Monday, June 08, 2009

the archives excite me (and not just because i'm married to a librarian)

I love where I live.

I have spent time in almost every Canadian province and territory (I have never been to Saskatchewan or Nunavut). I have lived in small towns and a big city. I am convinced that I am living in the right place for me (I note that it's easy to write this as I sit in the back yard with my laptop on a cool day in late spring. The weather extremes - which are frequent - do test my love). I love the scale of Ottawa, it's beauty (lots of federal money gets poured into keeping the capital attractive) and, most of the time, it's character.

If we had a decent transit system, things would be even better. We could also do with more bike lanes. And we need to fix the potholes so that riding my bike wouldn't be such a jarring experience. But, all in all, Ottawa is just big enough that there are lots of things to do and small enough that it doesn't take too long to get most places.

This past weekend, was Doors Open Ottawa and my family decided to visit a few places that were new to us.

First, we went to the warehouse behind the Museum of Science and Technology (the museum is long-overdue for an expansion and houses far more items in it's warehouse than it has on display, yet the exhibits never seem to change). However, when we got there, we found out that you had to make reservations to get on a tour and that the next tour was not for another hour (note to Doors Open planners: It would be great if this fact were noted on the program for the weekend). My youngest son opted to stay at the museum with a friend and his dad and the rest of us (my older son, spouse, sister and brother-in-law) decided to move on.

Next up was the Gladstone Theatre. The woman who greeted us at the door explained the renovations that took place when the theatre changed hands a couple of years ago. She also told us that, this past season, the plays with a more upbeat theme were infinitely better attended. This influenced the choice of plays for this year's season, all of which will "have you leave with a smile on your face." (My sister whispered to me that the last play she saw, pre-renovation, was called Stones In His Pockets and that it was excellent. That's kind of the opposite of the theatre's current offerings, though). Once inside, we were given an excellent and informative demonstration of the theatre's lighting and sound room (is that what it's called?).

My only complaint was that the theatre had scheduled auditions for the same day as Doors Open and we were asked to leave ten minutes after our arrival (our presence when they were warming up must have been nerve-wracking for the actors. This would have been another good thing to note in the program).

From there, we went across the street to the gallery owned by the Enriched Bread Artists. I have walked by this building many, many times and I thought they made bread there. In fact, the factory was closed a while back and a group of artists bought it to create studio space and a gallery. One of the artists, Danny Hussey, took time out from his work to greet us and answer questions about finding time for art, his background and inspirations. And we saw some very interesting art. I'll go back.

The last place we visited turned out to be my favourite. The City of Ottawa Archives is currently housed (they are moving to a bigger space in the fall of 2010) in a building designed by Moshe Safdie, who also designed the National Gallery and the building has a similar feel, with a ramped entrance, lots of natural light and vaulted ceilings. It was built on an Island and has a stream flowing under the building. It must be a great place to work (and to sit outside having lunch).

What I loved best about the archives, though, was the vault.

I loved the sprinkler system and the fact that their are little disks with wax on them. When the wax melts (from heat) the sprinkler comes on in only that area gets sprayed, thus keeping water damage to a minimum (ingeniously simple).

I loved learning that when old photos disintegrate, they smell like vinegar.

I loved seeing the mayor's robes that have been worn by all recent mayors except our previous one (the archivist said that Mayor Chiarelli declined to say why he wouldn't wear them).

I loved the art and the sports equipment (there was once an abortive attempt to establish a sports hall of fame in Ottawa and the Archives acquired all the exhibits). These will create some wonderful displays in the new building.

I also loved the old ledgers and maps and records of this city.

The Archivist must have loved me. I kept squealing in delight and saying, "That's so cool!"

I might have been less vocal a few years ago but I see no point in holding back positive feedback. I was interested. I was impressed. I was enthused.

It was fun.


Dennis Pyritz, RN said...

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Babz Rawls Ivy said...

I am a fan of discovering one's city/town. Oh the places you will go...Dr. Suess :)