Picture this: thousands of Edmonton historical photos online

Search the keywords 'Edmonton,' 'river valley' and '1915.' Click on images and you won't believe the quality of photos that pop up. Here's why.

New website and database makes finding images quicker and easier than ever

'It's right away, it's fantastic'

4 years ago
Duration 2:08
City of Edmonton archivist Tim O'Grady walks us through a new, faster way of finding thousands of historical photos.

Tim O'Grady is a time traveler. 

The City of Edmonton archivist spends his days poring through pics of our past.

"I love the photos," O'Grady says. "What I really like about the photo is it's really accessible and immediate."

City of Edmonton archivist Tim O'Grady loves looking through the city's past. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

Last October the City of Edmonton Archives launched a new website and began transferring selected black and while images from its massive collection onto the new system.

So far, O'Grady and the team have managed to upload more than half of their target of 50,000 photos.

The new database is called AtoM, an acronymn for Access to Memory, which is the standard in archives in Canada, according to O'Grady.

"You can search for a photo, through Google even. You find the photo, but then you can also find all the contextual information about that photo.

"So you would find a photo of a brewery for example and then you'd see this photograph is actually part of a much larger collection."
Files filled with photos are housed at the City of Edmonton Archives at 10440 108th Ave. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

It's that kind of context that delights head archivist Kathryn Ivany.

"Before when we had photos up, you would just see the photograph but now you can see the story of the person who created the photograph, perhaps all the other photographs they took of their family, of their business," Ivany said.

Being able to link images together in this way makes for a richer experience, whether you're a student researching a local history project or a genealogical buff looking for faces from your family tree.

But the city archives doesn't only work with faded, black-and-white images. 

It continues to accept digital photos from Edmontonians to add to its ever growing collection.

However, Ivany admits they're pretty picky about what they take. They have to be in this digital age.

"The collections are getting larger as digital photos take over people's lives so we are going to actually be much more selective of the ones we put up on our website because we'd soon be overrun with images," she said.

You can see more from the City of Edmonton Archives in this week's edition of Our Edmonton on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. on Monday on CBC TV.

The archives one of the organizations housed at the historic Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)


Adrienne Lamb


Adrienne Lamb is the host and producer of Our Edmonton featured weekly on CBC TV. She served for several years as CBC Radio's national arts reporter in Edmonton. Prior to moving to Alberta in 2001, Adrienne worked at CBC in Ontario and New Brunswick. Adrienne is a graduate of Western University with a degree in English and Anthropology and a Masters in Journalism.