Contemporary Canadian Government & Politics:
A Practical Research Guide

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5. Using Primary Source Material
Introduction Selected Primary Sources and their Finding Aids

Selected Primary Sources and their Finding Aids: Recorded Images

What Was Said What Was Written Personal Papers What Is Happening Now

Reporters, photographers, documentary film-makers and others present at the time of a significant event or period have recorded or captured these political events and processes on film, video, in photographs and their art.

After-the-fact commentary, voice-overs, and various uses made of these sources do not necessarily consititute primary material, but the raw footage and the untouched photographs do. This kind of material is usually found in archives but there are also some published or digitized collections and reference sources available to help locate them.

Back to the Top Photographs Cartoons
Film and Video Footage
Televised election coverage, political debates and conventions, paid political announcements, news footage, taped interviews of government officials and politicians, etc., these are all primary source materials that can be of great interest to researchers. Selected recent clips may be found on the web sites of broadcasters such as CBC, CTV, etc., political parties and government departments. None of these however, archive all of their historical footage on their public web sites. The following are selected collections of historical film and video footage and their finding aids:

Archives Canada: Film, Video and Sound Database. Library and Archives Canada. http://www.collectionscanada.ca/archivianet/020114_e.html

This site provides access to the Audiovisual Holdings Database which contains over 265,000 descriptions of film, videos and sound recordings held by the Library and Archives Canada. You can search by keywords, dates, format, etc. Each record has a description of the item, copyright details, and information on how to consult the item at the National Archives in Ottawa or to order a reproduction. Films and videos include paid political announcements, election debates on radio and television, documentary films, clips from the CBC and more.
CBC Archives. http://archives.cbc.ca/
The web site of the Archives of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation includes several collections of radio and television clips on government and political topics. Items include clips from speeches, interviews, etc. Select "Politics and Economy" to see the collections available, search by keyword or use the Topic Index. Links to each item indicate the media type (radio or television) and running length. Clips are in Windows Media Player format.
National Film Board of Canada. http://www.nfb.ca/
Several NFB documentaries have been made which include original footage of political events. The NFB film collection is available in many libraries in Canada or through interlibrary loan, and some can be downloaded online. Click on "Collections" to search for French or English films in the film catalogue. Search by keyword or select "Index" to search by major categories, genres or series.
The NFB Film Guide: The Productions of the National Film Board of Canada From 1939 to 1989. Montreal: NFB Canada, 1991. 960 p.
NFB films produced during this time period are described briefly. The subject index includes headings for government, politics, politicians, etc.
To find films and videos in libraries:

AMICUS, The National Library catalogue and union catalogue of most academic libraries in Canada includes some documentary videos and NFB films with original footage of political events.

Using the Advanced Search you can usually limit a library catalogue search by format (videorecordings, audiovisual or similar) or search by combining the keyword "videorecording" (one word) with keywords for your topic. e.g. videorecording and pierre trudeau. (Many library catalogues have the word "videorecording" entered at the end of each video title.) Or you can search using commonly used keywords such as footage, film, documentary, etc. Check your library's online help files or ask a Reference Librarian if it is not clear.

Many government departments have produced catalogues of the films or videos they have produced. To search for these in library catalogues, search by Canada or the province name, combined with the subject keyword: film catalogs or motion pictures.

Back to the Top Film and Video Footage Cartoons
Photographs
Photographs are primary source materials with a lot of impact. They can be used to further your understanding of events or to illustrate your points. An historical event can be much easier to understand through photographs than by text explanations alone. The following sources either provide photographs online or help you to find photographs in archives:
Archives Canada: Photographs Database. Library and Archives Canada. Updated by Archives Search. http://www.collectionscanada.ca/archivianet/020115_e.html
The National Archives has a collection of over 25 million photographs. About 400,000 of these can be searched by keyword using this database and over 40,000 of the images described are digitized and available online. Searches can be limited to online photographs only.
Guide to Canadian Photographic Archives. Edited by Christopher Seigried. Ottawa: Public Archives Canada, 1984.
This guide describes thousands of historical photograph collections in archives across the country. It has a subject index.
Historic Moments in Canadian Politics: The Photojournalism Archive of William C. Stratas. By William C. Stratas. http://www.planetcast.com/historic-moments/
This is a small archive of historic political photographs (from 1978-1984) with text commentary and audio narrative from the private collection of photojournalist William C. Sratas. Includes photographs of Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Joe Clark and John Turner. (Takes a while to load.)
Images Canada. Library and Archives Canada. http://www.imagescanada.ca/index-e.html
This is a collaborative project providing access to tens of thousands of digitized images (photographs, cartoons, illustrations) of Canadian people, places, events and items from the collections of libraries, archives and museums across the country. Search by keyword to see a thumbnail image, metadata: description, source, copyright information, etc. and a link to the full size image.
To find photographs in books:

Most useful books on your topic will include a few photographs. These books will likely only have "ill." (for illustrations) and/or "port." (for portraits) in the physical description line of the library record.
To find books with photographs as a substantial part of the book, one of the Library of Congress subject headings may include the sub-heading: -- pictorial works, or --portraits. e.g. Prime ministers -- Canada -- portraits

To find photographs in magazines, journals and newspapers:

Check the search instructions on any index or full-text database you search for articles on your topic. Some (e.g. Canadian Newsstand by ProQuest) allow limiting a search to image captions as "article type". If this is not possible, search for articles in databases that include publications you know to publish many photographs, such as newsmagazines like Maclean's.

To find photographs on the Internet:

Using Internet search engines to find photographs is relatively easy, but the same problem applies as with any Internet-wide search: You may have trouble finding the metadata for the image that you need to make sure it is relevant and to cite it appropriately. Many search engines include a button to limit searches to images. (e.g. Google http://www.google.ca: click on "images" before entering your search.)

NOTE: You can usually copy an image for your own study and research, but if you intend to post it on a web site or duplicate it for others to see you MUST first ask for permission from the copyright holder. See the Copyright page at Images Canada, mentioned above for a brief explanation of copyright requirements.

Back to the Top Film and Video Footage Photographs
Cartoons:

Political cartoons (also called editorial cartoons) have been a popular form of commentary on government and politics in Canada for a very long time. They show the hot issues of the time and often represent the public mood or feelings about political issues.

See Decoding Political Cartoons. By Charles Hou. Learning Centre, Library and Archives Canada. http://www.collectionscanada.ca/education/008-3050-e.html a brief, illustrated guide on how to interpret political cartoons.

Political cartoons are usually published in daily newspapers. There are also collections and compilations available:

Archives Canada: Documentary Art. Library and Archives Canada. Updated by Archives Search. http://www.collectionscanada.ca/archivianet/020116_e.html
This database includes descriptions for about 170,000 of the National Archives' works of art, of which around 10,000 are digitized and available online. Descriptions include the source, copyright information, etc. Searches can be limited to "Descriptions of Caricatures only" and to "Descriptions with a digitized image".
Daily Updating Political Cartoons by all the top Cartoonists. By Daryl Cagle. http://cagle.msnbc.com/politicalcartoons/ Part of the Professional Cartoonists Index by Daryl Cagle.
This site is updated daily with the day's top political cartoons from major dailies around the world. Arrow down to the listing of Canadian Cartoonists to see today's editorial cartoon from several Canadian dailies, including the Montreal Gazette, Le Droit, Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Star and Sun, Globe & Mail, National Post, Calgary Herald and Sun, Winnipeg Free Press, Halifax Daily News, Vancouver Sun, etc. and some from freelance cartoonists. Note: Page can be slow to load.
Images Canada. Library and Archives Canada. http://www.imagescanada.ca/index-e.html
This is a collaborative project providing access to tens of thousands of digitized images, (including cartoons) of Canadian people, places, events and items from the collections of libraries, archives and museums across the country. Search by keyword to see a thumbnail image, metadata: description, source, copyright information, etc. and a link to the full size image.
TIP: Select "Advanced Search" to limit your search with "Caricatures and cartoons" or "Political Satire" in the subject field.
SFU Library Editorial Cartoons Collection. Simon Fraser University Library. http://edocs.lib.sfu.ca/projects/Cartoons/
A searchable collection of over 3500 original drawings by eight well-known cartoonists published in Canadian newspapers between 1952 and the present. Additional information includes how to cite cartoons and links to more cartoon sites.

To find books of collected political cartoons:

There are many books of political cartoons published. Some of the top cartoonists such as Aislin, Bado (Portfoolio series) and others publish an annual compilation. The following are some examples of other kinds of compilations:

Daily Smile: A Travelling Exhibition of Original Duncan Macpherson Cartoons Donated to the Public Archives of Canada by the Toronto Star. Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1980. 227 p.
This book has full-page reproductions of black and white cartoons with a paragraph describing the context, organized by subjects such as "National Leaders", "National Parties", "National Unity", etc.
Norris. Ottawa: Canadian Museum of Caricature, 1990. 131 p.
Len Norris cartoons appeared in the Vancouver Sun. This is an exhibition catalogue from the Canadian Museum of Caricature with full-page reproductions and a paragraph describing the context. Cartoons are grouped by subjects such as "Federal Politics", "Provincial Politics", "National Defence", etc.
Poll Cats: A Collection of Political Cartoons. By James F. Todd. Hantsport, NS: Lancelot Press, 1993. 120 p.

To find more books of political cartoons:

Search AMICUS or your nearest academic library catalogue using these Library of Congress subject headings:

Political cartoons--Canada
Political satire, Canadian
Caricatures and cartoons--Canada
Canadian wit and humor, Pictorial

You can also search using the subject heading for your topic followed by the sub-headings:
-- caricatures and cartoons or -- pictorial works
e.g.

  • Politicians--Canada--caricatures and cartoons
  • Canada--Politics and government--pictorial works
or you can search for the works of a cartoonist as the author.
NOTE: The name the cartoonist uses to sign his or her work is usually the one used (e.g. Search for Aislin not Mosher, Bado not Badeaux.)

To find political cartoons in newspapers, journals and magazines:

Very Recent Cartoons:
If you know which newspaper your favourite cartoonist publishes in, search the publication's Internet site:
e.g. Aislin cartoons by Terry Mosher are published daily in the Montreal Gazette. This Gazette web page shows today's cartoon and links to the Aislin cartoons from the previous two months: http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/aislin/index.htm

TIP: Use the list of Canadian Cartoonists at the bottom of Daryl Cagle's Daily Updating Political Cartoons by all the Top Cartoonists" page from his "Professional Cartoonists Index" http://cagle.msnbc.com/politicalcartoons/ to find the newspaper for a select list of well-known cartoonists.

Older Cartoons:
Check the search instructions on any index or full-text database you search for articles on your topic. Some (e.g. CBCA and Canadian Newsstand by ProQuest) have a subject term: "Editorial Cartoons" which you can combine with a keyword or subject term for your topic. These databases also allow limiting a search to "editorial cartoon" and "image caption" as an article type.

If this does not work you may be able to add to your search the keywords: cartoon, editorial cartoon, or the cartoonist's name. Find an example of how the database you are using indexes, describes and displays cartoons, if at all, and adjust your search accordingly.

Back to the Top Film and Video Footage Photographs Cartoons
What Was Said What Was Written Personal Papers What Is Happening Now
Introduction Selected Primary Sources and their Finding Aids
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HOME
Introduction   Starting   Clarifying   Bibliographies   Finding & Evaluating
Primary Sources   Special Topics   Citing Sources   Ask Your Librarian!   Detailed Table of Contents

Created and maintained by Anita Cannon, Librarian
R. P. Bell Library   Mount Allison University   Mount Allison Centre for Canadian Studies
Last Updated: January 4, 2008
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