I’m going to Ottawa in August! In this post I’ll share my getting ready process. This will be my sixth archive visit since 2018. My list includes the archives of Alberta (Edmonton), British Columbia (Victoria), Saskatchewan (formerly in Saskatoon), United Church of Canada (Vancouver), and Vancouver (Vancouver).
Checklist – a few months ahead
It’s time to get ready! Here are my ideas about travel and research.
|Arrange flight(s), if needed||Macdonald–Cartier International Airport (YOW), Ottawa, ON; it’s also possible to fly to other airports in the area (e.g., Toronto Pearson (YYZ), Toronto City (YTZ), or Montreal Trudeau (YUL)) and take fast, efficient trains to Ottawa.|
|Arrange train transport, if needed||The closest subway train station is Lyon on the OC Transpo Confederation line; the Lyon station is six stops from Tremblay Station, itself a short walk from the VIA Rail Ottawa Central Station|
|Arrange ground transport, if needed||Options include taxis and the rideshares Lyft and Uber|
|Arrange accommodation, if needed||Try to arrange a stay with friends or family. For a budget friendly option, the Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel is a 23 minute walk (1.8 kms) from LAC and boasts a unique style. (Yes, it’s a former jail. Really.) Accommodations range from eight-bed shared ($35/night) to private double / twin rooms ($135/night).|
|Food||Portable food and drink (e.g., tea, instant coffee, granola bars); water or thermos bottle for hot and cold drinks.|
|Get a LAC User Card||To research at the Ottawa location, researchers need a user card. User cards can be obtained on site but save time and apply before you go. If any materials are being requested ahead of time, a user card is required. See below for more details.|
|Check the hours||LAC is open Monday to Friday, 0900-1600. Check hours of operation before you plan your research trip.|
|Order Archival Materials||At least ten business days (two full weeks not including holidays), preorder materials to be ready for your research. This includes microfilms – while ten percent of the most common films are kept on site, ninety percent of the collection is not. Avoid disappointment and order here.|
|Order Published Materials||LAC has a separate interface for its library materials at Aurora. Use your user card to preorder materials.|
|Double Check Access of Materials||The materials at LAC range in accessibility from Access 90 (available for consultation) to Access 32 (only accessible via an Access to Information and Privacy Act request (ATIP)). See Document Restrictions. The ATIP process can be lengthy – if the reason for travel is to see an Access 32 file, don’t plan your travel until you’ve received confirmation. To be clear, showing up at LAC with your ATIP request for an Access 32 file will not speed up the process.|
|File an ATIP Request||File your ATIP request here.|
|Create an ATIP Online Account||Planning to file a few ATIP requests? LAC’s infamous backlog is driving the need to streamline. Create an ATIP request account here.|
|Check your research lines and make a plan||No matter how many days or weeks you plan, it will never be enough. See “My trip to the archives: how I prepare and what I found” for advice on getting ready to go.|
Apply for a User Card
It’s free and easy to apply for a research user card. It’s a three part process: apply online, confirm the application by email, then bring the temporary card to be exchanged for a permanent card on the first day at LAC. Cards must be worn while on site and are good for two years.
If you’ve completed the first online application correctly, you will receive an email confirmation. Clicking on the email link will take you back to LAC for a “User card registration” confirmation within two days. I got mine the next day.
I had the pleasure of three days of research at the BC archives last August. It was my second visit there and I was much better prepared. I don’t know when next I’ll visit Ottawa and I want to make the most of it. Already I know I won’t see all that I want to see, nor will I have the capacity to spent eight hours/day reading microfilm. I’m planning a week when I need a month – every minute will be precious!
Thanks for this post go out to Jack Gin for the invitation to speak at the Canadian War Museum, and to my cousins Jim and Tina for hosting me.
Linda Yip, “Explore the new Library and Archives Canada site (Oct 2022),” 23 Oct 2022, website, Past-Presence.com : accessed 30 Mar 2023.
Linda Yip, “My trip to the [British Columbia] archives: how I prepare and what I found,” 9 Oct 2022, website, Past-Presence.com : accessed 30 Mar 2023.