It houses the documents on which the Canadian nation is formed. Library and Archives Canada’s Preservation Storage Facility preserves, protects, maintains, and stores centuries of invaluable Canadian archival records. The outstanding variety of media—from books to manuscripts, film, audio recordings, photographs, maps, medals, and more—combine to tell the stories of Canadian history.
This invaluable documentary heritage requires precise storage conditions to maintain their integrity. When the once pioneering original Preservation Centre outgrew its capacity and technology, the roadmap was drawn for a second, adjoining preservation facility. Opened on November 24, 2022 after three years of construction, the additional, state-of-the-art center will help Canada remain a leader in the preservation and promotion of its documentary heritage.
Library and Archives Canada’s place at the forefront of preservation throughout the world, for the benefit of present and future generations. This new centre is the world’s largest automated storage and retrieval archive building and the first Net Zero Carbon archival centre in the Americas, and will mean significant strides in digitizing its collection to achieve greater accessibility.
“With full capacity at 900,000 containers, the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) celebrated the 200,000th container in November and aims to move over 600K LAC containers into the new facility via a team of 12 LAC employees and 12 moving services employees has officially started as of Aug. 2, 2022,” says Nathalie Ethier, Director, Gatineau 2 Project.
LAC has already started to received client consultation requests for LAC material that is now stored at PSF. “Our recently completed Preservation Storage Facility will provide world-class storage conditions to safeguard LAC’s collections for future generations,” says Ethier. “LAC’s new Preservation Storage Facility (PSF) was purposefully designed to ensure that collection material is stored in optimal conditions to promote long-term preservation and accessibility.”
The facility will provide about 21,500 M3 of storage capacity at strict ESP to allow 500-year preservation goal. “This means that a new piece of paper would still be readable in 500 years,” says Ethier.
The new Preservation and Storage Facility will house LAC collection material on paper that can be stored in LAC six most used standardized boxes/containers (i.e., Documents printed on your standard 8.5 by 11 pieces of paper), in addition to parts of the motion-picture film collection and part of the LAC microfilm collection.
LAC is undertaking a vault optimization project in the Preservation Centre to maximize total storage space capacity. “This initial move of collection material from our existing and adjacent Preservation Centre will allow LAC’s existing preservation vaults to be optimized for the storage and preservation of specialized media collection material, such as painting, maps and plans, rare books, ledgers, and all other collection material that cannot be stored in our 6 most used container sizes,” says Ethier.
It will also be the world’s largest preservation facility equipped with a high-tech automated archive storage and retrieval system. This means that our precious national collections will be kept under optimal preservation conditions.
LAC collection documents that are planned to be stored at PSF include the Canadian Army Newsreels, textual documents of past Prime Ministers of Canada, LAC’s 28 mm film collection (One of the largest in the world) and the top 1 to 2 per cent of records and documents produced by Government of Canada.
LAC is collectively very proud of the Project’s consideration of environmental stewardship. “I am also very proud that we planned and delivered the project while keeping the environment in mind,” says Ethier. “This is the first facility constructed to Net Zero Carbon following the publication of the green government strategy.”
“If you think about it, we are building a mega fridge to provide the best environmental conditions to keep our collection safe,” describes Ethier. “In addition, we managed to meet the Net Zero requirement of the Greening Government Strategy in addition to meeting strict energy targets we included in the Project Agreement.” The building’s geothermic wells, carbon-free renewable energy resources, building materials, site design and drainage, and landscaping all contribute towards its net-zero carbon designation.
The Preservation Centre is also a P3 success story, and was the LAC’s largest infrastructure project. On November 21, 2022, the Gatineau 2 Project received the Gold Award for Infrastructure for The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships 2022 National Awards for Innovation and Excellence in Public-Private Partnerships.
Despite some bumps in the road (no thanks to COVID), the project was delivered on time and on budget with minimal changes (less than 1 per cent of costs) during construction—a notable feat.
A testament to Library and Archives Canada being able to set itself apart in opting for a green and sustainable infrastructure, the new flagship building will ensure the preservation and accessibility of our rich collection of treasures for centuries and for generations to come.
For more information, please visit https://library-archives.canada.ca/eng