This is a preliminary series, please see both lower level descriptions and attached accessions for more information. Series consists of photographs created and maintained by the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). They include images from early survey expeditions across Canada, and cover a wide variety of subjects, including landscape views, geological formations, mining activities, surveying, natural history, botany, Indigenous peoples, and settlers. The photographs include glass, nitrate and paper negatives, loose prints, prints in albums, and lantern slides. Most of these photographs date between 1858 and 1945, with a large portion from before 1910. Some, but not all of the albums and individual photographs have been described at the lower level, please see attached descriptions.
The collection includes what is believed to be the first photographs taken on a GSC field survey, which were taken on James Richardson's 1860 expedition to Quebec and Labrador (GSC negative numbers 1 to 28). Starting in the mid-1870s, more GSC staff began taking photographs as a regular part of their work, and it became standard practice in the 1880s. The GSC also occasionally hired professional photographers to accompany field expeditions.
The collection also includes photo albums and prints of photographs which were not taken on GSC surveys, but were acquired by the GSC Photo Library for research purposes. Including a set of prints by Humphrey Lloyd Hime which document the 1858 Assiniboine and Saskatchewan expedition, which are some of the earliest photographs of western Canada.
Most of the photographs have been assigned a GSC negative number. GSC negative numbers were assigned by the GSC Photo Library. They start at GSC negative number 1 and continue sequentially into the 100,000s. These numbers were in use until the 1940s when it appears a new cataloguing system was implemented. It is not certain when the GSC negative numbers were first implemented, but it was likely around 1910 when the GSC Library was moved from Sussex Dr. to the Victoria Memorial Museum in Ottawa and re-catalogued. These sequential numbers were not always assigned chronologically, and it appears that some negative numbers were assigned prior to developing the negatives. As such there are many numbers for which an image was not produced, or which were discarded by the GSC. Some GSC staff, most notably Robert Bell and A.P. Low assigned their own negative numbers often using their initials and the year of the expedition (ex. "APL 1903-04 No. 1"). These negatives have also been assigned a GSC negative number, which means that many photographs have two or more associated negative numbers.
The collection also includes a sub-series of lantern slides, which have their own numbering system. Please see lower level description Geological Survey of Canada Lantern Slide Collection R214-2968-9 for more information.
The collection also includes originals or copies of catalogue cards created by the GSC Photo Library to manage their collection. These cards include identifying information, such as the negative number, photographer, geographic location, subject matter, and captions. Some cards also include information about the negatives themselves, such as when originals were damaged or destroyed. These catalogue cards were previously known as FA-16, and some have been annotated with copy negative numbers assigned by the archives (PA# or C#), which can be used to identify prints or negatives within the collection. Not all photographs in the collection are identified in the catalogue cards, and it is not clear if all photographs described in the cards have been transferred to LAC.
The original envelopes which housed the nitrate negatives have also been retained. Each envelope includes the GSC negative number, and when available, the photographer, geographic location, date, and caption for each image.