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Photo by Mariah Wilson

Glenbow Western Research Centre opened in TFDL

By Nikayla Goddard, October 17 2019—

The Glenbow Western Research Centre opened Tuesday, Oct. 15 on the second floor of the Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL). With over 70,000 books and boxes of material moved so far, a total of approximately five linear kilometers of textual materials, two million photographs, 125,000 books, 15,000 maps, 4,000 videos and films and 600 hours of audio recordings will find their home in the space by 2020, when the relocation is set to be completed. 

Annie Murray, Associate University Librarian for the TFDL’s Archives and Special Collections, gave tours leading up to and including the opening date, describing the work done to an area previously populated by student seating.

Designed by Gibbs Gage Architecture and built by CANA Construction — who Murray added built the TFDL and High Density Library (HDL) as well — the Glenbow Western Research Centre plans were finished in the spring of 2019 and the build took place all summer up until a week prior to opening. Murray said that “Nordic chique” was the style they wanted — light wood, white chairs, greys, natural light, and frost films of mountains and hills on the windows. 

There are also spaces around the room for small cased exhibits, a large screen for displaying photos and documents, a set of computers, height-adjustable tables for better viewing archives, private consultation rooms and much more. The area is double the size of the other Reading Room in the TFDL, meaning more space and more accommodation for researchers. 

“We’re trying to think of all the different ways people access archives, whether it’s online at their house, listening to files or audio here, using analog materials, needing to talk about it and so on,” Murray said. 

In terms of the move, Murray said hired movers work with archivists to ensure the safe transportation of materials, rolling out and moving 16 huge carts of material at a time. The materials then go to HDL to get accessioned and catalogued, where they’ll then exist in the U of C’s system. 

“Ever since we’ve been receiving this stuff it’s been available in our Reading Room,” Murray said. “So right away we noticed that U of C students were requesting a lot of the Glenbow books, which was great. It showed us that there’s some overlap with the collections, but there’s a lot of unique items — and the U of C students found those unique items right away.”

Glenbow CFO & Interim President & CEO Glenn McMurray said that this initiative began with Glenbow’s former President & CEO, Donna Livingstone. 

“Glenbow has a vast collection and we are always looking for new ways to share these resources with more people,” McMurray said. “This move allows us to prioritize public access and relevance to the community, which has always been Glenbow’s primary mandate, established by founder Eric Harvie. The Glenbow Western Research Centre is an example of the kinds of new possibilities for how Glenbow’s collection can be actively used by Albertans and Calgarians far into the future. Also, the books, documents and photographs in Glenbow’s Library and Archives collection align closely with research strengths at the University of Calgary.”

Display case with historical images. // Photo by Mariah Wilson

In preparation for the move, Murray says that U of C archivists spent the summer doing “Glenbow summer school” which was preparing for and learning about all aspects of the Glenbow’s collections to understand how the archives might be used.

The relocation of the archives will allow the Glenbow to free up their storage and potential exhibition space and to change their mission to focus more on art and artists. The next steps for the museum will be a major renovation to the whole building, with a focus on the newly-cleared sixth floor where the archives were. 

McMurray added, “We will retain library and archival material related to art history, such as artist’s files, art books and other material. This initiative will better allow us to focus our resources and fully inhabit our role as a public art museum.”

McMurray and Murray both say that for the massive size of the move, it has been running smoothly. 

“Given what a large undertaking it has been and the relatively short amount of time we’ve had to do it, we’re more than satisfied with the transition,” McMurray remarked. “We’re proud and appreciative of the professionalism of both Glenbow’s and the University’s teams.

“I’m really pleased that the university was able to respond to this and to make this all happen,” added Murray. “It’s great that these collections are available in Calgary and that we can continue caring for it. It’s a great collection, and we’ve just had so many fun adventures learning about it as we’ve been preparing to move it.”

The Glenbow Western Research Centre is open weekdays 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Requests for materials must be submitted at least one business day prior to visiting.

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