An old proverb states that “the eyes are the windows into the soul.” A genealogy corollary is that “a photo is a window into the lives of your ancestors.”
I love old photos, whether they are portraits of my ancestors or historical photos for the period when they lived. And it is important to a complete research that one attempts to understand the environment that surrounds our ancestors’ lives if one wants to truly appreciate what they went through.
So where can they be found? Obviously the best resource is our own photo albums and those that our relatives possess. But what about other resources? Many archives, historical societies, libraries and genealogical societies have collections of old photos. And in the past few years there has been a massive movement towards making these historical photo collections available online. Some have search capabilities where you can actually put in a surname or a location, name of a building or historical event and find what is available.
For the province of Alberta, what collections are available for you to browse and/or search online? Here is a list of sites to start with. Please feel free to add in the comments other online resources that you might be aware of in the province.
Please be aware that there may be very strict rules regarding downloading or other use of the images that you may find. Copyright and other legal protections may be in force. Make sure that you read the limitations of use for any image that you find in these collections and wish to download and/or copy. It is your responsibility to adhere to the rules for all of these collections.
Please note that links to these sites may change in the future. The author (me) will not be constantly checking and updating these links, so if you find a broken link, please use your favorite search engine to locate the new link.
Alberta Sites for Historical Photos
This is just a sampling of some of the larger collections. By no means is this an exhaustive list. Almost every city and county library in the province, college and university library, as well as historical society has a photo collection. Many are not available online, yet many do have online access.
(Updated November, 2020)
- Canada BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives
- Canada Old Family Photos
- Canada Science and Technology Museum Picturing the Past
- Canadian Letters and Images Project
- Dead Fred
- Images of Canada
- Ingenium Canada Digital Photo Archives
- Library and Archives Canada – Flickr
- The Canadian Jewish Heritage Network
- UK – Canada Photo Collection
- Unwritten Histories
- Air Force Museum of Alberta Archives
- Alberta Folklore Photo Collection
- Alberta On Record
- Alberta Pioneer Railway Association Archive Collection
- Alberta Prairie Towns Photos
- Athabasca Historical Photos
- Calgary Images
- Calgary Stampede Photo Archives
- City of Edmonton Photograph Collections
- Galt Museum & Archives
- Glenbow Museum Archives Photos
- Jasper Museum Archive and Photo Search
- Magee Photographs Collection
- Medicine Hat Historical Photos
- Okotoks Museum and Archives – Photos
- Prairie Postcards Collection
- Provincial Archives of Alberta Flickr Photos
- Provincial Archives of Alberta Photo Collection
- South Peace Archives Soldiers Memorial Photo Archives
- St. Albert Historical Society Photos
- University of Calgary Photo Archives
- University of Lethbridge Digital Collections
- Vintage Alberta
For historic photos from other provinces as well as articles about photo research, please visit the Photos page.
Good Luck and Happy Hunting!
For other Free Alberta Links, click on the category of interest: