Historical Friday Trip: The Western Archives

So I am a little late writing about this Friday’s visit to a site of historical interest but here it is!  This past Friday my Public History class and I visited the archives reading room and storage at Western University.  Through the Archives and Research Collections Center at Western, students can access a huge range of primary sources that are stored in a temperature-controlled holding area.  Everything from photographs to rare books to comic books are stored here and it is wonderful!

We spent the first half of our trip learning about the valuable resources that A.R.C.C. offers.  For an upcoming project accessing the historical value of homes in the Blackfriars area in London, Ont. for example, A.R.C.C. has numerous valuable research opportunities including fire insurance plans, city directories and much more.  This truly is a resource I’m lucky to have at my school!

The most exciting part to me however was the storage area where shelves stacked from floor to ceiling are filled with books and other sources.  I cannot do justice to the amount stored in the room.  At the end of the shelves are a number of refrigerators storing negatives from the London Free Press that A.R.C.C is currently in the process of digitizing- hopefully before they are completely destroyed although some are bound to lose some quality.  The digitizer can do approximately 200 negatives a week according to our guide and there is over a million negatives owned by the school.  The refrigerators help to slow down the destructive qualities of negatives and halt something called vinegar syndrome.  Pretty cool!

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One thing that really surprised me about the archives was its lack of familiarity among Western students who I know did four years of undergraduate classes here.  I posted these two photos on my Facebook page that day and several of my friends and family members who either still went here or had already graduated commented asking where this was and that they didn’t know Western had this!  Even a fellow class member who had done her undergrad here hadn’t known about it either (mind you not everyone uses Weldon as their main library).  I think this points to a definite need for more advertising or awareness campaigns on behalf of A.R.C.C.  Even an introductory seminar on A.R.C.C. for first year undergraduates would be helpful.   Anyways- I think the A.R.C.C. is a great and underrated resource for students at Western that should be taken advantage of more often and I sure am glad I was given the opportunity for a tour of it.  I highly recommend that any Western or non-Western student check it out as it is open to the public!

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