A New Window for Canadian Historical Images: The New York Public Library Digital Collections

Researchers, bloggers and casual internet searchers will be interested in exploring a new source of historic images available to the public, many with relevance to Alberta and Canada in general. The New York Public Library Digital Collections includes over 674,000 items, featuring prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts and streaming videos. More than 180,000 of the items are in the public domain and available for downloading without charge, by the public, directly from the Digital Collections website in high resolution.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. "Sculptured lion in front of N.Y.P.L." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/620a3d58-fe41-dc81-e040-e00a18060f0c

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “Sculptured lion in front of N.Y.P.L.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/620a3d58-fe41-dc81-e040-e00a18060f0c

Browsing through the collection, researchers will find numerous images illustrating Alberta’s rich history, including remarkable images from the Blackfoot reserve in southern Alberta.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. "Indian camp at the foothills of the Rockies, Alberta." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-4569-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Indian camp at the foothills of the Rockies, Alberta.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-4569-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. "Indian camp, Blackfoot Reserve, Alberta." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-4568-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Indian camp, Blackfoot Reserve, Alberta.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-4568-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Many of the images posted on the site are also contained within the collections of such institutions as the Glenbow Museum and Archives, the Provincial Archives of Alberta and the Library and Archives of Canada. Due diligence is always a wise course of action when considering using any image, and the New York Public Library collection is no exception. Some image captions such as the one identifying the first train to arrive at Calgary in 1866 are incorrect. The first train to arrive at Calgary did so in August of 1883. The Glenbow Archives has the exact same image in their collections. Once also noted as illustrating the first train to arrive in Calgary, it has since been corrected to describe the departure by special train from Calgary, of Governor-General Lord Stanley of Preston, to the First Nations reserve at Gleichen in October of 1889 [See Glenbow photographs NA-2536-21 and S-222-152].

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. "The first through passenger train from Montreal arriving at Calgary, 1866." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-4488-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “The first through passenger train from Montreal arriving at Calgary, 1866.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-4488-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Similarly the iconic image of Galician Ukrainian immigrants arriving at Quebec City has been misidentified as depicting “Russian Jews”.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. "Russian Jews." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-4534-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Russian Jews.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-4534-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

As with any online source of images, users should be mindful of the Terms and Conditions pertaining to copyright, usage and proper crediting as outlined within the New York Public Library Digital Collection “Terms and Conditions”. In spite of any such cautionary notes the collection offers a fascinating array of images for consultation and use. It is a remarkable source for free images in the public domain which touch upon Alberta’s and Canada’s heritage. They will offer researchers hours of “viewing pleasure” and various avenues of exploration. Happy Heritage Hunting!

Written By: Peter Melnycky, Historian

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