About Moving Here, Staying Here
The History of the Project
As ambitious as this site is, its authors recognize that
it cannot cover all topics, eras or collections of interest to those attracted
to immigration history. Thus, when the project's content managers began to create
a detailed scenario for this site, they were forced to develop strategies that
answered a number of difficult questions:
- What is the best way to organize a manageable history of immigration in
a nation built largely by immigrants?
- When drawing on a vast national collection, what is the best way to select
the stories and documents that will illustrate Canadian history?
- Is it possible to develop a resource that provides useful material for
academic and genealogical researchers, as well as for educators and students?
- Finally, given that there already exist a number of very good sites on
the history of Canadian immigration, what unique strategy will Library and Archives
Canada employ to complement these resources?
After thorough investigation, the team reached the following
decisions. First, in response to client needs, it decided to focus on digitizing
one of Library and Archives Canada's (LAC) most frequently used collections and make
it available online: the Passenger Lists. It would be complemented by an online
selection of immigrant diaries and photographs. Along with the popular Western
Land Grants database, and future additions such as the Lower Canada Land Petitions,
these materials would serve as the backbone for a strong, researcher-oriented
To complement these digital holdings, the team decided
to organize a virtual exhibition that reflected the strengths and uniqueness of
its collection. Since LAC is the official national government
repository, it was natural to organize the site on the strength of this collection.
Focusing on government legislation that affected immigration to Canada also gave
the team a starting period -- the 1800s, when the first Passenger Acts
were introduced in Britain. Although the decision to conclude in the 1930s was
more artificial, the team recognized that, to do justice to the topic,
a relatively narrow timeframe was required; immigration following the Second World
War is a worthy project for the future.
With the timeline set, experts from LAC and from across the country were challenged to write on various themes that reflected key events, periods or legislative decisions in the nation's immigration history (Directives).
They were also asked to illustrate each contribution with a selection of key documents
from LAC's collection. Going one step further, the team also asked its experts
to complement every theme with sections that described the impact these directives
had within Canada (Debates), as well as on the immigrants themselves (Dreams).
This strategy helped ensure the development of a more complete, compelling and
human history, while providing users with a more diverse sampling of LAC's rich collection.
LAC would like to express its special thanks to the many archivists, librarians and academics who lent their specialized expertise to this project. The authors of the various essays in the "Documentary Trail" and "Traces of the Past" sections are listed at the top of the individual contributions.
We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the Department
of Canadian Heritage, whose financial assistance through Canadian Culture Online
(CCO) made this work possible.