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The Provincial Acquisition Strategy is a set of principles and guidelines designed to ensure and promote the cooperative acquisition and preservation of Ontario’s archival heritage at the local, regional and provincial levels and to lay the foundation for a provincial documentation strategy aimed at filling in the gaps in the province’s documentary memory.

The Provincial Acquisition Strategy – Looking Forward

2015-2016: Develop strategy and tools for implementation. Strategy is adopted in principle at 2016 AGM.

2016-2017:  Strategy is implemented. Tools are adjusted as required. Regional acquisition strategies are developed, as required.

2017-2018: Development of documentation strategy for Ontario.


The Institutional Development Committee (IDC) advises the Archives Association of Ontario (AAO) Board of Directors on all matters pertaining to the interests of institutions in Ontario and the development of a provincial archives system.

The IDC acts on behalf of the Ontario archival community in pursuing initiatives of a common interest. Since it was first discussed at the 2015 AAO annual conference, the IDC has recognized the Provincial Acquisition Strategy as a project that will benefit the community as a whole and has committed to providing ongoing support for its implementation and development.

As such, the IDC is committed to:

  • Providing ongoing governance of and advocacy for the Provincial Acquisition Strategy to insure its continued success;
  • Supporting a working group that will meet quarterly to address all ongoing issues and challenges related to the implementation of the Strategy;
  • Providing a forum for resolving disputes between institutions when varying interpretations of the application of the Strategy arise;
  • Reviewing all accession reports submitted to the AAO annually by participating archives and facilitating the presentation of all data to the AAO website for the benefit of the archival and research community.
  • 06 Apr 2017 12:01 PM | Amanda Tomé

    Dear colleagues,

    Happy Archives Awareness Week!

    As part of the celebrations this week, the Archives Association of Ontario is launching the first ever edition of the Ontario Archival Accessions Register!

    Based on a survey of accessions received across the province in 2016, the OAAR presents basic information on newly acquired records, including the collecting institution, the record creator, a brief summary of the scope and content of the accession, outside covering dates, associated subject headings, reference codes or accession numbers, extent, and information on the relationship of the accession to existing holdings and descriptions (where applicable).

    The OAAR was developed as part of the AAO’s Provincial Acquisition Strategy to provide a common place for archives in Ontario to share accessions information in a spirit of openness and transparency intended to encourage cooperation and collaboration in archival acquisition. It is also hoped that in future the OAAR will be useful for analysis of collecting patterns and trends, enabling the archives community to identify gaps in the archival record as we work toward ensuring our collective holdings are representative of the whole province and all its people.

    In this first pilot edition of the OAAR, ten intrepid institutions volunteered their accessions information for 2016, resulting in nearly 400 individual entries in the register from a diverse range of archives, including municipal archives, community archives, university and college archives, organizational archives and the Archives of Ontario. 

    As a pilot exercise, the OAAR is subject to further development and the Provincial Acquisition Strategy Working Group is actively looking to solicit feedback on how we can improve and expand the register in future years. We would ask anyone interested to look at the register itself and the FAQ document on the AAO’s website and let us know your suggestions, comments, thoughts or ideas. The Working Group will be presenting a session on the Provincial Acquisition Strategy and the OAAR at the upcoming AAO Conference in Toronto (session 6a, Friday, April 28, 2:00-3:15 p.m.) and would welcome feedback at that time as well.

    Download the OAAR here and see what archives across Ontario have been collecting.

    Thank you, and happy browsing!

    The Provincial Acquisition Strategy Working Group

  • 12 Jan 2017 10:23 AM | Anonymous

    Happy New Year!

    The development of the Provincial Acquisition Strategy has sparked many discussions among AAO members about its value and potential for the Ontario archival community. Since the Strategy was adopted by the membership at last year’s AGM, those conversations have continued, especially as it has become a focal point of the training and conversations held by the Archives Advisor and the Archeion Coordinator throughout the province last year.

    We are looking forward to continuing the Strategy’s development in 2017 and so are asking all institutions in Ontario that collect archival material, whether they are AAO members or not, to do the following by February 28th, 2017:

    • complete or update your institutional profile in Archeion to include information about your acquisitions policy (mandate, geographic and/or thematic scope etc.);
    • contribute to the Ontario Archival Accessions Register (OAAR) by reporting all material legally acquired by your institution in 2016 using the attached reporting form
    This deadline will allow the Provincial Acquisition Strategy Working Group enough time to analyze the data and report on the results in time for Archives Awareness Week in April and begin planning for year 2 of their work on the Strategy.

    Any questions regarding completing or updating your institutional profile can be forwarded to the Archeion Coordinator at archeion@aao-archivists.ca. All completed OAAR forms can be sent to the Working Group at chairs@aao-archivists.ca.

    The Strategy and a host of associated items can be found by accessing the Provincial Acquisition Strategy section of the AAO website, which is now easily accessible from the main banner at the top of the AAO homepage.

    All the best,

    Dana Thorne

    AAO President 2016-2017


  • 22 Dec 2016 8:28 AM | Anonymous

    Season’s greetings to the Ontario archival community from the Provincial Acquisition Strategy Working Group!

    It’s been an exciting year for archival collaboration in the province, with the drafting and formal adoption of Ontario’s first ever provincial acquisition strategy at the Archives Association of Ontario’s AGM last May.  For those of you who aren’t yet familiar with it, you’ll find the strategy and a host of associated items in the strategic “toolkit” at the Provincial Acquisition Strategy section of the AAO website, which is now easily accessible from the main banner at the top of the AAO homepage.

    As a reminder, the items in this toolkit include:

    • FAQs
    • Guidelines for developing an acquisition policy
    • A donor questionnaire (useful for directing potential donors to the most appropriate repository)
    • A note on the role of the Institutional Development Committee in relation to the Strategy
    • A map of archival institutions in the province (based on repositories with Archeion institutional profiles)

    As we look forward to 2017, the AAO is preparing to launch a significant and pioneering new initiative: the Ontario Archival Accessions Register (OAAR).  As mentioned in previous updates and editions of Off the Record, the OAAR will serve as a common place for archival institutions in Ontario to share information on the accessions received each calendar year.  This active commitment to sharing accessions data will help foster an open, collaborative approach to archival acquisition and ensure the Strategy remains a vibrant and effective influence on our collective work.  It is also expected to provide a number of important benefits for archives and their users, as outlined in the OAAR FAQ document on the AAO website.

    In the fall edition of Off the Record some details of the mechanism for gathering this accessions data were mentioned.  These details have been revised slightly for this first pilot year, so that the AAO will now invite institutions to complete a simple spreadsheet (a sample is available here) during the week beginning January 9th 2017. Results will be requested by the end of February so that the data can be processed for inclusion in the inaugural online OAAR in time for the next Archives Awareness Week (early April).

    So, as you relax at the end of a no doubt industrious 2016, look back with pride on the records you brought safely into archival custody in the past year and watch for the invitation to contribute to the OAAR in January.

    With best wishes for the holidays and the New Year,

    Your Provincial Acquisition Strategy Working Group 

  • 18 Apr 2016 11:36 AM | Danielle Robichaud

    What is the Ontario Archival Accessions Register (OAAR)?

    OAAR is a new online register of accessions to archival institutions in Ontario. It has been developed in conjunction with the Provincial Acquisition Strategy to provide a common place for Ontario archives to share basic information on the new records they have received in the previous year. Unlike Archeion, the Archives Association of Ontario’s (AAO)  database of completed archival descriptions, OAAR is intended to capture brief details on newly acquired records at the point of acquisition, before processing has taken place.

    It is up to individual institutions to determine the point at which they consider records to have been “acquired” for reporting purposes, but usually this follows a formal transfer of ownership.

    Who can contribute to the OAAR?

    All institutions collecting archival records in the Province of Ontario are welcome and encouraged to contribute information on their accessions to the OAAR.

    Why should I contribute to the OAAR?

    The OAAR is intended to benefit both individual institutions and the archival community in Ontario as a whole.  There are several reasons why every archives in the province should contribute to the OAAR:

    • It will help foster a spirit of openness and transparency amongst archives, allowing the archival community to more easily share accessions information and evaluate how the Provincial Acquisition Strategy is being implemented in practice through comparison of collection mandates and acquisitions.
    • It will help researchers by providing timely information on newly acquired records during the inevitable time lapse between accessioning and comprehensive processing and description in Archeion.
    • It will be a useful tool to help the Ontario archival community with outreach and promotional activities.  For example, during Archives Awareness Week each year the AAO will be able to report on the total extent of archival accessions in the province (a statistic impossible to calculate otherwise).  The OAAR can also be used to find noteworthy accessions of particular significance which can be used to publicize the important work archives do.
    • It will give the Ontario archival community the ability to analyze collecting patterns/trends and to identify gaps in our collective holdings.  Ultimately, this ability will help us as we move toward a documentation strategy for Ontario that ensures our archives, taken as a whole, reflect the province’s regions and people in all of their diversity.

    What information is collected for the OAAR?

    The OAAR is intended to capture only the most basic and essential details of newly acquired records.  This information includes: the name of the record creator(s), a brief description of the accession, approximate covering dates, relevant subject headings (chosen from a pick-list based on Archeion subject headings), reference code or accession number (if applicable), extent of the material, whether the accession is an addition to an existing collection/fonds (accrual), and if so, whether the collection/fonds has an existing description in Archeion. A sample of this spreadsheet has been set up for reference purposes.

    Institutions are encouraged to report all accessions for inclusion in the OAAR, whether the creator of the records is a corporate body, a family, or an individual, and whether the records are public/government or private. An archives may wish to report aggregate accession data for records from their host institution, where the creator is presumed to be a single corporate or public body. For example, a municipal archives might simply report the total extent and covering dates of records received from its municipality in a given year, rather than separate entries for various municipal departments etc. Unique collections/fonds received from external record creators, on the other hand, would warrant separate entries.

    How and when do I submit information on accessions to the OAAR?

    The OAAR is based on an annual survey of archival accessions.  At the end of each calendar year invitations will be sent to every archival institution in Ontario asking for information on records acquired that year. These invitations, which will normally be sent via email, will include a reporting template in the form of a simple Excel spreadsheet. A sample of this spreadsheet has been set up for reference purposes. Once the spreadsheet has been completed, archives will return a copy of the file to the AAO Institutional Development Committee (chairs@aao-archivists.ca) by February 28th of the following year. The collected data will then be processed for inclusion in the online OAAR by the next Archives Awareness Week (early April).

    How will the OAAR be presented to the public?

    The OAAR will be located on a dedicated page of the Archives Association of Ontario’s website.  Archivists and researchers will be able to browse the accessions information by accession year, name of the archival institution, and by the subject headings identified in the reporting spreadsheet.

    Won’t this mean more work? How will I find the time to contribute?

    The reporting template will be permanently available on the Archives Association of Ontario’s website.  This means archival institutions can download a copy and update it as and when accessions are received throughout the year, rather than compiling the information retrospectively all at once.  Because the details requested are brief and fairly high-level, it shouldn’t be too onerous to fill out a line of the spreadsheet following each accession.  For some institutions without descriptive systems in place, the OAAR reporting template might even be a useful tool to establish and maintain basic control over archival holdings.

    Won’t this information cause researchers to contact my archives before the records are available for public use?

    The webpage where the OAAR is hosted will include a clear warning to researchers about the preliminary nature of the information provided and the need to enquire with archival institutions regarding access before planning any visits.

    Of course it is up to each institution to set policies on access to unprocessed records.  Some archives may allow researchers to consult newly acquired records before processing, while others might advise the researcher to wait but use such requests to help prioritize processing efforts. Ultimately, the reason we keep archives is to make them available for use, so we should encourage expressions of interest even if we aren’t always able to accommodate requests for access.

  • 18 Apr 2016 10:18 AM | Danielle Robichaud

    What is an acquisition policy?

    As defined by the Canadian Council of Archives’ "Guidelines for developing an acquisition policy" (March 1990), an acquisition policy is the instrument which provides the archival institution with the direction for making appraisal and acquisition decisions and allocating resources. It is the backbone around which the archival institution can acquire comprehensive holdings in a planned, coordinated, and systematic manner. It delineates the parameters of what archival records the institution is permitted to acquire or required to preserve and becomes the foundation for the development of more detailed acquisition plans and strategies, appraisal criteria, and related procedures. The acquisition policy becomes a reference for staff when assessing potential acquisitions and for donors looking for a suitable repository for their records.

    On local, regional, provincial, and national levels acquisition policies can be used as the basis for cooperative acquisition strategies and as an important tool in planning for the systematic identification and preservation of our national archival heritage.

    How do I develop an acquisition policy?

    There are many resources available to assist you with developing an acquisition policy. In addition to the Canadian Council of Archives’ "Guidelines for developing an acquisition policy" (March 1990), institutions may also wish to consult The Manual for Small Archives or even contact the AAO’s Archives Advisor for assistance.

    Where should I post my acquisition policy?

    For the benefit of the Provincial Acquisition Strategy, institutions should clearly state their acquisition policy in their institutional profile in Archeion. Institutions should review or create an institutional profile ensuring that the following fields have been completed: Geographical and cultural context, Mandates/Sources of authority, Records management and collecting policies. You may also wish to link to your acquisition policy, if it is posted on your institution’s website. Contact the AAO’s Archeion Coordinator for any additional questions you may have.

Address: 411 Richmond Street East, Suite 200, Toronto, ON M5A 3S5

Phone: 647-343-3334 | Email: aao@aao-archivists.ca


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