West End of Wellington Street

Thomas Burrowes painting of the West End of Wellington Street, Bytown, 1845

Thomas Burrowes Fonds. Reference Code: C 1-0-0-0-10, Archives of Ontario, I0002128

© 2012, Archives of Ontario. All Rights Reserved.


Primary sources are generally accounts or artefacts generated by witnesses to or participants in events of the past. They can document the thoughts and/or actions of an individual, organization, establishment, or group of people. Normally, primary source materials are unique and unpublished; they are usually preserved in an archives, library, or museum because the documents have long-term value and provide evidence of past events and/or those who created them. Primary sources include, but are not limited to: Photographs, Paintings and sketches, Letters and correspondence, Textiles such as needle points, Maps, Architectural drawings, Diaries, Videos, Oral histories and interviews, Newspapers, Published first-hand accounts.

1. Why is it important to care about the difference between primary and secondary sources?

• Primary sources give authority and legitimacy to statements you make about the past. If you state that “Bytown was a developing urban landscape in 1845,” you may be questioned as to how you know this is a fact. In contrast, the statement “Looking at Thomas Burrowes’s watercolour sketch, entitled View at the West End of Read More
Primary sources are generally accounts or artefacts generated by witnesses to or participants in events of the past. They can document the thoughts and/or actions of an individual, organization, establishment, or group of people. Normally, primary source materials are unique and unpublished; they are usually preserved in an archives, library, or museum because the documents have long-term value and provide evidence of past events and/or those who created them. Primary sources include, but are not limited to: Photographs, Paintings and sketches, Letters and correspondence, Textiles such as needle points, Maps, Architectural drawings, Diaries, Videos, Oral histories and interviews, Newspapers, Published first-hand accounts.

1. Why is it important to care about the difference between primary and secondary sources?

• Primary sources give authority and legitimacy to statements you make about the past. If you state that “Bytown was a developing urban landscape in 1845,” you may be questioned as to how you know this is a fact. In contrast, the statement “Looking at Thomas Burrowes’s watercolour sketch, entitled View at the West End of Wellington Street, Upper Bytown, Looking East, 1845, one can see that Bytown was a developing urban landscape” is much stronger. Remember, primary sources come in many different formats, and you can support your work with any of these types of archival documents.

• What else does this painting tell you about Bytown? - Does it give you information about the landscape? Paintings provide historical evidence of the past or serve as an eyewitness account of what people saw and how they interpreted it. Images such the Burrowes painting, above, document the construction of the Rideau Canal and early Bytown. Such findings can provide answers to many questions about that time period, though they still require your interpretations.

© 2012, Carleton University. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

To Learn:

1. What primary sources are?
2. How to locate primary sources?
3. How to use primary sources?
4. About primary sources as evidence?
5. How primary sources can help reveal the history of the Rideau Canal?
6. Discover the link between the past and present through uses of this landscape, the Rideau Canal, through archival documents.


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