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ARCHIVED - Posters and Broadsides in Canada

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The Art of the Poster in Canada

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Colour poster with collage of newspaper fragments superimposed by the word "Affichez!" in red


Figure 1

Take a test. Go for a walk in your town one day-say for 12 blocks in your neighbourhood. It doesn't matter where you live. Look around as you walk, and you'll soon see posters and broadsides on billboards, in store windows, on walls, or taped or stapled to poles. You'll easily see 50 posters fairly quickly, drawing your attention to a variety of activities, events, and sales. We are surrounded by and drawn to the visual and textual messages contained in such posters every day. We take them for granted. We know they are there, but we only occasionally take more than a moment to scan their content, and we don't usually think of them again once they've been taken down or have blown away.

Figure 1: Poster calling for the protection of this endangered medium, 1989

What can Canadians learn about the art and history of Canadian posters, their purpose and meaning, how they connect us, and why they exist? Library and Archives Canada (LAC) hopes this website can provide some answers.

Black-and-white poster with caricature of William Lyon Mackenzie King on a stage enticing a crowd to see a show under a circus tent. Title at top and text at bottom


Figure 2
Colour poster with illustration of Adolf Hilter's head depicted as the Devil on yellow background at top, with text in white on blue background at bottom


Figure 3

Figure 2: Poster with caricature of William Lyon Mackenzie King, "Barker King:  -  Walk up. Ladies and Gents! Something to suit every political opinion - show now going on!"

Figure 3: War Victory Bond poster "Save to Beat the Devil!", 1943

LAC has been acquiring and preserving posters and broadsides from the late 19th century onwards. We now own and preserve more than 3,000 broadsides, as well as more than 40,000 posters, many of them so rare that the only known copy resides at LAC. Most are devoted to Canada's war effort, political campaigns, government programs, and the arts.

While small numbers of these posters are available as digital images in other virtual exhibitions, or are part of our digitized holdings, the vast majority of these rich collections remain unknown. Nor has the fascinating story of the development of the poster in Canada been told through an online resource. It's possible to view the same 100 or so scanned images, usually war posters, on any number of institutional websites. And a few excellent publications, usually produced for major exhibitions, can be a good source of information. But this site is intended to make information about, and images of, posters and broadsides much more widely available.

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