Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has many buildings across Canada, two of which we introduced you to in A Behind-the-Scenes Look at LAC: The Preservation Centre in Gatineau and A Behind-the-Scenes Look at LAC: The Nitrate Film Preservation Facility.
Another LAC building, located at 395 Wellington Street in downtown Ottawa, is a popular destination for researchers who come regularly to consult the archival and published collections. This facility is home to collections management, public services, description and cataloguing, and administrative functions. There are countless stacks of published material housed on the various floors of the building; however, only the main lobby, and the second, third, and fifth floors are accessible to the public.
Public admission to the research rooms is restricted to registered researchers. Because of the vast amount of material in the collections, researchers must request what they need in advance of their visit so that LAC staff have sufficient time to retrieve it on their behalf.*
If you’re wondering why researchers themselves cannot browse the countless stacks of published material, it is for reasons of safety for both the researchers and the collections. In addition, the sheer volume of material makes it virtually impossible for someone to locate what they need without a good understanding of the collections and how they are organized.
Close to Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court of Canada, the 395 Wellington Street facility first opened its doors on June 20, 1967. It cost roughly $13 million to build and features granite and marble finishes, complete with golden mosaic pillars in the main lobby. The building showcases a variety of artwork, such as a sculpture of Italian poet Dante Alighieri by Angelo Biancini and a Henry Moore bronze sculpture entitled “Three Way Piece-Points,” located near the main marble stairwell. The Moore sculpture was presented by the British Government to the people of Canada, along with 10,000 books, to mark this country’s Centennial in 1967.
Glass-engraved panels by artist John Hutton, depicting five themes, can be seen throughout the building. They represent the written word, the spoken word, important writers, Apollo and the Muses, and the birth of Canada. You can also view them on our Facebook page!
A series of murals adorns the research rooms on the second floor. The Comfort Murals contain two works known as “Heritage” and “Legacy.” They were commissioned more than 25 years ago by Charles Fraser Comfort, a past Director of the National Gallery of Canada. The Pellan Murals are the work of Quebec artist Alfred Pellan, completed in 1968. Each of these abstract paintings features a kaleidoscope of colour presented in a collage-style interpretation. “The Alphabets” is displayed on the western wall, and “Knowledge” is displayed on the eastern wall.
The history of this Government of Canada building is recorded in the CBC Digital Archives soundtrack 1967: The National Library of Canada opens new HQ.
*Please note that our core services are offered from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. To learn more about all of our services, please consult the previous article “What can you do at 395 Wellington Street before your appointment?”