Gallery Exhibits at the Archives of Ontario

Ontario - On the Map - Banner graphic


Ontario: On the Map - October 22, 2009 - February 3, 2010


Map of Muskoka
Click to see a larger image (K)

Tremaines Map of Upper Canada, 1862
By George R. Tremaine
Published by George C. Tremaine, Toronto
Print with added watercolour
Reference Code: A 11
Archives of Ontario, I0030774

The first exhibit that showcased original records from our collection was Ontario - On the Map. These original maps, the earliest dating from the 17th century, illustrate how the purpose of early provincial maps changed from tools for settlement and exploitation of resources to tools for understanding the evolving cultural and physical landscape of Ontario. Maps are such a routine part of our lives today that we take for granted their accuracy and practicality.

We can instantly plot the most direct, or most scenic, route to our destination by using a computer or consulting a current road map.

As Ontario Evolved

We may not realise that our easy access to maps is based on over three centuries of making maps, created as peoples understanding of the physical and cultural landscape changed.

Ontario Road Map
Click to see a larger image (K)

Road map of Ontario (west of Toronto) showing
all main roads, 1898
Reference Code: C 279-0-0-0-58
Archives of Ontario, I0004753

The maps on display were visual representations of how people perceived our province at different stages of its development from the initial, partial record of its landscape; through use of the land for its resources and for settlement; to the growth and expansion of urban centres and rural areas.


The detailed drawings of towns, buildings, roads, railways, canals and bridges indicate healthy settlements and a prosperous province. Although some parts had not yet been settled, most of it had been comprehensively surveyed with townships and roads.

The map below map conveys how the railways moved goods internationally from centres in the American mid-west to the east coast. The network of railways also became denser, reaching such areas as northern Ontario where they linked with the railway being built to the Canadian west. The portraits of politicians attest to government cooperation in creating this linked system.


Map of Muskoka
Click to see a larger image

Map of the Province of Ontario, Canada,1875-1876
John Cameron Publishers
Reference Code: A 2
Archives of Ontario, I0030783

The map to the right reveals successive periods of surveying from the 18th through 19th centuries: long lots along southwestern shorelines from the French occupation; Colonel Thomas Talbots road surveys along the Talbot Road; and townships surveyed around that road.





Click to see a larger image
Map of the Western District in the
Province of Canada, 1847
By William Billyard and Richard Parr
Printed by Scobie & Balfour, Toronto
Print with added watercolour
Reference Code: RG 1, Acc. 18627
Archives of Ontario, I0030807

Every summer tourists from cities like Toronto, Cleveland, New York and Pittsburg took the train to Gravenhurst and crossed the platform at Muskoka Wharf to board a steamship, which would travel through the inland lakes to the numerous hotels and cottages along the shores (as listed).

Map of Muskoka
Click to see a larger image

Map and Chart of the Muskoka Lakes: Tourist and canoeist index,1899
Published by G.W. Marshall, Toronto
Coloured print
Reference Code: C 60
Archives of Ontario, I0030832

L’exposition Ontario - On the Map comprenait plus de 60 cartes originales. C’est la première exposition de ce genre organisée par les Archives publiques de l’Ontario. La galerie est ouverte pendant les heures d’ouverture normale des Archives, et l’entrée est gratuite. Pour plus de renseignements, contacter : reference@ontario.ca.