More than 50 years ago, a librarian at Xavier Junior College began collecting documents related to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia people and the island’s Gaelic history. Sister Margaret Beaton left the school’s library in 1966 to work at the archives when it became obvious that the growing collection needed a permanent manager. The archives were renamed in her honor after she was killed in a car crash in 1975.
Today, more than 1.5 kilometres of archival material is stored at the Beaton Institute, which has moved to Cape Breton University. Resources at the Beaton Institute include about 3,000 manuscript collections, more than 150,000 images and about 4,000 audio and video recordings. Its staff gets more than 3,500 research requests each year, some from scholars and others from the public.
On the walls hang yellowed maps bearing the names of the families that lived across Cape Breton County. It’s on these maps that some tourists are able to pick out the area where their ancestors lived, and after they consult a city directory from the early 20th century, they can pinpoint an address to see if the old homestead still stands.
You can read more about the Beaton Institute in an article written by Laura Fraser and published in the Chronicle Herald's web site at http://www.thechronicleherald.ca/NovaScotian/1059522.html.