You can use the Archives’ online database to search for records and complete a Records Request Form listing materials you would like to see. Some photographs and maps are scanned and can be seen online. In this case, the originals are unavailable.

Once you have completed your Records Request Form, bring it to the Archives. Staff will retrieve the records for you. Unlike library books, archival records cannot be borrowed. You must view them in the Research Hall.

Some records may require a Freedom of Information review or permission from the donor. You will need to fill out permission forms to see these records. Because of this, you will not be able to see them the same day you request them.

Also, some records are oversized and may require up to three days to pull from the Records Centre.

To see what access conditions apply, see the Records Request Form under “Access Conditions.”

Written instructions for using our database can be seen at the bottom of the page. Alternatively, you can view our instructional video.

 

Click the “Search the Archives” button below or any of the Archives’ main pages.

The Archives database will open in a new window. You can perform a simple keyword search by entering one or more keywords, then clicking the “Search” button.

Archives database search bar and search button.

With the desktop interface (although not the mobile one) you can also perform an advanced search by clicking on the text “Advanced Search”.

This will open the Advanced Search box. Fill in one or more search fields and click “Search.”

Advanced search with fields for title or number, keyword, date, level of arrangement, type of media, and forms part of.

Tip: Keep your search terms general. For example, don’t search for your specific street address at 123 Any Street. Instead, try searching Any Street or Any St or Any.

The search results will appear as a browse list. Click on the blue text in the browse list to see a full description of a record.

List of search results.

You can create a list of records you would like to see. There are two ways to add a record to your list.

You can 1) Check the box next to the record in the browse list.

Archives file description with a circle around "save to list" button.

Or 2) click on the “Save to List” button at the bottom of the description.

Archives file description with a circle around "save to list" button.

You can view your list at any time by clicking on “View List” at the top of the search results screen.

Options for your current list: view, clear, or save list.

A new window will open, showing a list of the records you have selected. Check the box beside each record you would like to request. Click the “Go!” button located beside “Records Request Form” at the top of the window to create a printable Records Request Form.

Tip: If you do not check off any of the boxes, the entire list will appear on the Records Request Form.

List of files.

A PDF of the Records Request Form will open, displaying all of the selected items in your list.

Items on a saved list.

Tip: Email a copy of the PDF to yourself so that you have a copy for future reference.

If you are in the Archives’ Research Hall, print the Records Request Form PDF and pick it up from the printer at the front of the room. Write your name, researcher number (found on your registration card) and date on the top, and give the form to staff at the Reference Desk.

You may request up to five boxes at a time. If there are more than five boxes on your list, mark which five you would like to order first.

If there are any items on the Records Request Form that require review because of Freedom of Information legislation or donor restrictions, staff will discuss your options with you.

It can take up to an hour for the boxes to arrive from where they are stored in the Records Centre.

If you aren’t at the Archives, you have two options:

  1. Print the Records Request Form and bring it with you.
  2. Attach the PDF to an email and send it to archives@toronto.ca, indicating the date and time when you would like to see the records. Please give us 24 hours’ advance notice. Before you come to the Archives, call to confirm that the material is ready. If your plans change, just send us an email or call us and let us know.

After you submit the Records Request Form to Research Hall staff they will give you a confirmation printout indicating that the boxes have been requested. Within an hour, your boxes will appear in the brown wooden cubby holes located directly across from the Research Hall entrance.

Please open only one box and one file at a time, and keep the records in the order you find them (don’t rearrange them). Feel free to use a cart to move your boxes to a Research Hall table.

Archival boxes in wooden cubby holes.

The database contains descriptions that fall into two broad categories:

  • descriptions that represent groups of records (fonds, series and subseries) that cannot be requested as a group
  • descriptions that represent requestable folders of records (files and items)

Hierarchy of archival records: fonds, series, subseries, file, and item.

Only requestable folders (files and items) can be requested. In the example below, the description indicates that it is a file located in a box (you can see the box number). This file can be requested. Note that the description includes a barcode.

Requestable file with barcode.

Groups of records cannot be requested. These fonds, series and subseries may contain tens or hundreds of files or photographs. In the example below, the description is a subseries and therefore cannot be requested. Note that there is no box number or barcode. Instead, there is a note indicating that the researcher should contact the reference staff for assistance, as well as a link to the webpage you are reading now.

Description of requestable file.

To see a list of files and items within a group of records, go back to the description of the fonds, series or subseries and click on the blue [browse] link beside the “Records Consists of” field.

Archival series record description with red circle around browse link to list of files.

A new window will open with a list of all records in that group (in this case, 88 items in the series).

List of first seven records in an archival series.

You can then review these 88 items and add relevant ones to your list.

In a few cases, the description of a group of records may direct you to a printed finding aid, because the contents of the group aren’t listed in the database. You will have to come to the Archives to see this list. Research Hall staff will be available to assist you.

Fonds description with note about the existence of printed finding aids.