Windsor Public Library Annual Reports account a special committee appointed with the responsibility of collection and preserving donations of old papers and documents as early as 1896, and of the importance of collecting and preserving the rare documents regarding early history (1897).
A donation to the library in 1909 of a valuable collection of minerals and fossils in a cabinet was placed in the general reading room at Carnegie, where it became an object of interest to visitors to the library.
During 1912, the WPL board began building up the collection of old and rare books, especially those pertaining to Canada and Canadian matters. The old and rare books were kept in a special department available to customers by request to the librarian.
Board member George F. Macdonald, a keen local historian gifted an extensive collection of manuscripts, maps, books relating to Windsor and area to the WPL in 1943. His collection of antiques was eventually donated to the WPL’s museum, at the François Baby House. Another feature of the archives was the WPL’s collection of newspaper archives at first collecting the actual printings, and as technology advanced, on microfilm in the reference room of the Carnegie, and later in the second floor Reference Section of the Main Library. All of Windsor’s local newspapers were collected, including the Windsor Herald (1855), and other early ephemera, donated by George F. Macdonald. The Windsor Daily Star and now The Windsor Star, up to 1988, publications are available on microfilm at the Main Library. In 1994, the Windsor Star closed its library facilities to the public and referred people to access resources at the Windsor Public Library and the University of Windsor archives. Newspaper archives from the 1990s are now available through online databases at the WPL branches.
While the Carnegie Library housed archival materials, it wasn’t until the Main Library was built in 1973 that the WPL had a dedicated Archives area. In November 1982, the WPL Board resolved to approach the City Administrator and municipal department heads to establish “a system for the retention and preservation of municipal records according to professionally agreed upon archival criteria …” (WPL Board Minutes, December 7, 1982.) Prior to this, the City’s archives had been stored and maintained in the vault of the old Downtown Market building. In 1984, the so-called Municipal Archives became the official repository of the archives of the City of Windsor.
The mandate of the Archive is to contribute to scholarship in the science of preservation and cataloguing manuscripts, sharing information with the public, academics and even other archives and local organizations. In September, 1993, the Canadian Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres expressed appreciation to the WPL Board for supporting their conference in Windsor. In 1994, the WPL Board received a matching grant from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation to hire an Archives Assistant to process the records of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. Also in 1994, archivist Linda Chakmak staged an exhibition of archival materials at the Art Gallery of Windsor.
In 2000, the Archives Department was officially renamed Windsor’s Community Archives; it occupied 3,100 sq ft with 2400 cubic ft of materials. According to CEO Steve Salmons, “the collection is comprised of approximately 8,000 photographs, 20,000 sets of architectural drawings, maps and plans, 1800 cubic feet of textual documentation” (Report, September 6, 2000). Windsor’s Community Archives has outgrown its space and cannot collect much more material for now, but is used frequently by members of the public.