The Archives collection

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The Collection

The City of Ottawa Archives welcomes all researchers: students, genealogists, City employees and anyone with a keen interest in history. If you have specific historical questions about Ottawa, reference staff can provide assistance. 

Discover Ottawa's hidden treasures. Research your house and family, or explore more than three million photographs. The City of Ottawa Archives are the caretakers of Ottawa’s history, preserving original documents on behalf of past, present and future generations.

At the Archives you have access to a wide range of resources including photographs, maps, architectural drawings and artifacts. The 16,000-volume specialized reference library holds unique resource materials on the history and development of the City of Ottawa. Over 20 kilometres of records are kept in our climate-controlled vaults.

Visit our Collection Spotlight to see collection highlights, feature stories, descriptions of historical Ottawa events and more.

Types of Records

The City of Ottawa Archives has two main types of records in its collection: civic government records and community records.

Civic government records include records of the City of Ottawa, as well as the 12 former municipalities. There are also records from the Ottawa Public Library; Police, Fire and Emergency Services; and OC Transpo. Some items include:

  • Original by-laws
  • Original minutes from City Council and Council Committees
  • Assessment rolls
  • Historical maps
  • Historical photographs of major civic events
  • Historical plans of major structures

Community records include the records of individuals, families, businesses and organizations who have contributed meaningfully to and further enhance our understanding of the history, and evolution of Ottawa. Some examples from our collections include:

  • The Billings, Lett and Ogilvy family papers
  • The United Church of Canada (Ottawa and the Seaway Valley)
  • The Royal Ottawa Sanatorium (now the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre)
  • The Historical Society of Ottawa
  • The Central Canada Exhibition Association

If you have items that you are interested in donating, please contact the Central Archives Reference Desk at archives@ottawa.ca.

COVID-19 Collection

Please help us to collect and preserve Ottawa's COVID-19 experience. In collaboration with uOttawa, Carleton University, and Capital Heritage Connexion, the City of Ottawa Archives is keen to gather records of your experience of the pandemic. Capturing these records will help future generations understand the times we lived through. Materials recording the pandemic and the post-lockdown period will be welcome.

Donate your COVID-19 Collection materials with the City of Ottawa Archives. 

We are interested in items such as:

  • Correspondence
  • Business records
  • Diaries, journals, scrapbooks
  • Artwork, posters, maps, plans
  • Minutes of meetings, reports, membership lists
  • Unpublished works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, speeches
  • Photographs, sound recordings, films, videos

Share with the community

We are promoting the use of the hashtag #ottawacovid-19collection on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram if you would like to share that the City of Ottawa Archives is collecting COVID-19 experiences.

The University of Ottawa and Carleton University COVID-19 Archival Collections

Information and Archives Management Service (IAM), uOttawa Library, and ARCS, along with our colleagues from Carleton University's Archives and Special Collections, MacOdrum Library and the City of Ottawa Archives, are collaborating to establish a COVID-19 response collection. These archival collections will be invaluable to contemporary and future research on the effects of the pandemic.
The University of Ottawa COVID-19 Archival Collection
Carleton COVID-19 Archival Collection

Reference library

The Central Archives is home to our non-circulating reference library. This collection includes a variety of published and unpublished items relating to the history and residents of Ottawa. There are books, reports, maps, publications and newsletters about many of the projects and programs of the City of Ottawa and its former municipalities. There is a public access wifi network available. The wifi network also gives researchers free access to AncestryInstitution.com. Please speak to staff to get the access codes.

The Central Archives is also home to several partner libraries including:

Tapestry Project

Tapestry logo

Everyone has a part to play in history.

The City of Ottawa Archives wants your stories, the stories found in the records you keep.

The Tapestry initiative is our collaborative approach to preserving the cultural memory and history of Ottawa’s communities, to reflect the rich tapestry that makes up our city.

Through relationship building, active listening, and learning together, we are working to attract communities underrepresented in the Archives’ collection and expand them for the community and future generations. We can also assist groups looking to build community-based archives.

The Archives is actively collaborating with several community groups towards this goal.

Ottawa’s Tapestry: Building diversity in the Archives 
On November 17, 2022 the City of Ottawa Archives launched the Tapestry project with three fantastic guest speakers - George Elliot Clarke, Don Kwan, and Allison Everett. This initiative engages with Ottawa's diverse communities to diversify the archives' holdings.  Watch the series of videos.

Tapestry overview

The City of Ottawa Archives and the not-for-profit group Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives (FCOA) are engaging the community via the Tapestry initiative to diversify the Archives’ collection to make them more representative of the many different communities within Ottawa. We want the Archives to be a place of trust and belonging for everyone, which allows you to share your stories and history and hand them down to future generations.

Ottawa is a highly diverse city. As a result, the Tapestry initiative will be rolled out as a multi-phased project to enable us to connect with as many groups as possible.

In 2022, the program is engaged with the following communities*:

  • the Chinese community
  • the South Asian community
  • the Caribbean diaspora
  • LGBTQ2S+ communities

*Note on Indigenous engagement: The City of Ottawa Archives is committed to responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. For several years, the Archives has collaborated with the Pikwàkanagàn and Kitigan Zibi First Nations and is part of the City’s Aboriginal Working Committee Sub-Group. The Archives’ relationship with Indigenous peoples will continue to be a separate portfolio.

To contact a member of the Tapestry Team, e-mail archives@ottawa.ca.

Engaging with the community

Community leaders engaged in this first phase of the Tapestry initiative are our Tapestry Advisory Panel. Through their efforts, other community members and organizations will be found for future partnerships and campaigns to encourage donations of significant records to the City of Ottawa Archives.

Each community begins their story development by creating a community profile and an individual profile.

An archivist works with the community and individuals to assess their interconnectedness within Ottawa, and to identify potential donors. Within the documentary heritage provided by these donors, the archivist reviews to see what emerges. The evidence found in their records will showcase the pattern and fabric of the community through their correspondence, diaries, maps and plans, membership lists, minutes, speeches, photos, etc.

Developing community archives

As part of the Tapestry initiative, the Archives provides support to assist with the development of community-based archives, including expertise on maintaining an archive and guidance on the conditions required to preserve records.

Through outreach, educational support, and partnerships, the Archives can:

  • help preserve a community/organization’s history
  • demonstrate the value of preserving personal and organizational history, and cultural memory
  • provide resources to capture historical information and develop a legacy for communities.

Donations to the Archives

The Archives wants you to share your stories. We accept collections of documents that relate to Ottawa’s places, businesses, and people.

All media types are welcome in either paper or digital form, including:

  • diaries
  • letters
  • videos
  • minutes
  • maps
  • posters
  • photographs

Consult our donor guide for more information about the donation process, our mandate, different types of donor agreements, and tax receipts: Donating Records to the Archives: Customer Service Guide 105.

Learn more about donating to the archives from the resources below.

Interested in donating to the Archives? Contact archives@ottawa.ca

The Tapestry logo

The Tapestry logo depicts a close-up intersection of fibres/people, creating a segment of a tapestry/collection. Fibres tie people together in their individuality and together as a community. The fibres and people create strength, balance, and growth.

Further Information

Please feel free to reach out to our team to discuss your questions about the Tapestry project.

Tapestry Advisory Panel

The Tapestry Advisory Panel is made up of community leaders who are working with the FCOA and the COA to encourage donations from Ottawa's diverse communities. 

Currently the panel is working with the Chinese, South Asian, Caribbean and LGBTQ2S+ communities. Through their efforts, other community members and organizations will be found for future partnerships and campaigns to encourage donations of significant records to the City of Ottawa Archives.

Tapestry Advisory Panel Profiles

Jewne Johnson

Tapestry Advisory Panel: Jamaican Diaspora

For close to a decade, Lunette (Jewne) Johnson has been working to bring a culture shock to the Canadian market. A passionate enforcer of the arts in Canada, Ms. Johnson has worked as a performance teacher, event host, public speaker, media personality and community builder. With roots in the entertainment industry, she has an abundant understanding of what it takes to make it in business and wants to help others achieve their goals.

On April 20, 2015, Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa adopted the Art Child after-school program as part of their creative arts pillar. Since then, her program has spread to not just one but six out of seven Boys and Girls Clubs in Ottawa.

She has a number of awards under her belt: a 2014 award from the Network of Black Business & Professional Women (NB2PW), the 2014 Black History Ottawa Community Builder Award for Community Leadership, the 2015 Jamaican (Ottawa) Community Association (JOCA) Hero Award and Ontario’s 2016 Leading Women/Leading Girls Building Communities Awards.

She truly believes that you should “be the change you would like to see.

Supinderjit Singh

Tapestry Advisory Panel: : South Asian Community

Born in Jammu and Kashmir, Supinderjit holds a master’s in political science from Ludhiana (Punjab University). 

Supinder moved to Ottawa in 1998 and graduated from Algonquin College with a degree in computer science. He works at the City of Ottawa as a Project Manager.

Supinderjit Singh is a South-Asian Community and mental health leader. For over a decade, Supinderjit has advocated for mental health awareness especially in the South Asian community.

By working with numerous and varied organizations, he has fostered new connections and encouraged diversity in these networks. He has served on a wide range of volunteer organizations, including the Canadian Blood Services, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. He has also served as a board member of the Sikh Heritage Month Committee Ottawa and the Rotary Club of Nepean‑Kanata and as an advisory board member with the City of Ottawa Archives’ Tapestry project.

Supinder established the U Foundation, which provides three distinct areas of support for communities to empower people regardless of their religion, race, social status or background through key projects such as Langar for Hunger, Achint Universe Project, SoxBox Campaign and Community Outreach.

He is a recipient of the Ontario Volunteer Medal.

Juliette Smith

Tapestry Advisory Panel: : Immigrant Women in Technology

Juliette Smith is the National Projects and Community Stakeholder Manager for the Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre (OCCSC).

It is Juliette’s job to bridge the crucial gap between newcomers’ talents and local business networks. Juliette works with over 250 clients per year, which requires constant outreach to employers. Over 75 percent of her clients obtain employment within three to six months of seeking her services. 

Juliette’s passion and enthusiasm for her work is abundant. As an immigrant from Jamaica with many years of experience in HR, Juliette was drawn to the OCCSC for the gold mine of talent she knew she would find there. When she mentions clients who have landed ‘dream jobs’ and entered coveted careers, she lights up with pride. Telling stories of immigrants buying their first home in Ottawa, she grins ear-to-ear and thinks, “This is why we do what we do.” Juliette’s massive efforts not only help newcomers to find employment, especially women in tech, but enriches Ottawa by helping to inject talented and enthusiastic professionals into the workplace. 

Juliette’s efforts include traditional and networking methods, but she excels at developing innovative initiatives. One innovation is based off CBC’s hit show Dragon’s Den. Juliette created a spinoff endeavour called Talent Den where clients are given the chance to pitch themselves in front of a panel of five to six employers for 60 seconds. This gives clients a one-stop shop for meeting multiple employers, and doing so face-to-face instead of simply via a resume. Juliette thrives on helping others and has found not only a job she adores but an organization that she is honoured to be a part of.

Robert Yip

Tapestry Advisory Panel: : Chinese Community

Robert is a third-generation Canadian of Chinese descent, born and raised in British Columbia. After graduating from UBC, he moved to Ottawa and had a long career with the federal government before retiring.

For more than 40 years, Robert has been involved in community advocacy, broadcast and print media, media issues, cross-cultural activities, community-police relations and history projects.

As a subject matter expert in Chinese-Canadian history, Robert has provided interviews and presentations to media, historians, students, government departments and the Canadian Museum of History.

He has covered Chinese-Canadian and multicultural issues as a co-producer/host of “Orientation,” a radio program that aired on CHEZ 106 from 1982 to 1988.  As a writer for two local Chinese-Canadian community newspapers, he has interviewed many notable Chinese-Canadian writers and covered many local events and issues. He has spoken out against inaccurate and stereotypical coverage of Ottawa’s Chinese community by mainstream media and has worked with them to improve understanding and trust.

Robert is a long-time director of the Ottawa Chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council and served many years as a director of the Ottawa Asian Heritage Month Society. He has organized cross-cultural events involving Caribbean, Jewish, First Nations, and other communities.  Since 2002, he has organized numerous Asian Heritage Month events in Ottawa, which has allowed the public to learn about the long, rich and varied histories of Asians, and their contributions to Canada.  Robert has served on multicultural advisory committees for the Canadian Ethnocultural Council, OCDSB, Ottawa Citizen, RCMP, Ottawa Police Service and CTV Ottawa.

In 2012, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for community service. In 2017, he received the Senate of Canada 150th Anniversary Medal and Ontario Government’s #OC150 Award for community service, as well as an Ottawa Police Service Award for enhancing community police relations.

Donations

The City of Ottawa Archives is always adding to its collections, and we thank you for your interest in preserving the documentary heritage of the City of Ottawa. We accept materials for our two general collections: archives and reference.

Our archival collections of community records consist of original documents relating to individuals, families or organizations in Ottawa, which are acquired and preserved for their historical value. The types of records commonly acquired include:

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries, journals, scrapbooks
  • Drawings, maps, plans
  • Briefs
  • Membership lists, minutes of meetings, reports
  • Unpublished works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, speeches
  • Photographs, Films, Videos

Although our main focus is original archival records, we also collect books and other library materials specifically related to Ottawa history for our reference collections. We also maintain some special collections, such as maps and self-published family histories.

Consult our research guide: Donating Records to the Archives: Customer Service Guide 105 [PDF - 497 KB].

There are many benefits to donating [PDF - 184 KB]. Your donations to the City of Ottawa Archives support the development of our community records collection and exhibits that promote our community values of inclusiveness and help to bring stories to life for Ottawa residents and visitors.

The Is it archival? flow chart [PDF - 120 KB] will help to determine a donation's value.

Agreements and Copyright

After submitting your donation offer, an archivist will meet with you virtually to discuss your materials. If they are accepted, you will be asked to complete an agreement to confirm the transfer of ownership and assign copyright of the item(s) to the Archives so that we can use them for a variety of important purposes, including research, education and outreach, promotion, exhibition, publication and broadcast. This will not affect any privacy restrictions associated with the donation. We may also accept temporary loans if you are not yet ready to transfer ownership of the original material to the Archives.

Privacy

Once received and processed, your material will become part of the City of Ottawa Archives collection and will be available for research. The archivist working with you on the agreement will ask for some personal details about yourself and any other persons described in the donation to provide useful contextual information to your donation. This information may be included in the collection database to help researchers understand the context and significance of your materials. If you would like to restrict access to your item(s) for a set time period, this can be specified in the agreement.
Access restrictions may need to be placed on some records for a designated period. The archivist will work with you to find a compromise between protecting the privacy of persons mentioned in the records against their value as documents open for research. For instance, as defined by privacy legislation, if your donation includes personal information about somebody else (e.g. S.I.N., health card number, medical information) and it is not possible to gain their consent for use, the Archives may need to restrict access to the materials for that individual’s lifetime.

Access

Processing records takes time. Once we receive the material, items will be arranged and described following professional archival standards. This process is time consuming but allows us to properly preserve and make your material available for posterity. As a result, entries for your items may not appear immediately in our web portal, the Ottawa Museums and Archives Collections database (OMAC).

Contact us

If you are interested in donating to the Archives please email archives@ottawa.ca and include as much background information as possible relating to the material. An archivist will contact you to discuss your materials, our collections, and our processes.