April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024 in review

April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024 in review

Report for the Glencoe & District Historical Society

K.W. Beecroft, President, Glencoe & District Historical Society, Dated March 31, 2024

Founded in 1978, the Glencoe & District Historical Society (G&DHS) set out on a mission to preserve the rich history of Southwestern Ontario, particularly around the Glencoe area. Ambitious projects, such as mapping local cemeteries, took place from 1978 to 1988. In 1983, G&DHS found a home in the basement of the old Andrew Carnegie Library and expanded to both floors in 1994. A substantial collection of land registry deeds was rescued in 1997, finding a secure home in the original land registry vault. The partnership restoration of the Glencoe Train Station in 2001 became a symbol of the society’s commitment to preserving local heritage. The Society is a not-for-profit volunteer organization with charitable status and a member of the Ontario Historical Society. The Society was founded upon a Constitution, which continued to define our operational structure

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Future Generations WILL Care about their history!

Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever!

Ken Beecroft, Ina Nelms, and Harold Carruthers, members of the Glencoe & District Historical Society speak about the need for a County of Middlesex archives to ensure our critical paper and digital records are preserved for the use of future generations.

Unlike other Counties in Ontario that have established archives (Lambton, Kent, Elgin, Oxford, Norfolk, Perth, Huron), Middlesex County has no such thing. In February 2020, representatives of historical societies and interested citizens met to gauge the interest in establishing a Middlesex County Archives. These aging keepers of history were frightened about the potential loss of local history. The group worried about what would happen to their precious historical documents due to aging volunteers and lack of funds.

What will the County of Middlesex decide? Stay tuned.

This video message published 29 July 2021

Edited by Colin Varga

Directed by Mary Simpson Social Media team, Glencoe & District Historical Society

An Archives is a program, not a Project

Total Archives and A Middlesex County Archives

The Canadian Government created the Public Archives of Canada in 1872.  In Europe, archives retained government records only with personal papers going to libraries as manuscripts.  The Dominion Archivist of Canada determined that all personal records of historical and cultural value should be collected as well as government records, with both being stored in the Public Archives.  This Total Archives approach was a departure from other countries and is known as a Canadian contribution to archival theory and practice.  Over time, multi-media records were added to collections in addition to traditional paper records.  Many other national, regional archival programmes, as well as those in municipalities or universities, have adapted the total archives concept.  The area municipal and university archives adopt this strategy as does the Provincial Archives of Ontario. 

The benefit of this approach is that archives hold records for researchers about family history such as searching houses, land or any other item of interest. The government records also provide some of the information required in these searches.  Having municipal records available – if they are open to the public – are advantageous to researchers and also to Municipal Clerks or staff, who sometimes are contacted by genealogists with family history requests.  Municipal staff benefit by being able to transfer those questions to properly-trained staff who have access to, not only government records, but also personal papers and other resources.  This removes the need for municipal staff to answer questions in an already busy day and provides researchers with a one-stop location.   Genealogists account for over 40% of archives’ users who travel to areas specifically to visit Archives.  While there, their tourist dollars support restaurants, hotels, local merchants and other local amenities.  

An Archives is a program, not a project. Continued funding and municipal support are required to ensure the success of the Middlesex County Archives.

Written by the Committee to Establish a Middlesex County Archives, July 2021

How to Transfer Municipal Records to a County Archive.

Check out this YouTube presentation for The Hasting and Belleville Community Archives entitled “How To Access The Community Archives When They Are Closed”. Published October 2020, their archivist, Amanda Hill, describes the Archives facility which was established ten years ago. She shows people how to access the collections from a computer.

The Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County is a service provided by the County of Hastings and the City of Belleville to help the municipalities of Hastings County preserve and provide access to their documentary heritage. https://www.cabhc.ca/en/about/resources/Transfer-of-municipal-records-to-the-Community-Archives.pdf 
This two-page document describes the process of transferring municial records to the county archives.

Although the Middlesex Centre Archives do not have the Municipal Records for Middlesex Centre, they do use a similar process. Each donor signs a Deed of Gift for their donation. The number for that donation is recorded on the Deed of Gift and every article within the donation. That is part of the processing work of donations.

When completely processed (number added, repairs completed), the donation is placed in the Archives on a specific shelf in a specific bay of shelving. The donation and its place in the Archives are then recorded. That donation can be found at any time with all its pertinent information. Access is easy and timely. If the donation has privacy implications, it is filed in the restricted files area. 

All these policies are already in place at the Middlesex Centre Archives under the direction of Archivist, Carolynn Bart-Riedstra. The processes were designed so that when Middlesex County establishes an archive facility, some of the work is already done and easily transferable.

Written by Carol Small, Chair, The Committee To Establish a Middlesex County Archives

Southwest Middlesex has a duty to save records

Municipal Act and Responsibility

Legal Mandate

  • Federal and Provincial Governments in Canada have mandated that public records be officially archived for legal, governance, and historical purposes.  
  • The division of records kept usually coincides with jurisdictional boundaries: Federal, Provincial, County, and Municipalities.  (Library and Archives of Canada Act, S.C.2004).
  • Ontario has further mandated that preserved public records be available to the public.  (Archives Act, RSO 1990; Archives and Recordkeeping Act, 2006; Archives and Recordkeeping Amendment Act, 2019.
  • The Ontario Municipal Act 2001, S.O. 2001. C. 25 Section 254 further states that municipal offices must preserve certain documents and they are to be publicly accessible. Those records need to be adequately stored.  It further indicates that municipal offices could deposit their records in an archives.

Many neighbouring Ontario counties have created their own archives to fulfill their legal obligations and to preserve important heritage materials. These include Elgin, Oxford, Huron, Perth, Grey, Bruce, Lambton, Haldimand, Wellington and more recently in 2020, Norfolk.  Middlesex County has not done so yet.

Often records are not easily accessible due to the location of the records in the municipality.  They are either stored off-site in another municipal structure or are not available for access to the public.  Whether in digital or hard copy, records need to be accessible in a timely manner, especially when there are MFIPPA requests.  

Environmentally controlled (EC) storage facilities are necessary for preserving records.  The temperature must be 18-21 degrees Celsius, which is colder than an office environment. Relative humidity (RH) should be between 45-50%.  If both elements are not met, mold can occur if humidity is too high, and paper can deteriorate if the temperature and RH are too low.  Based on the surveys returned from the municipalities in Middlesex County, none of the records are in EC areas. A few municipalities indicated the records are stored in their community centres. While these facilities may have air-conditioning, the RH control is still an issue.  

Even if municipal records are covered in Records Retention Schedules as per the Municipal Act 2001, S.O. 2001. C. 25 Section 253, some records have historical value that can be retained for researcher and/or historical value.   When records no longer serve administrative value, they could still have cultural value for information.  Less than 3% of municipal records are archival. While it might not be a lot, municipal records like tax assessment rolls, building plans, environmental assessments and other documents should be considered for placement in the Middlesex County Archives. 

Written by the Committee to Establish a Middlesex County Archives, July 2021

We Need a County Archives

Middlesex County does not have a county archives to protect our history for future generations.

Report from the Committee To Establish A Middlesex County Archives (CEMCA):

Unlike other counties that have established a County Archives (Lambton, Kent, Elgin, Oxford, Norfolk, Perth, Huron etc.) to house municipal as well as important historical materials, Middlesex County has not. In February 2020, representatives of historical societies and interested citizens from across Middlesex County gathered to ascertain the interest in establishing a Middlesex County Archives. The group had concerns about what would happen to their precious historical documents due to aging volunteers and lack of resources.  The group gave resounding approval to the initiative and the Committee to Establish a Middlesex County Archives was born. After two meetings, Covid-19 halted those for the year but work remained ongoing.  In February 2021 virtual meetings commenced via Zoom. 

How best to achieve the goal? The primary focus had to be municipal records. Through legislation, County and Municipal governments are mandated to officially store public records for legal, governance, and historical purposes.  The Ontario Municipal Act 2001, S.O. 2001. C. 25 Section 254 further states that municipal offices must preserve certain documents, and that they are to be publicly accessible.  Those records need to be properly stored and available in a timely manner.  It further indicates that municipal offices could deposit their records in an archive, to be secured. In addition, many historical societies hold historically significant documents and still more remain in private hands. Without a County Archives, there is concern about the location and condition under which many valuable historical documents are being stored.

CEMCA, through a survey to Mayors and Clerks, and another survey to Historical Societies within Middlesex County, ascertained much data – most materials were not stored in secure, environmentally-safe areas and most were not easily accessible.  That is a problem for municipal as well as local historical documents.

In June, CEMCA developed a series of “Facts Sheets” and other pertinent information to be sent weekly to County and Municipal Councillors and Administrative Staff. Information included: Municipal Act and Responsibilities, What is an Archives? How Will the Municipality and Clerks Benefit? Where Are the Records Now? Who Would Use the Middlesex County Archives, Resources Required and Challenges and Opportunities. To see any of this information, please check Middlesex Centre Archives webpage: www.middlesexcentrearchive.ca or email proposedmiddlesexcountyarchive@gmail.com.

Committee representatives from each municipality are contacting their councillors and/or making presentations to their councils. On September 28, 2021, CEMCA will be making a presentation to County Council to formally ask that a Middlesex County Archives be established.

Who benefits from a County Archives? Municipal clerks, town planners and developers, lawyers and architects, heritage advocates, scholars and educators, genealogists and family historians, tourists. The biggest benefactors will be our future generations!!!!!!!

How can you help? Contact your county councillors by writing, email or telephone to express your support for the Archives. For more information, please email proposedmiddlesexcountyarchive@gmail.com.

Let us lose nothing of the past, it is only with the past that one builds the future. Anatole France