Recent documents digitized through the DigiLab

By Karine Gélinas

Did you know that in Canada, books for visually impaired readers can be sent through the mail for free? This has been the case for more than 100 years. That is one of the many fascinating things I have learned while helping a researcher in the DigiLab.

One of the projects hosted in the DigiLab last year was with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). They are celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2018, and to mark it they created the online exhibition, That All May Read. Below you’ll find information about some of the textual material they digitized that can now be viewed through LAC’s Archives Search.

For example, these pages were extracted from a pamphlet presenting the Readophone, an invention by Edward R. Harris, a Hollywood sound engineer.

An open pamphlet with the left page showing two images and the right page having typewritten text. The image at the top shows an opened square box containing a turntable, with knobs on the front of the box for operating it. The image at the bottom shows the turntable with its cover on, which looks like a large book.

Pages from a pamphlet about the Readophone, January 1935 (e999901526-u)

Technology facilitates the way people with impaired vision access books. Optelec readers were recently installed in our consultation rooms at 395 Wellington Street. These tools can convert printed text into speech, magnify text, and change the background colour to facilitate reading on the screen.

Colour photo of an assistive device having a moving tray with control buttons and an opened book laying on it. The monitor enlarges and displays the book text using a large black font on a yellow background.

Caption: Optelec reader located at 395 Wellington Street.

Textual material from the CNIB fonds

Related links

Interested in the DigiLab?

If you have an idea for a project, please email the DigiLab with 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. Material must be free from restrictions and copyright.

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.

We hope to hear from you soon!


Karine Gélinas is a project manager in the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

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.

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