April 11, 2019

Historic Aviation Photo Collection Available Online


Ken Molson was a pilot who had a passion for collecting aviation photos. Born in Ottawa in 1916, Molson amassed a collection of hundreds of photos of aircraft, some from as far back as 1909, including a photo of J. McCurdy at the controls of a Cygnet II. McCurdy was also the first to pilot an airplane in Canada.

Molson obtained his pilot’s licence after training with the Curtiss-Reid Flying School in Cartierville, Quebec. Later, he studied at the Boeing School of Aeronautics in California before working as a mechanic for Rouyn, Quebec’s Dominion Skyways. Molson also worked as an engineer for National Steel Car, Victory Aircraft and A. V. Roe Canada. These jobs provided Molson with plenty of opportunity to expand his photo collection, including photos he had taken himself.

Lancaster bombers being assembled at the Vickers Aircraft plant in Malton, Ontario in the early 1940s.

After a move back to Ottawa in 1960, Molson became the first curator of the National Aviation Museum in Uplands, Ontario, which was later absorbed into the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum (CASM) located in Rockcliffe, Ontario. In 1996 Molson passed away, leaving his extensive photo collection to the CASM. That collection has since been certified as Canadian cultural property, meaning it cannot be exported from Canada.

Ingenium, the Crown corporation that oversees CASM, has digitalized the collection up until the year 1948, and are working on digitalizing the remainder. Access to the collection is available by clicking here.