About & Frequently Asked Questions

About the Archives Frequently Asked Questions

The University of Alberta Archives is the official repository for the permanently valuable records of the University of Alberta and its affiliated institutions. The archives acquires, preserves and makes available university records and private papers from faculty, staff, students, alumni and various university related organizations.

archives reading room

Brief history of the Archives

In the early 1950s the University of Alberta made provision for its archival records by assigning an archives storage room in the Rutherford Library. Over a decade later a University Archives Committee was established in 1962. In 1967 the Board of Governors approved the creation of the position of University Archivist in accordance with a recommendation from the General Faculties Council. Later that year, records of the office of President Henry Marshall Tory were arranged and described as a pilot project.

The first University Archivist appointed in 1968 was James McPherson Parker. One of his first tasks was to develop an 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, including those of University-sponsored student and faculty associations, and teaching and administrative staff. The policy also defined deposit rules and the role of the archives in the disposition of university records.

Today the University of Alberta Archives continues to serve the entire university community and researchers from all over the world. We are located on the University’s South Campus, which is situated on Treaty 6 territory, the traditional lands of First Nations and Métis people. Housed in our secure, state-of-the-art Research & Collections Resource Facility (RCRF), archival materials are carefully preserved in environmentally controlled storage spaces to maintain the highest standards for preservation. The building has Heritage Canada's Movable Cultural Property designation, demonstrating the archives’ ability to ensure the long-term preservation of cultural property.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I request to see materials?
Please email us at archives@ualberta.ca with your request. For general inquiries, please provide as much information about the nature of your research and/or types of materials you wish to see. Archives staff will conduct a preliminary search for relevant materials.

If you know the exact materials you would like to access, please provide the accession, box and file number(s) (e.g. UAA-2000-035, box 1, item 232) to expedite retrieval. Please note that at least 48 hours advance notice is required for material retrieval requests. Access to material is by appointment only.

Why are some materials restricted?
While most of the material in the archives is open for research, access to some information may be restricted. University records housed in the archives are subject to the Alberta Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Certain types of university records may be restricted under FOIP when transferred to the archives. A formal Access to Information request must be made to view these records. Requests to view such records will be directed to the University Information and Privacy Office.

Access to the donated private material of individuals, institutions, and organizations is subject to specific donor agreements. Restrictions on privately donated material vary according to each donation and always have an end date. Please contact archives@ualberta.ca for more information.

How do I cite archival material?
Archival sources have unique characteristics that make their citation different to that of published library material. Citations can vary depending upon the type of record consulted, whether it be a photograph, letter, video, etc.

In general an archival citation progresses from the specific to the general and includes a title and date (if known), name of fonds or collection, reference code/identifier, and repository name and location.

For example: Photograph of Violet Archer with friends at Yale University June 1948, Violet Archer fonds, UAA-2001-058-099-002-002, University of Alberta Archives, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

We recommend consulting the Citation Guides provided by the University of Alberta Libraries for more information.

How are archival materials organized?
Archives arrange material by creator rather than subject. A creator may be a person, department or unit, or an organization. This is known as the principle of provenance, which has two components. First, records of one creator should not be mixed with those of another creator. Second, the archivist should maintain the original order in which the records were created and kept. Organizing materials by the creator helps to maintain the context of a record: who created it, when, and why.

What is a fonds?
Fonds refers to a group of materials created organically in the everyday life of a person or organization. This is in contrast to a collection, which is subject based.

What is an accession?
An accession record is documentation of the donation of material to the archives. It is a high level overview of each donation and includes information such as the media types (textual records, photographs, audio recordings, etc.), the creator, the donor (if different from the creator), any access restrictions, the date range of when the materials were created, and a broad description of the materials. An accession number contains the year in which the records were received, followed by a sequential number (e.g. UAA-2020-001). A fonds may have multiple accessions, or a single accession may be the entirety of a fonds. More definitions of archival terms

Our office has run out of storage space, can we store our records in the Archives?
No, the University of Alberta Archives is not an offsite storage facility. For information about warehouse services, please contact the University’s Supply Management Services (SMS).

Is “permanent” retention the same as “archives”?
No, university records with a final disposition of “permanent” retention must be kept by the department or business unit permanently. University records with a final disposition of “archives” are transferred to the custody and control of the University Archives when no longer needed by the department or business unit.

Did you know?

The University of Alberta Archives has over 10.5 km of records in its holdings. If you were to place all of the records side by side they would stretch from the Archives building to West Edmonton Mall.

The first University of Alberta crest was sketched by a U of A undergraduate student. It is the crest identified on the first U of A Calendar in 1908 and was used as part of the first convocation.

the first uofa crest

Marion Alexander, wife of William H. Alexander, chose the University of Alberta colours, Green and Gold. Marion chose the colours after taking a walk with her husband around the south bank of the Saskatchewan River on a fall day and noting the green and gold colours.

The University of Alberta motto Quaecumque vera "Whatsoever Things are True" was selected by William H Alexander in 1911.