Ottawa Resource Collection (OTTR) Guide

Finding information for a location within a city can be challenging.  This guide provides support for those researching Ottawa and its neighbourhoods.   

Build a Glossary   

Why?  Neighbourhoods or specific sites can be complex and diverse spaces, which often straddle defined boundaries, wards or streets.  Several communities may reside within a small space or one community may cover a large area. Creating a fulsome glossary can help tease out many threads of information and significantly improve a search strategy.  For best results try to find terms beyond the obvious. Consider these tips: 

Historical lens - there may be multiple names for a single place
i.e.. Vanier evolved from Eastview which evolved from Janeville, Clarkstown, Clandeboye  
i.e.. Bronson Ave. was Concession Line; Glebe Ave. was Carling Ave.; Laurier Ave. was Maria St.
Identify the layers of political boundaries such as current and former wards or municipal boundary changes, etc.
i.e. Preston St. falls within Dalhousie Ward
i.e. Glebe falls withing Capital Ward
i.e. Barrhaven now part of Ottawa was formerly in the City of Nepean prior to amalgamation
Boundaries may be vague and your location may straddle several defined areas
i.e. The intersection of Bronson Ave. and Booth St. may fall within Little Italy and/or Chinatown
Boundaries may be precise depending on which side of the street you're on
i.e. Beechwood Ave. defines the boundary between Rockcliffe Park and Vanier
i.e. Baseline Rd. used to define the boundary between cities of Ottawa and Nepean (pre-amalgamation)
Identifying nearby major streets and arteries can lead to information
i.e. Information about Albert St. may help tell  the story of Lebreton Flats 
i.e. Information about Wellington St. may reveal history of "Banker's Row" across from Parliament
One Street = many neighbourhoods
i.e. Richmond Rd. (Ottawa West)  becomes Wellington St. (Centretown) which becomes Rideau St. (Lowertown) which becomes Montreal Rd. (Vanier)
i.e. Bank St. begins at Parliament Hill and passes through Centretown, The Glebe, Old Ottawa South, Alta Vista, Hunt Club, the villages of Blossom Park, Leitrim, South Gloucester, Greely, Metcalfe, Spring Hill, and Vernon before exiting the city limits at Belmeade Road
Sources have unique lenses
i.e. Municipal documents in the 1970's were issued by The Regional Municipality of Ottawa Carleton (RMOC) and often collected statistics by wards or census districts of the time
i.e. The City of Ottawa in the 2000's organizes and collects information differently from the 1970's
i.e. Neighbourhood boundaries (i.e.. "Ottawa Neighbourhood Study") may differ between sources  
i.e. The NCC provides information for both sides of the Ottawa River while the City of Ottawa does not
i.e. Community organizations or BIAs (Business Improvement Areas) may collect information based on their local interests rather than those prioritized by other institutions
One place can be tagged with many community labels
​ i.e. Lebreton Flats - Little Italy - Chaudiere -  Zibi -  Nepean Point  -- Preston St. BIA
Information about "events" may lead to information about "places" 
i.e. The Great Sewer Explosion of 1929 may provide details about Sandy Hill. 
i.e. Central Canada Exhibition may lead to information about the Glebe.
Different societal issues are relfected at different periods in  Ottawa's history
i.e. Municipal documents from the 1950 and '60's point to gentrification through demolition
i.e. Municipal documents from the late 1970's reflect a new appreciation for older buildings, especially through community organization
i.e. The 1970s reflect an increase in tourism literature
i.e. Titles from the 1990s suggest more environmental awareness
i.e. Titles in the 2000s reveal conversations between community, developers and city interests
Researching buildings or architects can lead to supporting information
i.e. Ottawa houses several "Carnegie Libraries"
i.e. Architects such as  James Strutt (influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright) , George Bemi (known for Brutalist style) or Ernst Noffke (residential buildings in the Glebe) all leave an indelible impression on the city's landscape
i.e. Thomas MacKay and stone buildings of New Edinburgh
​Information on prominent Individuals can offer insight to city building at different times in history
i.e. Ahearn and Soper, inventors and businessmen introduce streetcars and electricity to Ottawa
i.e. Former Mayors such as Marion Dewar welcomes south Asian refugees (Project 4000)     
i.e. Historical community figures such as Archibald McKellar help develop Westboro 
i.e. Robert Randall was the original title holder of  land in Lebreton Flats (formerly Nepean Landing)
Geographical Features tell stories too
i.e. Nanny Goat Hill (Ottawa Centre) - An escarpment overlooking Lebreton Flats
i.e. Mud Lake (Ottawa West) - A significant wetland in Ottawa's urban environment
i.e. Mer Bleue Bog (Ottawa East) - A unique "northern ecosystem" in the heart of Ottawa's Greenbelt 
i.e. Champlain Lookout (Gatineau Park) - The divide between St. Lawrence Lowlands and Canadian Shield

How to create a glossary? 

Here are several suggestions:

Visit the Neighbourhoods section of the Ottawa Resource Collection Online webpage.  "Related Search Terms" offers a list of related terms for the 15 neighbourhoods.

Visit the Topics sections of the Ottawa Resource Collection Online webpage.  Here you'll find links to Images and Maps, City of Ottawa Documents, Historical /Heritage, Buildings & Architects, Statistics, Social Media, Newspapers & Ottawa Stories, Urban Planning, Virtual Exhibits, Student Projects & Theses.

Use a map! Spatial information allows the eye to take in content differently from text.  Keep in mind that bias and subjectivity is built into a map by means of the date, scale and authorship. Always use a critical eye assessing content.  Use maps and  text  simultaneously for "Aha moments"!  

Select as many different scales or levels of detail as possible.  Different information is captured on maps of varying scales. Building footprints may be seen on maps at 1:2,000 but there may be unique place names on a map at a scale of 1:50,000. 

If you're lucky you'll find maps for the same location issued by different authors.  This gives added layers of information. 

Find maps issued by the same author but for different years.  This allows the eye to perceive slight changes over time. i.e.. Ottawa Topographic maps 1:50,000 for multiple years;  Multiple editions of road maps by same author at same scale. 

Images can be invaluable as they do not have artificial boundaries or biases that maps impose.  See the section below on Maps and Images in this guide.

Consult the additional sections below in this guide for more tips!

Allow time

Why?  Local area research may require unique search strategies.  This in-depth RESEARCH can take time especially when using multiple resources such as print, online/digital, archival materials or different archival collections in the city.  

How?  Check hours of opening in advance.  The location and hours for the Ottawa Resource Collection (OTTR) are posted here.  For help using the collection, arrange a consultation by contacting Archives and Special Collections staff .  Can't get to campus? Try Ottawa Resource Collection Online!  Consider other archives or libraries in the city and find out about their hours and visitor guidelines. 

Bring research supplies (but not food or drinks!)

Why?  Most Archives and Special Collections do not provide pencils, pens, paper, computers, USB, printers or scanners and many have a "pencil only" policy.  Because rare books or unique materials can be difficult or impossible to replace, drinks and food are strictly forbidden. 

Arrive informed Before visiting any collection, find out in advance what is or isn't provided or if an appointment is required.

For example:  The Ottawa Resource Collection (OTTR)  is located in room 581 of the MacOdrum Library. It is a collection within Archives and Special Collections (ASC).  You'll find consultation tables;  an in-house scanner but bring a USB;  there is NO photocopier but taking pictures by phone is acceptable ensuring copyright restrictions are maintained; a Library desktop catalogue only is available- so a personal laptop may be helpful; archival gloves are provided if needed; staff can offer help during office hours or email for an appointment ; after hours when doors are locked, clients may ask for entry to the Ottawa Resource Collection (OTTR) at the Main Floor Services Desk.  Sorry there is no overnight access after 11:30pm, when the Library is open 24 hours.

There is abundance of digital content geared towards local area research.  It may be in the form of academic or peer reviewed literature, government sources, blogs, newsletters or community content. Here are some approaches to access these sites:

Search Carleton Library's OMNI using the customized glossary of terms you've created. Using this glossary will significantly increase your success. Items in electronic format are identified in the record. 

Consult THE OTTAWA RESOURCE COLLECTION ONLINEFor full coverage make sure to consult both sections Neighbourhoods and By Topic
Each of the fifteen neighbourhoods includes: Related Terms, Statistics, Census Information, Topographic Maps (contours), Images and Maps, Community Newspapers, Community Links, Select Building Information and Selected Print Resources    
For content not found in these 15 neighbourhoods, see the section "By Topic".
By Topic
Internet searches often yield new content, especially at the local area level.  Remember to use your customized Glossary to increase your chances of harvesting relevant content.  Remember to "think critically" about your source and make sure to cite content when necesseary.
Neighbourhood information resides in a wide variety of print sources, some of which are found in the OTTR collection (room 581).  Remember to begin by building your customized glossary as outlined in this guide.   
SEARCH OMNI  for print materials
Remember OMNI records capture broad and general headings, so finding relevant content can be challenging.  For example, content on Lebreton Flats may be found in a book with a generic title "Ottawa".  Begin with these steps: 
  • Enter glossary terms in OMNI both individually and in combinations. Try with and without the word "Ottawa" i.e. "Hintonburg" or "Hintonburg Ottawa".  Be creative!  
  • Once results appear, open the LOCATION tab (on left side) and click on "Floor 5 (Room 581) Ottawa Resource Material (OTTR)" . 
  • Try clicking on Subject entries - this may lead to other useful books in the collection 
Books in the OTTR Collection (room 581), are arranged on the shelf in call number order from A-Z
The OTTR Collection is for reference only and does not circulate so consider bringing a USB for the in-house scanner or take pics
Visually scan the OTTR shelves.  Shelves are arranged by  by topic. The FC (history) or HT (planning) section of the collection may yield surprising results.
The year of publication is often part of the call number and this helps frame the timeline or content.  i.e.  pre and post amalgamation, etc.   
Check the Table of Contents and the Indexes using a custom glossary during a random search.  This is where detailed content is revealed.  
This file is a series of binders in room 581 containing grey literature, ephemera, blog postings, magazine articles, advertisements and newspaper clippings, all filed by nieghbourhood and topics. Much of this content may be readily available online, but by scanning the topics bundled together in paper files,  you may find clues or supporting information. 
Use a critical lens when consulting ephemera as items may not be considered "academic" or "peer reviewed".
As with all local area research, remember to use your customized glossary for best results.  The NEIGHBOURHOODS secation of the OTTAWA RESOURCE COLLECTION ONLINE  will provide some suggested related terms.  

Staff are continually compiling lists of references for local area sites and topics.  To request a search of our Excel file, contact ASC staff


Consider using Maps and Images, City Directories;  FBRO Reports / older print and online versions  (Federal Heritage Review Office);  Ottawa Magazine;  Rare books  ;  Archives and Special Collections (ASC).     

Contact ASC staff for help or arrange a consultation

Why Use Images and Maps?

Spatial information such as maps and images, provide rich layers of content and can clarify or support written information.  Consider including a map or image in your research or consult a map or image to help make connections or enrich your understanding.  Remember it is important and easy to cite mapsclick here for help! 

When looking for the right map, remember information may reside on single map or as smaller part of a large map series.  Maps are available in paper or digital formats.  Remember maps import bias and subjectivity because information is superimposed whereas images are visual evidence uncluttered by bias. 

 Digital Maps
  • Visit Ottawa Resource Collection Online, under  Images and Maps  - you'll find an extensive list of local area digital map resources which may be used alone or with other print maps in the Ottawa Resource Collection (OTTR).  See links to sites such as Fire Insurance Plans, historical topographic mapsGeoOttawa, images and more.
  • Visit GIS MacOdrum Library including Open Data Ottawa  for GIS map data. .
Print (paper) Maps in the Carleton Library 
  • The Carleton Library's print and paper map collection, curated for over 60 years, dates approximately up to the early 2000's.  You'll find a variety of topics and scales. Paper maps can provide a baseline for researchers.  When current data is layered over an older map, a timeline can reveal trends or patterns. 
  • For details on scanning paper maps ask staff in Archives and Special Collections
  • Print or paper maps are searchable in OMNI.  Just add "map" to a term in the search box.  Pls note: Due to a recent map reorganization, some map titles may still have an incorrect location code.  Ottawa maps MPL (floor 1) should read OTTR (floor 5).  
  • Contact staff in Archives and Special Collections if you are having difficulty locating an Ottawa map. 

Ottawa Timeline -- Wards --  Dates (City of Ottawa Archives) -- Other Local Collections in the Area

Ottawa Timeline *Pls note - dates may be approximate*   

1826  Bytown founded 
1827  Bytown divided by Lieut. Col. John By  into two main sections—Upper Town and Lower Town
1850  Bytown becomes a town and Richmond becomes a village
1855  Bytown becomes the City of Ottawa
1867  New Edinburgh becomes a village  
1875  Wrightsville (north of the Ottawa River) becomes the City of Hull, (now part of Gatineau)
1887  City of Ottawa annexes New Edinburgh 
1888  Ottawa East becomes a village
1893  Hintonburg becomes a village 
1898  Metcalfe becomes a police village
1903  Manotick becomes a police village
1905  Rideauville and Westboro become police villages
1907  Ottawa annexes Hintonburg  and Rideauville
1908  Rockcliffe Park becomes a police village
1908  Janeville  becomes a village.
1910  Kenmore and Osgoode Station become police villages.
1912  Ottawa West becomes a police village 
1913  Janeville becomes Town of Eastview
1922  Overbrook and St. Joseph d'Orleans were incorporated as police villages.
1925  Rockcliffe Park became a full village in 1925.
1939  Hampton Park incorporated as a police village.  
1949  Westboro and Village of Hampton Park and Ottawa West annexed by City of Ottawa 
1950  Overbrook annexed by Ottawa
1954  City View incorporated as a police village
1956  Stittsville incorporated as a police village
1961  Stittsville becomes a full village
1963  Eastview (now Vanier) becomes City of Eastview
1969  City of Eastview is renamed Vanier
1969  Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton (RMOC) is formed from Carleton County
1974  Villages of City ViewKenmoreManotick, MetcalfeNorth Gower, Osgoode Station, and St. Joseph d'Orleans are dissolved
1974  Goulbourn Township annexes the villages of Richmond and Stittsville
1974  Rideau Township created from Marlborough Township and North Gower 
1974  West Carleton Township created from Townships of Torbolton, Fitzroy and Huntley
1978  City of Kanata formed from March Township and parts of Goulbourn and Nepean Townships
1978  Nepean Township becomes City of Nepean
1981  Gloucester Township becomes the City of Gloucester
1999  Cumberland Township becomes the City of Cumberland
2001 Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton (RMOC) becomes City of Ottawa (includes the former municipalities of Ottawa, Vanier, Nepean, Kanata,
        Gloucester and Cumberland; the townships of Rideau, West Carleton, Goulbourn and Osgoode; and the village of Rockcliffe Park)
What was a "Police Village"? 
From Wikipedia:  A police village was a form of municipal government used in the province of Ontario, Canada, beginning in the early 19th century. It was used in cases where the finances or population of the area did not permit the creation of a village.
Police Village with date of creation:  City View (1954) -- Manotick (1903) -- Metcalfe (1898) -- North Gower(1905) -- Rockcliffe Park(1908) -- Osgoode (1910) -- Overbrook (1922) -- St-Joseph d'Orléans (1922) -- Ottawa West (1912) -- Stittsville (1956)

Dates (City of Ottawa Archives):

1872  Street numbers first used for Ottawa properties
1892  City of Ottawa began issuing building permits
1925  The Province of Ontario implemented building code legislation to regulate construction standards across the province
1931  City Hall burned down, damaging or destroying all building records and many tax assessment records stored there
1944  Copies of architectural drawings must be submitted to the City of Ottawa with the building permit for all new constructions or major alterations
1964  City of Ottawa zoning by-laws were consolidated (similar consolidation occurred in Gloucester and Nepean in the 1960s)

Other Local Collections in the Area:
Explores the city’s history from the early years of Rideau Canal construction, through the rough and tumble days of Bytown, to its emergence as Canada’s capital and beyond. Enjoy unique artifacts and exhibits year-round.
The City of Ottawa Archives welcomes all researchers. If you have specific historical questions about Ottawa, reference staff can provide assistance. The Archives provides access to a wide range of resources including photographs, maps, architectural drawings and artifacts. The 16,000-volume specialized reference library holds unique resource materials on the history and development of the City of Ottawa. 
Discovering, preserving and sharing Cumberland Township history.
Diefenbunker Canada's Cold War Museum
Goulbourn Historical Society (Stittsville Branch - OPL)
Dedicated to the history of the former Goulbourn Township, now amalgamated into the City of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. This includes the communities of Stittsville, Hazeldean, Richmond, Munster Hamlet, Ashton, Stanley’s Corners, Stapledon and Mansfield and surrounding rural areas.
Looks at rural life beginning with the creation of the Richmond military settlement in 1818; a History Centre provides information about local families and community life.
A collection of historical and genealogical material establishing a repository of information and artifacts on the former Huntley Township for research purposes and as a contribution to Canadian history, and to publish and display related materials.
Kanata Room in the Beaverbrook Branch OPL
Houses an in-depth collection on the history of March Township and the City of Kanata
Nepean Centrepointe  (Ottawa Public Library)
Comprises over 300 books, periodicals, and newspapers. Material in the collection represents the greater Ottawa region, with a focus on Carleton County, and Nepean Township in particular.
Focuses on agricultural development, pioneer life and the people of Osgoode Township from 1826 to the present day.
A centralized information resource about Ottawa and surrounding areas, both past and present, that helps preserve Ottawa’s written heritage for researchers and for residents with a passion for local history.  Its unique collection brings together printed documents about Ottawa, important municipal documents, including current and past city by-laws, and a broad selection of historical and literary works by Ottawa authors. The collection includes over 15,000 items that can be consulted free of charge.
Q:  I have a class assignment and my Prof told me to come to the Ottawa Resource Collection.  Is there any info for me?
A: If your location is within the Ottawa area, use this guide to begin your search. Follow up with ASC staff to see if you’ve missed anything.

Q: I need primary resources for my assignment.  Is there anything in OTTR?
A: Primary resources come in many formats such as photos, government information, newspapers, maps, statistics and archival holdings. 

Q: My assignment is due tomorrow.  Can you help me?
A: During COVID, access to the Ottawa Resource Collection is restricted but stay tuned for updates.  Try Ottawa Resource Collection Online which offers additional information with links to maps, government information, community resources, images, and GIS data.

Q: When the Library reopens, where will I find the Ottawa Resource Collection? 
A: The Collection is part of the Library’s Archives and Special Collections (ASC), Room 581, MacOdrum Library.

Q: If the door is locked to Room 581 how do I get access?
A: Once the Library reopens, access is available after 4pm by asking at the main floor Services Desk.  Once in Room 581 you can exit but won't be able to re-enter without staff assistance.  The “sign-in” sheet is near the entrance.   

Q: Can I borrow OTTR materials?
A: Sorry, OTTR materials are unique or difficult to replace and are available for Reference only.  Contact ASC staff for special requests.  When the Library reopens, there is a scanner in 581, but bring a USB or use a phone camera (ensuring copyright is observed). 

Q: Where can I find the Ottawa Resource Collection Online?
A: On the Library homepage go to Find/ Archives for the link.  
The page has NEIGHBOURHOODS and TOPICS.  NEIGHBOURHOODS bundles content for our most frequently requested spaces.  To see all 15 neighbourhoods click “all neighbourhoods”.  TOPICS provides content by subject for local or city wide geographies  *Pls note - for comprehensive coverage, visit both sections.

Q: I only see books in room 581. Is that the only resource in the Ottawa Resource Collection?
A: The materials on the shelves include books, government documents, planning documents, directories and pamphlets.  Maps and rare books are also part of the collection and there is supporting information in Ottawa Resource Collection Online.   We are building a list of related archival fonds, available on request. The collection also includes grey literature and ephemera.  The collection continues to grow through purchases and donations. 

Q: Can anyone in the building help me find something in the Ottawa Resource Collection after hours?
A: After hours, reference is self-directed.  Pls see "Getting Started with Local Area Research" in this guide and follow up with ASC staff during regular hours to see if you’ve missed anything.

Q: I have a choice of several Ottawa research topics but which has the best resources?
A: There are many potential topics.  As expected, there tends to be more historical and heritage content for the inner city core, formerly known as Bytown.   Other themes such as the "Evolution of suburbs" can be documented using maps and statistics on sites like the “Ottawa Neighbourhood Study”.   Also consider the size of a location. There may be less information for a street or house versus a broader geography such as a neighbhourhood. Prominent landmarks are easier to trace than lesser known spots.  Follow the steps in this guide to make a first assessment of a potential location, then follow up with ASC staff to see if you’ve missed anything.


Content last reviewed: January 29, 2021