Primary contact1250 Grand Lake Rd., PO Box 5300
Sydney, Nova Scotia
Mother St. Margaret of Scotland (Sister Margaret Beaton), in her role as Librarian at Xavier Junior College, recognized that many documents of historical and literary significance to Cape Breton Island were being lost due to neglect and the lack of an appropriate repository. In a pro-active response to this challenge Sr. Beaton began collecting Cape Breton related documents and artifacts with the objective of preserving materials of historic significance for future scholars.
It all began in 1957 with the acquisition of the first manuscript - The Minutes of the First Agricultural Meeting in Cape Breton. Today, the Beaton Institute is recognized in the archival community as having a rich regional collection including: 3,000 manuscript collections, 60,000 images, 2,500 sound recordings, 1,500 video cassettes and film reels, 1,500 reference books, 2,000 maps and plans.
This collecting, in the beginning, was sporadic and unplanned - more serendipitous in nature, but fruitful all the same. By 1966, Sister Margaret turned her attention to building Cape Bretoniana and the College of Cape Breton Archives on a full-time basis. Cape Bretoniana grew substantially during these years with several appeals to the local community for donations of archival material. As a result there was the on-going need for additional space for the archives, first housed within the library then in the MacDonald Arts Building on George Street in Sydney, followed by a move to the MacLeod Building on Nepean Street in 1967 and then to the Logue Building at George and Pitt Streets in 1970.
In 1975, Cape Bretoniana was expanded to include two main divisions: the Archives and Institute Library, and the division of Ethnic Studies, Folklore and the Social and Cultural History of Cape Breton Island. In the same year the Archives was struck a blow with the sudden death of Sr. Beaton as a result of a car accident. The direction of the Archives was taken on by Dr. Malcolm MacLellan as an interim measure until the appointment of Dr. Robert Morgan as the permanent director and archivist. The Archives was renamed, the Beaton Institute, in honour of its foundress and as a pledge that the work of this outstanding woman would continue.
In 1979, the Institute, along with the rest of the Sydney Campus, moved to its new location on the Grand Lake Road. The Institute was located in the Information and Communications Centre near the Library and Art Gallery. The expanded quarters and improved facilities were the culmination of many years of planning and made the Institute one of Canada's important regional archives.