Nationally-significant environmental data that has been stored, in paper form, by Environment Canada dating back nearly 175 years is coming on long-term loan to Western University to be preserved, digitized and shared for research and teaching.
An initiative led by Western’s NiCHE: Network in Canadian History & Environment, Western Archives will soon receive an archival collection of Canadian daily observational weather records spanning the period from 1840 to 1960.
The collection consists of approximately 1,000 boxes of observations from thousands of weather stations across Canada, along with 250 volumes of journals, observations, letterbooks and correspondence that make up the history of the Meteorological Service of Canada itself. The collection will arrive at Western over the next several weeks and will be available to researchers in Western Archives by the summer.
“Canada is a big country that has always been obsessed with the weather. As a result, we’ve created a massive amount of climate data valuable for studying global climate change today,” says Alan MacEachern, a history professor at Western’s Faculty of Social Science and the Director of NiCHE. “The arrival of this collection will not only be a great boon to climatologists and historians at Western but it will also make Western a destination for climate history researchers from across Canada and beyond.”
In 1840, the Upper Canada government turned grammar schools into part-time weather stations, with teachers compiling systematic meteorological observations. By Confederation, the predecessor of Environment Canada ran a network of weather stations along a narrow band of Eastern Canada, and over time the number and range of these stations grew greatly, across the Prairies, the North, and the Pacific West.
“The part of the collection documenting the Meteorological Service’s own history has never been made available to researchers,” explains MacEachern. “As for the daily observational records, Environment Canada has already extracted the data it needed and created the National Climate Data and Information Archive but these records contain a bounty of historical information still waiting to be explored.”
The new home of the collection, Western Archives provides a wide range of services to support Western’s goals for research, scholarship and teaching and learning.
Robin Keirstead, Western’s University Archivist and Acting University Librarian, explains, “Western Libraries is very pleased to partner with NiCHE and Environment Canada to arrange this long term loan, which highlights the key role Western’s libraries and archives can play in supporting and facilitating research.”
PHOTO/VIDEO OPPORTUNITY FOR MEDIA
Media are invited to visit Western’s Archives and Research Collections Centre at Weldon Library on Thursday, January 30 at 1 p.m. as MacEachern and Keirstead will present samples of the incoming collection.