Canadian Latvian Archive and Museum

Collection of artifacts from exile Latvians in Canada

The archive project group met for the first time on August 15, 2013, and started the work of collecting materials from Latvians in Canada. The LNFC Board confirmed it as an official project and gave it the name Canada Latvian Archive and Museum.

The Archive and Museum were founded by LNFC chair and WFFL (World Federation of Free Latvians) board member, Andris Ķesteris, a retired professional archivist formerly with Libraries and Archives Canada who has spearheaded the effort to retain items of cultural significance. Andris Ķesteris also chairs the WFFL Archive, Library, and Museum working group and continues to work with institutions in Latvia, Canada, and elsewhere. Ķesteris is also a Lifetime Member of the Baltic Heritage Network and the Baltic Audiovisual Archival Council, of which he is a founder and long-time board member. Also participating in the founding of the Archive and Museum were Aija Kark­liņa, Skaidrīte Tērauda, and Že­­nija Vītola, who have contributed many volunteer hours.

The Canadian Latvian Archive and Museum aims to collect and house in one place documents relating to the experience not only of exiled Latvians of the 1800s and 1900s but also those who arrived after the Second World War. The Archive and Museum are collecting both organizational and personal documents that reflect Latvian life in Canada.

In terms of personal documents, for instance, there are letters with relatives and friends in Latvia. During the period of occupation in Latvia, one had to read "between the lines" to see life as it was in Latvia. People interested in history will be very thankful for the information that will be provided in these letters. The committee has also been able to collect passports, high school diplomas, travel documents, and newspapers from the 1920s.

The museum part has collected articles that were carried by people as they fled Latvia left, including ceramics, various boxes, handiwork, suitcases, etc. This culminated in an exhibition "A Latvian's Suitcase" held at "Stūra māja" [Corner House] in Rīga, which once housed the KGB. Exiled Latvians each had a suitcase of this kind when they went into exile.

The organization works with the National Library of Latvia (Latvijas Na­cionālā bibliotēka), the Latvians Abroad Museum (Lat­vieši Pasaulē), and Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (Lat­vi­jas Okupācijas muzejs).

The LNFC archives were maintained until 2004 by Jānis Mežaks who also catalogued the materials and conveyed them to the Ontario Archives, as required by government legislation. Those of us living in Canada, especially those that were born in Latvia, although separated from Latvia, continue still to be inextricably linked to her. At the same time, we are also a part of Canada where many have lived for most of their lives. This is why it is important to continue the monumental work of Jānis Mežaks. It is important that we collect the stories of Latvians in Canada, not only for our sake but also for those who remained in the homeland. In this way, we will also leave testimony to the Latvian contribution to the country that gave us refuge.

We would be pleased if you could support the project with any archival materials you might have, or donate online, or by cheque to LNAK – KLAM. More information is available from the LNFC office.