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“Archiving the Personal” at ACA McGill’s 13th Annual Colloquium

20 May 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

The ACA McGill Student Chapter hosted its 13th Annual Colloquium on Tuesday, March 10th, 2020 at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. The theme of this year’s Colloquium was “Archiving the Personal” and speakers offered a vast range of perspectives on how personal experiences and personal information shape archival practice.  

After a brief introduction by current ACA McGill Coordinator Nicholas Decarie, we heard from our first speaker, Marcel Caya—the Quebec regional director of the National Archival Appraisal Board. Caya gave an informative talk on the “Monetary Appraisal of Personal Archives: a Tool for Acquisition.” Following his presentation, audience members were brimming with questions about the appraisal of digital archival material and on the increasing appraisal of digital groups of private papers. 

Marcel Caya (Photograph by Katherine Sorrell Kirkpatrick) 

François Dansereau—Senior Archivist at the Archive of the Jesuits in Canada—followed Caya with his presentation on “The ‘Personal’ in Institutional Archives: Or How Personal Photo Albums Open Up Narratives.” Using a case study from the McGill University Health Centre Archives and Special Collections, Dansereau demonstrated how personal archives can be used to complement institutional records in order to share lesser-known historical narratives. 

François Dansereau (Photograph by Katherine Sorrell Kirkpatrick) 

Following the presentation from Dansereau, we heard from Jonathan Dorey—a Research Officer for a Quebec University consortium composed of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique, École nationale d’administration publiquein Montréal. Dorey gave a presentation entitled “From Personal Papers to Research Data: Archival Theory in Context,” where he compared and contrasted perspectives from his own experiences working for the Quebec Gay Archives and working in research data management. He discussed the difficulty in applying archival theories such as appraisal, selection, original order, and description in the highly personal and complex contexts he has worked in.    

ACA McGill’s Coordinator Nicholas Decarie gave the final presentation before our lunch break. The graduating McGill Master of Information Studies candidate presented on “The Decarie Family Archives: Building a Cloud-Based Archive.” He described his own and his family members’ efforts to archive their family history. Decarie’s efforts have focused on digitizing photographs, videos, and textual records to be preserved in his own digital repository, currently hosted on a Google Drive platform. He discussed some pros and cons of a cloud storage approach and challenges he has faced. 

Following a lunch break, first-year Master of Information Studies candidate and ACA McGill’s First-Year Representative, Sean Sallis-Lyon, gave a presentation entitled “Quality Archives on a Budget.” Sallis-Lyon discussed his experience in information technology (IT) consulting and his preferred digital storage strategy for his budding family archive. The question period was an opportunity for constructive feedback about file formats and related challenges in digital archiving. 

Lori Podolsky—a Sessional Lecturer at the McGill School of Information Studies and PhD student—offered a compelling presentation on “The Emotive Archives: the Personal Within.” Her presentation involved personal anecdotes from her experiences as a volunteer, a researcher, an archivist, and her family’s historian. Podolsky spoke about challenges and considerations archivists must face when handling sensitive, personal archival material. 

McGill School of Information Studies Sessional Lecturer, Gordon Burr, gave his talk on “Archiving the Emotional and the Personal: The Case of Fred Wigle” to finish off the day. Burr revealed how personal narratives can become submerged by the scope of records found in the archives, and how the archivist must be willing to confront these emotional materials while remaining aware of how their own experiences shape their interactions with such records. 

Gordon Burr (Photograph by Katherine Sorrell Kirkpatrick) 

We are grateful to the Association of Canadian Archivists for offering funds to support this event, as well as to all of our guest speakers and ACA McGill volunteers. This event could not have been the success that it was without the tremendous amount of support we received. Thank you to everyone who attended: we look forward to welcoming new and returning guests to our event next year! 


Jazmine Aldrich

Jazmine Aldrich recently completed her first year in the Master of Information Studies program at McGill University. She served as an Assistant Coordinator for the ACA McGill Student Chapter in the 2019-2020 school year, and will share the role of Coordinator with her colleague Katherine Sorrell Kirkpatrick in the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. 

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