Sonya de Laat & Dominique Marshall
The ways in which the former Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has visually represented its projects and people to the general public have greatly informed public perceptions of aid and international affairs. From the end of the 1960s, CIDA’s photographs have been used in the communications products of the Agency and of partners (NGOs, schools, publishers, etc.), or in travelling exhibitions, publications and teaching materials. They also represent a resource for scholars and practitioners interested in exploring and sharing CIDA’s multifaceted histories. For forty-five years, CIDA administered the nation’s official development assistance (ODA). From large-scale mining and electricity projects to smaller scale education and health programs, CIDA was Canada’s main response to a global surge in international development initiatives that started in the 1960s. Simultaneously, CIDA was a vehicle for extending Canadian economic and political interests as well as its social values abroad. It became a key entity in defining Canada’s caring and helpful identity domestically and internationally.
In 1985, nearly twenty years after its inception, CIDA developed a library of photographs that continues to collect and distribute images today. It boasts around 150,000 photographs dating back to the early years of the Agency, and spans the globe. The Photo Library answers daily requests from the Department of Global Affairs to supply images for its social media; and from clients from abroad such as NGOs and embassies. While only a sample of the collection can be seen online, the entire collection has been digitized and is available for viewing at the International Development Photo Library. Having resided at Place du Portage in Gatineau since its inception, the Library has just moved to Global Affairs Canada’s 125 Sussex Dr. Ottawa office last month as a result of CIDA’s 2013 merger with the then Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.