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ACA@UBC’s 13th Annual Seminar and Symposium

5 Jul 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous

By Kailey Fukushima, Jordan Kerr, and Emma Moros

Kailey Fukushima is a dual master’s student in Archival Studies and Library and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia. She earned her Master’s of Arts in English from the University of Victoria in 2020. Kailey is currently the ACA@UBC webmaster and communications executive.

Jordan Kerr is a dual master’s student in Archival Studies and Library and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia. She earned her BA (honours) in history and sociology from the University of Victoria in 2021. Jordan is the former events coordinator and current publicity executive for the ACA@UBC.

Emma Moros is a former communications professional and current student at UBC, pursuing a dual Masters of Archival Studies and Library and Information Studies. They were the communications executive for the ACA@UBC from 2021-2022 and are now a co-coordinator.


The student-run University of British Columbia Chapter of the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA@UBC) hosted its 13th annual Symposium and Seminar in an all virtual format on April 28-29, 2022. ACA@UBC welcomed twenty-seven dynamic speakers from around the world to discuss our central theme, “Transforming Archival Education.” This year’s conference theme asked archival communities to challenge and broaden their understanding of who archival education can serve and how, asking how does someone learn to be a good archivist, and what does being a “good archivist” mean? Seminar and Symposium topics ranged from decolonizing archival education, to working with non-archivists in archives, to teaching technology in archives.

Of particular note in this year’s event was the inclusion of student lightning talks as well as the flexible virtual format. During the student talks, four archival students spoke about their ongoing projects and explained how their work could support or expand archival education. Even though the virtual format had some limitations, it allowed us to include speakers and attendees who may have been unable to join an in-person event due to reasons such as distance, cost, travel, time, and conflicts with care responsibilities. Informal community-building was still possible in a new format via our dedicated conference Padlet, and some attendees even hosted their own small in-person listening parties!


The ACA@UBC Seminar took place during the first day of the two-day event, and attendees heard from ​​Jessica Bushey, Lisa Darms, Karen Suurtamm, and Ashlynn Prasad about their experiences working with non-archivists in the archives, and best practices they have identified for doing so. The role of emotional connection of donors and archival users to archives was a prominent point of discussion in this panel, which Jennifer Douglas, Anna St. Onge, Nicola Laurent, and Emily Larson expanded on during the “Preparing for Emotional Archives'' session. They spoke about emotional labour in the archival profession and the importance of community support and trauma-informed education and training for archivists. In the “Decolonization of Archival Practices and Education” panel, Tamara Rayan, Elizabeth Shaffer, Jesse Boiteau, and Danielle Robichaud came together to discuss decolonizing approaches to archival work and education. This included the colonial history of archives in Canada, the need for archival students to learn about decolonial theory and practice throughout their coursework, and examples of decolonizing work in Canada and Palestine. Krista McCracken, Moska Rokay, Marika Cifor, and Tomoko Shida concluded the day by speaking about “Unlearning Archival Education” and discussing how their work and academic experiences in other disciplines expanded and shaped their archival work.


After a full day of interactive panel discussions, we returned on April 29 with a more familiar conference-style presentation format for the ACA@UBC Symposium.

Graduate students Whitney Thompson, Nigel Town, Josh Wilson, and Charlotte Leonard kicked off the Symposium with 10-minute lightning talks in the “Student Voices” panel. Whitney Thompson presented her creative class project, Provenance--a Twine-based interactive fiction game that teaches players about fundamental archival concepts.  Next, Nigel Town discussed their co-op at the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre, focusing on their contributions to the Women of Change exhibit. Josh Wilson then discussed his research on how critical theory could help build capacity for liberatory archival futures based on structured interviews he conducted with practicing archivists. Charlotte Leonard wrapped up the panel with a presentation on her work as an archivist for the Karen Jamieson Dance Company, with a special focus on the Coming Out of Chaos: A Vancouver Dance Story project. Attendees gave us positive feedback about this year’s inclusion of students’ voices and experiences, and we hope to feature similar opportunities in next year’s conference! 

After “Student Voices,” we launched into two panels of traditional 20-minute conference-style presentations. First, Elaine Goh and Mpho Ngoepe presented on “Teaching non-Western Archives.” Elaine gave a critical review of Singapore’s archival histories, traditions, and systems of education. Mpho explained some disconnects among traditional archival concepts and South African modes of cultural documentation (e.g., showcasing African rock art archives) and then reflected on contemporary attempts to decolonize and Africanize archival curricula. The next panel, “Teaching Tech in Archives,” featured Richard Arias-Hernández and Walker Sampson. Richard discussed his pedagogical approach to teaching technology in archives, emphasizing community-engaged practices and experiential learning. Walker followed by reflecting on the challenges that video game archives pose to conventional archival practices and how the process of play can be preserved in video game archives. These two panels sparked lots of thought and discussion among our virtual audiences. 

Our final panel of the day featured Rebecka Taves Sheffield and Sam Winn on “Teaching Community and Personal Archives.” After giving brief 10-minute introductions, the speakers opened the floor up for an interactive Ask Me Anything (AMA) session. Audience members asked questions about the role of community ownership of oral histories, death positivity in personal memory work, and self-care when engaging with emotionally-charged community and personal records, ending with a reflection on the values that community and personal archival practices might bring to traditional archives and recordkeeping. 

 After another full day of thought-provoking presentations, we wrapped up the Seminar and Symposium with closing remarks from our co-coordinator Kisun Kim and our faculty advisor, Professor Luciana Duranti. Luciana tied together many strands of thought from both days of the Seminar and Symposium, relating them to the broader history of recordkeeping and gesturing towards hopeful possibilities for the transformative futures of archival practice. 

Key Takeaways 

As we reflect on the many insightful discussions and presentations given by our twenty-seven speakers in the wake of our thirteenth annual ACA@UBC Seminar and Symposium, we wish to refer back to our guiding questions: how does someone learn to be a good archivist, and what does being a “good archivist” mean? The events of this year’s Seminar and Symposium offer an answer to this broad question.  Learning to be (and being) a good archivist requires flexibility in our ever-shifting professional and academic positions. It is essential to facilitate discussions between students, professionals, and academics because we are forever switching between these roles and learning from one another. In closing, if our Seminar and Symposium is any indication, the archival discipline is heading towards an exciting transformation– one we as students are thrilled to be a part of.

On behalf of the ACA@UBC Executive Team of 2021-2022, we want to conclude by thanking everyone who helped make the ACA@UBC Seminar and Symposium a success. To all of the speakers, thank you for the generous gift of your time and for spurring so many thought-provoking discussions. Thank you to all of our student volunteers for moderating the panel discussions, presentations, and the chats, and to Dr. Luciana Duranti, our faculty advisor, for her supportive guidance during the planning of the event and for providing closing remarks. Thank you as well to the live captioning team who helped us with virtual conference accessibility. We are also deeply grateful for the generous support of the Association of Canadian Archivists, ARMA Vancouver, the Archives Association of British Columbia, and the Alma Mater Society of the University of British Columbia, which made this event possible.

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