Government of Ontario     |    

Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery

An Overview of the Collection

The collections held by the Archives of Ontario are a rich resource for the study of the history and people of the province. The collections are assembled on a total archives concept, meaning they document both the government work of the province as well as the private lives of its citizens. Over a variety of media, from textual records to film, photographs, maps and drawings, the Archives of Ontario strives to capture all aspects of Ontario history.

Our archival collection is divided into two categories: government and private. This collection is further enhanced by the J. J. Talman Library and the Government of Ontario Art Collection.

Government Records

The majority of the records in the collections of the Archives were created by the Government of Ontario and its predecessors in the fulfillment of its legal and administrative functions. These records date from the late eighteenth century to the present day. They document political and legal decisions, the evolution of provincial administration, the interaction between the government and its citizens, and provide key evidence of the rights and responsibilities of Ontarians.

By far the most popular government records are historical registrations of births, marriages and deaths. Our Vital Statistics web pages provide information on what vital statistics records we hold and how to use them.

Beyond textual records, the government collection includes many photographic and audio-visual records. Of particular note are the recently acquired Ministry of Natural Resources aerial photographs, which added over a million photographs to our already extensive photography collection.

Private Sector Records

Since 1903, the Archives of Ontario has been acquiring records from the private sector. The Archives holds the records of over 2,600 private individuals, businesses, clubs and associations, labour and political organizations.

The records include a large variety of collections, ranging from the architectural records of the Horwood Collection, to the film archives of CFPL-TV, to the business records of the T. Eaton Company, as well as the lives of individuals such as former premier John P. Robarts or the influential Simcoe Family.


The J. J. Talman Library at the Archives of Ontario is a research and reference collection for the general public and the staff of the Archives. There are approximately 75,000 books, pamphlets, Ontario Government publications, periodicals, microfilm, microfiche and other printed and published items in the Library's collections.

Most of the Library collections relate to the social, political, economic, cultural and military history of the Province of Ontario. This material provides context and analysis and assists in interpreting and understanding the archival material (government records and private papers/collections) held at the Archives of Ontario.

Art Collection

The Government of Ontario Art Collection currently comprises over 2,700 original works of art. Administered by the Archives of Ontario, the collection includes paintings, murals, works on paper, indoor and outdoor sculpture, antique furnishings and decorative objects.

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