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The stories behind historical maps from Library and Archives Canada's vast collection.

Gatineau Park forest-cover map

A 1974 forest-cover map of Gatineau Park. The 361-square-kilometre protected area in southwestern Quebec is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. (Map credit: Gatineau Park: Forest cover types / Department of the Environment [1974], © Government of Canada. Reproduced with the permission of Library and Archives Canada (2018), e011086587.)

Gatineau Park forest-cover map
This colourful forest-cover map, completed in 1974, provided invaluable information for the management of the National Capital Region’s cherished park

Left: A 1907 fire insurance map of Port Moody, B.C., which at the time was emerging from the economic doldrums that followed the town being bypassed as the Pacific terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway in favour of what would become Vancouver. Right: A late 19th-century poster advertising cross-Canada CPR journeys with international connections on CPR-owned steamships. (Map: Detail of Port Moody, British Columbia, 13 miles east of Vancouver, October 1907, revised July 1915, July 1915, Chas. E. Goad, R6690, Charles E. Goad Company Fonds, Library and Archives Canada, e010688978-v8; Print: Canadian Pacific Railway and Royal Mail Steamship Line to Japan & China, ca.1895, R1409, Marc Choko Collection, Library and Archives Canada, e011087343-v8)

How Port Moody, B.C., missed out on becoming one of the world’s great harbours  

Clockwise from left: A map of the region covered by the Joint Arctic Weather Station in Eureka; an inset showing Eureka; Galen Olsen, a JAWS station staffer, outside Eureka International Airport in the mid-1950s. (Map: Joint Arctic Weather Stations. Eureka, Canada. Edition 1, 1970, Surveys and Mapping Branch, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, Library and Archives Canada, e011196844; Photo: Courtesy of John Gilbert)

How the Joint Arctic Weather Stations program did more than just fill in a blank on the nation’s weather map

George Dawson's map of the canoe journey he made from Lake of the Woods, Ont., to Dufferin, Man., in 1873. (Map credit: Sketch Map showing Indian Canoe route explored by Mr. G.M. Dawson Geologist H.M.N.A.B.C., 1873, G.M. Dawson, Library and Archives Canada, e011161386-v8)

How George Dawson’s seminal work for the British North American Boundary Commission did far more than simply mark the 49th parallel
Portion of Paolo Forlani's 1560 map of the world showing "Canada" for the first time

Can you see Canada? This 1560 map of the world by Italian engraver Paolo Forlani is the first known instance of the name "Canada" appearing on a printed map. (Map: Paolo Forlani, Paulus de Furlanis Veronensis opus hoc ex.mi cosmographi d[omi]ni Iacobi Gastaldi pedemontani instauravit, et dicavit ex.ti iur. vt doct[iss] et aurato aequiti d[omi]no Paulo Michaeli Vincentino, 1560, Library and Archives Canada e006581135)

Map: Paolo Forlani, courtesy Library and Archives Canada
In 1560, Italian map engraver Paolo Forlani became the first to include "Canada" on a printed map

Portions of Samuel de Champlain's first detailed map of New France, published in 1613, were created with the help of First Nations people. (Map: Samuel de Champlain, Carte geographique de la Nouvelle Franse faictte par le sieur de Champlain Saint Tongois cappitaine ordinaire pour le Roy en la Marine. Faict len 1612, 1612, Library and Archives Canada, e010764733) 

Although often unheralded in accounts of Champlain's accomplishments, Indigenous Peoples played an important role in helping the famous explorer map New France

(Map: University of Alberta Archives, 1995-166, Soper, J. Dewey Small Accessions)

University of Alberta Archives, 1995-166, Soper, J. Dewey Small Accessions
In 1929, J. Dewey Soper’s quest to find the breeding grounds of the blue goose ended, thanks in part to this marvelously detailed hand-drawn map

(Map: Paulus de Furlanis veronensis opus hoc ex. mi cosmographi d[omi]ni iacobi gastaldi pedemontani instauravit, et dicavit ex. ti iur. vt doct[iss] et aurato aequiti d[omi]no paulo michaeli vincentino, Paulo Forlani, 1560, Library and Archives Canada, E006581135)

Map: Library and Archives Canada, E006581135
Chet Van Duzer, a cartographic historian and the author of Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps analyses Paolo Forlani's 1560 world map – the first known instance of the name "Canada" appearing on a printed map
This image, depicting the sinking of the Breadalbane in 1853 near what is today known as Beechey Island, is one of several artworks dating from the mid-1800s, when Arctic exploration and public fascination with the polar region were at their peak. (Image: Edward Augustus Inglefield Collection/Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1989-399, c000227k)
Notable works capture the danger and drama of Arctic exploration

(Map: Saskatchewan. South part. Canada Land Inventory, Land Captability for Wildlife–Waterfowl, 1:1 000 000. Ottawa, Lands Directorate, 1976, Library and Archives Canada, R653, E011177875)

Before the Canada Land Inventory, farmers had to rely on instinct and chance to find the best land
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