Archives vs. Mould: Facts on Fungus

Have you ever opened your fridge to discover something green and fuzzy inside? Or opened an old book and been hit with a strong musty odour? Chances are you have come into contact with mould.

Mould spores occur naturally outdoors and you come into contact with them every day. But in an archival setting indoors, it’s a much different story. Problems begin when the spores come into contact with collection material in an environment that nurtures their growth. Besides the physical damage that mould brings to the material, mould can also affect your health. With this in mind, there are certain precautions you need to take when handling contaminated material.

Fortunately, most of the mould that we come across in the holdings of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is dormant. This means the spores are in a state of hibernation because the humidity level and temperature are carefully controlled. Ensuring that the environment is not favourable for mould activation and growth is one of the main factors we consider when storing collection material.

All treatment work is done in a biological containment hood after freezing the contaminated material for 48 hours at -35^(0) Celsius to ensure that the mould is inactive before cleaning. Because mould contains pigments that can cause staining, treated material often does not look any different than untreated material. For this reason, material that has been cleaned is clearly identified with a “Treated for Mould Contamination” label.

However if, during a visit at LAC, you suspect that the collection material you are handling is contaminated by mould, the rule of thumb is that it is best not to disturb mould. Therefore, you must immediately stop handling the contaminated documents! Then:

Report the problem to staff immediately; and

  • Leave it to the staff who will take the appropriate actions such as segregating and sealing the material in a plastic bag to ensure that the mould does not spread.

The most important thing to remember is to protect yourself. The following is a list of protective equipment you can use when handling personal documents affected by mould:

  • gloves (Nitrile™ or latex);
  • mask respirators (specially designed and fitted to filter out spores);
  • lab coats;
  • goggles.

As long as you use common sense and take the necessary precautions when dealing with contaminated material, you should be fine, and with any luck, most of the mould you encounter will be limited to the inside of your fridge.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

New Finding Aids Online: Department of Militia and Defence (RG9) circa 1914–1919

Did you know that several finding aids from the RG9 fonds–the Department of Militia and Defence–refer to documents created during the First World War? These finding aids allow users to find historical documents pertinent to Canada’s participation in the first global conflict.

The following is a list of new online finding aids, which were previously only available in a paper format. These new additions make reference to over 6,000 sublevels.

  1. General Staff, London – 501 descriptions (Finding aid 9-31-36)
  2. Headquarters, Canadian Troops, Seaford-106 descriptions (Finding aid 9-31-41)
  3. No. 5 Canadian General Hospital, Kirkdale-239 descriptions (Finding aid 9-31-39)
  4. Military Hospital No. 12, Bramshott-363 descriptions (Finding aid 9-31-38)
  5. Director of Supply and Transport, London-1159 descriptions (Finding aid 9-31-42)
  6. Quartermaster General, London-1367 descriptions (Finding aid 9-31-43)
  7. Canadian Army Service Corps, London-684 descriptions (Finding aid 9-31-44)
  8. War Graves (Adjutant General Branch)-188 descriptions (Finding aid 9-31-51)
  9. Canadian Air Force-89 descriptions (Finding aid 9-31-49)
  10. Assistant Director Medical Services, Shorncliffe-236 descriptions (Finding aid 9-31-47)
  11. Canadian Forestry Corps, 51st District (Scotland)-198 descriptions (Finding aid 9-31-46)
  12. Canadian Army Veterinary Corps-1077 descriptions (Finding aid 9-31-45)

If you are not certain how to use finding aids, read over Discover Finding Aids Part One and Part Two (The second part is particularly relevant for searching the RG9 finding aids).


To search the finding aids below, you will need to select the hyperlinked number located beside “Series consists of” text as in the example below:

A sample record description in the Archives Search database displaying the Series consists of row.

Once on the results page, scroll to the list and explore the sublevels that might be of interest to your search. Note that finding aids generally point to elements of the collection that are not available online, so read How to Consult Material that Is Not Yet Available Online to determine the best method for you.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

Discover the Access Codes for Archival Records at Library and Archives Canada – Part II

In our post “Discover the Access Codes for Archival Records“, we reviewed four of the most common access codes 90, 32, 10, and 18. However, there are other access codes that you may encounter while undertaking your research. They include access codes 96 and 99.

Restrictions vary (Code 96)

Access code 96 indicates that within a group of records there exists more than one type of access condition. For example, since the Department of Transportation fonds (RG12) contains records that are open (code 90) and others that are restricted (code 32), the fonds-level access condition are indicated by “restrictions vary” (code 96).

A sample record description in the Archives Search database displaying access code 96: RESTRICTIONS VARY.

Access code 96 can be applied to more than just fonds-level descriptions. It can also be linked to series, sub-series and accessions. However, it does not apply to individual volumes and files.


Access code 96 usually means that there are more specific descriptions available for the records you are researching. In some cases, these records can be accessed by simply clicking on the “lower level descriptions” link in the “Fonds consists of” section of a record description.

A sample record description in the Archives Search database displaying the FONDS CONSISTS OF ROW.

In other cases it will be necessary to consult a printed finding aid. To learn more, read our post Discover Finding Aids.

To be determined / closed pending processing (Code 99)

Access code 99 means that the access conditions for a group of records have yet to be determined. Usually this is because the records are being processed. In the following example, while the photographic material is open, the access conditions for the textual records have yet to be determined:

A sample record description in the Archives Search database displaying access code 99.

Open, no copying (Code 95)

Access code 95 indicates that the records are open and can be consulted, however, at the request of the donor, the records cannot be copied or reproduced.

A sample record description in the Archives Search database displaying access code 95.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!