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.

“My darling dearest Jeanie” The Joseph Gaetz fonds

Web banner with the words: Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada showing a small picture of an otter fishing on the rightBy Katie Cholette

“My darling dearest Jeanie.” That’s how Joseph Gaetz began every one of the more than 530 letters he wrote to his fiancée, Jean McRae, during the Second World War. Stationed in England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany during and after the Second World War, Joseph was, at times, desperately homesick. His deepest desire was for the war to be over so that he could return to Canada and marry his sweetheart. Between July 1943 and November 1945, Joseph wrote to Jean whenever he could, sometimes sending both an airmail and a regular letter in the same day. He also collected a number of souvenirs from German prisoners that he sent to Jean with his letters. In 2017, his three daughters, Cathy Gaetz-Brothen, Bonnie Gaetz-Simpson and Linda Gaetz-Roberts donated his letters and souvenirs to Library and Archives Canada.

A colour photograph of piles of letters, with one bundle held together by a red ribbon. Underneath them is a photograph of a young woman wearing a coat and stylish hat.

Letters addressed to Jean McRae of Turner Valley

A black-and-white photograph of a man in a military uniform with his arm around a young woman wearing a flowered dress standing in front of a clapboard house.

Joe and Jean on their first day of engagement. November 1, 1942, Turner Valley.

Joseph Gaetz was from the small community of Faith, Alberta. His parents were Russian immigrants and he grew up speaking English and German. On 13 May 1942, he attested in the Calgary Highlanders; five months later, he became engaged to Jean McRae of Turner Valley, Alberta. In early 1943, he shipped out to England with the Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit.

A black-and-white photograph of a group of 18 soldiers in uniform in a tilled field.

Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Scout Platoon.

In August 1944, Joe was sent into action in France with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry; he would soon move into Belgium and Holland. When his superiors realized that he spoke German, Joe became an interpreter with their scout platoon, going on a number of expeditions behind enemy lines to bring back German prisoners. In one letter to Jean from late 1944, he wrote, “My officer and I went a mile into the Jerry lines one night and took 52 prisoners to a barn…That was quite an experience.” In another letter, he told Jean how odd it felt to be capturing Germans who had lived in Canada before the war. In still other letters, he talks about picking up a pistol (one of several he acquired during the war) from No Man’s Land. Joe also told Jean how he got nervous before every patrol but learned to walk silently to avoid detection. He attributed his ability to avoid injury or capture to the photo of Jean that he kept in his breast pocket. He called it his “lucky charm” and said that all the other men had some sort of talisman.

Joe’s ability to speak German allowed him to converse with the men they captured. Although Joe had no particular fondness for Germans, he did recognize their humanity and common plight. While guarding captured prisoners, or bringing them back to camp, Joe often talked with them. Sometimes he challenged their convictions—in one instance, he asked a group of prisoners if they thought Hitler was still a god. One young soldier, who surrendered, told Joe he was afraid he was going to be sent back to Germany after the war and shot for being a deserter. Joe told the young man not to worry; there wasn’t going to be a Germany after the war.

A colour photograph of a book opened at the first page. A pamphlet has been glued on the inside cover which has a photograph on one side and an ode to the women who stayed home entitled “For Honour and for Her!”

Joe’s Service Book showing the poem and photograph of Jeanie glued on the inside cover (e011202230)

Like many other soldiers, Joe kept a photo of his sweetheart tucked in the front of his Service Book, accompanied by a patriotic and moralistic poem entitled For Service and for Her! After inquiring about Jean’s health, he would reassure her that he was fine, tell her whether he had received her most recent letters, and then discuss the weather or some other inconsequential details. He followed these pleasantries with observations on military life—the routine chores he had to perform, what his accommodations were like, the food, who he’d met from back home, and so on.

Conditions at the front were often harsh, but Joe rarely complained. In fact, he joked about sleeping in trenches he’d dug himself and constructing makeshift chimneys from empty tin cans. Joe had a strong sense of personal duty; he refused to send anyone else in to do his job, and he went for seven months without a single day of leave. In one letter, he stoically told Jean about spending Christmas Day 1944 on duty in No Man’s Land.

Sometimes Joe and his fellow scouts were billeted with local families. Joe quickly picked up enough Flemish to be able to communicate with the people he came into contact with, and he writes how the locals would often invite the soldiers to dinner or offer to do their laundry. In his letters, he describes the little children he met, and he occasionally included photos of them in his letters home.

He came back to Canada on November 1945 and was discharged in Calgary, Alberta, on January 18, 1946, at the rank of Sergeant. He worked his way up to manager of the Fort Macleod lumberyard and he and Jean were finally married on June 21, 1948. They had three daughters before he died at the age of 41 of chronic hypertension. Cathy Gaetz-Brothen, the youngest of the girls was only one-year-old when her father died. The letters he wrote to her mother are especially important to her because they allowed her to get to know a father she had no memory of.

A black-and-white photograph of a man in uniform.

Joseph Gaetz in uniform (e011202231)

Joseph Gaetz didn’t have a particularly heroic war. He wasn’t a high-ranking commissioned officer leading a battalion; he didn’t singlehandedly storm any nests of German snipers. Instead he did what thousands of other Canadian soldiers did. He joined the army and fought alongside his fellow soldiers in the hope that he would one day come home to his sweetheart. Joe was one of the lucky ones.

Visit the exhibition Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. The exhibition, which runs until December 3, 2018, features our most recent acquisitions and celebrates the expertise of Library and Archives Canada’s acquisition specialists. A librarian or an archivist thoughtfully selected every one of the items in the exhibition and wrote the caption for the item that they chose. Admission is free.


Katie Cholette is an archivist in the Specialized Media section of Library and Archives Canada.

Come see our latest exhibition – Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada …

Web banner with the words: Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada showing a small picture of an otter fishing on the right

And keep an eye on this blog series…

There is something a bit different about Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) latest exhibition, opening at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa, on April 24, 2018.

New exhibition showcases variety

Like other exhibitions, Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada showcases the great variety found in LAC’s collection. A few examples include a Chinese embroidery and a 1952–1953 replica of the original Stanley Cup.

An embroidered golden cloth of two dragons reaching for a pearl and flying amongst clouds with ocean waves rolling below them.

Design for Canada Post’s Year of the Dragon Stamp, Punchline Embroidery Centre, 1998 (e011202235) ©Canada Post. Selected by Emma Hamilton-Hobbs, Archivist, Government Archives.

A colour photograph of a copper silver-plated bowl engraved with “National Hockey League, Stanley Cup Winners, Season 1952–53.”

1952–1953 Stanley Cup souvenir bowl awarded to Montreal Canadiens Executive Vice-President William Northey, Roden Brothers Ltd., 1953 (e011202220). Selected by Normand Laplante, Senior Archivist, Social Life and Culture Private Archives.

New exhibition also showcases acquisitions expertise

However, this exhibition featuring LAC’s most recent acquisitions also celebrates the expertise of LAC’s acquisition specialists. Every one of the items featured in the exhibition was thoughtfully selected by one of LAC’s librarians or archivists. The same librarian or archivist also prepared the exhibition text for his or her own item, and each text is “signed” with the name and title of the specialist who prepared it. The Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Dr. Guy Berthiaume, even selected an item!

A colour photograph of an open book written in Hebrew.

Mivachar Ha-Peninim (Choice of Pearls) by Solomon Ibn Gabirol, 1484 (AMICUS 45283149). Acquired with the assistance of the Friends of Library and Archives Canada through the generous support of Ruth and Arnon Miller. Selected by Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada.

Whether donated, purchased, or assigned to LAC as part of established or evolving legal agreements, new acquisitions represent the lifeblood of Canada’s collection. Building a collection that captures Canada’s story is an essential part of LAC’s mandate.

Watercolour portraits of two young Inuit men wearing western-style clothing. One is captioned Augustus and the other, Junius.

Inuit interpreters from Churchill, Robert Hood, May 1821 (e011154367). Selected by Shane McCord, Art Archivist, Social Life and Culture Private Archives.

… and keep an eye on the Premiere blog series…

Through this blog series, which features in-depth articles on many of the items chosen for the exhibition, this emphasis on the importance of expertise in acquisitions is underlined. Each of the blog articles in this series will feature the work of one of LAC’s acquisition specialists. The blogs will be published once a month.

A colour photograph of a record label that reads “Improved Berliner Gram-O-Phone Record. Manufactured by [illegible] Montreal, Canada. Patented [illegible] 1897. Ye Banks and Braes. Played by The Kilties Band – Belleville, Ont.”

Ye Banks and Braes (Caledonian Hunt’s Delight), performed by the Kilties Band of Canada, released October 25, 1902, arranged by Bonniseau. Listen here! (AMICUS 31383290). Selected by Margaret Ashburner, Project Librarian, Retrospective Music, Published Heritage.

Look for new articles during the course of the exhibition, which closes on December 3, 2018.

And please visit the physical exhibition in Ottawa!

Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada opens on April 24, 2018, at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa and runs until December 3, 2018. Admission is free.

A Little History: the Hidden Stories of Children—an exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History

Too often the experiences, stories and contributions of children are romanticized, overlooked, or entirely absent from our history books. As is often the case, the least powerful in society leave little trace of their lives. Those childhoods that were documented and preserved can be quite telling.

The exhibition, A Little History: the Hidden Stories of Children, at the Canadian Museum of History presents rarely seen archival documents, photographs, works of art and artifacts from the collections of both the Canadian Museum of History and Library and Archives Canada. The exhibition recounts the unique experiences of children found in archival documents.

Children are rarely the authors of their own histories. Fragments of their stories lie within the materials that adults produce—from formal portraits found in family collections to documents in government and institutional records. These traces of their experiences help reveal the attitudes of adults toward them and the impact of laws and policies on them throughout history.

An oil painting of two young girls dressed in identical red dresses with lace around the neckline and red necklaces. One of them holds a small dog.

Céline and Rosalvina Pelletier, attributed to James Bowman, ca. 1838, oil on canvas (MIKAN 2837219)

Before the advent of photography, painted portraits were the only visual records of individuals. The absence of portraits of poor children demonstrates how this type of art was exclusive to the affluent. This portrait of the Pelletier sisters reflects their wealth and status. Depicted as little adults, the girls are dressed stiffly, holding a miniature dachshund (a symbol of fidelity), and wearing coral necklaces, which were believed to ward off childhood diseases.

A black-and-white studio photograph of three children. One is sitting in a chair and the two others stand beside.

The Children We Seek to Help, photographer unknown, ca. 1900, silver gelatin print. (MIKAN 3351178)

Institutional records are a key source of information about children. The “child-saving” era of the late 19th century saw the creation of a number of child welfare organizations, such as the Children’s Aid Society. These charities sought to help poor, abandoned and neglected children by operating orphanages and training schools, and providing adoption services. Child-rescue workers used photography to both document and promote their work, often invoking contradictory images to draw attention to their cause by portraying children as both innocent victims and criminals in training.

When viewing the past through adult eyes, the role and presence of children is sometimes obscured. But children were also involved in or felt the impact of significant events in Canadian history.

A black-and-white studio photograph of two children leaning against a side table, each with a hand on a cheek.

Jean-Louis and Marie-Angélique Riel, ca. 1888, by Steele & Wing, albumen print (MIKAN 3195233)

Jean-Louis and Marie-Angélique were born in Montana during the political exile of their father and Métis leader, Louis Riel for his role in the 1870 Red River Resistance. After their father’s execution in 1885, Marie-Angélique went to live with an uncle in Winnipeg, where she died of tuberculosis in 1896. Jean-Louis took his mother’s family name, moved to Montréal, and later died at the age of 25 in a horse-and-cart accident.

A handwritten letter from Louis Riel to his wife and children.

Letter from Louis Riel to his wife and children, dated November 16, 1885, ink on paper (MIKAN 126629)

This last letter from Louis Riel to his wife and children offers a private view of the Métis leader. Written on November 16, 1885, the day of his hanging in Regina, Riel speaks of his children, asks his wife to “have them pray for me” [translation] and ends his letter with “Take courage. Bless you. Your father, Louis ‘David’ Riel.” [translation].

Items created by children are often ephemeral and seldom preserved in collections. Those that have been preserved can be challenging to find as they are frequently subsumed within the broader histories and heritage of their families and communities and are rarely catalogued as being child-made. For these reasons, it is easiest to find material created by children who grew up to be important adults or were related to a famous adult.

The handwritten diary of Sandford Fleming, open and showing his writings.

Diary of Sandford Fleming, 1843, pencil and paper (MIKAN 4938908)

This diary, kept by 16-year-old Sandford Fleming, seems to foretell his later success as an engineer and inventor. Filled with architectural plans, scientific formulas, and inventions, the diary exemplifies Fleming’s industriousness.

Children’s letters and diaries provide a rare glimpse into their private worlds, revealing their unique ways of speaking, thinking and interpreting the world around them. Intimate, candid, and sometimes whimsical, the diaries, letters and drawings created by children invite us to see history with fresh eyes.

A black-and-white studio portrait of a young man in uniform, with arms crossed.

Portrait of Arthur Wendell Phillips Lawson, photographer unknown, 1918, matt collodion print (MIKAN 187937)

A handwritten diary with boxes on each date that includes the scores of the World Series games.

Diary of Arthur Wendell Phillips Lawson, 1914, ink, paper, and leather (MIKAN 129683)

This diary of 16-year-old Arthur Lawson invites us to understand his childhood sense of self and the world around him. Written at the beginning of the First World War, Lawson’s headlines about the battles raging overseas seem casually inserted alongside mundane notes about the weather, family events (like his brother’s birthday) and the scores of the 1914 World Series between the Boston Braves and the Philadelphia Athletics. Before the war was over, Lawson enlisted.

For more examples of these intriguing stories, visit A Little History: the Hidden Stories of Children on display in the Treasures from Library and Archives Canada gallery at the Canadian Museum of History from March 30, 2018 to January 27, 2019.

Guest curator: Katie Cholette

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.


Red and black Norwegian text on a cream background awards the prize to Lester Bowles Pearson. Text is topped by a red lion holding an axe on a blue mountain bordered by blue waves with a circled star at the top.

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Lester B. Pearson for his role in establishing United Nations Peacekeeping, 1957. Designed by Gerhard Munthe for the Nobel Committee (MIKAN 4900031)

Former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson’s idea for a neutral military force, to help stabilize conflict zones, earned him the Nobel Prize. Most Canadians now regard peacekeeping as uniquely ours.


Tell us about yourself

I have always had an interest in graphic design. My first career was as a graphic artist and typesetter. I eventually found my way into art history, teaching and now archival work. Although I work primarily with textual documents these days, I am frequently delighted by the array of aesthetically pleasing items in LAC’s collection.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Prize for his role in negotiating a peaceful resolution to the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis. The crisis erupted when Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser seized and nationalized the Suez Canal (then jointly owned by France and Great Britain), a move that threatened the supply of oil to Europe. In retaliation, France, Great Britain and Israel secretly collaborated to attack the Sinai Peninsula. The United States and the Soviet Union subsequently became embroiled in the conflict, with the Soviet Union threatening to use nuclear weapons against the assailants. Pearson, at the time Secretary of State for External Affairs and head of Canada’s delegation at the United Nations, stepped in and helped establish the United Nations Emergency Force, which was instrumental in de-escalating the conflict.

At the presentation ceremony on December 10, 1957, in Oslo, Norway, the Chairman of the Nobel Committee, Gunnar Jahn, stated that the prize was being awarded to Pearson because of “the powerful initiative, strength, and perseverance he has displayed in attempting to prevent or limit war operations and to restore peace in situations where quick, tactful, and wise action has been necessary to prevent unrest from spreading and developing into a worldwide conflagration.”

Although Pearson was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1957, the design of the certificate dates from the beginning of the 20th century. In addition to hand-drawn calligraphy, it features a lithograph designed by Gerhard Munthe in 1901, the year the Nobel Peace Prize was first awarded. A Norwegian painter, decorative artist and illustrator, Munthe took many of his artistic motifs from his native Norway. He worked in the National Romantic Style, the Scandinavian version of Art Nouveau in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This style, which was a reaction against industrialism, promoted ideas of northern nationalism based on the renewal of interest in Norse mythology and sagas. The illustration at the top of the certificate shows a lion holding an axe, a symbol of power and courage that appeared in Norwegian folk art as far back as the 13th century. The motif also appears on the coat of arms of Norway. Atop a decorative frieze of stylized fir trees, the lion stands proudly in a wild northern landscape. Northern lights swirl above his head, and the image is surmounted by the North Star. Although the overall design is delicately rendered and restrained, it is nevertheless a powerfully evocative image.

Detail of the certificate showing a red lion holding an axe on a blue mountain bordered by blue waves and a star in a circle.

Detail of Pearson’s Nobel Peace Prize showing the lion on the certificate  (MIKAN 4900031)

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition

Pearson wearing a suit with a bow tie and holding a pencil in his upraised hand.

Lester B. Pearson holding a pencil. Photo taken August 11, 1944. (MIKAN 3607934)

A smiling man speaking with another man against a curtained window with the drapes drawn back. Both men are wearing suits and ties.

Anthony Eden. Photo by the Alexandra Studio. (MIKAN 3215249)

I was particularly struck by a photograph that shows Lester B. Pearson with another of the key players in the Suez Crisis: British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden. Duncan Cameron, an Ottawa photographer from Capital Press Limited (and the only Canadian contract photographer for Time Life Inc.), snapped the photo of Pearson and Eden outside the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa on February 6, 1956. Eden, who had known Pearson since the 1930s, was visiting Canada and had just given a speech to the House of Commons. A long-time politician known for his skill in public affairs, Eden succeeded Winston Churchill as prime minister of the United Kingdom in 1955. In the photograph, the two men appear relaxed and happy; there is no premonition that a rift would develop between Canada and Great Britain a few months later, after Eden collaborated with France and Israel to invade Egypt. While Pearson went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, become Canada’s 14th prime minister, and gain a reputation for international diplomacy, Eden’s popularity took a nosedive, and as he was in ill health, he resigned in February 1957. Interesting side note: the photographer, Duncan Cameron, would eventually join the Public Archives of Canada, where he became Photo Custodian of the National Photographic Collection. LAC holds his fonds, which consists of 175,000 prints, negatives and slides.

Biography

Katie Cholette is an archivist in the Governance and Political Archives section. She is currently working in the private military and non-LAC Act institutions areas. Katie has a BA in Art History, an MA in Canadian Art History, and a PhD in Canadian Studies. She has previously worked as the Curator of Acquisitions and Research and the Curator of Exhibitions at the Portrait Gallery of Canada (2007–2008; 2011), held two Research Fellowships in Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada (2006; 2012–2013), and taught courses in Art History and Canadian Studies and at the College of the Humanities at Carleton University (2003 to present). She has delivered papers and published articles on various aspects of art, architecture, culture and identity, and has worked on a number of freelance curatorial and research projects. As a student at Carleton, she was a regular patron of Mike’s Place, the graduate student pub named in Lester B. Pearson’s honour.

Reading hockey at the Canadian Museum of History

By Jennifer Anderson

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is about more than just “stuff”; it is also the home of leading experts in Canadian history and culture. While LAC archivist Jennifer Anderson was at the Canadian Museum of History (CMH) on an Interchange Canada agreement, she co-curated the popular exhibition, “Hockey.” During the exhibition research, she consulted LAC staff and experts across the country. LAC also loaned 30 artifacts to the museum for this exhibition, and offered digital copies of hockey images from its vaults.

You can see the results that teamwork brings! Having run from March 10 until October 9, 2017 in Gatineau, the exhibition will start up again on November 25, 2017 (the 100th anniversary of the NHL) in Montréal at Pointe-à-Callière, before continuing its cross-country tour.

“Hockey”: the exhibition that started with a book…

…or two…or a few hundred. Biographies, autobiographies, histories—comic books, and novels for young people; we read those, too! And as many newspaper and magazine articles as we could find.

The exhibition team swapped books like fans trade hockey cards!

Books moved us, pushed us, challenged us and at times even frightened us. I cried and laughed over them, took notes and then forgot to because I was too engrossed in the reading. We read about big personalities like Maurice Richard and Pat Burns, about game changers like Sheldon Kennedy and Jordin Tootoo, and about Ken Dryden’s observations of young people and families in the game. We were deeply inspired by Jacques Demers’ work to advance youth literacy initiatives. Borrowing literacy teachers’ best practices, we chose to use fonts of different sizes and based the look of our exhibit on the style of a hockey card. The goal: make reading fun and accessible.

One of the first books I read was Paul Kitchen’s fascinating tale of the early history of the Ottawa Senators, Win, Tie or Wrangle (2008). Kitchen did much of his research from a desk at LAC, and he spun some of his discoveries into an online exhibition, Backcheck. From his book, we were able to identify a little-known shinty medallion depicting a stick-and-ball game, which took place on the grounds of Rideau Hall in 1852. Drawing on Kitchen’s footnotes, I reached out to the Bytown Museum, and was thrilled to learn they would be happy to lend the artifact for the exhibit. The conservators at the CMH buffed it up a bit, and images of this early piece of hockey history were included in the exhibition souvenir catalogue.

A colour photograph showing two sides of a silver medallion. The one side shows a game of shinty taking place outdoors and the second side reads “Bytown and New Edinburgh Shintie Club, Dec. 25th 1852.”

Front and back views of the silver New Edinburgh Shintie Club medallion, 1852, Bytown Museum, A203. Canadian Museum of History photos, IMG2016-0253-0001-Dm, IMG2016-0253-0001-Dm.

Paul Kitchen would probably be the first to acknowledge that any research project is a team sport, and our exhibition team reached out to many experts who had earlier worked with Kitchen, or had been inspired by him. Within LAC, Normand Laplante, Andrew Ross, and Dalton Campbell have continued the tradition of sports history, and their archival work led us to explore LAC’s collections for material to place in the exhibit. At the CMH, there are hockey experts galore, but Jenny Ellison is the “captain.” The team brought on Joe Pelletier as a research assistant to scout out images and hidden bits of information, based on the work he had already provided voluntarily. Hockey researchers and curators from across the country sent us artifacts, images and information.

Loaning originals is such an important part of the diffusion of any collection. Thirty individual items were loaned by LAC to the CMH for this exhibition. The LAC Loans and Exhibitions Officer admitted to being particularly touched by the team’s interest in The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier (now a popular animated film). As a child, she had received this book from one of her best friends, and only recently located this much-loved book. She has since shared it with her own children, and enjoyed telling them about her own childhood memories of this popular story about hockey.

A colour image of a book cover showing boys dressed like Maurice Richard getting ready for a hockey game

The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier and illustrated by Sheldon Cohen. Used by permission of Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited (AMICUS 4685355)

Carolyn Cook, LAC curator, was pleased to see Bryan Adams’ portrait of Cassie Campbell in the exhibition. This portrait was one of several taken by Adams for Made in Canada, a book of photographs of famous Canadian women sold as a fundraiser for breast cancer research. “Cassie Campbell is an iconic figure in the world of women’s hockey,” said Cook. “Her on-ice accomplishments opened the door to the next generation of girls coming up in the game and, as the first woman to do colour commentary on ‘Hockey Night in Canada,’ she has broken through the glass ceiling. This close-up portrait of her exudes strength, control and determination—qualities that have contributed to Campbell’s success.”

In the early research period, Richard Wagamese’s book, Indian Horse, hit a chord and resonated with the team. Michael Robidoux’s book on Indigenous hockey, Stickhandling Through the Margins, motivated us to ensure that space be put aside for the full integration of Indigenous voices in the game, whether from the early leadership of Thomas Green, or through the artwork of Jim Logan to spark discussion of hockey in society.

Drawing on Carly Adams’ book, Queens of the Ice, the museum acquired and exhibited a rare Hilda Ranscombe jersey. We also read the footnotes in Lynda Baril’s Nos Glorieuses closely, and as a result were able to secure a number of important artifacts that were still in private collections, including a trophy awarded to Berthe Lapierre of the Montréal Canadiennes in the 1930s. And when we read about Hayley Wickenheiser skating to school in the drainage ditches along the roadside, building up the muscles that made her a leader in the sport, on and off the ice, we put her story near the centre of the exhibition.

A few of our favourite books found their way directly into the museum cases, to tell their own stories.

For instance, where we highlighted the role of the team-behind-the-team, we gave Lloyd Percival’s book The Hockey Handbook a central spot in the case. Gary Mossman’s recent biography of Percival was a big influence here, and in particular, I was fascinated by the powerful impact Percival’s book had on how hockey players and coaches approached the game. Imagine a time when players ate more red meat and drank beer the night before a game, rather than following Percival’s advice to eat yogurt and fresh fruit! And yet it was not that long ago! Apparently the book was taken up by Soviet hockey coach Anatoli Tarasov, and we saw its impact on the ice in 1972. Percival also had an interesting perspective on burnout, or “staleness” as he called it—a theory that has application for both on- and off-ice players.

Stephen Smith, author of Puckstruck, lent the museum collectible and fun cookbooks that teams published—this spoke to the overlap between popular fan culture and the down-to-earth and very practical realities of nutrition in high-performance sport.

The Museum of Manitoba loaned bookmarks that had been distributed to school kids by the Winnipeg Jets, each with a hockey player’s personal message about the importance of literacy in everyday life. These were displayed next to the hockey novels and comic books from LAC.

The exhibition team wondered about how to tackle prickly issues like penalties, violence and controversy. Then we hit on the most natural of all approaches—let the books and newspaper articles tell the stories! So next to an official’s jersey, you will find our suggested reading on the ups and downs of life as a referee, Kerry Fraser’s The Final Call: Hockey Stories from a Legend in Stripes. In the press gallery section, the visitor gets a taste for the ways that sports journalists have made their mark on the game. Next to a typewriter, an early laptop and Frank Lennon’s camera, we placed Russ Conway’s book Game Misconduct: Alan Eagleson and the Corruption of Hockey.

To capture the importance of youth literacy, we carefully chose books that we tested ourselves for readability.

A book cover showing a man walking in a hockey arena carrying a large red duffel bag and a hockey stick.

C’est la faute à Ovechkin by Luc Gélinas, Éditions Hurtubise inc., 2012 (AMICUS 40717662)

A book cover showing a child playing hockey wearing a yellow-and-black uniform and chasing a hockey puck.

La Fabuleuse saison d’Abby Hoffman by Alain M. Bergeron, Soulières, 2012 (AMICUS 40395119)

A book cover showing an abstract illustration that incorporates a hockey stick.

Hockeyeurs cybernétiques by Denis Côté, Éditions Paulines, 1983 (AMICUS 3970428)

Literacy became a thread running through the exhibition, in ways big and small. Thanks to all the librarians who helped us get our hands on these books! It may be too ambitious, but I continue to cherish the hope that the exhibition and this blog will inspire you to pick up a book, visit a library, and enjoy the game as much as we did.

Wishing to bring a fresh read to the sport, Jenny Ellison and I are editing a group of new essays on the sport, to be published in 2018 (Hockey: Challenging Canada’s Game — Au-delà du sport national) Check it out!

Do you have a favourite book about hockey?  Let us know in the comments.


Jennifer Anderson was co-curator of the exhibition “Hockey” at the Canadian Museum of History. Currently, she is an archivist in the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Guest curator: Carole Gerson

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.


“Ode to Brant” by Pauline Johnson, 1886

Two pages of a handwritten poem signed and dated by the author, Pauline Johnson.

Handwritten poem by Pauline Johnson, 1886. (MIKAN 4936704)

This poet’s mixed Mohawk-British heritage helped shape her vision for Canada’s future. She writes that Indigenous and British-Canadians should form a “brotherhood.” And all should be loyal servants—together—of the British Empire.


Tell us about yourself

As a child, I was an obsessive reader—my friends called me a “reader-bug” because I always had my nose in a book. Perhaps that’s why I became an English professor—so that I could read as much as I wanted, and encourage others to do the same. I think that it is especially important to read works by Canadian writers, who help us to understand our history and who we are today.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

A black-and-white photograph of a bronze statue atop a large stone pedestal decorated with bronze reliefs and statues around the sides. A park with bare trees can be seen in the background.

View of the Brant Memorial in Brantford, Ontario by photographer Hannah Maynard, Park & Co. (MIKAN 3559483)

“Brant” was one of Pauline Johnson’s first published poems. She composed it for the unveiling of a statue of the Mohawk leader, Joseph Brant, in the town of Brantford on October 8, 1886, and it was included in a souvenir brochure prepared for the occasion. During Johnson’s lifetime, fans of literature often collected autographs from their favourite writers. Regarded as one of Canada’s most important poets, Johnson not only signed many copies of her books for her admirers, but also frequently wrote out her poems in longhand for them to keep.

A black-and-white newspaper column describing Pauline Johnson’s family, her work and her role in the unveiling of the Brant memorial.

An interview with Pauline Johnson by Canadian journalist Garth Grafton (Sarah Jeannette Duncan) about Johnson’s work, her family, and the unveiling of the Brant Memorial, in Woman’s World, October 14, 1886. (AMICUS 8086919)

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition.

LAC holds a large collection of letters that L.M. Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables) wrote to her friend, George Boyd Macmillan, a pen pal who lived in Scotland. This correspondence lasted for many years, from 1903 to 1941. Montgomery’s letters are very long and newsy, discussing everything from the books that she read and the places she visited, to the doings of her family and her beloved cats. Over the years, the tone changes from youthful optimism to sad disappointment as she lives through the First World War and the Great Depression, giving us an inner view of the Canadian experience during a tumultuous time. Montgomery’s distinctive handwriting is less stylish than Johnson’s elegant script, perhaps reflecting her early years as teacher, when she needed to show children how to form their letters.

A black-and-white page of a letter from Lucy Maude Montgomery to George Boyd Macmillan. Discusses her love of historical books and recalls her love of fairies as a child.

A page from a letter (page 757) from Lucy Maud Montgomery to George Boyd Macmillan, a Scottish writer, dated April 7, 1904 discussing her love of historical books and fairies as a child (MIKAN 120237)

A black-and-white page of a letter from Lucy Maude Montgomery to George Boyd Macmillan. Discusses the popularity of “In Flanders Fields” and its use in election campaigns.

A page of a letter (25) from Lucy Maud Montgomery to George Boyd Macmillan, April 7, 1917 which discusses the popularity of “In Flanders Fields” and its use in election campaigns. (MIKAN 120237)

Biography

A colour photograph of a woman with short hair looking over to the side.Carole Gerson is a professor in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University. Co-editor of Volume 3 (1918–1980) of History of the Book in Canada / Histoire du livre et de l’imprimé au Canada, she has published extensively on Canada’s literary and cultural history with a focus on women writers, including L.M. Montgomery and Pauline Johnson. Her book, Canadian Women in Print, 1750–1918 (2010), won the Gabrielle Roy Prize for Canadian criticism. In 2013 she received the Marie Tremaine Medal from the Bibliographical Society of Canada.

Related resources

Guest Curator: Andrea Kunard

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.


Entrance to Blacklead Island, Cumberland Gulf, Baffin Island, Northwest Territories (present-day Nunavut) by Albert Peter Low, 1903–1904.

Black-and-white panorama of a large iceberg close to a rocky island shot from a boat.

Entrance to Blacklead Island, Cumberland Gulf, Baffin Island, Northwest Territories (present-day Nunavut) by Albert Peter Low, 1903–1904. (MIKAN 3203732)

Canada claimed sovereignty of its Arctic territory in 1904: the law moved north and surveyors catalogued the land. This act reinforced old ideas on identity. It defined Canada, all over again, as a northern nation.


Tell us about yourself

When I first started doing historical research in photography during my master’s program at Carleton University, I practically lived at Library and Archives Canada. The collection is fantastic, and it was the most amazing experience for me to be looking at photographs taken over a 150 years ago. Since then I have continued to research historical photographs, as well as acting as curator for contemporary photography at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography and now the National Gallery of Canada. I have always been interested in exploration photography, or government uses of the medium. The Humphrey Lloyd Hime photographs are particularly interesting in that they are the first known paper photographs made of the North American interior. The camera was a tool for various interests, but it also was a way to encapsulate many preoccupations of the period, especially the shifts that occurred in religion because of scientific discoveries. Many so-called objective photographs made at this time also reflect spiritual beliefs and morality. As well, Western aesthetic values play a part in communicating ideals and the best photographers of the period, such as Alexander Henderson, are highly adept at manipulating tone, line, shape and texture to merge the sublimity of the landscape with the period’s fervent faith in scientific and technological progress.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

Although this photograph presents a barren and seemingly empty landscape, the area was anything but inactive. Albert Peter Low (1861–1942), a senior Geological Survey of Canada officer, took this photograph of the entrance to Blacklead Island during a Canadian government funded expedition in 1903–04. He published an account of his journey in his famous book, The Cruise of the Neptune. Historically, Blacklead Island was an important whaling station, but at the time of Low’s expedition, whale stocks had nearly all but vanished in the area. As well, whaling stations had radically changed Inuit lifestyle, hunting cycles, and economies. The purpose of Low’s expedition was to establish Canadian sovereignty in the north through proclamations and rule of law. Low’s photograph, however, reveals nothing of this political agenda. Rather he presents a peaceful view, taking advantage of the panorama’s extended format and classic elements of the sublime. The iceberg appears gargantuan and overwhelming, alluring in its whiteness. The island, in contrast, is dark and more detailed. The two subjects, ice and rock, appear held in opposition, suspended between a cloudless sky and a rippling, frigid sea.

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition.

Sepia-toned image of prairie grass stretching to meet the sky with a skull and a bone in the foreground.

The Prairie Looking West by Humphrey Lloyd Hime, 1858 (MIKAN 3243322)

Humphrey Lloyd Hime’s The Prairie Facing West (1858) is one of most enigmatic images in the history of Canadian photography. It depicts an austere landscape in which a human skull and (human?) bone appear. The photograph was taken near the Red River settlement, now the city of Winnipeg. Hime was working for the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition sent by the government to assess the agricultural potential of the area, and its suitability for settlement. He depicts the land as empty, ostensibly awaiting human occupation. However, the presence of the skull is provocative. Most likely, Hime staged the photograph using the skull of an Aboriginal woman he had found earlier in an area of southern Manitoba. As he wrote in his diary on June 28, 1858, “…found a skull close to grave on prairie—it was all pulled about by wolves—kept the skull.…” This encounter informs the image in numerous ways. The photograph may represent Hime’s recreation of his experience, or be a way to incite drama into an otherwise nondescript landscape. The appearance of the skull is also tied to the fascination of 19th-century society with Indigenous methods of burial. However, as the caption does not state that the skull belonged to a native person, viewers might anxiously interpret the land as containing the possibility of their own death and hardship. At this point, the interior of the country was largely unknown, with many thinking it contained a wasteland of Biblical proportions.

Biography

A colour photograph of a woman wearing glasses looking directly at the viewerAndrea Kunard is an Associate Curator of Photographs at the National Gallery of Canada. She has presented several group and monographic exhibitions on contemporary photography including Shifting Sites (2000), Susan McEachern: Structures of Meaning (2004), Steeling the Gaze (2008), Scott McFarland: A Cultivated View (2009), Fred Herzog (2011), Clash: Conflict and Its Consequences (2012), and Michel Campeau: Icons of Obsolescence (2013). She is presently co-curating a major retrospective on Newfoundland-based artist Marlene Creates as well as a survey exhibition Photography in Canada: 1960–2000 for 2017. She has taught the history of photography, Canadian art and cultural theory at Carleton and Queen’s University. In addition, she co-edited The Cultural Work of Photography in Canada, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press. She has lectured on photography throughout Canada, and written articles on contemporary and historical photography in a variety of publications including The Journal of Canadian Art History, the International Journal of Canadian Studies, Early Popular Visual Culture, Muse, BlackFlash, and ETC Montréal. She is currently working on a major web-based project on documentary photography that centres on the National Film Board Still Photography Division collection at the National Gallery and Library and Archives Canada.

Guest curator: Sarah Hurford

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.


View of the Library and Archives Canada booth at the Truth and Reconciliation national event in Edmonton, Alberta, by Sarah Hurford, 2014

Photograph of a booth covered in photos with a computer on the side. A brown-haired woman staffing the booth is finding a photo for a couple visiting the booth. Another booth is in the background.

View of the Library and Archives Canada booth at the Truth and Reconciliation national event in Edmonton, Alberta by Sarah Hurford, 2014. © Sarah Hurford, 2014.

When the first residential school opened in the 1870s, the idea had mainstream support. Today, Canadians find the policy abhorrent. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has had a major role in educating the public.


Tell us about yourself

I have been interested in records relating to Indigenous heritage since my first summer at LAC as a summer student in 1998. This is when I saw firsthand how much of a difference finding historical documents made to people.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

This photograph was taken in the middle of a huge arena with thousands of people in it, and many booths: government departments, church sharing circles, vendors, and many, many visitors. It really was shared space, and for that reason alone, the arena itself was a site of reconciliation. It was a very unique experience, and the air was charged with emotion and the smell of burning sage. People stopped at the LAC booth to share their stories with us, ask us questions, and look at the photographs we had on display. To me, the event was particularly special since it was the last national event planned, so it was the last time I thought I would be in such an environment.

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition

The other related item I would like to add to the exhibition is this photograph, which shows a group of boys who lived too far away from the residential school at Aklavik to return home during the summers. At the national event in Edmonton, I met the grandson of one of these boys, who immediately found his grandfather in the photograph. Every time I see the photo, I remember meeting his grandson, and that experience really underscored for me that it was important that we were there at the national events to hear these stories, and that we understand that historical documents in our collections have an effect on the present day.

Group of Inuit children dressed in overalls or coveralls standing on sandy, grassy ground with the school in the background.

Inuit children who lived too far away and had to stay at the Anglican Mission School during the summer by photographer M. Meikle (MIKAN 3193915).

Biography

A colour photograph of a smiling woman with hair parted on the side.Sarah Hurford has been an archivist at LAC since 2009, and specializes in records and search tools relating to Indigenous heritage. She has held positions in Reference Services and in Private Archives, and has provided reference support for two document disclosure research projects conducted for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She is currently in the Government Archives Branch in the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada portfolio.

Guest curator J. Andrew Ross

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.


A page for Joliette, Quebec, from the first Census of Canada, 1871

Can you find the entry for Adolphe Perrault? Times change: Perrault made his living as a voyageur! As time passed, census data would feed social policy. Many programs by which Canadians define themselves are the result.


Tell us about yourself

Before I came to LAC, I was a post-doctoral fellow on the People in Motion research project at the University of Guelph. Our goal was to develop an algorithm linking the 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 Canadian censuses together, to create a database of thousands of records that researchers could use to explore important questions about post-Confederation Canadian society, including health transitions, occupational changes and migration mobility. In the course of my own research, I became interested in changes that show how Canadians have viewed themselves over time.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

Ever since Intendant Jean Talon ordered the first census of the European population of New France in 1665–1666, the precursors to modern-day Canada were keen on learning about the demographic, social and economic aspects of their populations. LAC is the repository for many of the surviving documents of these censuses, including a near-complete collection on microfilm of the handwritten forms filled out by the individual enumerators (census takers) who went door to door in 1871 collecting information for the first census after Confederation.

Enumerators were required to complete up to nine schedules (forms), which covered population characteristics, deaths, economic activities and the like. What made the Canadian census unique was a question on Schedule No. 1 (Nominal Return on the Living) that asked for information on a person’s “origins,” an important issue in a country with four different provinces, a wide variety of cultures, and political tension between two major linguistic groups.

What was meant by “origin”? The manual containing the instructions to enumerators did not provide much detail, except by example: “Origin is to be scrupulously entered, as given by the person questioned . . . by the words English, Irish, Scotch, African, Indian, German, French, and so forth.” With a few exceptions (“Indian,” “Half-Breed,” “Hindoo” and “Jewish”), the answers corresponded with countries of origin rather than culture per se.

Ironically, for the first national census the answer “Canadian” was not an option because the designers wanted clear lines drawn between English and French, and other groups. Allowing “Canadian” might reduce the size of one group or another, with worrisome consequences for both political representation and cultural pride.

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition

This clever cartoon from the Canadian Illustrated News issue of May 6, 1871, which LAC holds in its collection, shows how the question about origins might produce a rather humorous conversation:

Enumerator. – “What origin, Ma’am?”

Lady. – “Canadian, of course!”

Enumerator. – “But you know we don’t take down Canadian origin.”

Lady. – “Well, then! follow Darwin’s theory, and enter us as descended from apes!”

A black-and-white cartoon of a census enumerator speaking to a woman sitting at a desk.

Cartoon from the Canadian Illustrated News (AMICUS 133120) depicting a potential conversation about the first census (image from page 288, Canadian Illustrated News of May 6, 1871, e011180501)

Not only a fine joke, but also an astute observation. What was a person’s origin anyway? How far back should one go? If birthplace was not considered (it was recorded separately), then was it the father’s cultural heritage, or the mother’s? And why couldn’t people whose families might have been resident for centuries be considered “census Canadians”?

According to the guidelines, while the enumerator in the cartoon could have been justified in entering “primate,” in practice the enumerator entries were all checked before counting and changed if they were determined to be inappropriate. In this way, thousands of self-described “Canadians” (and also “Americans”) were reassigned to another origin, usually based on their surname, and when the origin totals were published in the fall of 1871, “Canadian” was not a category.

Over the 20th century, a sense developed that origin should be less about the national ancestry of a person and more about the person’s cultural background: what eventually came to be called “ethnicity.” With this understanding, the origin questions in 20th-century censuses came to rely on the ethnicity of the person’s first paternal ancestor who came to Canada.

This did not suit some people, such as the 13th Prime Minister of Canada, John George Diefenbaker, who was proud of his “mixed” ethnic heritage and even more proud of not admitting it to an enumerator. In his memoirs, he wrote (please feel free to wiggle your jowls as you read this):

“I have never registered as requested in any census. I am a Canadian, and I register as a Canadian. When I was Prime Minister, I made certain that the 1961 Canadian census contained the question ‘Are you a Canadian?’ Although the change was disapproved by the Liberal and bureaucratic establishments, and in consequence discontinued after I left office, hundreds of thousands of Canadians answered this question, ‘Yes,’ and with ringing pride.”

Diefenbaker’s “Are you a Canadian?” did not replace the origins question, which continued to be asked, but it may have led to the 1971 official change in policy—100 years after the first census—that finally allowed people to answer “Canadian” (and allowed the enumerator to record that answer and not have it changed). Only 71,000 chose to do so in that year, but the attitude trend accelerated over the next 40 years; by 2011, over 10 million were answering “Canadian,” sometimes in combination with other origins, but for almost 6 million, exclusively. In 2016, the question was, “What were the ethnic or cultural origins of this person’s ancestors?” We will soon see how many people now want to be counted as “census Canadians.”

Biography

A colour photograph of a man standing in front of a white board with his arms crossed and smiling at the photographer.

J. Andrew Ross is an archivist in the Government Records Branch of LAC.