Tapestry project City of ottawa Archives
The launch was held at City Hall on Nov. 17. Image: Launch of Tapestry Project/ City of Ottawa.
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A multi-phased project aimed to diversify the City’s archives

On Nov. 17, the City of Ottawa launched the Tapestry Project, an initiative that hopes to diversify the City’s Archive collection by engaging with various communities in Ottawa.

The initiative is a collaboration between the City of Ottawa Archives and the Friends of the City of Ottawa Archive (FCOA). At the launch event, city archivist, Paul Henry, opened the ceremony by speaking on the impact this project will have on the city’s archives.

Henry said that everyone has a part to play, and hopes to hear from community members in order to enhance and diversify the archives.

The Tapestry Project is a multi-phased project that hopes to start new discussions and enables connections with diverse communities in Ottawa. Communities that the City is collaborating with include the Chinese community, the South Asian community, the Caribbean diaspora, and the LGBTQIA+ communities.

Jacquie Benjamin, chair of FCOA and the Tapestry Project, stated that not only is the project looking to create community archives, but is also hoping to assist communities in creating their own archives. She stated that the purpose of this initiative is to empower and elevate Ottawa’s archives because “we all contribute to the community that Ottawa is.”

Benjamin spoke on the meaning behind the name of this project, explaining how the tapestry is a piece of fabric, “it is the fibres that bond us together.”

The evening continued with multiple speakers from the communities that are involved in the project.

Canadian poet, George Elliot Clark, spoke on the importance of archives and preserving history.

“The best way to understand the history of your community… is by looking through archives,” he said. “We are the products of our histories, and we need to know our histories to understand the past and how to create a better future for our communities,.”

Don Kwan, a queer third-generation Chinese visual artist, walked the audience through some of his artworks and their significance. Kwan explained how art is a great tool to start a conversation and heal.

Kwan uses his art as a way to reflect on his history and explain how archiving is so important to better understand these histories.

Allison Everett, a Caribbean woman and educator at Carleton University, spoke on why this project is so important. Everett stated there was never a formal place to learn about the diversity in Ottawa, as a Caribbean, unless it was in your own home or community.

She later stated that in Ottawa, there’s often a lack of collective history, which is why the Tapestry Project will be a great place to start building this history.

The City of Ottawa Archives and FCOA are looking for members of the Chinese, South Asian, LGBTQIA+ communities, and the Caribbean diaspora to reach out to them in you are interested in donating any documents or media that can be added to the Archives. You can learn more by clicking here.