Superheroes of the Digital Universe: Digitizing the Bell Features Collection

By Meaghan Scanlon

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is excited to announce a new digital resource for fans of Canadian comic books. The Bell Features Collection of Second World War-era comics has been completely digitized and is now available to researchers online.

The Bell Features Collection consists of 382 comic books, most in multiple copies, published in the 1940s by the Canadian comic book publisher Bell Features. These comics showcase an astounding selection of Canadian heroes such as Nelvana of the Northern Lights, Johnny Canuck, and Dixon of the Mounted.

Between November 2015 and March 2016, LAC’s digitization staff painstakingly photographed one copy of each issue held in the collection—a total of 193 comic books. At between 50 and 60 pages per comic, that’s around 10,000 pages!

Creating electronic copies of these delicate documents from LAC’s collection involved hours of careful labour from technicians in our digitization labs, who follow rigorous standards to get the best possible images while preserving the condition of the items.

The process begins with a technician placing a comic on a flat copy stand under an overhead camera, making sure to line the comic up with the camera so that the image taken will be straight. A sheet of Plexiglas is laid over the item to keep it flat. The Plexiglas is on small risers to ensure as little contact as possible with the surface of the comic. This helps prevent damaging the item by placing too much pressure on its spine. Every superhero has an archenemy, and so, too, does the digitization specialist: dust. A single particle on the Plexiglas can create a spot that ruins an image. The technician keeps an anti-static blower on hand to defeat this threat.

A comic book is placed on a flat black surface underneath a sheet of Plexiglas. A woman leans over the surface, using an anti-static blower to remove dust from the Plexiglas. The lens of a camera is visible above the table.

A digitization technician uses an anti-static blower to remove dust from the sheet of Plexiglas covering the comic book she is about to photograph. The camera lens can be seen suspended above the copy stand.

Once the comic book is in place, the technician uses an overhead camera to take a photograph. For the Bell Features Collection, a Phase One 645DF+ camera body with an IQ260 digital back and an 80-mm lens was used, with an F11 focus and a shutter speed of 1/13th of a second. The image taken with the camera is automatically uploaded to the technician’s computer, where she checks for imperfections. If she is satisfied with the image quality, she crops it in Photoshop and moves on to the next page.

A woman faces a computer monitor showing an image of a page from a comic book.

A digitization technician checks for imperfections in the digitized image of a page from Slam-Bang Comics no. 7 (AMICUS 42623987), with art by Adrian Dingle.

This entire process is repeated for each page of each comic book. Once all the pages of an issue have been photographed and the images corrected, a PDF version is created. Finally, this PDF is uploaded to LAC’s servers and a link is added to the relevant record in LAC’s online library catalogue.

If you’re interested in checking out a few of these newly digitized old Canadian comics, you can find a small sample on our website. Hungry for more? The finding aid attached to the catalogue record for the Bell Features Collection (AMICUS 43122013) includes links to all of the digitized comics. You can also access them via the catalogue records for each of the individual titles in the Bell Features Collection; see for example the record for Active Comics (AMICUS 16526991).

In the Ottawa area? Encounter some of Bell Features’ characters on a bigger scale when you visit LAC’s exhibition Alter Ego: Comics and Canadian Identity. It runs at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa until September 14th. Admission is free.

Additional resources


Meaghan Scanlon is the Special Collections Librarian in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of February 2016

As of today, 254,296 of 640,000 files are available online via our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 4224 and Hebert.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of November 2015

As of today, 217,062 of 640,000 files are available online via our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box #3121 and surname Fitzpatrick.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of December 2014

As of today, 101,452 of 640,000 files are available online via our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database.

Summary of comments received in French between October and December 2014

Newly Digitized Microfilms on the Héritage Portal

Our project partner, Canadiana.org, recently added the following digitized microfilms to the Héritage website. Please note that the titles have been translated for convenience, but the records are still in the language of origin. Searching in the original language will improve search results.

[Governor General] Numbered Files
1903 Headquarters Central Registry, subject files
Alexander W. Wright Papers
Allsop Family
Archibald Lampman: manuscripts, notebooks
Auditor General of Canada: Auditor General of Public Accounts of Lower Canada, Board of Audit and Audit Office
Baby Collection and Finding Aid
Bank of Vancouver Liquidation
Barbara Ann Scott – Black Scrapbook, 1949-1950
Benjamin F. Craig Fonds
Blodwen Davies Collection
Bonds and securities, Upper and Lower Canada, Province of Canada and Canada
Boucher de La Bruère family fonds
Brown and Gilmore, printers
Cabinet War Committee: minutes and documents
Canada. Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations
Canada. Royal Commission on Energy. Submissions (Vol. 1-24)
Canadian Amateur Hockey Association
Canadian Army Courts Martial documents
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Minutes, agenda books and working papers of the Board of Directors
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Office of the Secretary of the Board of Directors
Canadian Lung Association fonds
Canadian Military Headquarters, London
Canadian Military Headquarters, London (CMHQ), Files Block No. 55, includes index at beginning of reel
Canadian National Railways: Central Region Law Department, regional office records
Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission: Records of public hearings
Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission: Records of public hearings in Calgary, Moncton, Corner Brook, Hull, Ste. Foy, Montreal, Saskatoon, Toronto and Vancouver
Canadian Tuberculosis Association: Papers
Canadian Women’s Press Club: Clippings, scrapbooks and other printed matter
Census of the township of Augusta
Census of the City of Montreal, 1831
Census returns 1842: Canada West
Central registry files created by the Northwest Territories and Yukon Branch
Charlottetown, P.E.I. Shipping Registers
Civil aircraft registration, inspection and operation files – 5008 block
Civil Secretary’s records relating to the administration of justice for Quebec, Lower Canada and Canada East
CNR Grand Trunk chairmans’ letterbooks
Command reports of the Adjutant General of the Army
Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (MG 28, IV I)
Co-operative Press Association: New Releases
Correspondence [from John Galt Fonds]
Correspondence from the Secretary to Post Office Inspectors – Letterbooks – British Columbia, Halifax, Toronto, Charlottetown, Montreal, Quebec, Vancouver and Saint John
Department of Agriculture: Office of the Director General of Public Health, 1889-1912
Department of External Affairs: “1939 Series” Central Registry files
Department of External Affairs: “1939 Series” Central Registry files: Box List, 1909-1939
Department of External Affairs: “1939 Series” Central Registry files: Index, 1909-1939
Department of Finance: central registry records
Department of Indian Affairs: Blackfoot Agency, Peigan Agency, Queen Charlotte Agency
Department of Indian Affairs: Census records
Department of Indian Affairs: Departmental letterbooks
Department of Indian Affairs: Headquarters central registry system: First series and thousand series
Department of Indian Affairs: Headquarters central registry system: red series
Department of Indian Affairs: Northwest Territories and Yukon Branch
Department of Indian Affairs: Office of the Civil Secretary in the Province of Canada
Department of Indian Affairs: Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada
Department of Indian Affairs: School files series
Department of Indian Affairs: The Pas Agency: letterbooks
Department of Indian Affairs: Toronto office of the Central Superintendency: letterbooks
Department of Militia and Defence: Yukon Garrison, nominal rolls and paylists
Department of Militia and Defence: 1903 Army Central Registry, subject files
Department of Militia and Defence: Contracts Branch letterbooks, 1895-1912
Department of Militia and Defence: Correspondence of the Deputy Minister’s office
Department of Militia and Defence: Register of correspondence of the Deputy Minister’s office, 1867-1903
Department of Militia and Defence: Special Forces nominal rolls and paylists
Department of Militia and Defence: Yukon Mortar Machine Gun Batteries
Department of National Defence: Army Historical Section, Index to Army records, volume 1 to 7000A
Department of Public Works: Commissioners for the Lachine Canal
Department of Public Works: Lachine Canal Survey
Department of Public Works: Railway Branch Records
Department of Public Works: Registered correspondence, 1859-1879
Department of Railways and Canals: Canal Branch: Office of the Chief Engineer of Canals
Department of Railways and Canals: Superintending Engineer of the Rideau Canal: Letterbooks
Department of Railways and Canals: Records related to Welland Canal
Department of Railways and Canals: Records related to the St. Lawrence Canals
Department of the Interior: Dominion Lands Branch: North-West Territories, Metis scrip applications
Department of the Interior: Dominion Lands Branch: North-West Territories, Index to Metis scrip applications
Department of Trade and Commerce: from the 1961 central registry system
Department of Transport: Records 1897 – 1947 (Register of Wrecks)
Diamond Jenness: hand-written diaries and typescript of diaries, 1913-1916
Directorate of Internment Operations
Emily Carr fonds
Finding aid for the land records (RG 1) of Lower Canada and Upper Canada and Canada
France. Archives nationales, Section moderne: Série F15. Hospices et secours
France. Colonial Archives: A Series, Actes du pouvoir souverain
France. Colonial Archives: B Series, outgoing mail
France. Colonial archives: C11 G Series
France. Colonial archives: Census for the Île Royal and Île Saint-Jean, G1 Series
France. Colonial archives: Census of Canada, G1 Series, 1685-1739
France. Departmental archives of Charente-Maritime fonds: B Series, Courts and jurisdictions
France. Departmental archives of Île-et-Villaine (Rennes)
G.E. Nares’ journal
G.M. Dawson: Geological Field Notebooks, inventory and finding aid
General pre-Confederation Indian Department accounts
Geological Survey of Canada: central registry
George Strong Nares journal
Gouzenko Affair
Great Britain Colonial Office. 384 passenger lists. Finding Aid 647
Great Britain War Office records, Secretary of War: General outward correspondence, 1756-1767
Great Britain. Colonial Office: emigration, original correspondence (CO 384)
Great Britain. War Office: campaign medals (WO 100)
Haldimand papers
Haldimand papers from the British Library
House of Commons sessional records
I.B. Records of the Canadian Command: correspondence of the Commanding Royal Engineer: special credits, 1867-1869
Indian Affairs, Annuity Paylists
Indian Affairs, Lieutenant-Governor’s Office, Upper Canada: Early Correspondence
Indian Affairs, Lower Canada, Civil Control: Governor’s General Office, correspondence
Indian and Inuit Affairs Program: Battleford Agency, Blackfoot Agency, Blood Agency, Cowichan Agency and Peigan Agency
Indian Land Records, Wiarton Land Office correspondence
Intelligence, sighting of unknown objects
International Aviation Directorate
Jacob Keefer’s journal
Jacques-Henri Fabien collection: Genealogical notes, and index cards
John Maclean fonds
John Maclean: Letterbooks, 1884-1897
John Neilson and family, 1666-1912
Journal de quelques traversées de l’Atlantique
Kingston Penitentiary
Lawrence Ermatinger: Letterbook with index
Letterbooks created and/or maintained by The Pas Agency
Log Book of H.M.S. Pegasus
Loring Cheney Christie fonds and Finding aid no. 189
Lorris Elijah Borden: diary and rough notes
Lower Canada Land Papers
Lunenburg and Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Register of shipping, inwards and outwards
McGill study of Expo ‘67
Merritt Papers
Montreal Saint-Sulpice Seminary fonds: Series II
National Capital Commission: Strategic Planning and Information Management Branch
National Library of France. Manuscript department: Clairambault Collection
Naturalization certificates from the Upper and Lower Canada, the Province of Canada and Canada
Neilson collection with a memorial kept by Brown & Gilmore, August 1763 to July 1774
Nominal rolls and paylists for the Volunteer Militia
Norman Bethune collection
Office of the Deputy Minister of Finance
Office of the Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs: Correspondence and letterbooks
Office of the Governor General in Lower Canada: records relating to Indian affairs, 1801-1815
Office of the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs
Office of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs: General office records, 1795-1796
Office records of the Clerk of the Councils
Ontario Local Records: Perth Military Settlement, 1816-1822
Outgoing correspondence of the office of the Deputy-Inspector General and Deputy Minister of Finance
Parish archives for Richelieu County
Parish archives for Saint-Pierre de Sorel: baptisms, marriages and burials
Perth [Ontario] Military Settlement fonds
Peter Hunter collection and papers
Peter Robinson Collection
Port of Saint-Servan Archives
Post Office Department: Divisional Inspectors: Reports
Post Office Department: Transportation Branch: Mail service contract registers, 1839-1980
Post Office Inspectors’ Reports – Halifax, Charlottetown, Saint John and British Columbia
Post Office registry systems: Duplex numeric classification system
Post Office war series, 1939-1945
Post Office: Private Letterbooks, 1891-1892
Prime Minister’s General Correspondence – Nominal card index 1976
Privy Council Office: Cabinet conclusions
Provincial Secretary, Correspondence, Canada East
Public Works registers of all incoming and outgoing correspondence arranged by subject number
Quebec and Lower Canada: Census rolls and related records
Quebec Gazette: Finding Aid 1807, card index
Quebec Gazette: Index, 1764-1823
Rat Portage Inspectorate
Rat Portage Inspectorate: Incoming correspondence, 1880-1882
Rat Portage Inspectorate: Incoming correspondence, band complaints and band estimates
Records from the Office of the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs: Letterbooks
Records of entry: ship notifications of arrival, 1865-1922
Records of the Rat Portage Inspectorate of the Department of Indian Affairs: Blottercopy letterbook, 1881-1885
Records relating to charges against J.A.N. Provencher
Report no. 1 of the Committee on Canadian Defence, 1898
Richard Bedford Bennett: Finding aid 434
Royal Canadian Air Force: operations record books
Royal Canadian Air Force: third file classification system and central registry
Royal Canadian Mounted Police: B Division journals
Royal Canadian Mounted Police: Yukon daily journals and records
Royal Commission on Indian Affairs for the Province of British Columbia
Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations fonds
Royal Commission to Inquire into the Disorders at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Vicinity thereof, during a Celebration of the Declaration of Victory over Germany on the 7th and 8th May, 1945
Royal Commission to Inquire into the Immigration of Italian Labourers to Montreal and the Alleged Fraudulent Practices of Employment Agencies fonds
Sir Charles Tupper: Political correspondence, letters received, 1840-1915 and Finding aid
Sir Isaac Brock
Sir Lomer Gouin: Correspondence and Notes
Subject, policy and case files in the First Central Registry series of the Immigration Program, 1892-1950
The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation: National Council and National Executive, 1932-1960
The John Galt Papers
Toronto District Labour Council: Minutes
Toronto Trades and Labour Council: Minutes
Transport Canada: Legal Services Division, legal documents (1936-1982)
Treasury Board (Committee of the Privy Council) correspondence: letterbooks
Treasury Board Secretariat
Treasury Fonds: T 28. Various Out-letters
Underhill Papers: Research files, Canada, Edward Blake
United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Piping Fitting Industry, Local 46, Toronto
United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel fonds: finding aid no. 285
Unpublished sessional papers, 6th Session, 12th Parliament, 12 Jan. 1916 – 18 May 1916
Unpublished sessional papers, 7th Session, 12th Parliament, 18 Jan. 1917 – 20 Sept. 1917
Unpublished sessional papers, 1st Session, 13th Parliament, 18 Mar. 1918 – 24 May 1918
Unpublished sessional papers, 2nd Session, 13th Parliament, 20 Feb. 1919 – 7 July 1919
Unpublished sessional papers, 3rd Session, 13th Parliament, 1 Sept. 1919 – 10 Nov. 1919
Unpublished sessional papers, 4th Session, 13th Parliament, 26 Feb. 1920 – 1 July 1920
Unpublished sessional papers, 5th Session, 13th Parliament, 14 Feb. 1921 – 4 June 1921
Unpublished sessional papers, 1st Session, 14th Parliament, 8 March 1922 – 28 June 1922
Unpublished sessional papers, 2nd Session, 14th Parliament, 31 Jan. 1923 – 30 June 1923
Unpublished sessional papers, 2nd Session, 22nd Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 3rd Session, 22nd Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 4th Session, 22nd Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 5th Session, 22nd Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 1st Session, 23rd Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 1st Session, 24th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 2nd Session, 24th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 3rd Session, 24th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 4th Session, 24th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 5th Session, 24th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 1st Session, 25th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 1st Session, 26th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 2nd Session, 26th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 3rd Session, 26th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 1st Session, 27th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 2nd Session, 27th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 1st Session, 28th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 2nd Session, 28th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 3rd Session, 28th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 4th Session, 28th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 1st Session, 29th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 2nd Session, 29th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 1st Session, 30th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 2nd Session, 30th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 3rd Session, 30th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 4th Session, 30th Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 1st Session, 31st Parliament
Unpublished sessional papers, 1st Session, 32nd Parliament
Vilhjalmur Stefansson: Canadian Arctic expedition diaries, 1914-1918
Wartime Prices & Trade Board
Western Land Grants
Winnipeg General Strike scrapbooks
World War I war charities: Correspondence with High Commissioner in Britain
Y.M.C.A. of Canada

Newly Digitized Microfilms on the Héritage Portal

Our project partner, Canadiana.org, recently added the following digitized microfilms to the Héritage website. Please note that the titles have been translated for convenience, the records are still in the language of origin. Searching in the original language will improve search results.

1946 Army Central Registry
Adolphe-Philippe Caron fonds
Arthur Meighen: Series 3, correspondence
Canadian Labour Congress: Financial records
Clifford Sifton fonds
Commission to Inquire into the Treadgold and other concessions in the Yukon Territory
Correspondence addressed to the Chief Postal Inspectors
Correspondence of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Canadian Militia and his predecessor, the Adjutant
Department of Agriculture: Docket and letterbook registry system, general correspondence
Department of Agriculture, Dominion Chemist: Letterbooks, 1889–1933
Department of Agriculture: Duplex numeric subject file classification system, 1918–1953
Department of Agriculture: Entomology and Botany Division
Department of Agriculture: Records relating to international exhibitions
Department of External Affairs: Office of the Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
Department of Indian Affairs: General accounts, 1846–1979
Department of Indian Affairs: Port Arthur Agency
Department of Indian Affairs: Trust fund journals, 1875–1938
Department of Labour, Economics and Research Branch: Strikes and lockout files
Department of Militia and Defence: Registers and lists of officers
Department of National Defence, Directorate of History and Heritage: Kardex system
Department of Public Works, Board of Works records: Correspondence in subject files
Department of Public Works, Board of Works records, official correspondence: Registered correspondence, 1842–1860
Department of Public Works, Board of Works records: Registers and indexes
Department of Public Works, Chief Architect’s Office: Letterbooks, 1873–1909
Department of Public Works, Docket registry system: Registers of correspondence received
Department of Public Works: General indexes of the subject classification registry system, 1879–1901
Department of Public Works: Letterbooks of the subject classification registry system, 1879–1912 Department of Public Works: Registers of papers filed, 1879–1907
Department of Public Works: Subject registers
Department of Railways and Canals, Railway Branch: Office of the Chief Engineer
Department of Transport: Civil aircraft registration, inspection and operation files, 1920–1986
Deputy Postmaster General: Correspondence addressed to the Marine Mail Officers
Deputy Postmaster General: International correspondence sent
Deputy Postmaster General: Letterbooks related to personnel
Directorate of Movements
Edgar Dewdney fonds
Fisheries Branch Registry files
France. Colonial fonds: Series C11A. General correspondence
Frederick B. Taylor fonds
Letterbooks created and/or maintained by the Office of the Chief Engineer
Letterbooks of the Office of the Deputy Minister of Justice
Meteorological Service, 1874–1933
Montreal Amateur Athletic Association fonds
Newton Wesley Rowell fonds
Office of the Indian Reserve Commissioner for the Province of British Columbia
Operational records of the Penitentiary Branch, 1834–1962
Parish registers: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec
Records and correspondence sent from the Postmaster General
Registers to letters received by the Postmaster General’s office
Registry files related to the Railway Branch
Royal Canadian Air Force second central registry and file classification system
Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Office of the Commissioner: General orders
Royal Canadian Navy: Convoy Reports of Proceedings, 1939–1945
Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism
Royal Commission to Investigate the Facts Relating to and the Circumstances Surrounding the Communication, by public officials and other persons…etc.
Secretary of State: Chief Press Censor
Secretary of State: Returns to addresses and orders of Parliament
Soldiers Settlement Board: The Platt Books
Walter Livingstone-Learmonth diaries
War Cabinet Committee, 1938–1945
War diaries
William Lyon Mackenzie King: Primary series correspondence (J1)
World War I: Veterans claim cards