Friday, April 29, 2016

Storming Fort LAC



A friend of this blog who teaches history at a major American university writes:
I am heading to Ottawa in June to begin the research on my second book at Library and Archives Canada.

Do you have any advice about how to do research at LAC? I've never been before. I am obviously going to use the finding aid as much as possible before I get there.
Sounds like a worthwhile thread to open: coping with the LAC. If you send suggestions here,  we'll see what comes up.

Update, May 2:  Jean-Fran├žois Lozier of the Canadian Museum of History suggests:
Anyone visiting Ottawa to look at material at LAC should consider scheduling a visit to the Canadian Museum of History as well. Not just to enjoy the splendid exhibitions, remarkable architecture, and best possible view of the Parliamentary skyline, but also to see how our collections might feed their researchers' appetites. It all depends on the subject being researched, of course, but I am a big believer that even when a project seems wholly unrelated to material culture, looking at "things" and thinking about them can inspire new insights. In addition to objects, though, we have extensive archival holdings. Plus, while our library collection is certainly smaller than LAC's, researchers are free to browse the stacks. And we have really cool curators that love to have visitors and talk about Canadian history.
All true!

Update, May 4:  Frank Rockland writes:
What I normally do is conduct most of my research on line.

DO NOT use the search box in the top right corner. That search engine used to be very good but the current one produces extremely poor results.

Instead click on the Online Research>Archives Search. This is the search engine you should use for any archival research http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/lac-bac/search/arch. This produces very good results and allows you to refine your search.

Once you have determined which materials that you would like to consult, you can then order them so they will be available when you arrive. You will need a user card since the order form will not allow you order any material until you get one. If you had a previous one, you renew it. To get one or to renew Go to Copies & Visiting>Preparing for a Visit>Under Card Registration Form. They haven’t updated that page to the new look, but it works.

Once you get your user card number click on Copies & Visiting> Preparing for a visit> Ordering Material in Advance. The page will allow you to enter the documents you want to order. I normally enter the Mikan # and the Title of the documents that I would like to consult. They will email you when the material is ready for consultation.

Once you arrive, you will need to pick up your user card and then go up to the third floor to ask for your boxes. I would suggest getting a locker so you can store your boxes. The archives are open at night and on weekends. After hours and on the weekend, you can park in the lot next door since spaces are usually available and parking is free. I drive so during the week I park a couple of blocks away and walk in.

By the way, if you bring a camera make sure that you have a wrist strap attached. So you can’t use your phone’s or tablet’s camera if does not have strap.
P.S.  At Christmas I visited the archives in Washington DC. It was quite amazing the differences between the two institutions. The first thing [in Washington] was airport level security. I was informed I came on a slow day because normally there is a line up to get in. They had interactive displays of archival documents and exhibitions such as the U.S. Constitution. Which brings up the question where is the BNA Act [at LAC]? Also, as I was leaving there were quite number of young students on field trips to the archives.
 
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