Since the nineteenth century the Library has gathered an extensive collection of paintings and portraits, almost all of which are in storage in its archives in Gatineau, Quebec.
A plan to permanently house the collection in gallery in Ottawa, Ontario, across the street from the Parliament Buildings, was announced in 2001, and initial plans called for its opening in 2004/2005, but this plan is now defunct. Library and Archives Canada is instead partnering with museums, galleries and other institutions across the country to showcase the collection. The new gallery in Ottawa would have created a public location to display this collection. In the meantime, the Portrait Gallery of Canada is displaying its collection to the public in travelling exhibitions. Its "Portraits in the Streets" series brings portrait reproductions to urban areas of Canadian cities, including Ottawa, Quebec City, and, in 2010, Vancouver.
Renovations and additions were underway until 2006 at the former location of the American Embassy, at 100 Wellington Street. It was intended that this building would house the gallery's collection upon its completion, projected for 2007, however in 2006, the project was put on hold by the Conservative government, who considered locating the museum in Calgary and for it to be partially funded by the energy company EnCana.
In particular, there were discussions with EnCana about including the museum in the company's office tower currently under construction in Calgary. As of June 2007, construction of additional gallery space had not started, and two weeks later, EnCana announced that the gallery wouldn't be moving into their new office tower in Calgary.
A competition for private sector corporations to house the collection attracted bids from Edmonton, Calgary, and Ottawa, but that competition was cancelled in November 2008. The idea of locating a gallery outside of Ottawa resulted in a motion before the Senate that would have made it illegal to move the gallery outside Ottawa.