Search the Archives

What is an "archival record" anyway?

Archival records are the non-current records of individuals, groups, institutions, and governments that contain information of enduring or evidential value and which essentially document an action. They are the products of everyday activity. Formats represented in the modern archival repository include photographs, films, video and sound recordings, computer tapes, and video and optical disks, as well as the more traditional unpublished letters, diaries, maps, documentary art, architectural drawings and other manuscripts. Specific types of records one might find in an archives include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Minutes, by-laws, and administrative records of businesses, governments, political groups, religious groups, ethnic groups and other community organizations;
  • Diaries, correspondence, photographs, and audio-visual records of community members, such as politicians, musicians, community and/or religious leaders, photographers, artists, teachers and scientists;
  • Records documenting a particular cause or function such as protection of the environment, birth and marriage registrations, or the development of a corporate logo;
  • Posters and marketing material to help celebrate a special event or anniversary.

Having trouble understanding archival terminology? Check out our archival terminology page.

How would I use archival records?

Researchers use them both for their administrative value and for purposes other than those for which they were created. For example, First Nations groups may use archival records to establish legal claims to land and privileges guaranteed by federal and provincial governments; medical researchers utilize records to study patterns of diseases; authors use archives to acquire a feel for the people and times about which they are writing; historians and genealogists rely on archival sources to analyze past events to reconstruct family histories; and businesses use the records to improve their public relations and to promote new products. In short, archives benefit nearly everyone, even those who have never directly used them.

Research Guides

Subject Guides

Should you require further assistance, please contact us for help.