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Primary Sources for the Humanities: Canada

See Primary sources: SFU Library Databases for a list of primary sources in alphabetical order.

If you need help, please contact Baharak Yousefi, Librarian for History, International Studies, Liberal Studies, & Political Science at 778.782.5033 or or Ask a librarian.

British Columbia

A collection of 1,500 photographs depicting the contributions of immigrants and First Nations people to British Columbia.
Bill Reid Centre Collection
A collection of images that records the arts and architecture of the various First Nations of the Pacific Northwest.
British Columbia Archival Information Network - BC Historical Photographs Online
Contains annotated links to online historical photograph databases and galleries featured on archival web sites in British Columbia.
A collection of digitized publications and ephemera of several B.C. fine/private presses.
A finding tool for documents and facts related to the history of BC, including references to chapters or excerpts in books, articles in local magazines, newsletters and newspapers, and uncatalogued material and pamphlets at the Vancouver Public Library.
Burnaby's Oral History Collection
A collection of oral history interviews captured by the Burnaby Historical Society, conducted predominantly throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
A collection of records dating from 1867-1956 that focus on the activities of the Chinese Freemasons of Canada, particularly in Victoria and Vancouver.
The Chinese Times newspaper was published in Vancouver between 1914-1992. To date approximately 27,000 pages from 1915-1924 and  12,000 pages of images from 1915-1919 have been digitized.
City of Vancouver Archives
Archives holdings include:
  • City of Vancouver government records (public records)
  • Records of non-government organizations, businesses and individuals (private records)
  • Visual records including historic photographs, maps, etc.

Colonial Despatches
A digital archive of original correspondence between the British Colonial Office and the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, covering the period from 1846 - 1871.

The Chung Collection - UBC Library
The Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection contains more than 25,000 rare and unique items (documents, books, maps, posters, paintings, photographs, silver, glass, ceramic ware and other artifacts), grouped by various themes, including Early British Columbia History, Immigration and Settlement (with particular focus on the Chinese immigrant population in Vancouver) and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.

Digitized Okanagan History

A selection of interviews conducted with early Indian immigrants to Canada, almost all of them British Columbians, in 53 audio files.
A comprehensive portal for understanding the Komagata Maru incident through primary documents, oral histories, private archives, artistic endeavors, and interviews.
Descriptions of archival materials located in the British Columbia Archives and other BC archives.
Simon Fraser University Archives
SFU archives acquires three major categories of materials:
  • Official records of the University
  • Materials documenting the wider University community
  • Private historical research collections
A collection of materials, including posters, images, periodicals and ephemera, documenting the punk movement in Vancouver.

General resources

Archives Canada
Archives Canada is an official archival portal maintained by The Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) and is a joint initiative of CCA, the Provincial – Territorial Archival Networks, and Library and Archives Canada. Use the View option halfway down the main screen to look at digital collection images.

Original manuscripts, maps, ephemeral material and rare printed sources on the American and Canadian West.

Canada in the Making
This site is about the history of Canada through the words of the men and women who shaped the nation. Built around the Government Documents collection of the Early Canadiana Online collection, it integrates narrative text with links to primary source texts.

Canadian History: On-Line Texts, Document and Image Collections
A list of Canadian digital collections currently available on the web. The collections are from various regions of Canada and include documents and images.

Canadiana Discovery Portal
This site enables users to search across the valuable and diverse digital collections of Canada's libraries, museums, and archives.

Prints, drawings, paintings, maps, bibliographies, letters, and photographs documenting the relationships among peoples in North America from 1534-1850.
The Project
A collection of digital resources on Manitoba history that features newspapers, letters, memoirs and diaries, drawings, maps and photos - all of which record the early development of the province.
Multicultural Canada
Included in this web site are an extensive range of Collections, the majority in a language other than English. Material types include audio files, published text such as books and newspapers, unpublished text such as manuscript documents, photographs, and ephemeral items such as identity cards.
A diverse collection of digitized print materials and video relating to multiculturalism and ethnicity generally, as well as to specific ethnic groups within Canada.
A collection of hundreds of Canadian local histories about places, ethnic groups, cultural phenomena, and organizations.
This website contains both an online bibliography of books, pamphlets, and other materials related to the development of the Prairies, as well as a searchable full-text collection of many of these items. As of Fall 2010, Peel contains approximately 7,500 digitized books and over 35,000 newspaper issues.  Developed by the University of Alberta.

Book & pamphlet collections

Canadian Pamphlets and Broadsides
A large collection of pre-1930 Canadian pamphlets and broadsides. The collection includes advertisements, campaign literature, protest leaflets, cultural event advertisements, and other ephemera from all regions of Canada.

Early Canadiana Online
Early Canadiana Online (ECO) is a full text, searchable, online collection of more than 3,000 books and pamphlets documenting Canadian history from the first European contact to the late 19th century.

500+ publications, documents, and other significant items from the complete CFU archival collection held by the SFU Library’s Special Collections.
A collection of digitized images, print materials, and ephemera relating to the settlement of the Doukhobors in Canada, primarily in the late 19th and early 20th century.
100,000+ pages of full text and images dating from 17th century to present day, providing biographies of Native North Americans.
North American Women's Drama
1,500 plays by women from the United States and Canada written from colonial times to the present.

News sources

Print journalism from Indigenous peoples of the US and Canada, from 1828 to 2016.
Full text of nearly 300 newspapers from Canada's leading publishers, including the Globe & Mail and the National Post, as well as local papers such as the Vancouver Sun, the Province, Vancouver Courier, and the Burnaby Now.
CBC Digital Archives
This site contains selected television and radio footage from the Archives of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The collection dates back to 1927 and includes news footage and interviews.
Democracy at War: Canadian Newspapers and the Second World War
This collection of more than 144,000 Canadian newspaper articles includes news stories and editorials that document every aspect of the war.
This collection offers access to The Financial Post, a business newspaper, from 1907-1886. (It merged into The National Post in 1998.) The collection includes full page scans of the paper, including articles, advertisements, photographs, and more.
Globe & Mail Canada's Heritage from 1844
Searchable full-text of the Globe and Mail from 1844-2001. Includes major events in Canadian history, plus thousands of images, advertisements, and political cartoons dating back to the pre-confederation era.
The Simon Fraser University Library Editorial Cartoons Collection contains over 6000 original drawings published in Canadian newspapers between 1952 and the present.

Oral histories, diaries, letters, narratives, etc.

American Journeys
A collection containing more than 18,000 pages of eyewitness accounts of North American exploration.

Canadian Letters & Images Project
An online archive of the Canadian war experience, as told through the letters and images of Canadians themselves. The collection includes correspondence, diaries, photographs, postcards, and other miscellaneous items.
A selection of approximately 100 hours of interviews collected in the 1970s and 1980s documenting the experiences of Italian women who immigrated to Canada throughout the first three quarters of the twentieth century.
Full-text of over 100,000 pages of personal narratives by immigrants to North America, between 1840 and the present.
Full-text of letters and diaries written by North American women from Colonial times to 1950.

Government information

The Confidential Print series is a collection of important papers generated by the Foreign and Colonial Offices since c.1820.
All of the papers issued by the British House of Commons between 1801-1900 in all formats. More than 184,000 searchable full text documents. Topics include Canadian confederation.


Barren Lands Digital Collection
This site documents two exploratory surveys of the Barren Lands region west of Hudson Bay, in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the area now known as Nunavut. The collection includes over 5,000 images from original field notebooks, correspondence, photographs, maps and published reports.

Canadian Heritage Gallery
A substantial list of Canadian image collections. The site covers various subject areas including geography, natural resources, urban and rural architecture, transportation, first nations, and war. Some of the images date back to the 1500s and include photographs, drawings, and maps.

Canadian War Poster Collection - McGill Library
A digitized collection of some 250 Canadian posters from the two World Wars. The website features descriptions and images each poster, an artist index, and a search facility.

A collection of archival images dating from 1950-1975 celebrating the contributions of Italian women immigrants to Canadian history and culture.
Virtual Museum of Canada - Images Gallery
The Virtual Museum of Canada's Image Gallery contains thousands of images including historic photos, paintings, and artefacts.

Music and film sources

National Film Board of Canada (NFB)
The NFB's online Screening Room provides free home viewing of over 700 productions, films, trailers and clips from the NFB's world-renowned collection. Coverage ranges from historical films dating back to 1928 to current contemporary releases, including award-winning documentaries, animation and fiction.