Learn about the archives

Discover the story of one of Canada’s top ranked universities, which grew from traditional roots and was transformed through the turbulent 60s. SFU Archives has been acquiring, preserving and providing access to university records and records created by private individuals and organizations that support research and learning since 1968. 

In our holdings you will uncover stories of social activism, the struggle for women's rights, and movements and industries that have shaped British Columbia. You will find the stories of individuals like W.A.C. Bennett, Maggie Benston, and Simon Fraser himself, and unexpected material too -- such as a letter from Martin Luther King to the SFU Student Society and material relating to the art and science of beekeeping. The documents and photos of the dynamic personalities associated with SFU and the broader community contain a wealth of information and insights. 

Watch this video to learn more about the Archives and the rich collection of materials available for teaching, learning and your research and creative projects.

Book a tour or class

Facilitate new learning experiences through the SFU Archives. Staff archivists are available to host classes, providing an introduction to our collections and instruction in finding and using primary source materials.

Contact us at 778-782-2195

SFU History Guides

SFU Archives preserves important historical documents and images, much of which is used to educate and inform about the history and events with which the campus has been connected. Browse this section to learn more about SFU's history.

Looking for more curated content to get you started? Check out our Thematic Research Guides here.

SFU Historical Photos

What does an Archivist do?

Curious to learn more about the work that goes into acquiring, preserving and making archival collections accessible at SFU? Read on to discover what archivists do behind the scenes:

In order to build archival research holdings, an archivist will work closely with the records creator or their representative(s) to acquire records that fit the Archives' acquisitions policy. They will negotiate the terms of the donation, including any restrictions that might be placed on material. In the case of university records, the records management archivist facilitates the transfer of records scheduled for permanent retention to the archives.

When a body of material comes to the SFU Archives, the archivist keeps it together under the name of the organization or person that created it. That is to say, by its provenance. The archivist arranges the records according to the original order in which the creator kept them. Provenance and original order preserve the evidential value and context of the records. For example, if a letter dated 30 years ago is found with notes for a book published ten years later, a researcher might be able to deduce that the letter was used in the research for the book. 

Once the records are arranged, the archivist describes the material according to Canadian archival descriptive standards and enters the descriptions into our SFU AtoM database, where they can be accessed online by researchers. The resulting descriptions form the finding aid for the fonds or collection. In some cases, digital copies of the records are linked to the descriptive record, allowing researchers to access material remotely.

During the arrangement and description process, the archivist will physically transfer the records into acid free storage materials to help prevent their deterioration. Records on fragile media (such as reel-to-reel tapes) will be digitized and the resulting files, along with any born-digital records received as part of the donation, are transferred into our Archivematica system where they are prepared for digital preservation[link], ensuring that they are around for many years to come. 

Once records are arranged, described and preserved, SFU Archives staff work to provide access to the material in person and online, subject to any restrictions that might apply.