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Description found in Archives

National Archives of Canada fonds [multiple media] 



Place of creation

No place, unknown, or undetermined

ca. 94.0 m of textual records
3 photographs b&w
1 atlas
5 maps
2 technical drawings
106 microfiches of architectural drawings
268 architectural drawings
399 audio reels (ca. 1015 h, 42 min)
282 audio cassettes (ca. 218 h, 6 min)
279 videocassettes (ca. 186 h, 16 min, 46 s)
233 video reels (ca. 155 h)
54 film reels (ca. 17 h, 27 min)
16 audio discs (ca. 1 h, 12 min, 30 s)

Added language of material: French

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records created and/or maintained by the National Archives of Canada and its predecessors. Researchers are cautioned that unprocessed textual records and records in other media are not reflected in this description. Moving images and sound recordings can be found in the following series': National Archives film and video collection and National Archives sound collection.

Textual records
32: Restricted by law
Graphic (photo)
99: Closed pending processing
Architectural: technical drawings
90: Open
Architectural,technical: microform
90: Open
Cartographic material
90: Open
Moving images (film)
96: Restrictions vary
Moving images (video)
96: Restrictions vary
Sound recordings
96: Restrictions vary
Archival reference no.
Former archival reference no.

Terms of use

Copyright belongs to the Crown. Credit Library and Archives Canada.

Finding aids are available. See lower level descriptions and accession records in ArchiviaNet (the NA website). (Other)

Biography / Administrative history

The National Archives of Canada came into being with the proclamation on 11 June 1987 of the National Archives of Canada Act (S.C. 1987, Chap.1, assented to 25 March 1987). This legislation gave a new name to the institution known previously as the Public Archives of Canada, and repealed and replaced the Public Archives Act under which the Public Archives of Canada had operated since 1912. It also changed the name of the chief executive ( a deputy-ministerial position) from "Dominion Archivist" to "National Archivist".

The origins of the institution are found in the work of predecessor agencies. The statute creating the Secretary of State of Canada (31 Vict., Chap 42, assented to 22 May 1868) assigned to that office responsibility for keeping all State records not specifically transferred to other departments. Henry J. Morgan was appointed to undertake the arrangement and classification of these records in 1873 (P.C. 1497, 31 October 1873, P.C. 278, 7 April 1874, and P.C. 1016, 10 August 1874). In the previous year, a program "for the collecting of Public Archives" was established within the Department of Agriculture with the appointment of Douglas Brymner (P.C. 712, 20 June 1872). The two offices which, by 1903, had come to be known as the Records Branch of the Secretary of State of Canada and the Archives Branch of the Department of Agriculture, were brought together in that year within the Department of Agriculture and the position of Dominion Archivist and Keeper of the Records created (P.C. 2018, 7 December 1903). This post was filled the following year by Arthur G. Doughty. Successors to this post have included Dr. Gustave Lanctôt (1937-1948), Dr. Kaye Lamb (1948-1969), Dr.Wilfred I. Smith (1970-1984) and Dr. Jean-Pierre Wallot (1985-1997).

The passage of the Public Archives Act in 1912 gave the institution department status which it has maintained since. From 1912, it has reported to Parliament through different Ministers at different times, including the Secretary of State, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and the Minister of Communications. Today (1997) the National Archivist reports through the Minister of Canadian Heritage. From the establishment of the National Library of Canada in 1953 until 1968, the positions of Dominion Archivist and National Librarian were held simultaneously by Dr. Lamb. Since 1968 the two departments have continued to maintain an arrangement whereby certain administrative and technical services are shared.

The mandate of the institution, as set out in the National Archives of Canada Act, is four-fold: to conserve private and federal public records of national significance, in all media, and facilitate access thereto; to be the permanent repository of records of federal government institutions and of ministerial records; to facilitate the management of records of federal government institutions and of ministerial records; and to encourage archival activities and the archival community. No Regulations have been issued pursuant to the Act to further define the manner in which this mandate is carried out. Since 1987 the National Archives of Canada Act has undergone one significant amendment - the November 1995 repeal of those sections relating to, and the abolition of, the National Archives of Canada Advisory Board. A number of policy instruments emanating from Treasury Board concerning information management and information technology have a bearing on the way in which the National Archives carries out that part of its mandate which relates to federal government records. As well, the provisions of other federal legislation (e.g. the Access to Information Act, the Privacy Act, and the Copyright Act) have a direct impact on the work of the National Archives.

The roles and activities of the National Archives of Canada within Canadian society have changed over more than a century and a quarter. An acquisition mandate which focused a century ago principally on the private sector and on copying colonial records has evolved, especially since World War II, to encompass the enormous quantity of records generated by the federal government. From its 19th century beginnings with a mission that was, essentially, cultural the institution has developed a significant role in supporting the operations of the federal government in the area of information management. With the opening of the first federal records centre in Ottawa in 1956 and the subsequent establishment of regional records centres in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, and Halifax the National Archives has been able to provide cost-effective dormant records storage for federal agencies. The 1987 National Archives of Canada Act served to solidify the central role of the institution in the process by which federal agencies manage and, ultimately, dispose of their records. In addition, this legislation recognized the important role played by the National Archives in the development of the Canadian archival community.

As one of the first national cultural agencies established in Canada, the National Archives historically took on a range of services which today fall more naturally within the responsibility of other agencies. In its earlier years the institution was a force in the promotion of Canadian historiography through its publication program. As recently as the 1970s it undertook the ambitious task of coordinating and publishing Union Lists of manuscripts and photographic archives. As other cultural agencies have emerged to fill the void, the National Archives has divested itself of certain responsibilities and cultural artefacts which originally came into its care because there was no appropriate agency existing at the time of acquisition: museum items have been transferred to national museums; newspaper holdings have gone to the National Library of Canada; numismatic collections once in National Archives custody are now with the Bank of Canada; Laurier House, once administered by the National Archives, is now operated by the Canadian Parks Service.

The administrative structure of the institution has evolved considerably. Separate media divisions, known under a number of names, have been a feature of the organizational landscape since 1908. Their emergence has reflected the increased size and importance of the non-textual media within the "total archives" mission articulated by the institution. Similarly, the growing importance of the records of the federal government was recognized in 1973 in the creation of a division with responsibility for the public record. For much of its existence, the National Archives maintained programs in England and France to acquire both originals and copies of documents held in public and private hands in the two former colonial powers. For a period it also maintained regional offices in Canadian cities outside Ottawa. There has been an assortment of branches/divisions created over time to develop policy and define and coordinate the carrying out of strategic objectives; to provide common administrative, technical and conservation services; to facilitate the management of federal government records; and to coordinate communications with and the delivery of client services to the large and diverse community of public users of the National Archives. Aspects of the administrative history of the National Archives of Canada are documented in a number of published sources. Among the most useful are: Danielle Lacasse and Antonio Lechasseur, The National Archives of Canada, 1872-1997 (Ottawa: The Canadian Historical Association, 1997) which includes an annotated bibliography; two articles published in Archivaria (no.15, Winter 1982/83), Ian Wilson, "`A Noble Dream': The Origins of the Public Archives of Canada" and William Ormsby, "The Public Archives of Canada, 1948-1968"; and Jay Atherton, "The Origins of the Public Archives Records Centre, 1897-1956" in Archivaria (no.8, Summer 1979).

Additional information

Source of title
RS, 1985 3supp.1987, c.1

Further accruals are expected.


Other system control no.