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What is Metadata?

Definition and Significance
Metadata is a literal term meaning data about data.

Visit Canadian Heritage’s website to view their CCO Best Practice Guide for Digitization Projects and the Preservation of Digital Content.

Anne J. Gilliland, author of the article Setting the Stage published in Introduction to Metadata describes it is as a “frequently underspecified term that is understood in different ways by the diverse professional communities that design, create, describe, preserve and use information systems and resources.”

On the broadest scale, metadata is created by institutions that manage information and collections. Metadata’s main purpose is the description and ordering of objects but also is useful when conducting searches and retrieving information about the collection. 

Institutions such as archives, libraries, and museums all use different forms of metadata. Gilliland states that:

Did you know?

In addition to object description, metadata also refers to the context, management, processing, preservation and the use of the objects.

Metadata can exist in digital form or in hard copy form such as vertical files, card catalogues and file labels.

Metadata allows a wider range of accessibility. Users can access object information more easily by searching on databases and networked information systems. It enables researchers and staff to cross reference numerous subject fields, dates and titles for a more efficient search request. Archives, library and museums can share their collections with people across the globe.

Want to know more?  See: Resources

How to Cite Properly

Archival materials are unique as they are primary sources and that makes it tricky to know how to cite properly. The City of Ottawa Archives recommends viewing the Library and Archives Canada’s article on How to Cite Archival Sources. It provides excellent examples of citing various materials such as textual documents, audiovisual documents, photographic documents, architectural documents, etc.

The Chicago Manual of Style is the standard for proper citation of archival resources as it covers the many different types of materials you would find in the archives.

Appropriate and correct citation of your sources when researching is critical because:
It allows readers to return to your original source and make their own analysis and conclusion.
It also gives credit to the author or creator.

Step One: Decide whether your primary citation will be in the form of footnotes or endnotes. It is personal choice (footnotes are easier to follow along with the text).

Step Two: Compose a bibliography with the complete citation of your sources.

When documenting where your source came from, you’ll want to make sure you have written down at least these main criteria:

Author or creator
Publication Information
Collection name
Box, folder, page
Credit/ Source

Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997) is an excellent guide for citing archival sources. For further detail, consult this book or the Chicago Manual of Style Quick Guide.

Want to know more? See: Resources

Citation Examples

 Deed (Town or County Level)

Primary Citation
1. Providence Land Evidences, Book 4: 263, City Hall- Division of Archives and History, Providence, Rhode Island.

Complete Citation in Bibliography
Rhode Island. Providence. City Hall-Division of Archives and History. Land Evidences, 1721.

City Directory 
Primary Citation
1. Might’s Greater Ottawa (Carleton County, Ont.) City Directory, Including: Vanier, Rockcliffe Park, and those portions of Gloucester and Nepean Townships Adjacent to Ottawa, for 1971. “Alphabetical List of Names”, (Toronto, Ontario: Might Directories Limited Publishers, 1971), 168.

Complete Citation in Bibliography
Might’s Greater Ottawa (Carleton County, Ont.) City Directory, Including: Vanier, Rockcliffe Park, and those portions of Gloucester and Nepean Townships Adjacent to Ottawa, for 1971. “Alphabetical List of Names”. Toronto, Ontario: Might Directories Limited Publishers, 1971.

Primary Citation 
1. Andrews-Newton Photographers Fonds, “Elvis Presley at the Auditorium”, 3 April, 1957, Ottawa, photograph by A. Andrews, C. Buckman, D. Gall, T. Grant, City of Ottawa Archives, MG393-AN-049378-109.

Complete Citation in Bibliography
A.Andrews, C. Buckman, D. Gall, T. Grant, Andrews-Newton Photographers Fonds, City of Ottawa Archives, MG393-AN-049378-109.

Primary Citation
1. John N. DePew. A Library, Media and Archival Preservation Handbook. (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 1991), 200.

Complete Citation in Bibliography
DePew, John N. A Library, Media and Archival Preservation Handbook. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 1991.

Journal article
Primary Citation
1. James L W III West. “Annotating Mr. Fitzgerald.” Documentary Editing 22, no. 3 (September 2000): 54.

Complete Citation in Bibliography
West, James L W III. “Annotating Mr. Fitzgerald.” Documentary Editing 22, no. 3 (September 2000): 54-58.

Newspaper Article
Primary Citation
1. Greg Connolley. “Mayor Turns Green Island Sod For New $3,000,000 City Hall.” The Ottawa Citizen. 17 September 1956: 25.

Complete Citation in Bibliography
Connolley, Greg. “Mayor Turns Green Island Sod For New $3,000,000 City Hall.” The Ottawa Citizen. 17 September 1956.


Primary Citation
1. Map of the City of Ottawa and Vicinity. Corporation of the City of Ottawa, Copyright Canada April 27, 1936. Serial no, 37327. C.1-35, CA 15358. City of Ottawa Archives.

Complete Citation in Bibliography
Map of the City of Ottawa and Vicinity. Corporation of the City of Ottawa, Copyright Canada April 27, 1936. Serial no, 37327. C.1-35, CA 15358. City of Ottawa Archives.

How to Plan and Design an Exhibition

Exhibition planning is an engaging process. Exhibitions are experiences; they provide communication of ideas, information, feelings and values.   Although there is no set method for planning an exhibit, there are general guidelines that professionals follow.

Whether you are planning a small or large scale exhibit for a community organization, museum, archive or library, designing a virtual exhibit, or generally want to learn the exhibition planning process, this article will take you the exhibition development guidelines to help you transition your concepts to realities.

Before you begin:

Consider your target audience: who will visit and interact with it? Step into your visitor’s shoes and consider their perspective:

People visit exhibitions for several reasons: for information, for personal identity and reinforcement of personal values, for social interaction, and for entertainment and relaxation.

An excellent resource on exhibition development is by Kathleen McLean, Planning for People in Museum Exhibitions.

Want to know more?  See: Resources

Exhibition Development Process

Remember that these phases of exhibition development are only guidelines that professionals use.  Based on your institution or community group’s resources, alter the process as required for your own exhibition project.

How to Preserve and Care for Your Historical Collection

Taking care of your archival collection by applying standards and recommendations that professionals use can be very rewarding. It just requires some knowledge, a few archival storage materials, and time. With these simple suggestions, thoughtful history lovers can ensure their documents will stand the test of time. This article will illustrate the various resources that you may have in your home (photographs, documents, books) and what you can do to preserve them for future use and reference.

There is an overwhelming amount of material on preservation and conservation of historical textual materials. As well, the City of Ottawa Archives regularly runs workshops and lectures related to this subject; keep updated by visiting Events and Programs regularly.

How to Create an Index System for a Photo Collection

Creating an index system for a photo collection is a perfect way to keep your precious family photographs neatly organized and also searchable by subject.

These steps are designed for making either a hard copy or a digital version of an index system (we suggest using MS Excel or Access). Feel free to choose the system that best suits you and your collection.
Want to know more?  See: Resources

How to Create Your Own Archives

Do you have family documents or photos that you would like to preserve for future generations?

This article will provide you with the basic know-how to set up your own archives at home! We’ll teach you how to organize and arrange your historical resources such as photos, drawings and family papers in an archival-friendly way and to ensure the enjoyment of them for many years to come.

Sadly, whole collections of great historical value are often lost due to neglect. With some simple techniques, thoughtful history lovers can ensure their documents will stand the test of time.

But first, if you understand how Archives arrange and describe their records, you’ll have a better idea of how to take care of your own collection:

Archives are arranged according to provenance (history or origin) and where possible, original order is maintained. Each document or group of records from one source must be kept intact (they are known as Fonds) and be kept separate from records from other sources. It is also archival practice that the records of an individual or business are kept in the same order they were originally arranged. For example, the records of the Billings Family are kept separate from the records of the First Unitarian Church of Ottawa. Records will also be arranged into subgroups, and series. If no original order exists, papers will be put into chronological or alphabetical order.

An excellent example can be found on the Archives Association of British Columbia. Scroll down to “Levels of Arrangement”.  Want to know more? See: Resources

Archivists will describe holdings by creating finding aids, which are guides or inventories to the records. Archivists follow and adhere to Rules for Archival Description (RAD), which are standardized rules that all archives use, creating a consistency in the description of all archival material around the world.

Visit the Canadian Council of Archives page on Rules for Archival Description to read more.  Want to know more? See: Resources

Creating Your Own Archives
Applying archival standards and procedures at home doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact many archivists don’t necessarily want or expect you to use their methods of organizing documents.  Creating your own archives, at the most basic level, is to retain your papers in original order and create a practical filing system that suits you. If your family documents are some day donated to the archives, it may make the donation process easier, but an archives won’t turn away a donation solely on the merit of its organization. Want to know more? See: Resources

Welcome to the City of Ottawa Archives

Welcome to the City of Ottawa Archives

Whether you are searching for family history, determining the history behind your heritage home or are just curious about Ottawa’s past, this is your guide to accessing and researching at the archives.

Our passionate staff will help you succeed with your research goals. Begin your researching journey with the City of Ottawa Archives today!

Address:  100 Tallwood Dr, Nepean, ON K2G 4R7

City of Ottawa Archives “How To” Series

Explore our series of “How to” projects by the City of Ottawa Archives. These guides will help educate and encourage you to explore your own history! Everything is explained step-by-step and is based on what the experts do!

Ottawa Street Names Project

The Ottawa Street Names Project aimed to document the histories of Ottawa’s major streets and thoroughfares.

Bytown At Your Fingertips

Bytown at Your Fingertips brings the early history of Canada’s national capital, prior to 1855 when Bytown was renamed Ottawa,  to everyone – from those with a casual interest in local history to those historians and scholars already familiar with the details of Bytown’s history.

The project presents research and images from the Bytown Museum’s artefact collection and historic archives. For those familiar with Lt. Col. John By and the construction of the Rideau Canal, the material is invaluable for creating a complete picture of the persons, places and events that shaped Bytown. The scholar of Ottawa’s early history can now consult this complete account of all available secondary sources in one tightly researched and written text.

When presented as a whole, the facts form an essential document of the formative years, specifically the years of 1826 to 1854, of Ottawa.

Our sincere thanks go to Robert Serré, for researching, compiling, and translating the text. Without his unlimited dedication and patience, it would have been impossible to attempt or complete this essential project on the history of early Ottawa.

Bytown At Your Fingertips is a collaborative project of the Bytown Museum and the Capital Heritage Connexion. The project was funded under the Museums and Technology Fund from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

© 2011 Bytown Museum