Retrieving critical information from Norfolk County doesn’t necessarily involve a time-consuming, expensive Freedom of Information request.
In fact, “openness and transparency” are words to live by at the Norfolk County Archives in downtown Simcoe.
A bylaw establishing the official function of the archives was approved at Norfolk council this week. The bylaw recognizes the completion of a project that began two years ago.
In a presentation to council on Nov. 10, county archivist Joshua Klar said the archives – which are housed in the former Eva Brook Donly Museum on Norfolk Street South – include “valuable historical records from the previous townships of Norfolk County such as approved council meeting minutes, bylaws, property tax assessment rolls, tax collector rolls, vital statistics records (such as birth, marriage and death registrations), school records, and various board and committee records.”
The archives also includes and welcomes private donations of public interest to Norfolk County. The archives’ mandate, Klar said, is to make as many of its records accessible as possible on demand for public information and research purposes.
In establishing a county archives, Norfolk is following in the footsteps of other rural municipalities such as Elgin County, Oxford County, Wellington County and Perth County. The archives in Simcoe fulfills a provincial requirement that municipalities preserve records of “archival value.”
The Eva Brook Donly Museum was tapped as the county archives, in part, because the building is fitted with environmental controls regarding heat, humidity and ultra-violet light that meet the expectations of the Canadian Conservation Institute.
As such, the building is well-situated to preserve fragile documents. This includes the recent donation of bound volumes of The Simcoe Reformer, The Delhi News-Record, The Nanticoke Times, The Simcoe and Nanticoke Times, and The Times-Reformer.
As the newspaper of record in Norfolk County, The Simcoe Reformer and its antecedents represent a continuous, detailed chronicle of happenings in the local area dating back to the 1860s.
The bound volumes were turned over this summer when The Simcoe Reformer office on Gilbertson Drive closed permanently now that staff is working from home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The archives also acquires private donations such as the recent donations that the archives received from The Simcoe Reformer,” Klar told council. “This was a large collection of Simcoe Reformer archives, and this is really helping to preserve these invaluable records and making over 150 years of newspapers accessible to the public.”
Council received Klar’s presentation without comment.