Images digitized through the Documentary Heritage Communities Program

This album features examples of images that have been digitized by external heritage communities and that have received funding for digitization and access projects.

The Documentary and Heritage Communities Program (DHCP) ensures that Canada’s continuing memory is documented and accessible to current and future generations by adopting a collaborative approach with local documentary heritage communities. The program is delivered in the form of contributions that support the development of Canada’s local archival and library communities by increasing their capacity to preserve, provide access to and promote local documentary heritage. Additionally, the Program provides opportunities for local documentary heritage communities to evolve and remain sustainable and strategic.

The DHCP provides financial assistance to the Canadian documentary heritage community for activities that:

  • increase access to, and awareness of Canada’s local documentary heritage institutions and their holdings; and
  • increase the capacity of local documentary heritage institutions to better sustain and preserve Canada’s documentary heritage.

How much does your collection weigh? – Part two

By Lisa Hennessey

In 2011, construction of Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) new Nitrate Film Preservation Facility (NFPF) was complete. This building was constructed following the National Fire Protection Association’s Standard for the Storage and Handling of Cellulose Nitrate Film (NFPA 40) and, as such, LAC had to follow certain rules. One of these rules limits the total amount of nitrate film that can be housed in each fire-resistant storage compartment to 305 metres (1,000 feet).

The NFPA 40 guidelines speak in terms of length of film and were clearly written for motion picture film, this format being easily measured in metres or feet. Dealing in length of material is harder, however, when planning for the storage of nearly 600,000 still photographic negatives of various formats stored across 1,600 containers. How much is 305 metres when you are talking about a container full of 4×5 negatives? Instead, LAC decided to deal in weight. It was estimated that 305 metres of motion picture film represents approximately 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) of nitrate. This would be our new maximum amount per compartment.

For the most part, LAC’s nitrate negatives are housed in paper envelopes (sometimes multiple negatives per envelope) and stored in cardboard containers. To determine the total weight of nitrate film per container the first step was to find out the weight of an empty container. LAC staff weighed an empty sample of each of the various container types found in the collection. We also weighed an empty sample of each size of envelope. Next, a survey team worked through the entire collection weighing each full container and then estimating the number of envelopes of each size inside. Once this was known, it was simply a matter of subtracting the weight of the physical container and the paper envelopes from the total weight, which resulted in a pretty good estimate of how much nitrate was in each container. Any container that was found to have more than 4.5 kilograms of nitrate film was rehoused in two containers.

A colour photograph of a woman wearing nitrile gloves and taking a negative out of an envelope. The table in front of her is full of envelopes and archival boxes.

Rehousing nitrate film in new containers

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How to Cite Archival Sources

Citing archival material in an academic paper for school or for publication can be a challenge. A complete set of references must contain all the details about each source used in your research so that each one can be relocated and examined in its descriptive context. That’s not always as straightforward as it sounds, especially with respect to archival material.

The style guide that your professor, editor, or publisher recommends is a good starting place. A number of style guides offer useful information on how to cite archival or manuscript material. Most of the questions we receive about citation styles relate to those followed by the American Psychological Association or APA and the Chicago Manual of Style.

If those guides aren’t helpful, seek advice from a reference librarian at a university library or browse its website for a condensed style guide, available on most university library sites. Local public libraries may also have hard copies or online versions of various style guides, so it’s worth checking their catalogues or speaking to their reference team.

If you still have questions about citing materials from Library and Archives Canada’s collection, consult the web page How to Cite Archival Sources, which has examples of footnotes and citations for several different types of archival material.

Always keep in mind, too, that the main point of a citation is to leave a trail that will lead future researchers back to the source you used in your research. And if you’re unsure about what information to include in your citation, remember that more is better than too little. It’s much easier to sift through too much information than it is to fill in the blanks!

How much does your collection weigh?

By Lisa Hennessey

This may not be a typical question faced by an archive or library, but it was a question Library and Archives Canada (LAC) had to answer back in 2009 when preparing to move its nitrate film collection to a new storage facility.

At first blush, the obvious solution to this question would be to bring in a scale and weigh all the boxes. However, in this particular case LAC needed to calculate only the weight of the nitrate film itself, not the weight of any containers, envelopes, film cans or albums. That was a challenge. How do you weigh a collection without actually weighing it?

LAC’s nitrate collection consists of 5,575 reels of film, dating from as early as 1912, and close to 600,000 still photographic negatives. From the early 1970s on, this material was stored at a facility on the Rockcliffe Air Base in Ottawa, Ontario. Built in the 1940s to house aerial photographic material produced by the Department of National Defence, the Rockcliffe building was showing its age by the late 1990s and a proposal was put forward to build a new storage building for the nitrate film. In 2011, construction on the new Nitrate Film Preservation Facility (NFPF) was completed.

A colour photograph of the entrance of a grey building with a row of yellow flowers in front.

The Nitrate Film Preservation Facility

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A document of interest: an 1818 letter dealing with the treatment of Irish immigrants suffering from typhoid fever

By Martin Lanthier

In the early 19th century, the arrival of ships carrying sometimes-ill immigrants raised fears that epidemics would spread in Lower Canada. The colony’s elite became aware of the situation and took initiatives to address the problem.

The correspondence of the Civil Secretary to the Governor of Lower Canada (RG4-A1, MIKAN 105377) includes documents that reflect these concerns and that describe incidents faced by physicians at the time. One particular example is a letter from Dr. William Hacket, dated July 29, 1818, in which he describes his efforts to care for Irish settlers suffering from typhoid fever.

The immigrants had arrived at the city of Québec on July 21 aboard the Royal Edward. A number of them were sick and, after a few days, it was decided to treat them. Since no hospital could accommodate such a large number of patients (119), and because conditions on board the vessel were unsanitary, the order was given to quarantine and treat the patients on Île au Ruau [or Île aux Ruaux], near Grosse Île in the St. Lawrence River. Dr. Hacket was put in charge, assisted by two colleagues, Dr. Wright and Dr. Holmes.

In his letter, written six days after the arrival of the passengers on the island, Dr. Hacket first describes his difficulties in convincing them to leave the ship—some declared that they would only be removed by force. He then goes on to say that without the help of soldiers, who set up a camp, he would never have been able to accommodate and treat the patients.

First page of a handwritten letter, black ink on white paper.

Letter from Dr. William Hacket to A.W. Cochrane, Civil Secretary, Québec, July 29, 1818 (RG4-A1, volume 180 MIKAN 126122). e011181012

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Transcribing the Coltman Report – Crowdsourcing at Library and Archives Canada

By Beth Greenhorn

In the spring of 2016, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) digitized A General Statement and Report relative to the Disturbances in the Indian Territories of British North America, more commonly known as “the Coltman Report.” Its digitization was in support of the 200th-anniversary events commemorating the Battle of Seven Oaks, organized by the Manitoba Métis Federation in June 2016.

Top half of Page 1 of William Batchelor Coltman’s report concerning the Battle of Seven Oaks. Handwriting in faded black ink on cream coloured paper. The writing begins before and crosses over the red vertical margin line on the left side of the page.

Screenshot of Page 1 of the Coltman Report, 1818 (MIKAN 114974)

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Five years of blogging at Library and Archives Canada!

A black-and-white photograph of a giant cake with a young woman standing on one side of the cake and on the other side is a poster with a list of ingredients contained in the cake.

Woman standing next to a 4,000 pound cake made to promote Freimans department store (MIKAN 3615467)

It’s been five years today since we published our first blog, “Published Histories: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war” and since then more than 650 posts have been published.

It is very easy to forget major milestones in a project and yet it is so important to look at the past to realize the progress we have made.

This is the perfect opportunity to thank everyone who made it possible to succeed. We can’t name all who contributed to the success of the blog, but we want to thank everyone who did.

How does an article get published?

Before a blog is posted, there is a lot of collaboration among the different teams throughout the organization. First, the blog has to be written by content experts working at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and they do it on a completely voluntary basis. Then there’s an initial review and formatting of the text before sending it off to Communications for editing and translation. Once we have final copies in both languages, they are uploaded to WordPress simultaneously.

Our blog highlights our collection and our services. We have a lot of awesome images and documents, but sometimes copyright stands in the way. And even though we double- and triple-check articles prior to publishing, sometimes a mistake gets through or a link is broken—so we appreciate it when our readers let us know.

A colour print showing a pilot talking to a mechanic in an airplane hangar. Flying planes and a British flag can be seen through the window. The word “Collaboration” is written at the top of the poster and “Merci Mon Vieux!” is at the bottom.

A poster about Canada’s war effort and production sensitive campaign titled, “Collaboration: Merci Mon Vieux!” (MIKAN 2846765)

What we have written about

In five years, we have touched upon many subjects such as searching the collection, genealogy and family heritage, rare books, immigration, and military heritage. The most popular topics are military heritage for the English blogs, and genealogy for the French blogs. The most popular English blog is The 1940 National Registration File and the most popular French blog is Recherche d’actes de naissance, de mariage et de décès (English version). We will continue to make our collection known with some special projects scheduled for next year such as a series of blogs resulting from a partnership between LAC and The National Archives (UK), another series about Canada 150, and a lot more. Follow us so you won’t miss any of it!

Of course, the blog wouldn’t exist without you—so a big thank you to all our readers! We are happy to share our knowledge so you can learn and discover more about your Canadian heritage.

Now how about a slice of that cake?

Library and Archives Canada releases its latest podcast episode, “Wilfrid Laurier: It’s Complicated”

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is releasing its latest podcast episode, “Wilfrid Laurier: It’s Complicated.”

Sir Wilfrid Laurier had the largest unbroken term of office as Canada’s seventh prime minister. He was considered one of Canada’s greatest politicians, full of charisma, charm and passion, qualities that served him well in office, and also in his personal life. This passion is seen in many of the letters he wrote to his wife Zoé. But perhaps we gain a deeper insight into his character through his letters to Émilie Lavergne.

In this episode, we traveled to the Perth and District Union Library, in Perth, Ontario. We sat down with Mr. Roy MacSkimming, author of the historical novel, Laurier in Love, to gain some insight into these letters.

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

Sir Wilfrid Laurier—175th anniversary of his birth

By Michael MacDonald

One hundred and seventy-five years ago, the Right Honourable Sir Wilfrid Laurier was born in the parish of Saint-Lin, Lower Canada (modern day Saint-Lin–Laurentides, Quebec). Laurier is generally regarded as one of Canada’s greatest prime ministers and was Canada’s longest consecutively serving prime minister.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has a wealth of records which reveal many stories of Laurier who is well-known for his desire to build an autonomous Canada that included both English and French cultures, his belief in the separation of church and state, his opposition to conscription, his support in Quebec, and his meticulous wardrobe and charismatic presence.

Five black-and-white photographs of the same man side by side at these approximate ages, left to right: 24, 33, 50, 65 and 70 years old.

A collage of five photographs of Laurier at different times in his life. (Sources of images from left to right, MIKAN 3218126, 3194714, 3623432, 3218138 and 3628621.)

One does not need to be an academic to find these fascinating records regarding Laurier; one just needs to search out some of these gems using LAC’s database for archival documents, Archives Search. A search for “Wilfrid Laurier” will result in over 60,870 records and more are continually being added.

Even more documents and information can be found on LAC’s web pages such as First Among Equals (or the children’s version), Prime Ministers’ Fonds, Laurier House, and our thematic guide to the South African War, to name just a few. (For a listing of general resources on politics, see Politics and Government.)


A screen capture of a web page showing the results from a search on “Wilfrid Laurier” using <abbr title=

While there are obviously far too many documents to highlight, below are four examples of lesser-known topics concerning Laurier, which can be researched through our website.

Laurier, the military man

Many people think of Laurier as being anti-military as he was against conscription and the forced recruiting of armed forces for imperial wars such as the Second Boer War and the First World War. However, many don’t realize that not only did Laurier serve in the militia, but so did his father and grandfather.

Two manuscripts side by side. The paper on the left was delivered to Carolus Laurier and issued by The Right Honourable James, Earl of Elgin and Earl of Kincardine. The paper on the right was delivered to Charles Laurier by George, Earl of Dalhousie.

Commission papers of Carolus Laurier on the left and Charles Laurier on the right (MIKAN 4929180 and 4929179)

Charles Laurier, Sir Wilfrid’s grandfather, was commissioned as a captain in the Terrebonne Militia Division in 1825; Carolus Laurier, Sir Wilfrid’s father, was a captain in the 3rd Battalion of Leinster in 1847; and Laurier received the Canada General Service Medal as a Lieutenant in the Arthabaskaville Infantry Company in 1870 during the Fenian Raids.

Two black-and-white photographs of both sides of a medal. On one side is a flag surrounded by maple leaves. On the other side is a woman wearing a crown.

The Canada General Service Medal (MIKAN 3638053)

Laurier, the nation builder

Laurier was the first francophone prime minister who brought the Liberals to power by establishing support in his home province of Quebec.

One of the first issues Laurier dealt with when he became Canada’s seventh prime minister was the Manitoba Schools Question. Laurier defeated the earlier proposal that public funds should not be used for Catholic schools and proposed the compromise that public funds could be used where there were enough Catholic students to warrant it. Laurier was especially pleased with the compromise he was able to strike, and referred to his efforts as “sunny ways” (voies ensoleillées)—a slogan which you may recognize, as it has been regularly used by the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau and his government today.

It was also Laurier’s government that in 1898 established the Yukon as a distinct territory from the Northwest Territories, and in 1905 created the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. As you can see from the maps below, Canada looked very different in the map created circa 1906 than the one circa 1897.

Two coloured maps of Canada side by side.

On the left, Canada’s territorial divisions, circa 1906 (MIKAN 4153332), and on the right, a political map of Canada, circa 1897 (MIKAN 4153334).

 Laurier, the man with a $1000 smile

While we are all familiar with Laurier’s image on the Canadian five-dollar bill, did you know that Laurier used to be on the thousand-dollar bill? Laurier’s image was used on the thousand-dollar bill for the first bank note series issued by the Bank of Canada in 1935 (see below for sample images), and again for the 1937 series. In 1954, the Bank of Canada’s third bank note series included Queen Elizabeth II’s image on every bank note and replaced Laurier’s image on the thousand-dollar bill. Laurier’s image was placed on the five-dollar bill in 1986 and has remained there since. While it may seem like a “demotion,” the thousand-dollar bill ceased to be printed and was withdrawn from circulation in 2000, whereas the five-dollar bill is seen by more Canadians than any other. It is also interesting to note that other than Queen Elizabeth II, only Laurier has enjoyed the prestigious honour of having his image on the Canadian thousand-dollar bill.

Two images of thousand-dollar bills side by side; the draft bill on the left is gray and yellow and the final bill on the right is white and grey.

A draft version of the thousand-dollar bill on the left, and the final version on the right (Bank of Canada).

While the above images are taken from the Bank of Canada’s website, LAC holds other sketches that were proposed for the thousand-dollar bill, as well as miscellaneous correspondence on this subject in our Sir Wilfrid Laurier fonds, and other collections.

Laurier, the elusive

While it is understandable that there are fewer films of Laurier than many other prime ministers simply because he was prime minister from 1896 to 1911, it is quite surprising how very little footage appears to have survived. It was a long-time researcher of LAC’s holdings who told me that when he used to come for his regular visits in the 1980s, he was shown the footage below by a former archivist who claimed that it was the only footage of Laurier that LAC held. While a more exhaustive and time-consuming search would be needed to confirm the number of films, a preliminary search certainly confirms that there are indeed very few films.

The next time you watch a documentary concerning Laurier, pay close attention to how little actual film footage is included, and how producers have used photos. For now, enjoy this very short clip which has only 6 seconds of Laurier, followed by his state funeral. The Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) production of “Did You Know? – The History of Wilfrid Laurier” contains the same footage starting at 3 minutes and 14 seconds into the recording.

In addition to LAC’s YouTube channel, which has a small sampling of LAC’s videos, you can conduct searches for other audiovisual material using our Film, Video and Sound Database

Related resources

A Sunny Legacy: Celebrating Sir Wilfrid Laurier (Exhibition)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier – Canada’s 7th Prime Minister

Sir Wilfrid Laurier fonds 

Michael MacDonald is an archivist in the Political Archives area of the Science, Governance and Politics Division at Library and Archives Canada.


Sir Wilfrid Laurier podcast images now on Flickr 

Sir Wilfrid Laurier had the largest unbroken term of office as Canada’s seventh prime minister. He was considered one of Canada’s greatest politicians, full of charisma, charm and passion, qualities that served him well in office, and also in his personal life. This passion is seen in many of the letters he wrote to his wife Zoé. But perhaps we gain a deeper insight into his character through his letters to Émilie Lavergne.