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Hudson's Bay Company Archives

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HBCA - Contact Information
Hudson's Bay Company Archives

HBCA Holdings

Special Media Records

The Special Media holdings of the Hudson's Bay Company Archives (HBCA) consist of still images (photographs and documentary art), cartographic records (maps, plans and charts), architectural drawings and moving image and sound records (film, video and audio recordings). These records provide visual and audio documentation of the people, places and events connected with the Hudson's Bay Company during its more than three centuries of operation.

Archives staff conducts limited searches of special media holdings for those unable to visit the Archives in person. Inquiries should be as specific as possible. Where applicable, photocopies will be provided for reference purposes. Special media holdings are not available in digital format at present.

Reproductions of special media records are available. Copyright and other restrictions may apply. See: Copy and Reproduction Services.


The photographic holdings of the Hudson's Bay Company Archives total approximately 130,000 images. Included are a number of outstanding individual collections by both professional and amateur photographers. In the first category are Richard Harrington, George Hunter, Lorene Squire and others. Many of the amateur photographs were taken by HBC staff employed at the various company establishments. Among these are James W. Anderson, James Cantley and Lorenz Learmonth, who all served in the Canadian Arctic. The photographs range in date from the 1860s to the 1980s; most are post-1900.

The largest collection, with over 55,000 images, is the Head Office Collection. Maintained for the use of The Beaver magazine, which was originally a company publication, it was transferred to the Archives in 1987. It provides a visual record of the business of the Hudson's Bay Company: its employees, associated personalities, fur trade and retail store establishments, activities, as well as Aboriginal peoples and their cultures.

Access to the photograph holdings is available in the Research Room of the Archives of Manitoba. A subject card index and more detailed descriptive and visual finding aids for individual collections or fonds are also available. Search Keystone for descriptions of a limited number of photographic records.

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Documentary Art

The Hudson's Bay Company Archives documentary art is a small collection of approximately 1,350 prints, drawings, paintings, advertising art and calendars. These works document primarily the Hudson's Bay Company's operations and activities, including its employees, posts, ships and events.

The earliest work in the collection is a black-and-white retrospective engraving, dated 1738, "A View of London in 1560." The oldest North American works were drawn by an HBC employee, James Isham, at Fort Prince of Wales (Fort Churchill) in 1743. These pen-and-ink and watercolour drawings illustrate Aboriginal people's dwellings, hunting and trapping activities and artifacts.

The Hudson's Bay Company produced calendars yearly from 1913 to 1970 and these are also included in the collection. Many are reproductions of paintings depicting events and personalities in the HBC's history and were commissioned specifically for the calendar series. The original paintings are in the HBC Corporate Fine Art Collection at the HBC's head office in Toronto.

A subject card index and a catalogue of the documentary art, which includes a brief description and contact print of each work, are available in the Archives of Manitoba Research Room.

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Cartographic Records and Architectural Drawings

The Hudson's Bay Company Archives has the largest holding of fur trade maps in North America. There are more than 12,000 maps, charts, plans and architectural drawings, dating between the years 1563 and about 1982.

The manuscript maps are almost exclusively by company employees including many well known in Canadian history: Samuel Hearne, Philip Turnor, Peter Fidler, David Thompson and Joseph Pemberton. A number of Aboriginal people drew maps or provided information to company employees, in particular Peter Fidler. One of the most significant is a map entitled The Different Tribes that inhabit on the East & West side of the Rocky Mountains by Ac ko mok ki, a Blackfoot chief, dated 1801.

Richard I. Ruggles's book, A Country So Interesting: The Hudson's Bay Company and Two Centuries of Mapping, 1670-1870 (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991) is a valuable reference which describes the mapping activities of the HBC and contains a catalogue of the manuscript maps along with reproductions of those considered to be the most important.

Included in the printed maps are more than fifty from the internationally-known Arrowsmith firm in London. These maps were based on information received from HBC employees, and R. Seale's Map of North America with Hudson's Bay and Straights, Anno 1748. The only other known copy of this map was donated by the Hudson's Bay Company to the British Museum.

A large proportion of the maps in the post-1870 period record the disposal of lands received by the Hudson's Bay Company under the Deed of Surrender. Other subjects include transportation (ships, supply routes and proposed railway lines), agriculture, urban and resource development and Indian reserves. The geographical area covered by these maps includes the vast trading areas of the HBC from Labrador to British Columbia and from northwestern parts of the United States to the Arctic coast.

There are a number of atlases in the holdings which date from as early as 1733 and cover Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.

The architectural drawings include the work of some of the most outstanding architectural firms in Canada, for example, Burke, Horwood & White, and Moody and Moore. Also represented are interior design firms such as Taussig & Flesch, and ship building firms in England, Scotland and North America. Dating from as early as the late 1700s, these drawings include 18th century fortifications of the forts around Hudson Bay, department stores, ships' plans and some unexpected items such as the Prince Rupert Golf Course in Edmonton which the HBC operated in the 1930s. The majority of the drawings are blueprints and many are in manuscript and whiteprint form.

All of the pre-1870 and most of the post-1870 cartographic material and architectural drawings have been catalogued. Finding aids, including photographs of many of the maps and plans, are available in the Research Room of the Archives of Manitoba. Appointments must be made to view original items. View a list of microfilmed maps and see our Microfilm Program for borrowing information.

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Moving Images and Sound Records

The Hudson's Bay Company Archives has approximately 100 motion picture film and videotape recordings and 485 sound recordings in its holdings.

Film records include promotional productions created by the HBC, broadcast reports on company events and several National Film Board of Canada documentaries which deal with the fur trade and life in northern Canadian communities. Raw footage shot by employees in different locations in the 1930s provides images of the HBC's posts and ships, as well as the people, geography and wildlife of the North.

Sound recordings include radio broadcasts of HBC events, including its tercentenary in 1970 and the launching of the Nonsuch replica. Various commercial spots have also been copied from radio broadcasts. A number of oral histories were created by HBC employees who conducted interviews with retirees in 1958-1963, 1984 and1988. These recordings provide recollections of the retirees' experiences while employed by the HBC.

Title listings and descriptions of the moving images and sound records are available in the Research Room of the Archives of Manitoba. Researchers must consult with HBCA staff for access to the records. Some reference copies (VHS videotape) are available.

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