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ACA 2021 Conference: An Interview with Greg Bak

25 May 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

ACA 2021 Virtual Conference - June 7-11, 2021

[Dark blue and red banner of the ACA Virtual Conference 2021 - Home Improvement. Featuring drawings of a house, a hammer, a nail, a construction barrier, and a ruler]

The ACA 2021 Annual conference is approaching fast! In the Field: The ACA blog is featuring the profile of a few members who will be presenting at the conference, June 7-11, 2021. Today we are featuring the profile of Greg Bak, Associate Professor at the University of Manitoba. 

[Portrait of Greg Bak, smiling, in front of a light blue and light green wall]

Title of your presentation to the ACA 2021 conference?

I am part of two ACA presentations. The first is “Reflecting and Imagining Visions for Archival Education”, which is a roundtable discussion among students, recent graduates and archival educators from several archival Master’s programs across Canada. The second is a traditional paper given as part of the panel “We Sing the Archive Electric: A/accessible and Open Source Digital Archives on Indigenous Lands.” My paper will address the colonialism inherent in Manitoba’s generation of hydrocelectricity within the context of the wastefulness of current digital preservation techniques and infrastructures.

Can you walk us through your academic and professional path? 

My path was neither straight nor narrow! In 2001 I left Dalhousie University with a PhD in History that examined sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English ideas about Islam, as well as an MLIS. Over the course of a decade I worked in various library, digital information management and digital archiving positions, before landing at Library and Archives Canada, where I worked as a Senior Digital Archivist and Acting Manager for the Government Records Digital Office. In 2011 I was hired by the University of Manitoba to teach and research digital archives in the Joint Master’s Program of the Department of History. At UManitoba I’ve mostly taught archival studies, although I also offer the occasional undergraduate course in history of digital cutlure.

What brought you to the field of archival studies and practice? 

This one is easy: my love of history and information management. I fondly remember working as a digital information manager at a health agency in Ottawa and dipping into Archivaria as I was prepping for my interview at LAC. I don’t know how or why I turned to this article in particular, but I recall reading Rick Brown’s “Records Acquisition Strategy and Its Theoretical Foundation: The Case for a Concept of Archival Hermaneutics” and feeling like I’d found my home. I love archival studies for its deep engagement with theory, anchored by the specific needs of archival practice.

What does the theme of the ACA 2021 conference, “Home Improvement: Building Archives Through Change,” mean to you in terms of overall archival orientations and practice? 

Such a timely conference theme! So many changes. For my paper on the colonialism inherent in the hydroelectricity used in digital preservation, I hope that the changes include an increasing awareness of the environmental and other impacts of current digital preservation practices. For my contribution to the roundtable on archival education, I hope that the change that we are building is one of increasing diversity in the archival workforce, and in archival theory. The latter is just as important as the former.

Can you tell us about your research approach and perspectives? 

Since I don’t work in an archives at the moment, and haven’t for a while, my research involves thinking through archival theory and practice as historically and culturally contingent. I enjoy collaborating with others and have often contributed to group-authored publications. I firmly believe that collaboration allows us to see multiple perspectives and makes us all smarter. Or at least me!

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