Serge offered tips for working with archival material, including precious items in your own family collection. For better preservation, use gloves for handling and acid-free material for storage. Unbound flat papers should be stored vertically.
Ideal storage conditions are 18 degrees Celsius with humidity ranging from 40-45%. While this sometimes requires artificial climate control, you may be able to find ordinary spaces in homes or buildings that reasonably match these conditions. Store important items away from direct sunlight, with some UV protection if exposed to indirect light. Photos should be handled by their edges.
Post-talk, I asked Serge about high points in his work. Without giving any secrets away, he said archival records sometimes provide answers to some very personal questions, such as a search for natural parents. Some of his favourite career memories involve detective work that ended with moving human discoveries.
Serge's best tip is something we all know, but frequently neglect. Whenever possible, all photos should be labelled! With ordinary lead pencil, note on the back of photos relevant names, dates and other pertinent details (location, special event, etc.). A simple pencil inscription can eliminate all manner of mystery and extra investigation.
If you have items that will help tell Ottawa's story, or if you need help doing archival research, feel free to contact the City of Ottawa Archives.
Web information is at: http://www.ottawa.ca/residents/heritage/archives/ index_en.html
Or come see Serge Barbe in person, along with a regular cadre of RTHS volunteers, at the Rideau Township Branch in North Gower, Tuesdays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm:
Rideau Branch, City of Ottawa Archives
6581 Fourth Line Road (Main street)
Serge Barbe is well-known to RTHS volunteers who help staff the North Gower Branch of the City Archives. Friendly and efficient, Serge is there every Tuesday, with the skill to connect individuals and communities with archival resources. Thousands of readers have also worked though the Ottawa Citizen. Heritage Day Quiz prepared by Serge with the help of his heritage friends.
As a history major at the University of Ottawa, Serge knew he liked the field, but felt teaching wasn't the right path for him. His career solution came with a start at the National Library and Archives Canada, followed by 25 years of engaging work with the City of Ottawa Archives, including extensive research on the history of Vanier.
The definition of "Ottawa" has changed over time. Today's City Archives faces a daunting mandate: to preserve and share the corporate records of all 12 municipalities amalgamated into one by provincial mandate in 2001.
Along with a wide array of contemporary responsibilities, the 'new' City of Ottawa Archives also inherited 100,000 boxes of old city documents. The cumbersome mission should become more manageable with the completion of a new facility at Centrepoint (corner of Woodruff and Tallwood) slated to open in the fall of 2010. The 80,000 square foot building will be shared with the Ottawa Public Library's Collection Development Services. The City Archives will be allotted 60% of the total space and the building is designed to allow for future expansion.
One class of items for the City Atchives
In his talk, Serge explained the city's adoption of a proactive Community Documentation Plan, as developed by archival authority Richard Cox. How should the stories and records of a city be organized? The Cox model proposes subject groupings: Agriculture; Art and Architecture, Business, Industry and Manufacturing; Education; Labour; Medicine and Health Care; Military; Politics, Government and Law; Population; Recreation and Leisure; Religion; Science and Technology; Social Organization and Activity; Transportation and Communication. Archival materials relating to multiple topics (as could easily happen with Labour and Manufacturing, for example) are catalogued for cross reference as needed.
Communities and Archives
Presented by Serge Barbe,
City of Ottawa Archives.
Article by Lucy Martin