Documents contained on this database (including but not limited to, text, audio, photographs, moving images, animation etc.) may be downloaded for the purpose of personal research only. Documents may not be used in a public broadcast or reproduced in published works without the express written permission of the NWT Archives, Culture and Heritage Division, Government of the Northwest Territories. All images and documents must be credited to the NWT Archives Collection (i.e. Busse/NWT Archives/N-1979-052:1234). Images reproduced on web pages can be no larger than 72 dpi and cannot be re-named. Anything other than personal use requires permission and payment of usage fees.
The Archives' Photo Database contains almost 47,000 photographs of the Northwest Territories dating from the early 20th century to the early 1990s. Most if not all communities in the NWT are represented. The emphasis of the photographs is on human history- peoples day-to-day activities, including traditional activities; significant events; pictures of communities; pictures of transportation, mining, arts and crafts, and other economic activities. The images selected for the database have been chosen to represent our communities as broadly as possible, emphasizing content more than suitability for commercial publication.
Search all databases:
"Basic Search " box:
Type the subject you are looking for in the box called "Search for" and click on the search button or on the "enter" key on your keyboard.
Search results are displayed as a set of "thumbnail" images along with partial information about the images. You can click on images that interest you to bring them up in larger, higher quality form (if available) along with all the information we have about them. When you bring up the large version of an image there are links at the bottom of the page on which the image appears that allow you to order copies of the image and to send us information about it.
You should make your searches as specific as possible. If you search on a very broad term, such as Inuit, you will have hundreds of thumbnails as a result.
The best way to make your searches specific on this particular database is to use "boolean"searches.A Boolean search allows you to define your search more specifically than a normal search. By using words such as AND, OR and AND NOT, in your search term, you can narrow your search to find the most relevant photographs.
- AND (and) - Use AND between any two search terms to find records containing both terms. For example Inuvik AND aerial
- OR (or) - Use the OR operator between any two search terms to find records containing either of the two terms. For example Holman OR Ulukhaktuk
- NOT (not) - Use the NOT operator between any two search terms to find records that do not include the term immediately following the NOT.
Best when used in combination with one or more terms that you do want to find. For example, Yellowknife AND mine NOT Giant.
Another useful trick for searching is to use parts of words rather than full ones. For example, when searching for a subject like trapping, you might want to use the word trap rather than trapping. That way you will bring up all pictures relating to trapping, including traps, trappers, traplines, etc. The same approach can be useful for things like searching for personal or place names where there are likely to be spelling variations- a common occurrence in the North.
The spellings of peoples' and places' names in the Northwest Territories have changed a great deal over the years.
One example of the changes in peoples' names is that of Joseph Idlout, a prominent Inuit leader. Idlout is the current spelling of his name. However, in the 1950's his name was spelled Idlouk by the non-native people who dealt with him.
One way of dealing with these inconsistencies when using this database is to search for portions of names.
For example, a search for the first four letters of Idlout would bring up photos identified by both variations of the spelling.
This is an issue that Northerners are well aware of, but may be confusing to southerners.
In addition to spelling variations, the names of many communities have officially been changed to names in Aboriginal languages in the recent past - and this process is ongoing. For example, the community that used to appear on maps as Fort Norman is now Tulita. Both new and old names can be used when searching for communities.
What to do if you dont find what you are looking for
We have over 300,000 photographs in the NWT Archives, so only a small fraction are on-line now. You may need to do a broader search at the Accession or Fonds level. There are item-level descriptions for images that have not been digitized, you can still order from the description or come in and view the original (with advance notice). Feel free to contact us if your database search doesnt produce what you need.
Accuracy of Information about the Photographs
We do our best to make sure that the information associated with the photographs is accurate. However, we are dependent on other people for that information and cannot check every detail. If anyone finds a problem with a description of a photo, or has something to add, please let us know. This can be done very easily by clicking on the "Send comments and additional information on this image" link at the bottom of the pages on which the large versions of images are displayed. We especially welcome identifications for the people in our photos. Many of our photos have come from individuals who were in the North for a relatively short time, so people are often unidentified
The photograph captions are from two sources - direct copies of captions (usually written by the people who originally took or owned the pictures) or information provided by cataloguers. The information provided by cataloguers is in square brackets [like this].
For reasons of historic authenticity, captions provided by the photographers
are unedited. They may contain inaccuracies or terms that would now be
considered offensive. As well, the spelling of both peoples' and places'
names has changed with time, so some inaccuracies and inconsistencies
The Photo Database was developed mainly for the use of Northern educators and students. The NWT Archives is committed to making the photographs as accessible as possible to that audience, within the limits of our resources. Students and teachers are welcome to download and print the low-resolution image files displayed in the database for use in school projects and curricula, and for personal use. Other uses, particularly the commercial publication of images, requires the Archives’ permission and payment of usage fees.
We can also provide other higher-quality image files intended for educational use not found on the Photo Gallery. At the discretion of the Archives, production costs may be waived for NWT students wishing copies of archival materials for use in school projects. The student must be attending an NWT school or Aurora College (or one of the regional branches of Aurora College). We are able to deliver image files through our ftp site. Copies are limited to 5 photographs (2 sound recordings and/or 2 DVD reference items are also eligible under these criteria).
Please note that we have only one staff person providing digital imaging services, and that the work schedule is very full. Requests will be filled on a first come, first served basis. To ensure that images are available on time for your projects, you should provide as much advance notice as possible- especially for large requests.
We welcome your assistance in correcting or adding to the information about our photographs. As well as the sources of errors mentioned above, many photographers in the past were southerners who passed through quickly and did not always identity the people who they photographed. We would appreciate the help of northerners in correcting this problem. If you have information please click here or use the email link on the search results pages in the database.
You may now save a search and retrieve it again at a later times.
To Save a search you must click on the "Save this search!" found at the bottom of the search results page.
This will provide you with a "Search ID Number". Please keep this number. In order to ensure privacy - we do not track these numbers.
To Retrieve a search, click here or on the Retrieve a Search link found on the main search page.
At this page you will be prompted to enter your Search ID Number. This will allow you to retrieve a previously saved search and will return you to the results page where you saved the search.