Reference Room Reopening
The Reference Room of the BC Archives will offer expanded in-person services beginning July 30, 2020, in strict adherence to archival best practices and following the guidelines of the Province’s “Restart Plan.”
To ready itself for reopening, the Royal BC Museum implemented numerous physical distancing measures, engineered controls and administrative changes to help limit the resurgence of the virus and protect staff and visitors.
The BC Archives will take similar steps in the Reference Room. As the Reference Room is a high-touch area, staff have carefully considered the expansion of in-person service, balancing access to materials with the need to protect staff and researchers from possible infection.
- Why has it taken so long to reopen the reference room?
Restarting is a careful, step-by-step process, and we are all learning how to operate in the “new normal.” Archival research requires a considerable amount of time in an enclosed space with others, touching records, surfaces and equipment. Records, rather than being disinfected, must be quarantined after being accessed by researchers and when brought in from our offsite storage facilities.
It has taken consideration and caution to determine how to safely isolate records while maintaining location control and collections care and ensure they will be ready and safe for researchers. The safety of staff and researchers has been our overarching goal.
In addition to providing remote access to the collection, the BC Archives has been providing limited onsite access to the reference room via appointments for legal, ministry and land claims researchers since June 15. Providing access to a limited number of researchers has given us an opportunity to test our new protocols and ensure we can provide access to the collections with processes that are safe for both researchers and staff.
- What is happening on July 30th?
On July 30th we will expand our onsite, by-appointment services to include researchers with demonstrable urgent deadlines; for example, grant deadlines, graduate program requirements or those with an existing research agreement that is coming to an end. This is the second phase in our three-phase approach to reopening the reference room. Phase three, where we reopen to the broader public on an appointment basis, will begin on September 14th.
- Who can apply for onsite access starting July 30?
Onsite access will be considered for legal, land claims and ministerial research as well as for researchers with demonstrable urgent deadlines.
- What process do I follow to conduct research in the reference room, starting July 30?
For now, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 250 387 1952 with information about your research project, your deadline, the expected number of days you will need to be onsite to access records and the list of records you will need access to. Once we have this information, a staff member will contact you. If you do not know exactly what records you will need, an archivist will help you narrow your search.
Once your request for onsite access has been approved, staff will work with you to schedule an appropriate date. All appointments will be scheduled one week in advance to allow us adequate time to retrieve and quarantine the records. We will send you a confirmation email with details on the safety process and procedures you will need to follow while onsite at the archives.
- How do I locate records?
There are many ways of locating records that you will need for your research. We have a number of online guides for assistance in starting a research project, which you can find on the archives website here. The BC Archives has three different databases to find resources relevant to your research: our library catalogue, our genealogy database, and our archives online search page.
If, after you have done a preliminary search, you still need assistance in locating records, email email@example.com to have an archivist help you.
- What can I do onsite?
Researchers will be able to access paper, audio/visual and microfilm records as well as any digital records that are not available online while onsite. You will be able to photograph records, as well as print and download copies of microfilm.
Researchers will not be able to request additional records while onsite, or consult card catalogues. To borrow hard-copy finding aids, weights, props or photography stands, please ask a staff member in advance of your visit. Access to hard copy finding aids will be via request to staff, as will any request for weights, props or photography stands.
Access kiosks will be extremely limited – if you do require use of an access kiosk to locate records please let a staff member know in your pre-appointment correspondence.
All researchers will be required to provide a list of material they require at least seven days in advance of their visit. This will provide time for staff to bring material from offsite and quarantine it for the required 72 hours. All material handled by a researcher will also be quarantined after its use for 72 hours.
- What are your hours?
Our hours will be Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 10 am to 12 pm and 1 pm to 4 pm starting July 30. Researchers will book appointments for the full day, but will be required to leave the reference room between 12 and 1 so additional cleaning can take place.
- Why not just open up the reference room to all researchers now?
Taking a phased approach allows us to ensure our procedures are sufficient to maintain the safety of researchers and staff. It also allows us to ensure researchers with urgent deadlines are able to finish their research on time.
Under Worksafe BC regulations, only eight people can safety be in the reference room at one time. Five spaces will be reserved for researchers, and three for staff members fulfilling remote inquiries.
- Are you charging for remote services?
The archives are not fully-funded, and reproduction fees contribute to the care and safeguarding of the collection. Reproduction of records is a labour-intensive and time-consuming process, and because of this we cannot provide remote or in-person reproductions at no cost.
- When will you open for non-urgent requests?
We will open up for general research inquiries on September 14. We are currently testing an online appointment system and will provide details on this as the date gets closer. There will still only be five research appointments a day due to limitations of the reference room, and this will remain in place until there are changes to provincial restrictions.
- What is different?
To keep staff and researchers safe, we’ve significantly changed how the reference room functions. We will be operating on an appointment-based system, where all records requests, including for microfilm, must be submitted at least seven days prior to the appointment date. For now, appointments will be booked through the firstname.lastname@example.org email or through the archives reference room phone line at 250 387 1952 – researchers will need to have confirmation from a staff member that you have booked an appointment. Leaving a message or sending an email will not be sufficient to secure your spot.
Between July 30 and September 14, onsite appointment requests will be approved by the Head of Archives before an appointment is scheduled. To be approved, researchers will need to provide the demonstrable deadline for their project, a description of the project, the exact records they will need to have access to and the number of days they will require onsite access. As limited spots are available in the reference room, we may not be able to grant access to multiple-day-visits.
There will be no longer be any onsite retrievals of records, including microfilm. All materials requested must be submitted at least seven days before the scheduled appointment.
- What are you doing to keep researchers safe?
We have made many changes to the reference room, including rearranging desks, microfilm machines and furniture to ensure wide pathways throughout and allow for social distancing. WorkSafe BC has determined that the total capacity of the room during this time is only eight people, including staff, so we have limited the number of available research appointment to five per day, to account for staff fulfilling remote inquiries. Cleaning of all touchable surfaces has been increased and hand sanitizer is readily available for all researchers and staff. There will be no one-on-one interaction with staff in the reference room. All archival material will be provided on a cart for each researcher; at the end of the day, the researcher will put the material back on the cart and it will go directly into quarantine.
You will need to bring your own pencil, as communal pencils are no longer available.