Images Celebrating the Outaouais now on Flickr

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.

A colour photograph of two women and two men having a picnic in a park on the bank of a river.

Picnicking in Brébeuf Park on the Ottawa River near Hull, Québec [MIKAN 4292850]

A black-and-white photograph of a lumberman hammering the Company stamp, the letter “G,” meaning Gatineau, onto the ends of 16-foot logs.

A lumberman hammering the Company stamp “G” for Gatineau onto the ends of 16-foot logs destined for the Gatineau mills of the Canadian International Paper Co., Gatineau, Québec [MIKAN 3197680]

A black-and-white photograph of Duke Ellington standing between two women at the Standish Hall Hotel and posing for a picture.

Duke Ellington at the Standish Hall Hotel, Hull, Québec [MIKAN 3606806]

A black-and-white photograph of the Standish Hall Hotel in Hull, Quebec. A man in a hat and a trench coat is holding a case and standing on the right side of the building.

Exterior view of the Standish Hall Hotel Hull, Québec [MIKAN 3606795]

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Images of Racing now on Flickr

Race (noun) – a competition between runners, horses, vehicles, boats, etc., to see which is the fastest in covering a set course.

A black-and-white photograph of five men lined up on a road ready to start a race. Soldiers stand and watch from both sides of the road.

Relay race at track and field sports event, Whitley, England [MIKAN 3387500]

A black-and-white photograph of a man jumping up into the air between two cars, and waving a flag to start a race.

Starter Jack Williams in action on the 1/4-mile drag race at the B.C. Custom Car Association, Abbotsford, British Columbia [MIKAN 4297937]

Yes, Canadians race through all kinds of weather and situations too!

A black-and-white photograph of two girls watching a boy launch a model yacht into the water.

Model racing yacht, Sunnyside Beach, Toronto, Ontario [MIKAN 3194092]

A black-and-white photograph of eight teams pushing their canoes on from the frozen portions of a river toward open water.

Ice canoe race, Quebec City, Québec [MIKAN 4949175]

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

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

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

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

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

A special kind of portrait

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

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

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

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

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

Many faces, many stories

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

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

Self-portrait by Floyd Kuptana, 2007, MIKAN 3922914

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The exhibition invites you to judge for yourself.

A western connection

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

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

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

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

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

Come see the exhibition

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

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

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

Images of Canada Washes Up now on Flickr

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.

A black-and-white photograph of a man standing and bathing in a travelling bath of the First World War era.

Motor transport travelling bath in the Canadian part of the line. [MIKAN 3396709]

A drawn plan listing the materials needed to build a wooden latrine.

Plan of a latrine. MIKAN 3699479]

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.

A black-and-white photograph of a shower, bath and toilet in a train lounge car.

New lounge car, shower bath. [MIKAN 3348414]

A black-and-white photograph of a ladies’ shower room in a Canadian Pacific Railway solarium car.

Women’s shower, Canadian Pacific Railway, new solarium car. [MIKAN 3380569]

Visit the Flickr album now!

Recent documents digitized through the DigiLab

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.

A colour photograph of a room containing a large-format scanner on a table in the foreground, a series of shelving on the left side, and two people sitting at workstations in the background.

The DigiLab space at 395 Wellington. Photo by Tom Thompson.

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
A black-and-white photograph of a quiet park and streets surrounded by two major buildings flying the Union Jack flag from their highest rooftop. Old cars are parked on the main street in the foreground.

Looking south from East Block on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, MIKAN 5026166

Aerial black-and-white photograph of an industrial landscape with logs floating in the water and a power station and rail lines in the foreground. The Parliamentary Precinct is in the background.

LeBreton Flats, Ottawa West Station & Turning House, ca. 1962. [Present-day City Centre Bayswater Station area] @Government of Canada (e999909317-u)

Ted Grant fonds

A black-and-white photograph of a street at night with cars parked on both sides and neon store signs adding light.

Sparks Street [Ottawa] at night, taken November 14, 1960. Credit: Ted Grant. (e999906140-u)

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 bac.numeri-lab-digilab.lac@canada.ca. 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.

Images of Point Pelee National Park and Pelee Island now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of Kathleen Hart and Dave Phipps sunbathing on the beach.

Kathleen Hart and Dave Phipps sunbathing on the beach at Point Pelee National Park, Ontario. [MIKAN 4297909]

Point Pelee National Park is located in southwestern Ontario. The park is a peninsula that extends into Lake Erie and consists of marsh and woodland that are home to diverse flora and fauna. In 1918, Point Pelee was the first national park created for conservation at the urging of birdwatchers and hunters.

A black-and-white “Plan of the Naval Reserve at Point Pelee in the Township of Mersea..."

“Plan of the Naval Reserve at Point Pelee in the Township of Mersea…,” Ontario. [MIKAN 3670979]

A black-and-white map of Point Pelee Island, Ontario.

Point Pelee Island, Ontario. [MIKAN 3670898]

Pelee Island is the largest island in Lake Erie and lies southwest of Point Pelee National Park, but is not part of the park. The island is abundant with wildlife and is an important flyway for migrating birds between Ohio and Ontario. The island also has a long history of wine making.

A black-and-white photograph of a Pelee Island wine vat now used as a water reservoir.

Pelee Island wine vat now used as a water reservoir, Pelee Island, Ontario. [MIKAN 3642953]

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Images of blacksmiths now on Flickr

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.

A black-and-white photograph of a man hammering a piece of metal at the Jolly Blacksmith shop.

Interior of Jolly Blacksmith shop, Ottawa, Ontario [MIKAN 3265334]

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.

A black-and-white photograph of thirteen men posing for a group picture in front of the blacksmith shop.

Blacksmith shop, Harris Camp, Peter Co., Parry Sound, Ontario [MIKAN 3300810]

A black-and-white photograph of three soldiers watching a blacksmith shoeing a horse.

Personnel of the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade watching a blacksmith shoeing a horse, Creully, France [MIKAN 3229115]

Around the mid-19th century, blacksmiths expanded their roles and continued to offer multiple services related to ironwork into the early 20th century.

A black-and-white photograph of a man in heating a horseshoe in a forge.

Harper Rennick heating a horseshoe, Shawville, Quebec [MIKAN 4948714]

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Images of laboratories now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of six women working on prototype boats at Dr. Alexander Graham Bell’s laboratory.

Women workers at Dr. Alexander Graham Bell’s laboratory, Beinn Bhreagh, Baddeck, Nova Scotia [MIKAN 3193548]

A laboratory is a place where scientific and technological experiments, as well as measurements, are performed. Different types of equipment and tools may be used in a laboratory depending on the field of study, such as science, engineering or pharmaceutics.

A black-and-white photograph of a woman testing synthetic rubber in the Polymer Rubber Corporation laboratory.

Laboratory worker Isobel Futcher of St. Thomas, Ontario, tests synthetic rubber in the Polymer Rubber Corporation laboratory, Sarnia, Ontario [MIKAN 3196991]

A black-and-white photograph of a woman filling 20-cc vials with penicillin at the Connaught Laboratory.

Worker Ruth Osborne fills 20-cc vials with penicillin at the Connaught Laboratory, Toronto, Ontario [MIKAN 3197854]

Early laboratories were small, sometimes even a single room in someone’s house. Dedicated facilities for laboratory research started to appear during the First World War. However, during the Second World War, Canada’s industrial war effort increased dramatically, which contributed to the growth of “big science.” Many laboratory settings became large industrial complexes employing significant numbers of people. Funding for large-scale research projects depended on government investment or consortium partnerships.

A colour photograph of a man in a chemical mixing laboratory preparing various fluids used in developing processes at the National Film Board of Canada.

Bert Hooper, head of the chemical mixing laboratory, supervises the preparation of various fluids for developing processes at the National Film Board of Canada building, Ville Saint-Laurent, Montréal, Quebec [MIKAN 4301640]

Canada has a variety of laboratory environments that range from small to large. Some are privately funded, while others rely on government funds. There is also a mix of co-operative funding between academic institutions, private organizations and public entities.

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The case of the patent leather photograph: a Library and Archives Canada pannotype mystery

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.

A colour image of a paper case with red velvet. On the right-hand side, a black-and-white photograph in a brass mat of a man wearing a dark jacket.

A pannotype of an unknown sitter, in a paper case (MIKAN 325561)

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.

The findings

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?

A colour image of a stained piece of paper with partial text “hol” and “acid” written on it.

The paper found at the back of the photograph, with the text “hol” and “acid” written in pencil.

A colour image of gloved hands holding a piece of leather that has been stained along the top and sides.

The leather back of the photograph. Photo credit: Carla Klück

A colour image of gloved hands holding a black-and-white portrait of a man, which is being peeled away from a brass mat with its cover glass.

The photograph (patent leather with emulsion) and the brass mat with its cover glass. Photo credit: Carla Klück

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.

Images of Tartans and Kilts now on Flickr

A colour photograph of a smiling girl wearing a tam and tartan shoulder accessory.

Betty Chan at Scottish games, Winnipeg, Manitoba. [MIKAN 4302026]

Tartan is a multicoloured cloth pattern of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands. Traditionally, tartan is made with wool, but other kinds of materials may be used. Scotland and kilts in particular are associated with tartan patterns; however, the steady immigration of Scots to Canada created a special environment for tartan in this country. Cultural events, such as Highland games across Canada, showcase the various patterns seen in kilts, jackets, blankets and clothing accessories. For less traditional clothing, these patterns are often referred to as plaid. There are unique Canadian tartans, such as the provincial and territorial patterns, most of which are registered with the Court of the Lord Lyon. This court regulates Scottish heraldry, including tartan patterns. Canada’s green, gold, red and brown tartan, known as the “maple leaf,” became an official national symbol in 2011.

A black-and-white photograph of two women at a loom. The woman sitting on the left holds a shuttle. The woman standing on the right inspects the tartan pattern and weave.

Tartan being woven, St. Ann’s, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. [MIKAN 4948510]

A black-and-white photograph of two girls who are standing and wearing tams, matching jackets and kilts.

Two girls dressed in kilts at Highland games, Antigonish, Nova Scotia. [MIKAN 4315223]

Visit the Flickr album now!