Skip to main content

'Another piece of information': Photos of residential school children discovered in Roman archives

An archivist with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) is hoping to soon be able to digitize photos from Canada’s residential school system found in Rome with the hope of helping to identify children who were at the schools.

Raymond Frogner, the head of archives with the NCTR, was in Rome recently, where he discovered the photos in the Oblate Archives.

“There was a group of records referred to as audio/visual photos at the archives that basically documented public missions around the world since the 19th century,” he said. “Within all of those photos, I was able to find five jars that actually concern the residential schools in early 20th century Canada.

“I pointed this out to the archivists and just noted that they look like original photos, and they could potentially document the lives of children that we know are missing. And you know, we could get another piece of information on the lives of these children.”

Frogner estimates there are between 700 and 1,000 photos in the collection. He said the photos have some information written on the back, mostly location and dates, but no information on who is in the photos.

“Another potential component of this project would be to give access to the communities where the children are from, and ask the community if they can put names on those children, because at the moment, they don’t have any,” Frogner said.

Discussions with the archivists in Rome about the project are ongoing, but Frogner said once it’s approved, it won’t take more than a couple of months to digitize the photos.

He added these photos are essential to help document this era of Canadian history, especially as Canada continues to grapple with the legacy of the residential school system.

“We are in a period of profound change and documenting it, understanding it better with that documentation is vitally important,” Frogner said.

If you are a residential school survivor in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here. Top Stories

Stay Connected