Library and Archives Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional links

ARCHIVED - Framing Canada:
A Photographic Memory

Archived Content

This archived Web page remains online for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. This page will not be altered or updated. Web pages that are archived on the Internet are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats of this page on the Contact Us page.

Search Help


The images included in the Framing Canada website and the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) database are a small sampling from the LAC collection. Of the 30 million photographs held at LAC, just over 400,000 have been described, approximately 60,000 are available online, and the rest are originals.

You can search for LAC photographic records using the Archives Search tool, which offers two search screens: Basic Search and Advanced Search.

Most photographs have not been described individually. Therefore, to search for images without individual descriptions you must use upper-level options from the "Hierarchical level" field.

Basic Search

To perform a Basic Search of LAC photographs:

  1. Go to Archives Search and select the "Basic Search" screen.
  2. Type one or several keywords into the keyword box.
  3. In the "Type of Material" field, select "Photographic material" from the drop-down list.
  4. Click on the "Submit" button. This will generate an Archives Search Result list.

Screenshot of the Archives Basic Search screen showing a keyword box, search fields, options, and drop-down lists with default or specified settings

Refining Your Search

Hierarchical Level
Select one of the search options from the "Hierarchical level" field to refine your search. These are defined below.

  • Item: A single record with an individual description.
  • Files: A group of documents reflecting a transaction, such as reports, administrative forms and photographs relating to an investigation.
  • Fonds/Collections: All of the documents created and/or accumulated by a person, family, government institution, or corporate body in the course of that creator's activities or functions. A fonds will contain information about numerous and diverse topics and so, unlike library material, is not organized physically by subject.
  • Series: An arrangement of the records in the fonds according to the activities that the records supported in the creator's organization, agency or department. As such, series may be organized according to document type (e.g., correspondence, marriage certificates, etc.) or/and by the administrative structure of the creator (e.g., legal branch, financial services, etc.).
  • Accession: A group of records from the same source taken into the custody of an archives at the same time, which will later be integrated into the series.
Item-Level Option
The "Item" option allows you to:
- limit your search to records that are described individually.
- search for both digitized and non-digitized images.
Upper-Level Options
The "Files," "Fonds/Collections," "Series," and "Accession" options allow you to:
- search for records without individual descriptions.
- search for records that have not been digitized.

You can further narrow your search in the "Online" field by selecting "yes" or "no."

Number of Results
This field allows you to change the number of records appearing on the results page for the duration of the search in progress. By default, the number is set to 10.

Advanced Search

As with the Basic Search, the Advanced Search screen offers the same options for the "Hierarchical level," "Type of material," and "Online" fields to help you search for records with both digitized and non-digitized images.

It also provides advanced keyword search options that allow you to combine several words using operators (and/or), a date field, and an option to select "Government" or "Private" collections to further refine searches.

Screenshot of the Archives Advanced Search screen showing search fields, options, text boxes, and drop-down lists with default or specified settings

How to Improve Search Results

To search for a particular subject or topic in Basic Search, type one or more keywords:

  • Individual's name
  • Event
  • Location
  • Date
  • General subject (e.g., picnic)

This search will sort through all individual records containing the keywords you entered.

Please note that it is not necessary to include quotation marks around search terms. For example, if you perform a search for Immigrants from Scotland, it will generate an Archives Search Result list with every record containing both "Immigrants" and "Scotland" in the description. However, you can further limit your search by placing quotation marks around "Immigrants from Scotland." This will generate an Archives Search Result list with records containing that exact combination of words.

How to Interpret the Results

Your search results will be posted as a summary list from which you can obtain more detailed descriptions. By default, results are sorted by relevance, but may also be sorted by title, date or name.

Each entry on the list contains information that allows you to rapidly assess the relevance of the documents you have found, including:

  • the title of the record
  • a small icon next to the title indicating if a record has been digitized
  • the date, if available
  • the hierarchical level (i.e., item, file, series, accession, fonds, collection)

How to Obtain Copies

Records with Digitized Images

You can print the images or save them on your own computer. Use the following link to access other options, such as obtaining photocopies: How to Access Library and Archives Canada Records.

Records Without Digitized Images

Some records with individual descriptions have reference numbers (e.g., C-042954 or PA-050776), which means that a copy negative has been created from the original item. You can purchase a digitized image from the copy negative through the online Order Form.

Should you want to see an image that has not been digitized, you must request the photographic material from Reference Services, and arrange an on-site visit to Library and Archives Canada in order to consult the material.