City Archives Behind the Scenes and Prince of Wales Armouries
Exterior – Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre
Although it says 1913 on the front of the building, the Prince of Wales Armouries wasn’t actually complete until 1915! It was built on land known as the Hudson’s Bay Reserve, and would have seemed far away from the hustle and bustle of the growing city.
Entrance – Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre
The Prince of Wales Armouries has housed the City of Edmonton Archives since 1992. Today it is also home to a number of not-for-profit organizations, including the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum, the South Alberta Light Horse Regimental Association, the Edmonton Heritage Council, the Edmonton Arts Council, and the Archives Society of Alberta.
The building was owned by the Department of Defense until 1977. Many soldiers in multiple regiments were trained here. Given its size, the building was also used for many public events. One of the building’s most striking features is the Ortona mural, a massive painting by Gerald Trottier and unveiled in 1961. It depicts the 1943 Battle in Ortona, Italy where 63 members of the Loyal Edmonton regiment were killed and 109 injured.
In 1979 the Prince of Wales Armouries was designated a Provincial Historic Resource, and in 2004 it was also designated a Municipal Historic Resource. These designations ensure the building cannot be demolished.
Archives Reception Area
The City of Edmonton Archives is home to Edmonton’s documentary heritage. The Archives is open to the public on weekdays, and is closed weekends and statutory holidays. When researchers arrive we ask them to sign in at the reception desk and put away their belongings in the free lockers provided. Researchers can help keep our history safe by not eating and drinking in the reference room, and by using only pencils.
Archives Display Area
The Archives hosts rotating exhibitions, most of which are produced using records from our holdings. The exhibition on display here is Sketching History, created by the City of Edmonton’s fifth Historian Laureate, Marlena Wyman. Sketching History is also one of the Archives’ many online exhibitions.
When records come to the Archives, their first stop is the receiving room. We store them here until we can accession them, which basically means storing the material so it doesn’t fall apart, and figuring out what exactly the donation contains. We also keep them separate for the rest of the holdings at the beginning in case they come in with bugs or mould, which can cause problems in our collection.
The Reference Room is people can see records from the Archives’ collection. Descriptions are available through the online catalogue, and material can be pulled when requested. There are also a number of “help yourself” resources in the reference room, including historical directories, and aerial photographs.
Reference Room – Microfilm Room
A collection of Edmonton newspapers on microfilm is available in the microfilm room. Newspapers like the Edmonton Bulletin go as far back as 1880! To see a description of our holdings, check out the online finding aid.
Library – Photos
This room contains many of the original photographs in our collection. They are carefully stored in boxes and sleeves to protect them from light. Copies can be seen in our reference room and on our online catalogue.
Library – Clippings
The file cabinets in this room contain around 35,000 files of newspaper clippings on a variety of topics, and are one of the most used resources at the Archives. This room also contains a reference library containing local publications and government reports.
The Archives also collects records from private organizations and individuals. Private records in our collection are identified by the prefix “MS-”. Like many of our other vaults, the records in this room are kept on moving shelves, allowing us to fit as much material as possible in the room. The lights are also on timers, which means we’ll never accidentally leave them on and damage records by exposing them to too much light.
The Archives is the final destination for corporate records from the City that have “archival value”. That means they are permanently valuable due to their administrative, legal, evidentiary, cultural, or historic significance. The records go as far back as 1892, when the Town of Edmonton was incorporated. Government records in our collection are identified by the prefix “RG-”.
The records in this room are all RGs. Many are housed in small grey containers called Hollinger boxes, which are acid free and will help keep the records safe.
The archives has hundreds of maps and thousands of architectural plans in the collection. Our largest collection of building plans are in RG-17.0, but there are many plans in different collections as well. Many of the plans are very large and are stored rolled on open shelves. The maps are kept flat in large metal cabinets.
When the building was first built, this room was a bowling alley. Today it is used for some of our larger records, including long panoramic photographs, and framed material that is best stored hanging.
The Governor’s Room is the most authentic of any interior space in the building. Original features include the original maple floor; original rosewood wainscoting, trim and ceiling beams. The room was originally used as the Officers’ Mess, where military officers would eat meals. The large photograph on the wall shows the room as it was in the early years.