Don’t fear the fonds

If you’re putting the finishing touches on your National Capital History Day project, you might want to consider heading down to Library and Archives Canada, where you’ll find all sorts of resources.

Not sure what the difference is between an archive and a library? What about fonds and sous-fonds? Don’t despair — NCHD research mentor Catherine Butler has put together a document, How to do Archival Research, that will give you a head start once you arrive at the archives.

What can you find at Library and Archives Canada? As Catherine’s document outlines, there’s a lot more there than you might expect, including:

• Some 20 million books published in various languages, from rare artists’ books and first editions to literary classics and popular fiction;

• 241 linear km of government and private textual records;

• More than 3 million architectural drawings, plans and maps, some dating back to the early 16th century;

• About 4.5 million megabytes of information in electronic format, including thousands of Canadian theses, periodicals and books available online;

• Nearly 30 million photographic images, including prints, negatives, slides and digital photos;

• More than 90,000 films, including short and full-length films, documentaries and silent films, dating as far back as 1897;

• More than 550,000 hours of audio and video recordings;

• Over 425,000 works of art, including watercolours, oil paintings, sketches, caricatures and miniatures, some dating back to the 1600s; as well as medals, seals, posters and coats of arms;

• Nearly 550,000 items constituting the largest collection of Canadian sheet music in the world; documentation related to music in Canada; and recordings on disks and records of all formats, including piano rolls, reels and spools, and eight-track tapes

Good luck with your research, and don’t forget that Catherine is available to assist students and teachers who might like a little more help finding their way around Library and Archives Canada. You can find her contact info here.

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