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.   

Note: In Fall 2020, while the library building is mostly closed, there will be no access to physical materials in the Ottawa Resource Collection. 

There is complementary content in Ottawa Resource Collection Online.  

Whether using Ottawa Resource Collection Online or print materials in the Ottawa Resource Collection (room 581), consider following these steps:

Build a Glossary   

Why?  Neighbourhoods or local area sites can be complex, diverse spaces, often straddling defined boundaries, wards or streets.  Several communities can reside within a small space or one community may cover a large area. To tease out the many threads of information, search using terms beyond the obvious.  For example, because boundaries have changed over time, a location formerly in the City of Nepean, may now reside within the City of Ottawa.  A search using Ottawa, City of Nepean, Nepean Township, etc. may lead to more fulsome results.   


  1.  Check out Ottawa Resource Collection Online under Neighbourhoods, for "Related Search Terms".  This may provide ideas for a customized glossary.
  2. Using maps, atlases or the internet, supplement with other terms to describe a research topic/ place.  Consider including historical references, street names, prominent people, ward names, community labels & census boundaries to name a few.  Consider if the location has changed municipalities over time.  

Allow time

Why?  Local area topics 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 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, USBs, 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.

The Ottawa Resource Collection (OTTR) in room 581:
  • has consultation tables
  • has an in-house scanner but bring a USB!
  • does NOT provide a photocopier but taking pictures by phone is acceptable ensuring copyright restrictions are maintained 
  • provides a computer to search the OTTR collection only  - a personal laptop may be helpful as there is no internet access
  • provides archival gloves if needed
  • satff can offer help during office hours or email for an appointment

Did you know?

Once the Library's regular hours resume, clients may ask for entry to the Ottawa Resource Collection (OTTR) at the Main Floor Services Desk after 4pm (when the door is locked).  Sorry there is no overnight access after 11:30pm, when the Library is open 24 hours.


OTTR Digital Resources

OMNI offers links to many digital resources through the Carleton Library.  Enter customized search terms in the OMNI search box. Once results appear, consult the "Availability" dropdown on the left.  Links are provided in the record, including those to the HathiTrustDigitalLibrary
THE OTTAWA RESOURCE COLLECTION ONLINE provides online content which can be used alone or in conjunction with OTTR print materials. There are 2 sections, Neighbourhoods and By Topic.  Consult both for full coverage. 
Neighbourhoods bundles information for 15 Ottawa neighbourhoods.  Consult "By Topic" for content on other neighbourhoods.
Includes:  Related Terms, Statistics, Census Information, Topographic Maps (contours), Maps, Plans & Images, Community Newspapers, Community Links, Selected building information and Selected print resources   
By Topic has links to:   
Many of these offer city wide coverage.
 Note: In Fall 2020, while the library building is mostly closed, there will be no access to physical materials in the Ottawa Resource Collection.  

Neighbourhood information can reside in a wide variety of print sources in the OTTR collection (room 581).  But finding relevant content can be challenging because OMNI records only capture general headings.  For example, content on Lebreton Flats may be found in a book with a generic title like "Ottawa". 

To  optimize discovery, try these steps:  


  • Using a customized glossary (see Getting Started with Local Area Research) enter terms in OMNI individually and strung together. Try with and without the word "Ottawa" i.e. "Hintonburg" or "Hintonburg Ottawa" 
  • 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 Ottawa Resource Collection (OTTR) - room 581, are physically arranged on the shelf in call number order from A-Z
  • Materials in the OTTR Collection do not leave the room, nor do they circulate so consider bringing a USB for the in-house scanner or a phone camera


  • Visually scan books on the shelves. The FC (history) or HT (planning) section of the collection may yield surprising results.
  • Check the Table of Contents and the Indexes using a custom glossary.  
  • The year of publication is often included in a call number which helps frame the timeline or content. i.e.  pre 2001 - Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton (RMOC) / post 2001 - City of Ottawa   


  • The Subject File Cabinet is located near the entrance to the Ottawa Resource Collection (OTTR) - Room 581.  It is a collection of grey literature, ephemera, blog postings, magazine articles, advertisements and newspaper clippings filed alphabetically by topic.  Files may offer clues or supporting information. 
  • Use a critical lens when consulting ephemera as items may not be considered "academic" or "peer reviewed".
  • For best results remember to use a customized glossary i.e. There may be helpful clues for Little Italy in the Preston St., Lebreton or Dalhousie Ward folders.  


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


  • Consider using Maps and Cartographic resources;  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 Maps and Images?

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. 

 Digital Maps

  • Ottawa Resource Collection Online - Maps, Plans & Images  - offers an extensive list of local area digital map resources which may be used alone or to support print maps in the Ottawa Resource Collection (OTTR) in room 581.  There are links to sites such as Fire Insurance Plans, historical topographic mapsGeoOttawa (Beta) as well as image respositories, historical aerial images and more!
  • GIS MacOdrum Library including Open Data Ottawa - an in-depth resource for GIS map and data support. 
  • Old Maps Online a catalogue of historical maps found on the web by the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and Klokan Technologies in Switzerland.  Browse and search old maps by panning and zooming, along with a search bar and a slider for time.

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. 

On this page:

Ottawa Timeline -- What was a "Police Village" -- From the 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.
Historical County:  Carleton County
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)

From the 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. 
  • See News  
  • Government documents are embedded within the OTTR collection-consult OMNI for holdings
  • Search our Archives.  For additional help, consult ASC 
  • Search OMNI for print maps and see Maps, Plans and Images for online cartographic information and images
  • Consult ASC for additional support  

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: August 4, 2020