Collections and Research

Wm. Notman& Son/William McFarlane Notman, 100-ton mountain engine on the Canadian Pacific Railway, near Field, B.C. (detail), 1889, reversed glass plate negative, 20.3 x 25.4 cm, VIEW-2508, McCord Museum

The Notman Photographic Archives on UNESCO’s Canada Memory of the World Register

Since August 2019 the Notman Photographic Archives, held by the McCord Stewart Museum, have been listed on UNESCO’s Canada Memory of the World Register. This singular honour, bestowed only rarely, is awarded to documents of great significance to Canadian history that, having been digitized, are accessible to people all over the world.

In a unanimous decision, the jury of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO acknowledged that the photographs taken by William Notman and his sons between 1856 and 1935 shaped the vision of Canada’s identity during this pivotal period in its history.

The collection contains iconic images of every facet of Canada. It documents the expansion of the country’s territory over the course of the 19th century, its villages and cities – notably Montreal, hub of the country’s economic development – and its population, composed when Notman opened his studio largely of Indigenous people and citizens of French and British descent. As a product of its time, the Notman collection constitutes a vast field for research into the social and political relations of the period.

  • Wm. Notman & Son, <i>William Notman and his sons William MacFarlane, George and Charles</i>, 1890, reversed glass plate negative, 20.3 x 25.4 cm, II-93256, McCord Museum
  • Wm. Notman & Son/William Haggerty, <i>Percé, Que.</i>, about 1901, reversed glass plate negative, 20.3 x 25.4 cm, VIEW-3971, McCord Museum
  • Wm. Notman& Son/William McFarlane Notman, <i>Emerald Peak and cascade, B.C.</i>, 1904, reversed glass plate negative, 20.3 x 25.4 cm, VIEW-3831, McCord Museum
  • Wm. Notman & Son, <i>Tandem drive in Mount Royal Park, Montreal</i>, 1890, reversed glass plate negative, 20.3 x 25.4 cm, VIEW-2551, McCord Museum
  • Wm. Notman& Son/William McFarlane Notman, <i>Aboriginal camp, Blackfoot Reserve, near Calgary, Alta.</i>, 1889, reversed glass plate negative, 20.3 x 25.4 cm, VIEW-2156 © McCord Museum
  • Wm. Notman& Son/William McFarlane Notman, <i>Loop showing four tracks on the Canadian Pacific Railway, B.C.</i>, 1889, reversed glass plate negative, 20.3 x 25.4 cm, VIEW-2120 © McCord Museum
  • William Notman, <i>Group of stereographs from the Maple Box: Victoria Bridge, Montreal</i>, 1859-1860, albumen prints, 52 x 72 cm, gift of James Geoffrey Notman, N-0000.193.96-104 © McCord Museum
  • William Notman or Notman & Sandham, <i>William Notman studio, 17 Bleury Street, Montreal</i>, about 1875, albumen print, 25.4 x 20.3 cm, N-0000.157, McCord Museum
  • William Notman/Eugène <i>L’Africain, Le Red Cap Snow Shoe Club, Halifax, N.-É.</i>, 1888, photographie composite, maquette de montage originale, 71,1 X 83,8 cm, don d’Alice Lithgow MacDonald, N-0000.77, Musée McCord
  • Wm. Notman & Son, <i>Miss Westlake</i>, 1886, albumen print, 17.8 x 12.7 cm, II-81092.1, McCord Museum
  • Wm. Notman & Son, <i>Miss Guilmartin</i>, 1885, reversed glass plate negative, 17.8 x 12.7 cm, II-77923, McCord Museum
  • William Notman, <i>Kahnawà:ke lacrosse team</i>, 1876, reversed glass plate negative, 20.3 x 25.4 cm, II-41679, McCord Museum
  • William Notman, <i>V.P.W. Dorion and friends, Montreal</i>, 1875, reversed glass plate negative, 20.3 x 25.4 cm, II-19367, McCord Museum
  • William Notman, <i>Timber coves at Quebec City, Que.</i>, 1872, reversed glass plate negative, 20.3 x 25.4 cm, I-76311, McCord Museum
  • William Notman, <i>Chaudière Falls, Ottawa, Ont.</i>, 1870, reversed glass plate negative, 20.3 x 25.4 cm, I-49783, McCord Museum
  • William Notman, <i>Sir William Logan</i>, 1869-1870, reversed glass plate negative, 17.8 x 12.7 cm, I-42425.A, McCord Museum
  • William Notman, <i>Jean-Baptiste Rice</i>, 1868, albumen print, 8.5 x 5.4 cm, I-31573.1, McCord Museum
  • William Notman, <i>The harbour from Notre-Dame Church, looking est, Montreal</i>, 1863, reversed glass plate negative, 20.3 x 25.4 cm, I-8413 © McCord Museum
  • William Notman, <i>Fort Chambly, near Montreal</i>, 1863, albumen print, 14.5 x 23.5 cm, gift of Donald McGillivray, N-1982.154.10, McCord Museum
  • William Notman, <i>Hon. George Etienne Cartier</i>, 1863, reversed wet collodion glass plate negative, 12.7 x 10.2 cm, I-7956, McCord Museum
  • William Notman, <i>John William Dawson, Montreal</i>, 1862, collodion wet-plate negative, 12.7 x 10.2 cm, I-4407, McCord Museum

Since McGill University acquired the archives of the William Notman & Son studio in 1956, the approximately 400,000 photographs then included in the collection have been the object of an ongoing cataloguing process. Close to 200,000 Notman artefacts are currently listed in the photography collection’s database and can be studied via the Museum’s Archives and Documentation Centre.

In addition, a major digitization project was launched in 1998 aimed at making this invaluable heritage accessible to as wide an audience as possible. Over 83,000 photographs can be viewed in the database, and 67,000 of these are also accessible online via the McCord Museum website. .

In 2017 the Notman collection was showcased in the exhibition Notman: A Visionary Photographer, presented at the McCord Museum and subsequently at the Canadian Museum of History. The exhibition earned an Excellence Award from the Société des musées du Québec. An abundantly illustrated book with the same title, edited by Hélène Samson and Suzanne Sauvage, received an Excellence Award for research from the Canadian Museums Association.

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Not to be missed!