The HWDSB Educational Archives and Heritage Centre acts as a resource and museum for school memorabilia, artifacts, photographs, documents and other items for Hamilton and Wentworth County schools dating back to the mid 1800s. It is one of the largest repositories of its kind within Canada, and a testament to the dedication of staff, students and members of the public to preserve the history of education in Hamilton and surrounding areas.
A Brief History
The Hamilton Board of Education established the Archives in 1988 as a place to house and preserve their growing collection of vintage minute books, documents, student records and other significant historic artifacts . When the Hamilton and Wentworth County school boards amalgamated in 1998 to form the HWDSB, the Archives grew to include the records and memorabilia of almost 350 former and current WCBE schools.
Since then, the Archives has developed into a more formally structured environment, maintaining residence in multiple facilities, starting with the former Ainslie Wood Vocational School, followed by a nearly 20-year period in the former Vincent Massey Elementary School on Macassa Avenue. Today, the Archives are located in the Hill Park Learning Centre, in a newly renovated facility designed with long-term preservation in mind. Day to day operations are handled by Manager Hal Hillgren and a diligent volunteer group of over 20 members.
Here are just a few of the services we can offer to schools, organizations and individuals:
- Research Requests: Members of the public wishing to gain information into a family member, ancestor or their own records can contact us with Research requests. For further information, please see our Research page. Please note that we do not retain transcripts. For those requests, please contact the Student Records department instead.
- Collecting Memorabilia: When a school is deemed surplus or otherwise set for closure, proper planning is undertaken by the Archives to meet with staff and arrange a visit to ensure the retrieval and storage of historically significant items for inclusion in our collection.
- School Reunion Assistance: Schools within the HWDSB are invited to contact us for assistance when planning for upcoming reunions and anniversaries. In most cases, we are able to provide historical information on opening dates, former staff lists, and general school history. We can also provide temporary loans of artifacts and memorabilia in our collection for display at the event.
- Outside Assistance: Over the years we have established working relationships with many outside organizations, such as the Ontario Genealogical Society, the Hamilton Mountain Heritage Society, and the Special Collections department of the Hamilton Public Library. Outside groups are more than welcome to contact us with any research or information questions that may be relevant to our holdings.
- Accepting donations: Despite first impressions, many of our most valued artifacts and memorabilia have come from personal donations, rather than directly from schools. If you have items from your school past that might be appropriate for our collection, please visit our Contact page.
If you’re in need of further information regarding historical information for Hamilton and the surrounding regions, be sure to visit the following links:
Can’t visit the Archives in person? No worries, we’re on Instagram! Check us out at @hwdsbedarchives
Also, be sure to check out our YouTube channel, as we feature videos and films from our media collection dating back over 60 years, such as this compilation of 1970s-era Hamilton tours, filmed by former HWDSB teacher and Archives member Murray Aikman: