Friday 2 November 2012

A Visit to the Archives of Ontario

This afternoon I headed up to the Archives of Ontario, which is located at York University.

I have a project which I am working on and the purpose of this trip was more to research how to research than to actually research, although I did find something I could use.

If planning to go, here is a word of warning. You cannot just drop in and start going through the records. First you need to register on-line.

Those customers who wish to conduct research or consult any records in the Archives of Ontario’s (AO) collection must first obtain an Archives of Ontario Researcher (AOR) card. Unless revoked by the AO, this card is valid for a lifetime or as long as you are using the AOs services.

After registering, it takes up to 48 hours to be accepted, although I received my approval by the next day. To register, click here

Some other things to know when you go there. Once you get your card and sign in, you are given a key to a locker for there are things that are not allowed in the reading room. You are not allowed to bring in coats, hats, bags, food, drinks, water, or pens.

What is allowed are notebooks, laptops (there are places to plug in) cameras (providing you get permission) and pencils. If you forget your pencil, there are plenty around, although they are the small golf pencils.

If I am making it sound very strict and unwelcoming, then I am sending the wrong message. The people there from reception to the staff in the reading room are all too eager to help! When I first went in, I had no idea where to start but a woman at one of the reference desks asked me what I needed. When I stumbled through an answer, she gave me some printed information and then showed me where to go and how to find what I needed.

Once I found what I thought would be useful (turned out it wasn't but was sure interesting to look at), a fellow at another research desk showed me how to hook up and use the microfilm machine. He would have shown me how to download copies onto a USB stick but I forgot mine. Damn.

The amount of information stored under that one roof was incredible. I brought home some information for Teena for genealogical research.

One note ... I was told that the microfilms can be ordered in advance and sent to any Toronto library. It does take a few days, though. I would rather go up and look around as one thing can always lead you to another.

The most difficult thing is that everything I was looking at was handwritten and some people's penmanship is much better than others. Also some of the pages over the years did not hold up well before being put on microfilm.

I would like to thank all the staff how assisted and taught me today. They were all patient and terrific. I also appreciated how they came over later on to make sure I was finding things OK. In one afternoon, I feel confident I could go back for more research and know my way around.

Next time I will bring along my USB!

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