Archives of Ontario

Type: Archives

The collections held by the archives are a resource for the study of the history of Ontario and its people. It is located on the York University campus.




Ontario Government Records:

The majority of the records in the collections of the Archives were created by the government of Ontario and its predecessors in the fulfillment of its legal and administrative functions. These records date from the late eighteenth century to the present day concerning:

  • Political and legal decisions.
  • The evolution of provincial administration.
  • The interaction between the government and its citizens.
  • The rights and responsibilities of Ontarians.

Private Sector Records:

Since 1903, the Archives of Ontario has been acquiring records from the private sector. The Archives holds the records of over 2600 private individuals, businesses, clubs and associations, labour and political organizations. These collections can range in size from one or two items to thousands of items that occupy hundreds of metres of shelf space.

These records include:

  • Paper files, diaries and photographs.
  • Maps and architectural records.
  • Sound recordings and moving images.

Genealogical Records:

The Archives of Ontario holds many important sources for researching family history in Ontario. There is no single finding aid or database for this type of research.

Vital Statistics:

Historical registrations of births, marriages and deaths. No database yet exists that allows you to search these records by name. Rather, these records must be searched using microfilm.

Records Relating to Aboriginal Peoples:

The Archives of Ontario has a substantial number of records relating to aboriginal history, very widely scattered through the Archives’ total holdings. Dating from the 1760s, most focus on what is now Ontario. However, a reasonable number — for example, fur trade and missionary papers — refer to Aboriginal people of Quebec, other parts of Canada, and the United States


The J. J. Talman Library at the Archives of Ontario is a research and reference collection for the general public and the staff of the Archives. Most of the Library collections relate to the social, political, economic, cultural and military history of the Province of Ontario.

There are approximately 75,000 pieces including:

  • Books, pamphlets and Ontario Government publications.
  • Periodicals, microfilm, microfiche and other printed and published items.

Special Collections


The Archives of Ontario’s photographic collection consists of approximately 1.7 million images documenting activities, people, places and events in Ontario from the mid-1800s to the present.

These images come in many formats including: colour and black and white prints, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, slides, and glass plate negatives.

The Archives photographic holdings include images from many private sources such as: photojournalists, studio photographers, amateur photographers, and corporate collections.

The Archives’ photographic holdings also include images created by many Ontario government ministries and agencies to document programs and activities.

Photographs are accessed through the Reading Room.

Online Photographic Database:

A selection of images drawn from the holdings of the Archives of Ontario which document the province’s history and landscape. Images are continually being added to the database.

Cartographic Records:

The Cartographic Records Collection of the Archives of Ontario contains over 40,000 maps, plans, hydrographic charts, atlases, bird’s eye views, and other cartographic materials relating to the Province of Ontario. Many of these maps are in manuscript form and thus are unique items.

The Archives has significant collections of private cartographic records including those produced by or for: Lieutenant Governor Simcoe, Thomas Talbot, the Canada Company, and David Thompson.

The foundation of the collection consists of maps produced by and for the Government of Ontario, most notably the Ministry of Natural Resources and its predecessors. Maps in the collection span the period from the early eighteenth century, when Ontario was still part of New France, to the present.

The collection contains maps and plans documenting many aspects of the province’s history and development including:

  • Exploration maps, settlement maps and township and town surveys.
  • Road maps, fishing maps and boundary maps.
  • Electoral plans, fire insurance plans, and maps showing the location and distribution of various natural resources.

Architectural Records:

An extensive architectural records collection of approximately 200,000 drawings and other items, dating from the early 1820s to the 1990s. These records document Ontario’s built environment and heritage.

The collection consists of architectural materials created or accumulated for government purposes. An example would be the records of the Public Works Department, which was responsible for the construction of prisons, hospitals, special schools, and other facilities.

The Archives also holds architectural records created by individual architects or private sector firms. The scope of these records ranges from houses to factories to skyscrapers.

Documentary Art:

The Archives of Ontario holds a collection of approximately 4000 documentary art records that document the people, places and events in Ontario from the 1790s until the 1900s.

The collection contains paintings, drawings, and prints by both amateur and professional artists, such as: Caroline Armington, William Armstrong, Thomas Burrowes, Anne Langton, C. W. Jefferys, Stewart C. Shaw, Elizabeth Simcoe, Fred Brygden, Robert Sproule, Owen Staples, and Dorothy Stevens.

It covers a wide range of subjects such as views of small towns, famous and infamous people, and historical events.

Public Programming:


Several exhibitions that highlight the collections. The most recent online exhibits can be accessed directly from the website.

Volunteer/Internship/Placement Opportunities:

Seeking volunteers. Contact administration for more information.

Address & Contact Information:

134 Ian Macdonald Boulevard
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M7A 2C5

Phone: 416-327-1600

Hours of Operation:

Monday to Friday, 8:30am- 5:00pm.

By appointment if you are planning a visit to the archives for the first time- you are able to pre-register prior to your arrival.

Key Words: business, government, politics, genealogy