Tuesday, 30 October 2018

FCOA: AGM 2018 and City Archivist Report

Sunday afternoon was the occasion for the AGM of the Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives. Preceding was an entertaining (and substantive) presentation by Wes Darou on the Orange Order in the National Capital Region.

There were more than enough members in attendance for a quorum. Two amendments to the by-laws were approved, reports accepted and a full slate of board members elected. The following report was presented by City Archivist, Paul J. Henry, CA

2018 has been a busy year for the Archives.

This year, we continued to transfer municipal records from off-site storage, previously identified in the system as “manual only”, made complicated by the fact that no extent stats were available to aid either our work-planning or our space prognostication. We have also begun the process of temporarily transferring boxes which arrived at the Archives in 2014 as part of the omnibus transfer, back through Information Management to have them catalogued in our Records Management System. The goal, of course, is to have every civic record documented at the file level and discoverable by City and Archives staff alike.

Continuous disposition authorities were issued for new or changed records classifications for civic-generated records, both paper and electronic, allowing automation of records transfer to the Archives to continue, and of course, routine disposition. In all, the backlog of civic records appraisal work, is proceeding at the expected pace.

Staff remain committed to reviewing existing practices to find efficiencies in transfer, processing, and providing access to collections. We review our policies and procedures annually, and develop new guidelines to address emerging issues, or approach new ideas in a thoughtful and documented way.

Work is also progressing in private records acquisition. Records now available online through the Ottawa Museum and Archives Collections portal stand at over 50,000 catalogue records, including just under 20,000 images, and over 3,000 books.

In support of documentation planning and analysis, this year we remained engaged with small archives, historical societies, and community organizations in the preservation of historical community records.  Last year, as I mentioned, we endorsed the new Provincial Acquisitions Strategy, adopted in 2016 by the Archives Association of Ontario, and remain in the forefront of transparent private record appraisal practice.

It has been an incredible year for exhibitions at the Archives. We launched our first mobile app, Time Traveller, available for Android and iOS, that places you in events of the past, with images from the Archives and engaging vignettes and stories that tell residents, visitors, and indeed, the whole world about Ottawa.

The Barbara Ann Scott Gallery is our second permanent exhibition space, located at City Hall. Skate with me, the Barbara Ann Scott story, closed in June after a six year run, so that we could reinvent the Gallery. Opening in August, Postcards from Ottawa embraces the Archives’ storytelling mandate with dozens of new stories from Ottawa’s past, through artifacts and images. We are honoured that our partners, both Algonquin first nations, worked with us to ensure that the indigenous story — one which is always with us — is told to new audiences. Cultural artifacts, and text in Algonquin, English, and French bring the narrative alive. And the story of the Nishiyuu Walkers is also told, and with it, our fourth language — Cree.

Work on many small exhibitions and displays, throughout the City, continues at the Archives' Hockey exhibition at Canadian Tire Centre, and City Hall with additions to the Mayor's Gift collection display and the Sports Hall of Fame, and of course at the Archives’ Gallery 112 here at Tallwood. 

While staff add more records and photographs to the Ottawa Museums and Archives collections database, interest in our online digital offerings continues with our content partners, Ancestry.ca. Last year, over 1.5 million unique page views were logged by Ancestry's servers, up 722,000 from the year previous.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention several staffing changes at the Archives. Claire Sutton won the competition for Assistant Archivist, a new professional position, which assists the archivists with appraisal and a concentration on arrangement and description. Filling her vacant position in Reference is Olga Zeale, our former Education Officer. As I started with one, then two vacancies, and now have two vacancies, expect more staffing changes in the coming months.

In conclusion, I'd like to thank the Friends of the Archives for their continued support of the programs and initiatives of the Archives and welcome future opportunities to work together. Your collaboration helps make all of this possible.

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