Ottawa archives begin move to new centre

Workers are finishing up construction of a new $40-million facility in Centerpointe that will be home to the capital's archives and the Ottawa Public Library's material facility.

Workers are finishing up construction of a new $40-million facility in Centrepointe that will house the capital's archives and serve as the Ottawa Public Library's materials centre.

It took two years of planning and scores of special containers to move just a portion of the city's collection of archival photos and records to their new home. The small fraction of the millions of materials would stretch a kilometer if the shipping containers were placed end to end. And for years, it was all kept in a cramped vault on Sussex Drive.

"I believe [a city councillor] once called the archives third-world conditions," said Paul Henry, the city's archivist. "It's nice to see we're now in the modern century."

The new home to what Henry calls "the city's treasures" is an immense space chilled at 18 degrees Celcius.

"It's a comforting feeling to know they're all protected," he said of the archival records. "It was like a ticking timebomb to have those materials in an inappropriate space."

The  new facility will also serve as the new hub for all the behind-the-scenes movement of Ottawa's library materials, so the next time a user requests a book from another branch, it will be sorted at the new centre via a new automated system.

Another 19 kilometres of boxed archives are still languishing unprotected in storage containers around the city, awaiting storage in the new centre, which opens in June.

It will take the next five years to move all of the remaining city archives to the new facility, which was supported by provincial funding.