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Lambton County Archives celebrate grand re-opening

Carl Hnatyshyn

By Carl Hnatyshyn, Postmedia Network

A pair of Lambton County residents look at some of the county's historical records and documents during a July 21 tour. The Lambton County Archives offered free tours following a six-week, $200,000 renovation at their Wyoming facility. Carl Hnatyshyn/Postmedia Network

A pair of Lambton County residents look at some of the county's historical records and documents during a July 21 tour. The Lambton County Archives offered free tours following a six-week, $200,000 renovation at their Wyoming facility. Carl Hnatyshyn/Postmedia Network

Staff at Wyoming's Lambton County Archives were all smiles as they, along with many curious members of the public, formally marked the reopening of the facility following a six-week, $200,000 renovation that modernized and expanded the capacity of the Broadway Street building.

With a new mobile shelving unit that has essentially doubled the archives' available storage space, more over-sized shelving for storing posters, maps and oversized pictures as well as new flooring in the archives' re-configured, temperature-controlled vault, the county archives can now serve the public in a much more efficient and effective manner, and with plenty of room to grow in the future, said archivist Dana Thorne.

“We were filled to capacity for a number of years and as we continued to receive new donations, it was becoming more and more problematic to find space to put everything,” she said. “Now we can take our collection – which in some cases before was splintered around the room because there was no space on the shelves – and put it all together in one place. So everything that belongs together is together now and is properly housed.”

Replete with ledgers from long-ago local businesses, church records, photo negatives, historical atlases and local newspapers dating back to the 1850s, the archives are a treasure trove for historians, genealogists and anyone interested in researching the county's rich past, Thorne said.

The renovations, funded by the County of Lambton as well as the federal government's Canada Cultural Spaces grant, have improved the facility’s operations and will it to grow for decades to come, she said.

The archives typically receive approximately 90 donations annually, and they can vary from a single photograph to 10 Hollander boxes of documents, Thorne said.

“To move the collection before the renovation, they took out 30 truckloads, so you could say that we had a considerable amount of material here already,” she said, laughing. “And right now, with the upgrade, we're about less than half full. So we have plenty of room to grow. And that was one of the reasons for the project – we wanted to be able to house what we have now but thinking forward to what we're going to have in the future, I didn't want to have to do this again in five years.”

Scores of Lambton County residents attended the July 21 open house, taking behind-the-scenes tours of the new facilities while chatting with staff about the upgrades and the improved access to local historical data. Thorne said she was overwhelmed by the public's positive response.

“I'm thrilled, I'm so pleased,” she said. “I started here in 2011 and when I started we identified this as a major concern. So I'm very pleased to have been able to see the project through from beginning to end and I'm very excited about getting settled in our new space.”