Our History

The Provincial Archives of Alberta dates back to 1906, when the Provincial Library was established. The Library collected, published archival material. There is evidence that Katherine Hughes served as the first Provincial Archivist within the Provincial Library as early as 1908.

Plans to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday in 1967 had been percolating since 1959, when the federal government announced that grants would be available to each province to mark the occasion. The Alberta government chose to celebrate the country’s centennial year by building a provincial archives to house and make available public documents relating to the history of the province, as well as a provincial museum.

In 1962, the Government established a Museums Branch under the Department of the Provincial Secretary to guide the establishment of the Provincial Museum and Archives. The Branch began to accept records from government and private sources in 1963, and a year later in 1964, major acquisitions - such as the Harry Pollard photographic collection - were made by the newly established Archives.

In 1966, construction on Phase II of the new building took place. That same year, the first Provincial Archives Act was passed, under which the Public Documents Committee was established. Recruitment of technical and professional staff for the Provincial Archives also began in earnest.

The Provincial Museum and Archives officially opened their new building in Glenora, constructed under the Confederation Memorial Grants program, on December 6, 1967. More technical, professional and administrative staff members were added during the year and acquisitions continued to grow.

In the 1990s, it became clear the Provincial Archives had outgrown its space when it started warehousing collections offsite. The need for a new building became apparent. In October 2003, the Archives officially opened the doors to its new location, an impressive 11,000 square metre building situated on a six hectare (14.8 acre) site in southeast Edmonton on Roper Road. Funding for the construction of the new building was made possible through grants from the Alberta Centennial Legacy Project Program.

About Sandra Thomson

Sandra Thomson (1950-2004) was Provincial Archivist from 1993-2004.

Dr. Sandra Thomson strove to ensure the Provincial Archives of Alberta and the archival community were valued and used by Albertans from all walks of life to their fullest potential. She worked tirelessly behind the scenes to promote and raise public awareness about the Provincial Archives, and her dedicated and persistent advocacy led to the acquisition of the new and larger home that the Archives moved into in 2003.

Dr. Thomson saw the Provincial Archives as core to understanding the history of Alberta, envisioning a more user-friendly space where genealogists, scholars, journalists, students and business people could more easily access the unique records and primary sources held in the Archives' vaults. She strongly believed that a society without an understanding of its history could not prepare or plan for the future, and worked every day to promote the appreciation and understanding of Alberta's individual culture and history through the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Dr. Thomson also provided a strong voice for the Archives Society of Alberta, which serves all archives across the province of Alberta.

The Sandra Thomson Reading Room is named in her honour.