Archives Awareness Week: Digital Archives portal expands railway and aviation collections

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As students and educators shift from the traditional classroom to online learning in the face of COVID-19, the Ingenium Digital Archives portal is growing its offerings.

Launched in April 2018, the Digital Archives portal offers access to the digitized archives of our three museums — the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum — allowing online users to conduct research from a distance.

As we celebrate the Digital Archives portal’s second birthday and Archives Awareness Week, we’re also introducing two big collections: the Science and Technology Railway Collection and the Canada Aviation Museum (CAVM) Photograph Collection. We’ve also published more photos to our most popular collections: the CN Images of Canada Collection and the Ken Molson Fonds. Our priority is publishing content that we believe is already in the public domain, so that users may remix and reuse as they see fit. Here are the highlights for each collection:

Science and Technology Railway Collection
This is a compilation of different collections gathered by over a dozen rail hobbyists over time. Staff and volunteers at the Canada Science and Technology Museum brought the photographs together, assigned catalogue numbers, made negatives, and added metadata. The collection’s images span back to the 1830s, covering early rail companies like Grand Trunk Railway, as well as Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, and most provincial or short line railways that operated in Canada. These photographs were previously made available through our Picturing the Past portal, and tell the story of the development of rail in Canada and beyond.

Canada Aviation Museum Photograph Collection
The Canada Aviation Museum (CAVM) Photograph Collection is a compilation of photographs donated to or acquired by the museum since its opening in 1960. Small groups of photographs were donated by aviation enthusiasts, amateur aviation historians, or individuals with family photographs relating to careers in aviation. The collection also includes copy photographs from other major collections. Staff added to the collection and maintained its card catalogue up until 1998. Although the museum was still called the National Aviation Museum at this time, most digitization took place when the museum was called CAVM, so the collection came to be known under its current name. It contain images of aircraft preserved by the museum and general aircraft images, people, places, and events. Some of these photographs were previously made available through the Image Bank.

CN Images of Canada Collection
The photographs added to the CN Images of Canada Collection were previously made available through the CN Images of Canada Gallery. Unlike the existing CN photographs in Digital Archives, some of these new images are in colour! All of the images in this collection showcase the corporate photographers' skill and their important incidental role in documenting Canada’s development over time.

Ken Molson Fonds
The images added to the Ken Molson Fonds are photographs that Molson gathered from other sources, rather than those that he took himself. Copyright terms for these images were reviewed and we are publishing those that we have determined to be in the public domain and those for which copyright is completely unknown. Most photographs are from the Interwar period, and seem to come from the personal collections of individuals who were flight instructors, company test pilots, or staff from early Canadian air services.

Ongoing improvements
Regular users of Ingenium’s Digital Archives portal already know that the site has some “quirks.” There are known bugs with the way the search and filters are working. Some examples: we archivists tend to break the filters on the Explore screen when we get too ambitious and publish too many new images out at once; the search window seems to work better when searching for one keyword at a time; the Explore page always says that it is displaying 500 results, even when you’re browsing through a selection of over 25,000 images! This year, we hope to iron out these kinks and make the search an easier experience for our users.

Profile picture for user Adele Torrance
Adele Torrance

 Adele Torrance is the Archivist at Ingenium - Canada's Museums of Science and Innovation.