The United Church of Canada Archives in Toronto includes the General Council Archives, which preserves the records of the General Council and the church’s national offices, and the Conferences Archives, serving Bay of Quinte, Hamilton, London, Manitou, and Toronto Conferences.
The All Native Circle Conference is developing its archival program.
Your research may require contact with more than one United Church Archives. Each archival facility operates independently and has unique holdings and finding aids.
United Church archival repositories will provide some research assistance by mail, however, the requests must be brief and specific. Researchers should write their requests as clearly and succinctly as possible and include the full names of persons, places, nature of the event, and approximate dates. Exclude unnecessary detail that will not help in the archivist's search. If the researcher has corresponded with the archives before, give the date of the last letter(s), and include any reference number that may have been assigned on any response received. Users should allow a reasonable time for response.
Telephone requests for research information will be handled in the same way as requests by mail. Researchers should note that, because of their complex nature, archival materials usually do not lend themselves to quick reference responses.
For those unable to visit the archival repository in person, most archives can provide the names of professional researchers who, for a fee, will assist in more extensive searches. Professional researchers work independently and are not members of the archival staff. All arrangements, including fees, are between the person making the inquiry and the professional researcher.
It is important that the researcher contact an archival facility by telephone or letter first before making a visit. Smaller repositories often have limited hours and, because archival staff may have other commitments, sometimes a formal appointment is necessary. The facilities and services offered in each of the United Church archival repositories differ and researchers should be prepared to adjust their work schedules accordingly.
Because of preservation and security issues, archival repositories operate differently from libraries. For example, stacks and document holding areas are closed to the public, and materials may not be borrowed from the archives. The researcher will consult documents in a supervised reading room. Sometimes photocopying may be done only by the staff person in charge. Fragile materials may not be photocopied at all.
Some type of registration process is required in most archives. Researchers must complete forms with information such as: name, address, telephone number, and area of research. Personal identification may also be required. Staff will explain the regulations of the archives to the researcher at the time of registration, and the researcher may also be required to sign a statement indicating knowledge and compliance with those regulations.
After registering, researchers then discuss their specific questions with the archives staff person who will assist them in using appropriate sources.
All archival repositories have policies that govern access to the records that they may hold. Access to certain records may be restricted in accordance with specific United Church policies, the wishes of the donor, or the need to protect personal privacy. Restrictions are always clearly outlined and archival staff may not circumvent those restrictions in any way.
Researchers are also expected to follow work practices that will contribute to the preservation of materials being used. Policies vary with each archives. Because of a shortage of electrical outlets in some archives, researchers should ensure that computer batteries are always fully charged. As in any library facility, smoking, eating, or drinking are not allowed in the archives. Personal belongings, other than those specifically being used by the researcher, must often be placed in lockable storage facilities provided.
Once archival materials have been received, researchers should use only one box at a time and then only one file from that box. It is important that documents from different files not be intermingled and that files be replaced in the same order. Researchers are also asked to handle all materials very carefully. Pages of documents must not be marked or folded. Researchers should mark places in the material with strips of paper only.
Materials that are housed in church archival repositories are the legacy of individuals, groups, organizations, and of the denominations themselves. They are part of our documentary heritage. Researchers are expected to treat the facilities of the archives and their holdings with care and to adhere to regulations and procedures. Researchers unwilling to follow those regulations and procedures may be prohibited from using United Church archival facilities.
Each church archival repository will have some type of general finding aid such as a card catalogue or a computerized database. Some archives are in the process of transferring information on their holdings into computer databases. For extensive record holdings, detailed file listings called finding aids may be available. For less extensive holdings, the card catalogue or database entry will reflect the complete description.