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Banner: Moving Here, Staying Here. The Canadian Immigrant Experience


The Documentary TrailTraces of the PastFind an Immigrant

About Moving Here, Staying Here

The History of the Project

As ambitious as this site is, its authors recognize that it cannot cover all topics, eras or collections of interest to those attracted to immigration history. Thus, when the project's content managers began to create a detailed scenario for this site, they were forced to develop strategies that answered a number of difficult questions:

  • What is the best way to organize a manageable history of immigration in a nation built largely by immigrants?
  • When drawing on a vast national collection, what is the best way to select the stories and documents that will illustrate Canadian history?
  • Is it possible to develop a resource that provides useful material for academic and genealogical researchers, as well as for educators and students?
  • Finally, given that there already exist a number of very good sites on the history of Canadian immigration, what unique strategy will Library and Archives Canada employ to complement these resources?

After thorough investigation, the team reached the following decisions. First, in response to client needs, it decided to focus on digitizing one of Library and Archives Canada's (LAC) most frequently used collections and make it available online: the Passenger Lists. It would be complemented by an online selection of immigrant diaries and photographs. Along with the popular Western Land Grants database, and future additions such as the Lower Canada Land Petitions, these materials would serve as the backbone for a strong, researcher-oriented resource.

To complement these digital holdings, the team decided to organize a virtual exhibition that reflected the strengths and uniqueness of its collection. Since LAC is the official national government repository, it was natural to organize the site on the strength of this collection. Focusing on government legislation that affected immigration to Canada also gave the team a starting period -- the 1800s, when the first Passenger Acts were introduced in Britain. Although the decision to conclude in the 1930s was more artificial, the team recognized that, to do justice to the topic, a relatively narrow timeframe was required; immigration following the Second World War is a worthy project for the future.

With the timeline set, experts from LAC and from across the country were challenged to write on various themes that reflected key events, periods or legislative decisions in the nation's immigration history (Directives). They were also asked to illustrate each contribution with a selection of key documents from LAC's collection. Going one step further, the team also asked its experts to complement every theme with sections that described the impact these directives had within Canada (Debates), as well as on the immigrants themselves (Dreams). This strategy helped ensure the development of a more complete, compelling and human history, while providing users with a more diverse sampling of LAC's rich collection.

Acknowledgements

LAC would like to express its special thanks to the many archivists, librarians and academics who lent their specialized expertise to this project. The authors of the various essays in the "Documentary Trail" and "Traces of the Past" sections are listed at the top of the individual contributions.

We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the Department of Canadian Heritage, whose financial assistance through Canadian Culture Online (CCO) made this work possible.


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