Mountain Legacy History

The Mountain Legacy Project utilizes archival research, repeat photography, and scientific, historical, and cultural analyses of repeated historical survey photographs to assess landscape change in the Canadian Rocky Mountains over the last century. From the 1880’s through the 1950’s surveyors with the Geological Survey of Canada, the Department of the Interior’s Dominion Land Survey, and other government departments deployed an effective method of surveying the mountains of Western Canada called phototopographic surveying.

These methods left a legacy of systematic photographs with nearly complete coverage of much of the landscape. They offer an unprecedented data set for historical researchers and repeat photographers, providing a rigorous overview of landscape conditions during a period of intense development and ecological transitions. Project members have unearthed a vast collection of systematic phototopographic survey images, maps, and associated information dating back to the late 19th century, and have re-photographed thousands of these images since 1997. The photographs come from a series of surveys including MacArthur’s 1888-1892 survey of Banff National Park, Bridgland’s 1913-1914 survey of the Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve , and Wheeler and Cautley’s 1913-1922 Interprovincial Boundary Survey.

Crowsnest Lake, 2006

When the project was based at the University of Alberta (1998-2001, then called the Bridgland Repeat Photography Project), project members re-photographed M.P. Bridgland’s 1915 survey of the central portion of Jasper National Park, and developed an award-winning website ( In 2002 we moved south to Waterton Lakes National Park, reflecting our expanded scope by becoming the Rocky Mountain Repeat Photography Project. As our knowledge about the collections and interest in researching areas grew beyond the Rocky Mountains, we became the Mountain Legacy Project in 2006. We are currently focusing on two key areas: the secure storage, digital reproduction and dissemination of archival photographs at Library and Archives Canada and University of Victoria, and the re-photography of images from key areas including Kootenay National Park (1922/1923) and Crowsnest Pass (1913/14).