044
- NCC workers planting shrubs at Confederation Heights – MIKAN 3345089
- Inuit and Indigenous delegates meeting Governor General Vanier and his wife Pauline at Rideau Hall – MIKAN 3345092
- Sparks Street at night – MIKAN 3345094
- Overpass at Kingsmere – MIKAN 3345108
- Victoria Island [and Britannia] – MIKAN 3345120
- Victoria Island and area – MIKAN 3345011
- NCC houses [and churches in Hull] – MIKAN 3345013
- Overpass at Kingsmere – MIKAN 3345115
Federal District Commission fonds
Photographs, editorials catalogue and newspaper supplement proofs for the plan and model of the National Capital Planning Committee’s Master Plan, and its Canadian Tour – MIKAN 3788892
Interested in the DigiLab?
If you have an idea for a project, please send us an email at email@example.com. Give us an overview of your project, the complete reference of the material you would like to digitize and any extra information you know about the collection.
After we verify the condition of the material to ensure it can be digitized safely, we’ll plan time for you in the DigiLab. We’ll provide training on handling the material and using the equipment and you’ll digitize and capture simple metadata. Material has to be free from restrictions and copyright.
We hope to hear from you soon!
Links of interest
Karine Gélinas is a project manager in the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.
Blacksmiths manipulate iron or steel to create objects, such as tools, household goods, and art. They use specific tools to hammer, bend, or cut metal heated in a forge.Many blacksmiths travelled to Canada during the mid-17th century to help build the trading posts of the Hudson’s Bay Company and its rival, the North West Company. As settlements grew, these metalworkers working in their workshops became an important technological and industrial hub of business and trade. They honed their skills to specialize in different domains. For example, a farrier was a blacksmith who specialized in the care and trimming of horses’ hooves, including shoeing them with horseshoes they created. Around the mid-19th century, blacksmiths expanded their roles and continued to offer multiple services related to ironwork into the early 20th century. Visit the Flickr album now!
By Tania Passafiume, with assistance from Shannon Perry
While working on a census of over 300 cased objects in Library and Archives Canada’s photographic holdings, I discovered a hidden treasure. I noticed that one of the cased images looked a bit odd, as it did not resemble a daguerreotype, an ambrotype or a tintype, which you would typically find as the photograph in one of these small leather, paper or plastic cases.
The questions began: What is this? What photographic process was used to create this object? The first clue that I was dealing with something different came when I noticed that the item was unsealed, meaning that there was no original sealing tape. Historically, paper tape was used to seal the package found within the cased object, for various reasons. But there was no indication of any original tape, so with no tape to disturb, I decided to open the package.
Immediately after removing the package from the paper case, I noticed a piece of thick card attached to the back of the package. This card appeared to be a leftover piece of paper. Handwritten in pencil in the top-left quadrant were some words that were partially cut off: “hol” and “acid.” There was also some sort of damage along the top. From the discolouration, it had to be a liquid stain. At first, I did not think much about the card. Since there was no longer any original sealing tape, someone might have previously removed the tape and placed a piece of paper behind the photograph. This finding was not unexpected, as photographic plates were often taken out of cases and the cases switched. Only later did I realize that the text was indeed vital to understanding the nature of the photograph.
After I removed the card, I saw a piece of leather. I knew immediately what I was holding in my hands! The leather was not another layer that had been added behind the photographic plate. This was an actual photograph on leather! This photographic process is called pannotype (the prefix comes from the Latin pannos, which means cloth). I had read about pannotypes and seen modern recreations; however, it is very rare to find originals, let alone for them to be in good condition. I turned the object over and removed the brass mat with its cover glass. And there, under the deteriorated and soiled glass, was a glossy leather surface with, in excellent condition, the image of a man. The deteriorated glass had distracted me and made me question the type of photographic process. Now, through my careful analysis and with an added dash of serendipity, Library and Archives Canada has an identified 19th-century pannotype in its holdings!
The history behind the process
Pannotypes were a bit of a trend between 1853 and the early 1880s. They were made by a method similar to that for ambrotypes. But instead of glass, a piece of cloth or leather was used as a support. What is interesting is that pannotypes were made by placing drops of a dilute solution of nitric acid in alcohol onto an existing ambrotype. This was done to allow the photographer to remove the emulsion (which contained the actual image) from the glass support and place this emulsion onto a new support, such as a piece of leather. This brings me back to the handwritten partial words on the piece of paper that I found on the back of the leather, “hol” and “acid.” Could the words be alcohol and nitric acid: the very ingredients required to make a pannotype?
This pannotype photographic process was presented for the first time in 1853, to the French Academy of Sciences by the firm of Wulff & Co. Instructions for the process were made available for sale by that firm for 100 francs. Pannotypes soon became generally known, with many professional photographers making commercial use of them, as evidenced in surviving advertisements and journal articles. Customers were interested in the process at the time because pannotypes were believed to be more stable, since they could not break because they were not printed on glass like ambrotypes, nor could they be easily scratched like daguerreotypes or bent like tintypes. We know very little about how the pannotype process was developed and practiced here in Canada, but we do know that there were several prominent photographers using this process, including George Robinson Fardon (1807–1886) from Victoria, British Columbia. His images of “Portrait and Views on patent leather” were sent to the London International Exhibition, 1862, and they eventually became part of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s holdings.
Here and now
Today, discovering a pannotype is rare, as their durability was very limited because of their inherently fragile qualities. However, the newly discovered pannotype is on patent leather and is in excellent condition. The only difficulty here is that the original glass in the brass mat had begun to deteriorate; however, following some conservation work, the problem has been fixed. Our next step is to share this information with the public, and perhaps to try and solve the next mystery: who is the man in the photograph, and who was the photographer? Stay tuned!
Tania Passafiume is the Head Conservator of Photographic Materials in the Care of Collection Division of the Digital Operations and Preservation Branch at Library and Archives Canada.
Shannon Perry is a Photo Archivist in the Government Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.