Wednesday, 13 December 2006

The City of Ottawa Archives Need a Home

The following is the text of a message sent from John Heney, President of the Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives to the Mayor and City Councillors.

You will shortly have before you a budget item of the utmost importance for the preservation of the city's heritage that is held in our Archives.

This is not just about an improved facility. It is about the City's Archives having a home at all. The matter has been neglected for years. Now the situation is dire. More troubling is the fact that a workable answer to this crisis may slip through our fingers in the next few weeks if Council does not fully appreciate the problem and the urgency involved.

Under the speeded-up budget process, the detailed recommendations now being prepared by City staff and the dedicated Archives Steering Committee will only reach you after you have taken some initial decisions on the shape of the City's budget. To lift the Archives out of its facilities crisis, it is imperative for Council to make an initial commitment to the project, which will then be fleshed out with fiscally prudent, concrete proposals to Council soon thereafter.

The City budget directions and long-range financial plan

must include firm support for the funding necessary for
a main branch for the Archives.

All municipalities must maintain an archives/records function as mandated by provincial law. In Ottawa's case it is important to note that:

  • The Archives main branch lost an ideal, central location on Stanley Avenue and has since endured two moves, of no overall benefit, first to 111 Sussex Drive and then again, within that same complex.
  • It is leasing space from its federal landlord there, and it must also pay for offsite storage of some 80 percent of its holdings at several sites. Funds continue to leak from municipal coffers for inadequate accommodation, with no return on investment.
  • A fire in a rented storage facility this summer resulted in damage and loss of archival holdings. This underlines the fact that the Archives situation cannot continue to be left unaddressed.
  • The major increase in City records resulting from amalgamation has not been adequately addressed.
  • Inadequate space and unsafe conditions continue at 111 Sussex Drive, with the Archives hanging on to little more than a gentleman's agreement for the period following December 2007.

Please ...

Support a home for the Archives in the budget process !

In cleaning up the Archives' sorry state of affairs, Council will show prudent fiscal leadership. This is a chance for the City to create a facility that makes long-term sense, on a site where future expansion can be accommodated.

Ottawans deserve an outcome that they can be proud of, as residents of a city and a capital. Your support will be crucial in the coming weeks.


As a member of the Friends I too am concerned about the future of the City Archives. Few people are aware that a city archives is provincially mandated under the Municipal Act of Ontario in order to preserve a record and assist accountability in municipal government.