Western Archives wins provincial recognition

The University of Western Ontario has been given a provincial nod for its support and contributions to development of the Archives and Research Collections Centre (ARCC).

University Archivist Robin Keirstead gives University President Paul Davenport a tour of the Schweitzer’s ‘Universe’ Deconstructed exhibit in the John A. Schweitzer Gallery at the Archives and Research Collections Centre. The university was recently recognized by the Archives Association of Ontario.  

The Archives Association of Ontario presented the award to the university to recognize the centre’s growing presence on campus and the role of the university, largely due to the support of President Paul Davenport, in creating a strong collection.


A ceremony was held June 3 to acknowledge the award, accepted last year during the association’s annual conference.


“In the past decade the university has made a major contribution to the advancement of archives, not just on campus but across the province, by providing significant support to the activities of Western archives,” says Robin Keirstead, University Archivist.



Keirstead says the award is an important recognition from the archivist profession and is not awarded annually.


The genesis of the regional history collection was a donation of papers from the Harris Family of London in 1926. Later, the collection was renamed in honour of J.J. Talman, former Chief Librarian and Provincial Archivist.



The university’s archival resources also include the university’s own records. With a mounting collection of inactive records taking up increasing space in offices across campus, Western decided to address its storage problem.


In June 2001, the first University Archivist was hired by Western Libraries and three more archivists responsible for records management and archives arrived later that year. The same year, the Board of Governors approved the first University Records and Archives Policy, which provided the foundation for Western Archives, as a new unit of the library, and clearly outlined its role in managing university records and providing support to research.


By the end of 2001, the green light was given for the construction of a multi-million dollar facility to house Western Archives. Named the ARCC, the facility includes archives, special collections and records centre services.


“A large part of it was Dr. Davenport’s support because if he wasn’t behind it, it wouldn’t have happened,” says Keirstead.


ARCC officially opened on April 6, 2004 on Archives Awareness Day. It currently employs 13 full-time staff and several part-time student assistants.



Part of the ARCC’s challenge is to decide what to keep. “Ninety-five per cent of records on campus are destroyed, it’s weeding out that five per cent,” says Keirstead.


“It’s a great university; it’s got a great history. We want to preserve that history, want to preserve the older research material that is important for our faculty but cannot be stored on shelves,” notes Davenport.



The ARCC has been helpful in sorting through the university resources to determine what should be kept and what materials can be thrown out, he explains. The facility has increasingly been recognized as a national and international leader.


The ARCC has been “a vital component of the university’s research because it documents a living history of the university,” says Davenport.