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Western Canada Pictorial Index

About the WCPI

The Western Canada Pictorial Index consists of reproductions of more than 70,000 images related to the history of Western Canada, gathered over nearly three decades. It began as a centennial project in 1970 under the direction of Winnipeg journalist Eric Wells and Thora Cooke. Wells and Cooke appealed to archives, museums and the public to provide pictures of the province’s past for an exhibit which was displayed at the Central Canadian Exhibition, and then toured around schools and fairs in the province. When Wells and Cooke needed a home for the Index, the University of Winnipeg offered space and some expertise, and the Index came to live there. In the early 1990s a decision was taken to move the project off campus, and the Index found a new home in the Exchange District under the direction of a new Board. In 2005, the University of Winnipeg agreed to move the Index back to campus under the management of the Library. The Index consists of slides and contact sheets and does not include any original negatives or prints. Collecting practices for images in the Index varied throughout its development, with the primary source of images being other archives, museums and historical societies. Another significant percentage of images came from families, companies and other forms of private donation.

Owing to complicated questions of copyright and ownership of the material in the collection, the Archives has restricted public access to some of the collection. A searchable database of descriptions for a portion of the collection that is considered publicly accessible is available.

The Archives is committed to responsibly providing greater access to the WCPI. A small percentage of the collection for which copyright is retained by the University of Winnipeg, or for which permission to publish online has been obtained from copyright holders, is now available online. The Archives continues to investigate the copyright and ownership issues surrounding the collection. As permissions are secured, more content will be made available online.

Using the WCPI

Searchable database of descriptions

Digitized WCPI collections available online

While a limited number of images in the WCPI are available online, available at the link above, the rest of the images may be viewed in the Archives reading room.

The Archives offers free digital reproductions from the WCPI on a limited basis. Please contact us at archives@uwinnipeg.ca or 204-786-9162 for more information about viewing, using, or obtaining reproductions from the WCPI.