Primary Sources for the Humanities: Canada

If you need help, please contact Baharak Yousefi, Librarian for History, International Studies, Graduate Liberal Studies, Political Science at or byousefi@sfu.ca or Ask a librarian.

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.

Search across multiple collections for monographs, manuscripts, newspapers, photographs, maps, and other primary sources.
 
Original manuscripts, maps, ephemeral material and rare printed sources on the American and Canadian West.

Canadiana 
The Canadiana collection contains over 19 million pages (96,000 titles) of digitized historical publications, including monographs, serials, and government publications. The collection is largely composed of materials published prior to 1921, including content digitized from the Canadian Institute for Historic Microreproductions (CIHM) microfiche series.

Early Encounters in North America
Prints, drawings, paintings, maps, bibliographies, letters, and photographs documenting the relationships among peoples in North America from 1534-1850. It includes perspectives of explorers, Indigenous peoples, missionaries, officials, slaves, soldiers, and traders. 

A collection of hundreds of Canadian local histories about places, ethnic groups, cultural phenomena, and organizations. Topics include Acadian migration to the Maritimes, Mťis heroes, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Irish settlement at Grosse Isle, and more.

British Columbia

The BC Historical Newspapers project features digitized versions of historical papers from around the province. The titles, which range from the Abbotsford Post to the Ymir Mirror, date from 1859 to 1995.
 
Search within the Vancouver Public Librarys collection for documents and facts on British Columbian history from August 1998 to present. Includes: book chapters or excerpts; articles in small and local news sources (e.g. magazines, newsletters & newspapers); uncatalogued material and pamphlets.
 
Burnaby Community Heritage Commission Collections 
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 
Archival holdings consist of a variety of records that document the city's history, including: City of Vancouver government records (public records); records of non-government organizations, businesses and individuals (private records); and visual records including historic photographs, maps, artwork, pamphlets, 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 (University of British Columbia) 
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, and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.

British Columbia Regional Digitized History 
B.C.R.D.H. is the parent of two regional aggregate collections: Digitized Okanagan History (2017 - present) and Kootenay/Columbia Digitized History (2019 - present). Together, these aggregate collections represent historical, primary source, and archival materials housed in community heritage institutions throughout the Okanagan, Shuswap, Similkameen, Boundary, West Kootenay, East Kootenay, and Columbia regions of British Columbia’s southern interior. 

A comprehensive portal for understanding the Komagata Maru incident through primary documents, oral histories, private archives, artistic endeavors, and interviews.
 
Descriptions of archival materials preserved in archives and repositories across BC, with links to digitized materials where available.
 
Simon Fraser University Archives
SFU archives acquires three major categories of materials: official records of the University; materials documenting the wider University community; and private historical research collections.

British Columbia image collections

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 record the arts and architecture of the various First Nations of the Pacific Northwest.
 
BC Historical Photographs Online (British Columbia Archival Information Network) 
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.
 
The Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs consists of more than 7,900 images from 77 albums. This collection includes extensive coverage of B.C. from the 1850s to the 1950s and includes photographs in a wide variety of formats and genres including albums, diaries, portraits, landscapes and city/townscapes.
 
A collection of materials, including posters, images, periodicals and ephemera, documenting the punk movement in Vancouver.

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.

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. Life stories of Native Americans and Canadian First Peoples in their own words and through the words of others.
 
North American Women's Drama
1,500 plays by women from the United States and Canada written from colonial times to the present.
 
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.

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.
 
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.
 
Library and Archives Canada's collection of Canadian newspapers is the most extensive in the country. It includes newspapers in original newsprint as well as on microfilm, microfiche and digital formats. The collection contains a wide variety of titles including community, regional, ethnic, Indigenous and student newspapers.
 
This collection contains over 6000 original editorial cartoon drawings published in Canadian newspapers between 1952 and the present.

Oral histories, diaries, letters, & narratives

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

BC Labour Heritage Centre Oral History Collection 

This collection is comprised of full-length interviews with notable activists in British Columbia's labour movement on topics ranging from experiences at work, picket lines, strikes and rallies, to organizing unions and negotiating and bargaining collective agreements, as well as shorter interviews based on historic labour events in B.C. The collection includes memories from pre-World War II through to today, as well as reflections on the current state of the labour movement.

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.
 
A selection of interviews conducted with early Indian immigrants to Canada, almost all of them British Columbians, in 53 audio files.
 
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 the Colonial era to 1950, representing all age groups and life stages, a wide range of ethnicities, and many geographical regions.

Government information

The Confidential Print series is a collection of important papers generated by the Foreign and Colonial Offices from 1824 to 1961, for the USA, Canada, the Caribbean and Central America.
 
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.

Images

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 War Poster Collection (McGill University) 
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.
 
Community Stories Collection 
A collection of more than 500 Canadian online community heritage projects funded by Digital Museums Canada. 

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.