Library and Archives Canada
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About the Collection


The collection held by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is the shared documentary heritage of all Canadians. A national treasure of inestimable value, it spans the entire history of Canada, and comprises materials in all media from all parts of the country, as well as records and publications of Canadian interest from outside the country.

While a brief summary cannot do justice to the incredible richness of this collection, it can convey its immense scope:

  • over 71,000 hours of short and full-length films, documentaries, silent films and "talkies," in black and white and in colour, dating back as far as 1897;
  • over 2.5 million architectural drawings, plans and maps, some of which date back to the beginning of the 16th century;
  • about 3.18 million megabytes of information in electronic formats, including more than 26,000 Canadian periodicals and books available online as of August 2007;
  • millions of books in various languages for all tastes and ages, from rare first editions and livres d'artistes to children's classics and popular fiction;
  • over 21.3 million photographic images, captured since the 1850s;
  • textual records and publications for federal, provincial, territorial and foreign governments;
  • over 270,000 hours of video and sound recordings;
  • over 343,000 works of art, including watercolours, sketches, miniatures, oil paintings and caricatures;
  • the largest collection of Canadian sheet music in the world, documentation related to music in Canada and about 200,000 recordings on disks and records of all formats, piano rolls, reels and spools, and eight-track tapes;
  • the Canadian Postal Archives;
  • an impressive collection of medals, seals, posters and coats of arms;
  • textual archives for various individuals and groups who have contributed to Canada's cultural, social, economic and political development;
  • national, provincial and territorial newspapers from across Canada, from dailies to student newspapers, and from Aboriginal magazines to ethnic community newsletters;
  • periodicals, microfilms, manuscripts and theses; and portraits of over one million Canadians since 1689.

This collection has been built over many years, and brings together the collections of the former National Archives of Canada (established in 1872) and the former National Library of Canada (established in 1953). The Library and Archives Canada Act (2004) [] gives LAC a continued mandate to build the collection, and, in particular, modernizes that mandate for the digital age.