The Collection of Library and Archives Canada

LAC maintains an extensive collection, particularly in terms of the variety of material that has accumulated through the “total archives” approach.

Text by Canada’s History

Posted May 29, 2012

LAC maintains an extensive collection, particularly in terms of the variety of material that has accumulated through the “total archives” approach. Their collection includes:

  • 20 million books, periodicals, newspapers, microfilms, literary texts and government publication
  •  167,000 linear metres of government and private textual records
  • 3 million architectural drawings, maps and plans
  •  24 million photographs
  •  350,000 hours of film
  • 425,000 pieces of art, including paintings, drawings, watercolours, posters, prints, medals and caricature
  •  547,000 musical items more than a billion megabytes of digital content


Since its creation in 2004, LAC has worked to create and implement digitization programs. To date, they have digitized 6.5 million images and plan to digitize 30,000,000 images and 50,000 hours of audio-visual material between 2009-2014, internally, through out-sourcing, and with partners. In 2010, LAC announced a digitization strategy to further increase online records by 2017, through proactive digitization and digitization-on-demand services.


LAC has an extensive site dedicated to genealogy and collaborates with a network of partners to collect and provide online access to family records. Partners include commercial organizations, local and provincial archives, and historical organizations. LAC offers approximately 50 databases for genealogical research, many of which can be accessed through the centralized “ancestor search.” Some of their most extensive collections include census returns, immigration records, and military records. They also provide a number of guides, bibliographies, and web links for continuing research.

Lest We Forget

This project, which was started by Ontario teacher Blake Seward, was adopted by LAC in 2001. Students use the archive’s records to conduct research on service men and women during Canada’s world wars. Photocopies of service files were sent to teachers, or Ottawa-area classes could also attend on site workshops. In March, 2010, LAC announced cutbacks to the program by reducing the number of onsite workshops, which move was met with resistance from academics and educations. Shortly after, LAC announced a new partnership with the Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) to deliver the workshops at public libraries using LACs online tools, which include over 5000 military records that have since been digitized. LAC also partners with the Canadian War Museum (CWM) to deliver workshops in the National Capital Region. In November, 2001, LAC, CULC, and CWM announced a further expansion of the program.

Portrait Gallery of Canada

Library and Archives Canada houses the largest collection of national portraits in the country, which includes more than 20,000 paintings, drawings and prints, 4 million photographs, several thousand caricatures, and ten thousand medals and philatelic items. The Portrait Gallery of Canada frequently partners with other cultural institutions to put on travelling exhibitions. Most recently, it developed the “Portraits in the Street” exhibition, which takes relevant reproductions to Canadian communities for an outdoor installation.

Film and Audio

LAC currently houses 5,500 reels of film, dating from as early as 1912, and close to 600,000 photographic negatives. In June, 2011, LAC opened the Nitrate Film Preservation Facility for the storage and preservation of this collection. In October, 2011, they launched the Canadian Feature Film Index online database to accompany the collection.

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