On November 16 approximately 20 aspiring librarians and archivists got up really early to take a road trip to Ottawa. The day’s schedule included a behind-the-scenes tour of the National Gallery of Canada’s library and archive, as well as a tour of the Library of Parliament. It was a gorgeous day, albeit a little chilly, and we learned about lots of neat stuff!
Our first stop was the National Gallery where our group was split into two so we could fit in the stacks of the library and archive. The library houses a number of books and periodicals about Canadian and international artists, although the focus is generally on Western art. As our guide explained, most of these books serve researchers, but they can also be used by other people, such as those who are looking for auction price information. They also house a large number of exhibit guides from museums around the world.
The archives on the other hand, house more actual works of art. One staff member explained to us about an art periodical that regularly produces a small piece of art to go along with each issue. She told us about the challenges involved in cataloguing untypical objects, showing us a recently acquired ball that she had yet to catalogue. We were also able to see some other examples from the collection, including some sketchbooks belonging to Emily Carr, amongst other small pieces of art.
After spending the morning in the National Gallery, the group continued on to the Parliament buildings, where after making it through security we met up with two Parliamentary librarians. The best part of this tour was that we actually got to see the collection close up, as well as visit their rare book room. Normal tours of Parliament will only get a short glimpse into the Library, but we were able to get a much more extensive tour. After hearing about the library’s history, we were taken into the stacks, and then down into the basement to see the rare books collection. We were able to get a look at John James Audubon’s Birds of America of which the Library of Parliament has a unique copy. For the most part though, the library collection holds reference materials for Parliament, as well as parliamentary and committee proceedings.
It was certainly well worth the early morning and drive to Ottawa to see these libraries and archives, and thanks to the ABQLA and the SLA student chapters for putting together a great trip. Also, as a side note, 3 out of 4 librarians or archivists who led our tours were SIS graduates!
Thanks to Jiamin Dai for all the lovely photos!