New Archives of Ontario building

New Archives of Ontario building

The Archives Association of Ontario held its annual conference at York University yesterday. The location was chosen to mark the opening of the new Archives of Ontario building, which is centrally placed on the Keele campus of the university.

Tours of the building were arranged on Thursday evening and it really is a wonderful facility. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs, so I can’t share with you the amazing reading room or the fantastic curved wall which divides the microfilm reading room from the main one. The wall is covered with a beautiful custom-made wallpaper, made up of reproduction photographs in a themed timeline. There isn’t a picture of this on the AO website either, so you will have to take my word for it that it looks amazing (or go and see it for yourself!).

Miriam McTiernan (Archivist of Ontario) and other members of the Archives of Ontario’s staff gave a presentation on the move to the new building in the first session of the conference. The scale of the move was impressive: 55,000 microfilm reels were moved, for example, and over 50,000 containers of varying shapes and sizes.  The Archives employed a film-maker to record the whole move, so we got to see the resulting video, which was only eight minutes long, but which really captured the excitement and effort involved in the move. There doesn’t seem to be a lot about the new building on the AO’s website yet, but I hope they will make the video available there. [UPDATE, July 18: there is a trailer on YouTube for a five-part mini series about the move – which includes a few shots of the curved wall.]

One thing I foung really interesting was the plan to make it possible to consult the AO’s microfilm from a distance. This will mean (if I’ve understood this correctly) that researchers won’t have to order microfilms on inter-library loan or turn up to look at them at York, but will be able to access them over the Internet.  As the AO is still very dependent on microfilm for a lot of its indexes, this seems like a wonderful idea. It isn’t available yet, but I look forward to hearing more about this – for a huge province like Ontario, immediate remote access to the most popular holdings is really essential.

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