Home for the Archives

Archives Building an Historic Achievement, July 2011

The following letter congratulating the City of Ottawa on its successful opening of the new Central Archives facility was sent by John Heney, President of FCOA, to the Ottawa Citizen and published on July 4, 2011.

The opening of the new central facility for the City of Ottawa archives this week caps almost a decade of effort. Created to preserve and share evidence of our collective memory, it also exemplifies what can emerge when cooperative stakeholders appreciate that the very nature of their teamwork serves the city - in the present and for the future. This facility is just as historic for the way it came about as in the functions it stands ready to fulfil.

Many are unaware that an archival function is required of Ontario municipalities under provincialdirective, so record-keeping and handling can aid a city to function as a legal entity. To this has been added fascinating,wider evidence of Ottawa's story as a hardscrabble settlement, a regional hub, and our emergence as our national capital. Papers, photographs, maps, and other media of record can now be more easily explored and made accessible like never before.

The site as a destination and gathering place will add to the story of Ottawa as much as it will store material continuing to reflect our collective life. How a city handles its historical evidence is fundamental to its history. In this facility, we've done a great job in setting things right. City council and city staff worked alongside Ottawa's heritage community and the archives profession to produce a state-of-the art facility. Local, provincial and federal governments co-operated, even as support and input emerged across Canada.

Along the way, some 50 Ottawa locations were studied in regard to leasing, renovating or building options.Designed with foresight, the result has been oriented and designed in anticipation of and readiness for a second climate-controlled storage vault, if and when that becomes necessary. No more moving; no more haphazard storage; no more water or fire damage.

Reflecting a wider vision, it was deemed timely and efficient to include in this project a hub for the Ottawa Public Library's processing and distribution of its holdings; the OPL updated how it can fulfil this function while aiding longer-term plans for the significant Ottawa institution that it is.

Can anyone think of planning going onaround other projects across our community? Come to the corner  of Tallwood and Woodroffe to see how such initiatives can come together, using the pivotal ingredients of vision shaped around co-operation that sees the process as being just as significant as the goal.

My personal thanks to all those throughout Ottawa's heritage community who, together with and through the Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives, helped make this possible, never losing sight of the deepest purposes, the wider horizon, the wisest options and the longest legacy.

JOHN J. HENEY, President, Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives Ottawa


The following article was published in the Sept 2011 edition of "La Chronique", the monthly magazine of the Association of Quebec Archivists:

Inauguration et Portes ouvertes des Archives centrales et du Centre de documents de la Bibliothèque publique d’Ottawa, juin-juillet 2011

Michel Prévost / Archiviste en chef de l’Université d’Ottawa

Après des années de tergiversations, le rêve de construire un centre adéquat pour les Archives municipales d’Ottawa est enfin devenu réalité. En effet, le maire Jim Watson, accompagné de nombreux dignitaires, a procédé, le 27 juin dernier, à l’inauguration officielle du nouveau bâtiment des Archives centrales d’Ottawa et du Centre de documents de la Bibliothèque publique d’Ottawa. Le 9 juillet suivant, le personnel organisait des Portes ouvertes afin que la population de la capitale fédérale et la communauté archivistique puissent enfin découvrir les lieux. Plus de 1 500 personnes se sont présentées et ont circulé partout dans l’immeuble.  

Nous avons eu le privilège de participer à une intéressante tournée présentée par l’archiviste Anne Lauzon, qui nous a fait découvrir avec grande fierté ses nouvelles installations érigées au coût de 38 millions de dollars.   

Il faut dire que la Ville d’Ottawa peut maintenant se targuer d’avoir l’un des plus beaux centres d’archives du pays avec une magnifique salle de consultation où une grande fenestration permet de voir une forêt. En fait, tout le centre se distingue par ses grandes fenêtres pour les bureaux, les salles de conférences et les laboratoires.  

Notre groupe a aussi été très impressionné par la grande voûte et les autres magasins qui sont à température et la humidité contrôlées selon le support des documents. Un luxe que l’on trouve dans peu de centres d’archives. Le laboratoire de conservation et la salle d’exposition méritent aussi le détour. L’exposition sur l’histoire des archives municipales permet de constater à quel point le service a grandi et s’est amélioré avec le temps.  

En somme, la Ville d’Ottawa dispose désormais d’un lieu tout à fait adéquat pour préserver et diffuser la mémoire institutionnelle d’Ottawa dont les origines remontent en 1826, lorsque le lieutenant-colonel John By fonde la ville pour la construction du canal Rideau. Par ailleurs, l’édifice permettra de rassembler sous le même toit le patrimoine archivistique des 11 anciennes municipalités fusionnées en 2000.  

Je vous recommande fortement de visiter ces lieux qui font la fierté de la communauté archivistique et qui rehaussent l’image des archives de la Ville d’Ottawa.    

Les Archives centrales d’Ottawa sont situées au 100, promenade Tallwood, dans l’ouest de la ville. On peut joindre le personnel au 613-580-2857 ou à archives@ottawa.ca. Site web : www.ottawa.ca

Article reproduit, avec permission : La Chronique, bulletin de l’Association des archivistes du Québec, vol. XLI, no 3, septembre 2011, p. 21-22.


City opens new joint Archives and Library facility, June 2011

June 27, 2011:  Mayor Jim Watson officially opened the new Central Archives and Library Materials Centre to the public today in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new facility on Tallwood Drive. Click here to read more...


Central Archives and Library Materials Centre, May 2009

[From City of Ottawa website.]

The new facility will house two distinct and complementary functions; a new home for the City of Ottawa’s Central Archives and a new location for the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) Materials Distribution and Collections Development / Technical Services groups. The archives’ facility will include exhibit and office space, laboratory, reference areas and vaults. It will ensure the preservation of the collection by providing environmentally controlled spaces. The OPL’s Collection Development Services, Technical Services and the Materials Distribution Centre will house all functions related to acquisition, processing and circulation of library materials throughout the library system. All new library materials and current materials requested for other branches will be sorted and distributed to the OPL’s 33 branches through this facility. 

The building is scheduled to start construction in late summer 2009, and be ready for occupancy by December 2010. The facility will be built on City-owned land located on Tallwood Drive near the corner of Woodroffe Avenue, adjacent to a proposed transitway expansion.

The facility design is targeted for LEEDTM (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification in accordance with City of Ottawa policies. Drawing from the LEED whole-building approach to sustainability in key performance areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality; and in keeping with the Percent for Art Policy, the City of Ottawa is accepting proposals for integrated public artwork for various exterior sites in the new Central Archives and Ottawa Public Library Materials Centre. For more information on LEED please visit http://www.cagbc.org/

The Archives and Ottawa Public Library facility plan includes two floors of vault space facing Tallwood Drive with a third level of office space for Library Technical Services. An east wing of the building will have three floors for the City of Ottawa Archives exhibit, laboratory, office and reference spaces. The ground floor portion facing Tallwood Drive located behind the Archive vaults will house the Ottawa Public Library Materials Distribution function complete with loading bays. A small three-story high lobby area will provide main building access and connect the Archives administration wing to the Archives vault and Library Services main building. There will be an open exterior plaza space between Tallwood Drive and the Archives east wing. A rear parking area will be located on the south side and the open area beside the parking lot is reserved for future vault expansion.

The City of Ottawa’s Archives is the centre for local heritage preservation and programming and is focused on acquiring, preserving and providing public access to Ottawa’s documentary heritage. The current Archives’ collection is one of Ottawa’s oldest and most valuable holdings of information on the development and evolution of municipal government and the community of Ottawa. The Ottawa Public Library mission statement is to build a strong Ottawa community by supporting literacy and life-long learning, fostering inspiration and enjoyment, and connecting people to each other and the world. The OPL is the largest bilingual (English-French) library system in North America with 33 branches and two bookmobiles serving the City of Ottawa.


Ontario Government delivers $20 million to City of Ottawa for Archives and Library

March 28, 2008

Construction could begin as early as this year on the City of Ottawa’s Central Archives and Ottawa Library Technical Facility Project thanks to $20 million dollars in infrastructure money provided today by the McGuinty government.

“We are proud to be a partner in the new archives and library facilities which Ottawa has identified as a priority for local residents” said Jim Watson, MPP for Ottawa West-Nepean.


FCOA Supports Staff Report on New Home for City Archives

October 27, 2007

The Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives (FCOA) today announced that it supports a report recommending that a new facility for the City Archives be constructed at Centrepointe. The report, produced by City of Ottawa staff, folds in the findings of a consultant who was hired to help investigate possible synergies between the Archives and the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) as a facility takes shape.

The report was made public on October 25.

The report presents Council with three options, all at Centrepointe, where there are the advantages of city land, a transitway station, a major branch of the Library, a location central to Ottawa's overall geography, and the adjacent facilities and student programs of Algonquin College - some already associated with the work of the Archives.

The preferred option folds in the construction of an adjacent facility to house the technical services of the Ottawa Public Library, in the first phase of what might become the construction of a new main OPL facility downtown. Under that idea, certain Archives activities would also be introduced at the downtown location at a later date.

In the meantime, construction of a principal Archives at Centrepointe means that a much-needed state-of-the-art vault in which to protect the collection can be built, with land available to expand that structure as collections grow.

"We are pleased that the report builds upon work already done on the project," said FCOA president, John Heney, whose organization has been at work with the city on this for several years. "The recommended option linked to the OPL opens interesting synergies while making sure the Archives gets its much-needed new home."

The main Archives must vacate space the City leases for that purpose from the federal government on Sussex Drive by December 2010.

Mr. Heney says he is also proud of the teamwork he has seen develop between Ottawa's dedicated heritage community and City staff on this case.

"Archives users intend to stay on top of developments, every step of the way to help ensure that our city and its residents realize the fullness of the potential there is to be gained from forward-looking plans, facilities, and the programs involved. This is promising and exciting."

John Heney, President
Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives
(613) 224-6888


Early 2007 – FCOA's main concern is getting Ottawa’s new City Council to recognize the urgent need to create a permanent home for the Archives.

Here’s our postcard on the subject: