For almost six years, Coquitlam’s archives department has been tucked away in a tiny windowless room on the ground floor at city hall.
By the end of January, it’ll be exposed to the public — at one of the busiest intersections in the city — in a space attached to the City Centre branch of the Coquitlam Public Library, a hub that sees more than half a million visitors a year.
“We’re going from zero to 100% visibility,” archivist Emily Lonie said, looking across the road toward the Evergreen Extension Lincoln station and Coquitlam Centre mall.
“And it’s a rare thing for archivists to have windows where they work,” she quipped. “I can’t wait.”
The move to the bright office will mean 1,050 more square feet for storage of archival material that includes historical documents, images and Tri-City News photo negatives — much of which is now safeguarded at various locations around the city due to space constraints.
The move may generate more collaborations with the Coquitlam Public Library, she said.
And it will also mean more accessibility to the fonds for Coquitlam residents, students and anyone else researching the city’s history. Drop-in times will be created and will likely result in more staff being hired to manage the resources and public requests.
Last year, the department had 158 reference asks and 20 visits. This year, it’s on track to reach 170 reference requests.
But Lonie said more people are heading to the website to glean historical information and pictures; last year, the department saw 2,700 individual visits and Lonie expects that number to grow as more data is digitized and the department becomes more prominent in the community.
To add to its visibility and to protect printed material, the windows of the new archives office will be covered with a UV film on the inside and, on the outside, with wraps of five historical photos of Coquitlam, chronicling different eras and areas.
There’ll be a 1912 image of Brunette Avenue in Maillardville; Fraser Mills (once the largest sawmill in the British Empire) in the 1930s; a Columbian newspaper picture of Minnekhada Regional Park in the 1980s, with its prized horses; an aerial photo of Coquitlam Town Centre as the destination park was being constructed in the 1980s; and, above the entrance, a picnic at Booth Farm, the family gathering place for Coquitlam pioneers after the turn of the 20th century.
To ready for the relocation, the archives department at city hall will close after Dec. 3; a grand re-opening is planned for late January in the new digs.
Lonie said it’ll be a relief to have all the city’s archival publications in one spot.
“Now, we don’t have to go around digging for something and having to make people wait,” she said, adding, “We felt this was an appropriate location to serve the public and city hall staff’s needs. This was a space that we could easily retrofit within our budget and was available immediately…. This is a great next step for us.”