the archives

As part of my professional life as an Urban Geographer, I recently finished up some work as a research assistant for Concordia Geography Professor Ted Rutland.

My research brought me to Halifax Regional Municipality’s Archives, which are located on the edge of Dartmouth in Burnside Industrial park.

Burnside is an awful place – a car-oriented mess of highways and warehouses. It is not a “place” in the traditional sense – only in that it occupies specific space on the surface of the earth.

The placelessness of Burnside is especially punctuated by the fact that no one is ever doing research on Burnside itself; almost everyone using the archives is interested in finding out about a very small portion of the HRM: peninsular Halifax, the traditional core of the region.

Eavesdropping on daily inquiries to the archivist, I would consistently over-hear people interested in Halifax-based avenues of research: the city’s former street car network, the Morse Tea building on Hollis Street, properties on Spring Garden Road. Even the internet password is “barrington”, downtown Halifax’s main shopping street.

It’s interesting that the HRM archives are located so far from the place that people are actually interested in researching. I suppose that the needs of the archives for immense warehouse space (data takes up a lot of room) logically pushed it into the lower-cost suburbs. It is a shame, however, that the brain of the city is located so far out, in the Burnside industrial mess – a place that, beyond the 52 Crosstown bus, can only be accessed by those with a car.