Archive Section

Our access to the past is entirely dependent on what has remained through time. Buildings, home movies, landscapes, photographs, artefacts, government records, and stories passed down in a family or community provide some of these "remains". Historians most commonly depend on a wide variety of records created during or near the time they are studying. These records are called "primary sources". They include documents created by governments, by the courts, by different companies and businesses, by cultural, economic, or political organizations, by educational institutions, and by ordinary people. They also include photos, paintings, and newspapers. Many of these have been collected and organized in archives throughout the world.

Often archives are in buildings, such as Library and Archives Canada. The Franklin site is, in effect, a virtual archives, and one that is limited to the documents that we believe bear directly – or in some cases indirectly - on the key questions relating to Franklin’s final voyage. The documents, including images (maps, photographs and drawings) all appear in two locations on the website: 1) organized by theme in the sections Contexts, Franklin’s Last Voyage, Searching and Researching and Ripples and Ice Jams and 2) organized by document type here in the archives.

As complex as it may seem, this is a very much simplified archives. In order to create this archival collection which allows you to do your detective work by critically examining the evidence in this case, the Research Director for this project has searched through masses of documents in entire archives to locate, select and transcribe documents that seem relevant to this mystery.

Our virtual archives is organized by the type of source. This is similar to the standard form of archival organization, where records are grouped by "provenance," i.e., by their original location (for example, by government department, by particular individual or family, or by company) and in the order in which they were originally created and organized. Every primary document located on this site, including photos and other images, is here in the archives.

The citations included for each document will tell you where the original document came from. The “About this type of source” document linked to each document will give more details on why and how historians use these sources. References to related books and websites about Franklin– the secondary sources written by others trying to interpret the primary sources can be found in the Beyond this Site part of the "Home/Welcome" section.

If you would like more information about finding and using the primary documents on the site, check out our Teachers section of the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History website.

Sunken ship