Reference and Research

Nova Scotia Archives

Reference and Research

Research Floor

The research floor is located on the third floor of the Archives and provides access to all reference services. As a courtesy to other researchers, please refrain from unnecessary noise when consulting with staff or other researchers. Mobile phones should be set to silent or vibrate at all times. If necessary, please conduct your phone conversations in the area behind the elevators on the research floor.

Retrieval Procedures

Staff are available to assist researchers in completing request slips for the retrieval of original records or closed stack library items. Please note that retrieval of materials ceases 30 minutes prior to closing time and is limited on Wednesday evenings and Saturdays.

Researchers may only work with one box of original material or three files or items (e.g., maps, photographs) at any one time.

Access to or use of the following kinds of archival records may be delayed or restricted because of their physical condition: oversized items; fragile material; documentary art; special media (film and sound). Additionally, some materials, particularly Government Records may be governed by access restrictions or require review before release to a researcher. Every effort will be made to accommodate retrieval requests with limited delay. Nova Scotia Archives reserves the right to restrict retrieval of material previously available, based on the current physical condition of the records. All material must be returned 15 minutes prior to closing time.

Microform Holdings

Microform holdings include Nova Scotia Archives collections copied for preservation and copies of materials held elsewhere. Microfilm and microfiche readers are available in the research floor. Most microfilm is stored in numbered boxes on self-service shelving. Microfilm is shelved two-deep with even numbers on the outside. Original material available on microfilm will not be retrieved. Red bands on a microfilm box indicate that the contents may not be digitally saved or printed. You may make notes for personal research.

On busy days, researchers may be asked to restrict their use of microfilm machines to a 30-minute session. Equipment may be used only for microfilm held by the Nova Scotia Archives or ordered through the Nova Scotia Archives Inter-library Loan Service. Researchers may not bring in their own microfilm or microfilm obtained from other institutions.

When you are finished using microfilm, please rewind it and return it to the reference desk.

Wednesday Evening and Saturday Service

Researchers have access to:

  • all open shelf microfilm holdings
  • all open-shelf library holdings
  • all finding aids and card catalogues
  • extensive resource tools which include select digitized maps and photograph holdings
  • pre-booked archival and library materials

In order to pre-book materials for use on Wednesday evening or Saturday, researchers must leave a request slip for the required material at the third floor reference desk before 3:00 pm Wednesday for Wednesday evening use and before 3:00 pm on Friday for Saturday use. Requests may also be submitted via e-mail at or phone 902-424-6060. The full call number and/or reference code is required to pre-book material.

Copying and Use of Archival and Library Holdings

Reproduction and use of archival and library materials held by the Nova Scotia Archives are subject to Canadian copyright law, donor agreements, and the physical condition of the material. Researchers are responsible for all questions of copyright that may arise in the provision or use of reproductions. Please see Copying Services for further information on the copying services we provide and information regarding the use of Archives’ materials. No public photocopying facilities are available. Hand-held scanners and similar scanning devices are not permitted.

Nova Scotia Archives allows researchers, in consultation with staff, to photograph material from its holdings for the purpose of personal research. Any use of the digital copy for a purpose other than personal research will require authorization from the Nova Scotia Archives or, if copyright is not vested in the Archives, authorization from the copyright owner is required. Obtaining this copyright authorization is the responsibility of the researcher. Requests to photograph material will be reviewed by reference staff and permission will be based on condition, preservation restrictions and physical size of the material; copyright restrictions; and donor agreement restrictions. Materials must be handled carefully in accordance with the Archives’ care and handling guidelines. Cameras, smart phones, and tablets are permitted. The use of flash and/or lighting equipment, scanners, tripods, or video recorders is prohibited. Original material available on microfilm, our Beamish digital delivery tool, or our website will not be made available for researcher photography.

Care and Handling of Archival Material

Archival material is unique and irreplaceable. Regrettably, people pose the most constant threat to archival material. In order to assist the Archives in the preservation and security of our archival holdings, you must observe the following rules:

  • Pencils only may be used for all work done on the research floor. The use of ink, ball-point or felt-tip pens is absolutely prohibited. Staff can provide pencils if required. Never mark on archival or library material in any way.
  • Ensure that your hands are clean and dry and free from hand moisturizers or sanitizers when handling original material. When requested, use cotton gloves provided by staff.
  • Handle archival and library material as little as possible and with great care. Report any damage to staff immediately.
  • Remove only one folder at a time from boxes to prevent loss of original order. Do not use archival documents or file folders as place holders in boxes or files. Acid free place holders are available at the reference desk. Do not rearrange or disturb the order of archival material, even if it appears to be out of order. Do not remove staples and pins. If fasteners must be removed in order to read documents, ask staff for assistance. Report problems to staff.
  • Do not pull out items for copying requests. Do not use adhesive sticky notes to flag pages or documents. Ask staff for acid-free paper strips. Speak to staff about how to place orders for copies of original material.
  • Keep folders and pages flat on the table or on a foam bookrest available on request to ensure proper support. Use foam book supports or the map and newspaper table when requested by staff.
  • Do not tap pages to realign them in a folder. Do not lick fingers to turn pages. This is for your own well-being as well as for protection of the document.
  • Do not hold documents up to the light for examination. A light table is available.
  • Do not lean on archival or library material or place paper over it to take notes or to make tracings.
  • Observe directions given by staff when using sound and moving image. Ask for assistance if needed.
  • No archival or library material may be removed from the research floor.
  • Never remove cards from the card catalogues or pages from finding aids.

banner image: Len Wagg - Wagg-7033   Nova Scotia Archives by Len Wagg

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