02 June 2009

Ontario Archives visit

I had the opportunity to visit the new Ontario Archives, on the campus of York University, on Monday. The frequent express bus from the subway to the York Campus stops right outside the Archives building. It should encourage using the TTC as a nearby multi-storey car park costs $2 for 30 minutes. Also discouraging parking is the dreary walk along the rear of the university shopping mall featuring garbage containers.

The Archives is an impressive facility which I'd hoped to photograph but was prohibited from doing so inside the building. I snapped the one here through the window, sorry about the reflection at the top left. Use of digital cameras is only allowed on documents.

Straight ahead in the photo is a bank of internet terminals, and behind them microfilm cabinets. To the right are work desks and counter for ordering original materials., Behind the mural to the left is an impressive and busy room with traditional microform readers and 50 computer terminal-microfilm readers, like the new ones at LAC. Each has a very large LAC display panel, very nice. Not seen to the left are the registration desk, consultation desk and the entrance from the foyer. An exhibit room, washrooms and a room for lockers and client time out are also reached from the foyer.

I was told the Archives have completed a digitization trial, and that more resources will be coming to the web site later in the year.

Also mentioned was a trial of remote microfilm access over the internet to take place soon. You would book a time to access a microfilm reader over the internet. Staff would load the film and you'd be able to control the scrolling of the film remotely and save copies. Sounds like a great idea -- LAC are you reading this?

I was disappointed there is no WiFi access -- yet. Also, and this is big, I was told by two different staff members there is no free client access to Ancestry.ca. Lesley Anderson, a consultant for Ancestry.ca, informs me the the Archives were granted free onsite access for their clients, so why isn't it available? People who've used the cumbersome multi-stage microfilm process for accessing Ontario Civil Registration records know that it should be declared cruel and unusual punishment, and the Ontario Archives charged as an accessory for not making the oh-so-easy access through Ancestry.ca freely available to their clients in the building.

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