County reads letter of concern about City of Wetaskiwin Archives

Councilors ask staff to gather more information about possible building sale

County of Wetaskiwin council will gather more information on the future of an important historical resource they decided at a recent meeting.

At their regular Apr. 17 meeting, councilors heard a report from CAO Rod Hawken about a letter the municipality received recently from the Wetaskiwin Genealogical Society.

“A letter was received from Alice Hoyle, president of the Wetaskiwin Genealogical Society, a branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society, advising that the City of Wetaskiwin has listed the former city hall, currently referred to as the Civic Building,” stated the council agenda package.

“Located in the basement of the Civic Building are the City of Wetaskiwin Archives, a facility that houses historical documents, photos, newspapers, school records, family histories, church records etc.

“Some of the historical information housed in the Archives is more than 100 years old, stored in a temperature and humidity-controlled room. These historical items are irreplaceable, and often the source of information about our ancestors who settled in this region more than 100 years ago.

“The Archives contain valuable information about families who came to the region, took out homesteads, lived and died in this area and left descendants who now live here. As a Genealogical Society, they get numerous requests from all over the world for information on ancestors who settled in the Wetaskiwin region. Most of the requests involve people who lived in the County of Wetaskiwin.

“If the Civic Building sells, there appears to be no plan in place to deal with the Archives. The Wetaskiwin Genealogical Society is seeking assistance in convincing the City of Wetaskiwin that the Archives should remain a viable entity within the community,” stated the memo.

Hawken said the county has no jurisdiction over the archives, but councilors could send a letter of support for the Genealogical Society to the city. “The Wetaskiwin Archive Society spoke to the Alberta Archive Society who advised they will send a letter of support to the City of Wetaskiwin; however they also advised there is no provincial legislation that could prevent the city from closing the Archives,” stated the agenda memo.

Reeve Kathy Rooyakkers said protecting the area’s history is important. “It’s important to treasure what we have,” said Rooyakkers.

Councilor Terry Van de Kraats wondered how big the archives are; he said he didn’t know much about them.

Hawken said he can contact the archives and gather some information for council.

Van de Kraats said he has no doubt the building will sell and currently doesn’t seem to be heavily used.

Councilor Dale Woitt noted there is a lot of vacant property in Wetaskiwin right now, and doubts the Civic Building will sell quickly. He wondered if the county has a building that could house the archives and was curious about what is stored at the archives.

Hawken explained archival material has to be carefully handled, including a temperature controlled environment, or the material could degrade or even suffer damage.

Councilors agreed to table the Genealogical Society’s request to a future meeting while county staff gathers more information.

The archives are located at 4904 – 51 Street, not far from École Queen Elizabeth School.

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