The new Stratford Perth Archives have officially opened its doors to the public.
A popular spot during Doors Open, the staff of the new building, located along Highway 8 just west of Stratford next to the Stratford Perth Museum, offered tours to the public on Saturday, June 6 to spaces that, henceforth, will be off limits to them.
The public space of the new archives is relegated to two spacious galleries accessed through the front doors. The first is a workspace with desks, computers, and microfilm readers capable of printing copies.
A central desk greets customers, while a display gallery to the right offers exhibitions of artifacts. On display that day were materials detailing the celebration of VE day and VJ day in Stratford, and the return of the Perth Regiment to the city. Photographs were enlarged and displayed on the walls, while a flatscreen scrolled through digital images.
Valuable materials were still able to be displayed behind glass, leaving the delicate documents in the safety of the archives' climate controlled storage area.
Still another window off the gallery allows members of the public to watch staff at work within the archives' restoration work room.
Behind the scenes, the bulk of the new building's $2.5 million budget is found in the aforementioned storage area, kept at a cool 18 degrees Celsius and 50 per cent humidity to ensure maximum preservation.
Rolling document stacks allow for the storage of just under 12,500 standard record boxes, with cubbies designed for framed artwork. An additional cage houses especially rare or sensitive materials, such as court documents, with space enough for a further 550 boxes.
The massive room is also plugged into a fire-prevention system that, should two fire alarms detect smoke, will vaporize a liquid chemical stored in tanks called Novec 1230. The chemical suffocates flames but, according to staff, not humans. It also dissipates quickly, and is less harmful to the environment than other fire suppression gases. Gas is used in fire suppression at the Archives because a water sprinkler would irreparably damage documents and materials.
"Everything is absolutely state of the art," beamed archivist and tour guide Ellen Charendoff about the storage area. "This is where most of the money has gone."
The whole building itself is built to endure lightning strikes, seismic activity, or even a rare event like the explosion of a munitions factory. All windows have a UV glaze on them to further protect the items inside.
There's even a quarantine room for mouldy or contaminated items, and "water bugs" on the lawn that set off alarms should the water table rise high enough to risk flooding.
Amongst some of the more valuable items found inside include a document signed by inventor Thomas Edison during his short time in Stratford as a youth. There's also a handwritten note from a soldier from WWII, thanking someone for cigarettes, written on a sheet of Adolph Hitler's personal stationery. Some of the oldest documents in the building include agricultural society minute books from 1841 and the diary of a pioneer from 1849.
The new archives building has combined the collections that were previously stored in buildings in Stratford, Mitchell, and Listowel. Currently, there are six employees there: three full time and three part time. No one lost their job during the amalgamation.