The History of the University Of Alberta Archives

The University of Alberta marked its place in history with its status as the first university in the province of Alberta. In the early 1950s the university made provision for its archival records by assigning an archives storage room in the Rutherford Library. However, it was not until 1962 that a University Archives Committee was established. The space needs for an archival repository were documented in the Brooke Report of the Campus Planning Committee in 1965.

In 1967 the Board of Governors approved the creation of the position of University Archivist in accordance with a General Faculties Council recommendation. Later that year, records of the office of President Henry Marshall Tory were arranged and described as a pilot project.

James McPherson Parker was appointed the first University Archivist in 1968 and space was provided in the Rutherford Library for the Archives. One of the first tasks of the new Archivist was to develop the Archives policy, which was approved by the Board of Governors in 1969. The policy defined archival records and identified a role for the Archives in the acquisition of the University's permanently valuable records, encompassing those of University-sponsored student and faculty associations, and those of teaching and administrative staff. The policy included photographs and audio-visual materials in its definition of archives. It defined deposit rules and the role of the University Archives in the disposition of University records.

The Archives was established to serve the entire University community from a public service point that provided convenient access to researchers and employees of the University. The Archivist was responsible for the acquisition, preservation, and accessibility of all materials held by the Archives. The policy gave the Archivist broad responsibility for records management and authority to accept donations on behalf of the University. It set out the roles of the newly created Archives and Documents Committee. Further, the policy established rules for transferring records to the University Archives and noted a 25-year access restriction and application of copyright for the permanently valuable records of the University. When the Alberta Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act was established in 2000, it overrode previous access restrictions to university records.

Following the new policy, the Archives undertook a records survey in 1970 and submitted a document retention and disposal policy which was approved by the Board of Governors in 1974. This policy defined University documents and classes of records which were to be transferred to the Archives and set broad retention periods for active records, indicated which records could be disposed, and established a procedure for the control and disposal of University documents. An Assistant Archivist joined the team in 1969 and an Archives Assistant was hired in 1970, rounding out the complement to a staff of four.

The Archives became independent from the University of Alberta Libraries in 1975 and the following year the Archives and Documents Committee established a sub-committee for Documents Retention and Disposal (DRAD) to establish disposition schedules and to authorize the destruction of University documents. DRAD worked with the University Archivist in compiling a general documents inventory and a General Documents Schedule for administrative records (issued in 1985). The Archives has never accepted semi-active records for records management, but with the establishment of a University Records Officer in 2011 the University Archives is no longer responsible for the development of records retention schedules.

In 1986 the Archives became a unit within a newly established Department of University Archives and Collections, with Jim Parker as Director. The new Department was an administrative fusion of the University Archives and University Collections. Shortly after the appointment of Bryan Corbett as Chief Archivist in 1987, the Archives began work on a Subject Classification Guide for the Records of the University of Alberta, which was an essential tool to assist departments in developing filing systems.

When Parker retired in 1990, the Department was divided into separate units: Museums and Collections Services (formerly University Collections) and Archives. The Archives returned to the University Library system and the bulk of its holdings have been housed at the Book and Record Depository (BARD) since it opened in 1994 as the Library's off campus storage facility. Beginning in 1995, the Archives formed part of Learning Systems Enterprises where it reported to the Executive Director. In 2011 the Archives was administratively aligned with the University of Alberta Libraries, and in late 2017 it will move from BARD to a new purpose-built facility called the Research & Collections Resource Facility (RCRF) on South Campus.