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In the Field:  The ACA Blog

Contemporary archivists are engaged in a broad range of work within the field of archives. Whether through their work environment; through initiatives in the digital realm; through their involvement with communities to document, preserve, and provide access to their records; and through other outreach endeavours, archivists are involved in a variety of spaces. In the Field is a place for discussion about the wide range of issues encountered and raised in these spaces related to archives, archival education, and archival interventions. 
 
For more information on proposing or submitting a blog post please read and complete the submission form We look forward to reading your contribution! 
 
Catherine Barnwell, In the Field Editor 
The ACA Communications Committee


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  • 18 Apr 2024 3:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    From municipal and federal government to universities, from religious congregations to community organizations, archivists work in a variety of settings. This year, the ACA blog, In the Field, is setting out to talk to archivists across Canada about the unique joys and challenges of their work environments. We will feature a different type of archives each month, with the objective of showcasing the rich spectrum of archival work.

    This month we are featuring academic archives. In today’s post, the In the Field blog chats with Sarah Glassford, an Archivist at the Leddy Library Archives & Special Collections, University of Windsor.

    Q: Can you briefly tell us about your academic and professional path? 

    Sarah: I initially pursued a traditional path to a career as an academic historian: BA, MA, PhD, postdoctoral fellowship, tenure-track job market. It was a great first career, and I loved itbut it did not lead to the geographic or financial stability I wanted. So, I went back to school to earn my MLIS, did some more contract work, and then was hired in a permanence-track position here at the University of Windsor’s Leddy Library. Although I knew I wanted to be an archivist, I chose to do an MLIS degree for pragmatic reasons: I believed it would give me more employment options, and that was important after I had already spent a decade struggling to gain a foothold in the academic job market. I therefore gained most of my archival training not in a degree program, but by pursuing every hands-on training opportunity I could find. That turned out to be a co-op placement, a practicum, volunteer work, and a lot of professional workshops offered by ACA, AAO, NEDCC, and NAAB. 

    I sometimes regret not having been trained in the theory and literature of archival studies, but my MLIS training helped me get current my job, because Leddy is a mid-size university library and everyone has to wear more than one hat (meaning that I do both archival and library work). It also helps me communicate more effectively with my librarian colleaguesI know their lingo and core practices, even if they don’t know mine. Elements of my first career have also been useful: a background in History makes archival arrangement and description faster and easier, and having a PhD generally earns the respect of the faculty members I interact with. My university teaching experience has been an asset in the instructional portion of my archivist and librarian roles. 

    Sarah Glassford in the vault. Credit: Marcie Demmans, Leddy Library, August 2019. Check out this UWindsor DailyNews article featuring Sarah.

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

    Sarah: As a historian I spent a lot of time doing archival research, and always enjoyed the environment of archives. I first got a taste of what archivists do when I helped a voluntary organization organize their historical materials, butI was still committed to my teaching career at the time. I remembered that experience years later, when I was considering a career change, and wondered if it might be a viable option. So, I talked to people I knew with History degrees who were working in either libraries or archives and they were very encouraging. Once I got into it, I realized that archival work suited my natural inclination to enjoy organizing things, and allowed me to make a meaningful contribution to whose histories are told and howquestions I was already interested in from my teaching and research career. 

    Q: What does an average day look like in university archives? 

    Every day is different. Sometimes I am 100% archives-focused; other times I am up to 50% library focused. Some days I work quietly alone in my office doing arrangement and description; other days I attend library committee meetings, give tours to community groups, teach classes primary source literacy skills, or communicate with potential donors. Some days I train or mentor students intraditional archival practice; other days I work closely with staff, librarians, or faculty members on digital projects and outreach initiatives. Some days I work with new acquisitions or do monetary appraisals; other days I wrestle with legacy issues in our archives and try to improve the descriptions of collections we’ve had for decades. Most days it’s some combination of three or four of the above.  

    Q: What is your favourite thing about working in university archives?  What are some of the challenges that are unique to university archives? 

    Sarah: Since I work in a small archives, being a jack-of-all-trades is the name of the game. Paradoxically, this is both my favourite thing and the most challenging part. It can be overwhelming and disheartening to be pulled in so many directions all the time,but it also means I am rarely bored. I have an intimate familiarity with all aspects of our work, collections, patrons, donors, and purpose, and I like that.  

    Specific to being a university archives, I think, is the challenge of being a small sub-unit of a much larger entity (the academic library) that recognizes and values the archives as a close cousin but very rarely understands it. I do a lot of what you might call ongoing low-key advocacy work when interacting with my librarian colleagues, around the differences between the two worlds. It’s important and necessary, but can be a bit wearying. 

    A real benefit of working in a university archives is the opportunity to interact with young adults who are energeticidealistic, and enthusiastic about making the world a better place. I love getting to know a student’s interests and being able to direct their placement work around a collection or project that will be meaningful to them while also improving how our community is reflected in our collections. I’ve supervised student work highlighting women’s history, 2SLGBTQIA+ history, and Black history in our region, and it’s win-win when the students’ efforts not only benefit the archives and its future patrons, but also their own education and personal growth. 

    Q: What do you wish the public understood better about university archives?  What do you wish other archivists understood about university archives?  

    Sarah: Having the words “University of Windsor” in our name sometimes leads people to assume that all we collect are university records, or that the only people who can access our collections are university-affiliated faculty and students. In truth, our archives was created specifically for community collections, and only later in its evolution added university records to its mandate. Windsor is predominantly a blue-collar city, so there is sometimes a tension between town and gown, in terms of whether ordinary citizens feel that anything to do with the university is “for them” or not. About 75% of our archival patrons come from outside the university, but there is still a lot of work to do in terms of building our profile in the community as a trusted partner in regional history preservation and dissemination.

    Collage of Great Lakes items held in Leddy Library Archives & Special Collections. Credit: Sarah Glassford, Leddy Library, April 2024.

    Q: Can you tell us about a project you’ve been working on lately?  

    Sarah: Right now my archives is part of a larger library-wide effort to support an upcoming international conference hosted by the University of Windsor’s Great Lakes Institute of Environmental Research (GLIER). The attractive and interesting historical materials in our Archives and Special Collections (ASC)old maps, historical images of Great Lakes birds, fish, landscapes, etc.will be used to draw conference-goers’ attention to a display highlighting the research potential of our library’s Great Lakes collection (of which ASC materials form a small part). It’s a good example of an archives-library collaboration within a university context, and alsoa microcosm of the way thatthe rare and unique items in the archives’ care are increasingly deployed to help academic libraries define themselves and defend their value in the digital age. In other words: we have cool old stuff you can’t find anywhere else! 

  • 21 Mar 2024 3:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    From municipal and federal government to universities, from religious congregations to community organizations, archivists work in a variety of settings. This year, the ACA blog, In the Field, is setting out to talk to archivists across Canada about the unique joys and challenges of their work environments. We will feature a different type of archives each month, with the objective of showcasing the rich spectrum of archival work.

    This month we are featuring religious archives. In today’s post, the In the Field blog chats with Rhiannon Allen-Roberts, Associate Archivist at Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada Consolidated Archives.

    Q: Can you briefly tell us about your academic and professional path?

    Rhiannon: I completed my Bachelor of Arts with a major in art history at Queen’s University where I had the chance to complete an internship with the National Gallery of Canada at the Canadian Pavilion of the 58th Venice Biennale. I then went on to complete my Master of Library and Information Science degree at Western University where I did an eight-month co-op at Western University’s Archives and Special Collections. While there, my amazing supervisors encouraged me to join professional associations. I joined the Archives Association of Ontario and became Chair of the Student and New Professional Outreach Committee. After I graduated in 2023, I began working with the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada Archives as Associate Archivist on a year-long contract, which turned into a permanent position. I have since joined the Society for American Archivists, where I am part of the Archivists of Religious Collections Section Steering Committee, and the Association of Canadian Archivists, where I am part of the Special Interest Section for Archives of Religious Organizations. I am also part of the AtoM New Users Group and the Archives Canada Working Group.

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

    Rhiannon: I’ve always been passionate about the human side of history, which is why I studied art history. I loved learning about how entwined in daily life art can be and how every aspect of culture can impact art, especially when given the chance to work with some illuminated manuscripts at W.D. Jordan Rare Books and Special Collections for one of my courses. It was from there that I learned about archives and the history within them. I also worked as a historical interpreter at Fort Henry during my time at Queen’s and I really enjoyed being able to connect people with history. Archival studies are the perfect mesh of these interests. I love working with the everyday by-products of life which make up our history and being able to participate in connecting people with said history.

    Rhiannon Allen-Roberts

    Q: What does an average day look like in religious archives?

    Rhiannon: Every day is different! I don’t think there is a single archivist who could say that there are average days. Some days are spent doing arrangement and description, some answering reference inquiries and poring over orphanage registers for genealogists, some digitizing photographs, some going over supplies, some doing training, and some are spent doing all the above! I’ve learned that you need to be flexible as an archivist in your routine and that time management is a critical skill.

    Q: What is your favourite thing about working in religious archives? What are some of the challenges that are unique to religious archives?

    Rhiannon: One of my favourite things about working in a religious archives is the broad scope of the material. We have such a diverse collection of records: corporate, personal, and everything in-between, as well as artifacts and textiles. The Sisters did a variety of work: they were care workers, nurses, administrators, advocates, homemakers, artists, teachers, authors, academics, and so much more. I also enjoy getting to work directly with the religious community who created the records as it’s such a unique opportunity to gain in-depth understanding of their history. It is a real perk to get the chance to work so closely with the creators of the records. 

    I think one of the biggest challenges revolves around privacy. We are making every effort to make our records accessible but have to balance that with protecting the privacy of the Sisters (both living and deceased) and those they’ve worked with. It can a bit of a tightrope to navigate, but having clear policies in place makes it easier. 

    Q: Can you tell us about a project you’ve been working on lately?

    Rhiannon: Our archives is a consolidation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Diocese of London, Hamilton, Pembroke, and Peterborough who amalgamated to form the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada in 2012. Right now, I am arranging and describing a collection of material related to the receptions and professions of Sisters from the London congregation. It is fascinating to learn about the process for becoming a Sister and the deep devotion of these women through their firsthand accounts. 

  • 19 Mar 2024 12:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    From municipal and federal government to universities, from religious congregations to community organizations, archivists work in a variety of settings. This year, the ACA blog, In the Field, is setting out to talk to archivists across Canada about the unique joys and challenges of their work environments. We will feature a different type of archives each month, with the objective of showcasing the rich spectrum of archival work.

    This month we are featuring religious archives. In today’s post, the In the Field blog chats with François Dansereau, Director at The Archive of the Jesuits in Canada in Montreal, QC. 

    Q: Can you briefly tell us about your academic and professional path?

    François: I completed a Master’s degree in U.S. History at Université de Montréal. My initial research topic was exploring the concept of Manifest Destiny and settler-colonial philosophical conceptions. I realized that it required too much examination of religious scriptures, and I finally wrote a thesis on gender representations, especially masculinity, around the time of the U.S. Civil War. I knew I was not going to do a PhD, so I ended up inquiring about library school, without really knowing what it was. But I knew someone who had finished the program and she encouraged me to pursue it. 

    I completed a MLIS degree at McGill University and started to work at the McGill University Archives. I then did other contracts and worked a few years at the Archives of the McGill University Health Centre. I’ve now been at The Archive of the Jesuits in Canada (AJC), in Montreal, since 2020. I’m also a Course Lecturer at the McGill University School of Information Studies, teaching the Preservation Management course. And this Winter, I am teaching an online seminar at Université Laval called “Les enjeux éthiques, juridiques et politiques en archivistique.” 

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

    François: After my MA in History, I sought to use the skills and competencies I acquired to work in heritage/history/cultural institutions. Library school seemed to make that connection, at least theoretically. My first real glimpse into archival work was when I was doing research for my MA degree, and encountered a database called Documenting the South. This was 2005-2006 so the database was pretty impressive at the time. I was fascinated and intrigued by the potential associated with the digitization of archival records, and with online access to unique resources. 

    Q: What does an average day look like in religious archives?

    François: An average day in religious archives is quite similar to any other archival organization. We receive requests from researchers, we process archival fonds and collections, we digitize materials, etc. Since I was named the director of The AJC, in the Fall of 2022, my responsibilities are more associated with project management, grant writing, supporting my colleagues in their activities, having meetings with supervisors and collaborators, etc. We are a small team, but we are trying to develop all the different aspects of collections management.

    Q: What is your favourite thing about working in religious archives? What are some of the challenges that are unique to religious archives?

    François: I am fortunate to work in an organization with a rich—and complex—history, spanning across four centuries. We hold some records from the 17th and 18th centuries, which is not that common in Canada. The Jesuit community was—and is—an organization very much active in society in general. The result is a very diverse history, which transpires in the content emerging from the archival collection. 

    Besides the obvious challenge of resources, understanding Catholic terminology and attempting to connect the meanings of certain religious contexts in archival description can sometimes be challenging. 

    In addition, offering a comprehensive account of settler colonialism and colonial archives, and reflecting about the way we contextualize these through archival interventions, is not easy. For instance, developing anti-colonial archival practices in a context of very concrete encounters between missionaries and Indigenous peoples, across centuries, is not straightforward and requires a lot of profound thinking to develop meaningful actions. There are the connections that we can forge and maintain through archival contact and collaboration with Indigenous groups—which we wish to develop further—, but there are also encounters that of course go beyond the archival questions, and involve active relationships between a religious organization and Indigenous nations. This is pretty challenging, on many levels, but in terms of our archival power and limits, we need more academic research on these issues, more extensive and dynamic interrogations of archival practices, and more collaboration with Indigenous communities that are concerned by and represented in the records. 

    Q: What do you wish the public understood better about religious archives? What do you wish other archivists understood about religious archives?

    François: Religious archives contain a vast array of subjects. In our case, several Jesuits hold PhDs in a diversity of disciplines, from History to Chemistry to Ecology, and, not surprisingly, Theology. The religious component emerges in the fonds and collections, but it is so much richer than that. We are putting that forward in an exhibit we created about Jesuit scientific observatories. Especially in Quebec, until the Quiet Revolution, the Catholic Church was present in all facets of society, including health sciences, education, the arts, and beyond. Religious organizations’ impact on the development of Quebec and Canadian society is broad. The archival records testify to the social, cultural, economic, and political changes of Quebec and Canadian societies.

    Image 1: Aquarelle du Collège Sainte-Marie / Watercolor of Collège Sainte-Marie. Félix Martin, s.j. [185-?]. GLC BO-47.3.5. Archives des jésuites au Canada / The Archive of the Jesuits in Canada.

    Q: Can you tell us about a project you’ve been working on lately?

    François: We are working on a collaborative project with Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) and Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf on Jesuit rhetoric. We are creating an exhibit that sheds light on the pedagogical dimensions and the importance of rhetoric in Jesuit classical colleges’ curricula, and its reach into Montreal society, particularly through theatre. The exhibit will take place at The AJC headquarters, located at the main administration office of the Jesuits of Canada in Montreal. There will also be an online component to the exhibit. Besides our own project, there will be a symposium, a play, and other activities at UQÀM and Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf on that same theme.

    Image 2: Classe de rhétorique, Collège Sainte-Marie / Rhetoric class, Collège Sainte-Marie. [1888 or 1889]. GLC C-1.S6.SS3.D8.13. Archives des jésuites au Canada / The Archive of the Jesuits in Canada.

    From a collections management perspective, we are pursuing collaboration with Indigenous research groups, and we continue to develop reparative description initiatives. That means processing and re-processing particular fonds and collections and digitizing pertinent records. This represents the main priority at The AJC. On that note, specifically about these issues, we are waiting for a few responses on grant proposals that we wrote alongside academic researchers, and other museums, libraries, and archival organizations. 

  • 14 Mar 2024 12:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    From municipal and federal government to universities, from religious congregations to community organizations, archivists work in a variety of settings. This year, the ACA blog, In the Field, is setting out to talk to archivists across Canada about the unique joys and challenges of their work environments. We will feature a different type of archives each month, with the objective of showcasing the rich spectrum of archival work.

    This month we are featuring religious archives. In today’s post, the In the Field blog chats with Mary Flynn, Congregational Archivist for the Sisters of Charity – Halifax in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

    Q: Can you briefly tell us about your academic and professional path? What brought you to the field of archival studies and practice?

    Mary: I grew up in a small historic village in New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia. I’m the descendant of Irish, Swedish, and English settlers to New Jersey and New York. From an early age, I’ve always been drawn to women’s histories and stories, and I count myself lucky that I’ve so far spent my career working with and for women.  

    I completed my undergraduate studies at Moravian University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where I majored in French. I worked at the circulation desk of the university library for several years and loved it, so I decided to pursue a career as a librarian. I applied and was accepted to McGill University’s MLIS program. In my senior year of college, I had a practicum at the Moravian Church Archives, and I found the work so fascinating that on my first day of school at McGill, I switched from the library science stream to archival studies. Though it wasn’t my intention when I first moved to Quebec for graduate school, I ended up immigrating and staying in Canada. 

    Since that first practicum experience at the Moravian Church Archives 19 years ago, I’ve spent most of my career in religious archives. I started in my role as the Congregational Archivist for the Sisters of Charity – Halifax in January, 2014. The Sisters of Charity – Halifax is a community of Catholic women religious, commonly referred to as “Sisters.” Our administrative offices are in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but there are Sisters of Charity across Canada, the east coast of the United States, Peru, and Belize. In 2024, we are celebrating 175 years since the first Sisters of Charity of New York arrived in Halifax, which planted the seed for the present day Sisters of Charity – Halifax.

    Mary Flynn, Congregational Archivist, in the archives reading room, March 8, 2024.

    Q: What does an average day look like in religious archives?

    Mary: There is no average day! I’m a solo archivist so I handle everything that comes my way. Lately the bulk of my time has been dedicated to a few ongoing special projects, including our 175th Anniversary celebrations and writing a regular column in our newsletter, Charity Alive. I also answer research requests, primarily from our Congregational Leadership Team, Sisters, and staff, but also from outside researchers. The external requests are generally of a genealogical nature or are from former students looking for their old teachers. 

    Before our 175th Anniversary projects started last year, I was focusing on processing our backlog, especially our collection of photographs with no identification. Our audiovisual collection has been the most used record group in the archives over the past few years.

    Q: What is your favourite thing about working in religious archives? What are some of the challenges that are unique to religious archives?

    Mary: Even after a decade in my position, I still find the work rewarding and engaging. The congregation is very invested in their history and value the archives. The Sisters’ Motherhouse in Halifax burned down in 1951, completely destroying their archives, and it took decades to rebuild what they could of their records. If I had more free time, I’d research how this event has shaped the record keeping practices and relationship to history and collective memory in the congregation.

    Because of the Motherhouse fire, our archives isn’t as large as it should be, but our holdings include records from Canada, the United States, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Bermuda. The main ministries that the Sisters were engaged in were teaching, health care, and social services, but starting in the 1960s, the Sisters had more opportunities to expand their work into different fields. I’ve expanded my knowledge of Canada and the United States, social justice causes, and residential schools and truth and reconciliation through my work.

    We face the same challenges as many archives. Our Archives and Heritage Department has dwindled to one full time staff member (myself), and one part time Sister volunteer. The Congregation peaked in the 1960s with over 1600 Sisters. Now there are 180 left, with an average age of 83 years old. There’s no longer a focus on attracting new members but rather on creating plans to “come to completion” in the next 25 years. I feel the pressure to capture the stories of the elderly Sisters and their ministries before it’s too late. 

    On a personal level, the deaths of the Sisters can be very difficult to deal with. The Congregation has decreased by half since I started in my position. Over the past decade, I’ve formed many personal and work relationships with the Sisters and it can be emotional to deal with losses while still having to be professional and process their personal papers. The grief has been profound at times but it brings me comfort to know that their lives are documented in our archives.

    The Sisters of Charity – Halifax Congregational Archives and Heritage Department, 2017. Standing (left to right): Mary Flynn, Congregational Archivist and Sister Mary Palardy, Heritage Coordinator (RIP)Seated (left to right): Sister Christine MacDonald, Archives Volunteer and Sister Joan DeGrace, Archives Volunteer (RIP).

    Q: What do you wish the public understood better about religious archives? What do you wish other archivists understood about religious archives? 

    Mary: I wish everyone understood better that religious archives are a rich source of history, and contain records not just about the denomination or faith community that they serve. We have records about the 1917 flu epidemic, Acadians in Nova Scotia, rural hospitals in Alberta, safe housing for women survivors of human trafficking in Boston and New York City, and projects to provide clean water to communities in Peru and El Salvador, to name a few things. Having said that, religious archives do not have the same mandate as a public institution. Our archives exists to serve the congregation and can accommodate research requests from the public as I have time. 

    Religious archives are not in the spotlight as often as university, government, or municipal archives, so I appreciate the opportunity to share my work in an In The Field blog post.

    Q: Can you tell us about a project you’ve been working on lately? 

    For the past year, I’ve been heavily involved in the congregation’s 175th Anniversary projects. Every week for 175 weeks, we highlight a photograph from the archives on our Facebook page. A committee has created a list of 175 Sisters and ministries to highlight and I’ve been researching, fact checking, and providing photographs for the profiles: https://schalifax.ca/175years/

    It’s been a wonderful opportunity to celebrate not only the influential Sisters that led the congregation and its high profile ministries such as the Halifax Infirmary or Mount Saint Vincent University, but also the “unsung heroes”—the housekeepers, seamstresses, cooks, and cleaners that kept the congregation running behind the scenes.

  • 15 Feb 2024 4:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    From municipal and federal government to universities, from religious congregations to community organizations, archivists work in a variety of settings. This year, the ACA blog, In the Field, is setting out to talk to archivists across Canada about the unique joys and challenges of their work environments. We will feature a different type of archives each month, with the objective of showcasing the rich spectrum of archival work.  

    This month we are featuring community archives. In today’s post, the In the Field blog chats with Melissa J. Nelson, Founder and Creative Director of the Black Memory Collective.

    Q: Can you briefly tell us about your academic and professional path?

    Melissa: If you want to know my path, I have to take you back to my childhood. My parents are from Jamaica. My mother, in particular, instilled a deep love for history. She used to share folklore, oral traditions, stories, photographs. My mother was the family keeper of records. She passed that on to me. My love for history led me to pursue a Bachelor of Arts (honours) in History, with a minor in Sociology at Carleton University. I then graduated from McGill University with a Master of Information Studies. Understanding the past allows me to make sense of the present. 

    In 2020, I published my blog post “Archiving Hate: Racist Materials in Archives.” This was cited by several institutions in their statements of commitment to equity practices, including the Baker Library of Harvard Business School. This blog post led to a series of opportunities that inspired me to start a consulting business. I offer a range of consultation services on inclusive archival practices including research, writing, policy review, and training. I lecture and facilitate workshops on the intersections of race, racism, and the archives. 

    After I graduated from my Master’s program, I felt compelled to seek community. I was often the only Black student in my archives classes. So, I became intentional about connecting with other Black archivists. In 2022, I launched the podcast, Archives & Things, to make these conversations accessible to a wider audience. I discovered a vibrant and diverse community, but I often found my interviewees were unaware of each other’s work. I felt a deep need to bring people together. This past November, I founded the Black Memory Collective to create a network and build a community of practice around Black archiving in Canada. The founding members were brought together through my work on Archives & Things. This collective is part of a larger movement to reclaim, recognize, and celebrate Black memory and imagine Black futurities.

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

    Melissa: Well, I didn’t know archival studies was an option. I didn’t know what was possible as an archivist. I met someone who was studying information studies and she encouraged me to look into it. I am so glad she did! I love being an archivist. For me, this work extends beyond the processing area. It’s about inspiring and generating change. It’s a liberatory practice. My work centers Black being and belonging in the archives to support collective healing and liberation movements. Black archival practices and memory work can transform our future. 

    Q: What do you wish the public understood better about Black archivists? What do you wish other archivists understood about Black archivists? 

    Melissa: I want people to understand that, for many of us, archival work is liberatory work. It’s memory work. It's our way of understanding ourselves and keeping the memories of Black people alive. It’s our way of challenging pervasive racism and bias in this country. We are not keepers of dead records. Our work is about Black life. We come to memory work in different ways. Those who joined the Black Memory Collective are artists, urban planners, architects, game developers, curators, journalists, museum professionals, and so much more.


    Q: Can you tell us about your plans for the collective? 

    Melissa: Right now, the Black Memory Collective consists of a private Slack group and virtual chats. I intend to have in-person meetings as well. These spaces will allow us to connect, socialize, and exchange ideas. We believe it is important to create safe and affirming spaces for Black people to just be. The dream is to have this work reach communities. We can have newsletters, partner with graduate programs, partner with archives associations, and have events for Black youth to inspire the next generation. I will continue to dream.

  • 22 Aug 2023 9:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Michael Carelse and Sophie Penniman

    Michael:

    My name is Michael, and I am in my second year of the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Dual Master of Archival Studies and Library and Information Studies. I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2023 annual conference of the ACA as part of the Emerging Voices student session, where I presented a paper on the relationship between records management and social justice, using RCMP records retention and disposition as a case study. 

    Michael presenting at the Emerging Voices session. Photo by Sophie Penniman.

    ACA 2023 was a really great experience. I went into the conference grateful to have been accepted to present in the student panel and to have received funding from ACA to attend, but not exactly sure what the student panel would entail, or what it would feel like to be “sectioned off” with other students rather than to present as part of the general conference program. It ended up being the perfect conference experience, and I’m so happy to have been part of the student panel. I was surprised at how well attended the panel was, and how interested people were in hearing “what the students are thinking about.” I was also really interested in what my two co-panelists were presenting on, and it ended up being a really cool panel featuring three different perspectives on documentation, equity, and justice in the contemporary world. Al Cunningham Rogers proposed an archival approach to the appraisal and the preservation of graffiti in Toronto, and Adam Williamson explored issues related to the loss of cultural heritage objects in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Both presentations offered new and generative frameworks for thinking expansively about different types of records, archives, and memory institutions. 

    Overall, I found the conference program fascinating, with presentations ranging from new ideas and theories, to reports on current initiatives in the field. I was particularly interested in one panel that gathered representatives from Library and Archives Canada, the National Archives of the US, and the National Archives of the UK, all presenting on current initiatives to engage critically with archives, to improve archival services and harness the affordances of new technologies, and to engage teachers in promoting archival education in schools. 

    In between sessions, the breaks and dinners were also a great opportunity to meet people, and I had the pleasure of spending time with fellow students, as well as professionals at every career stage, including some very friendly people from the ACA executive. My fond final memory of the conference is of my dinner table getting up to join the dance floor on the last evening of the conference, and I look forward to seeing many of those faces again over the years. 

    Sophie: 

    My name is Sophie, and I graduated from the dual Master of Archival Studies and Library and Information Studies program at UBC this past May. Like Michael, I had the opportunity to both attend and present at the ACA conference in Charlottetown; I spoke in a session on accessibility for people with disabilities about my experiences as a neurodivergent archival student and the importance of widening conceptions of provenance to accommodate neurodiverse perspectives in records. 

    Sophie posing before their presentation at the session on Accessibility and Representation in Archives for People With Disabilities. Photo by Lisa Snider.

    One thing that struck me while attending the conference was the myriad ways that archivists conceptualize archival work to ensure it is relevant to all. As someone whose archival experience has largely come from a classroom context, I was very keen to hear more about how conceptions of archives are applied in real-world settings. From an archival outreach initiative at the University of Saskatchewan (presented by Ann Liang and Lindsay Stokalko) that creatively used a Gay Bob doll from their archives to promote user engagement with the Neil Richards Collection, to a presentation in the student session by Al Cunningham Rogers on the considerations around preserving graffiti in an archives, I was inspired by the wide range of ways archives can and do meet societal needs. 

    Something that also surprised me was how much I benefitted from the social aspects of the conference beyond the presentations and plenaries. While as an introvert I did find myself having to step back occasionally, I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to connect with archivists across North America and beyond, working in a variety of contexts. I expected to network and have fun at the social events, but I found a lot of value in connecting with archivists from different generations, backgrounds, and employment settings.  

    From formal to informal settings, the ACA Conference resonated with me as a way to imagine and reimagine archival work with other people who share this passion. In all, being able to attend and present at ACA 2023: Belonging in Charlottetown was a wonderful opportunity as a recent archival graduate, and I’m looking forward to coming back in the future. 

    Michael and Sophie at a picnic at Beaconsfield Historic House in Charlottetown during the conference. Photo by Isabel Carlin.

    Michael Carelse is in his second year of UBC’s Dual Master of Archival Studies and Library and Information Studies. He has worked as a Collections Assistant at the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, and as a Graduate Academic Assistant for InterPARES Trust AI. 

    Sophie Penniman is a recent graduate of the Dual Master of Archival Studies and Library and Information Studies program at the University of British Columbia, which is located on the traditional lands of the Musqueam people. They currently work as a Graduate Academic Assistant on the InterPARES Trust AI project, which studies the use of AI in archives, and their interests include personal archives, constructions of identity through records, and storytelling.  

  • 22 Jun 2023 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The ACA 2023 Annual Conference is fast approaching! The ACA blog, In the Field, is featuring the profile of a few members who will be presenting at the 2023 conference. Today we are featuring the profile of Madelynn Dickerson, Head of Digital Scholarship Services at the University of California, Irvine and Christine Kim, OAC/Calisphere Service & Outreach Manager at the California Digital Library.

    Q: What is the title of your conference presentation? Tell us about it in 1 or 2 sentences.

    Madelynn & Christine: Our presentation is called “Aggregation and Curation in Digital Collections: Identifying Inclusive Practices and Partnerships with Community-Based Archives.” We will be sharing information about a research assessment project that we are doing as part of “Community-Centered Archives Practice: Transforming Education, Archives, and Community History” (C-CAP TEACH), a Mellon-funded initiative at the University of California. The assessment project aims to identify and describe best practices for the development of ethical and inclusive digital collections and exhibitions, while understanding barriers that community organizations may face in contributing collections to aggregators.

    Q: Can you walk us through your academic and professional path?

    Christine: Since starting my archival journey, I’ve been lucky enough to explore the many moving components in the ecosystem of library services. My prior experiences include processing (and digitizing) archival collections and leading student engagement activities at the University of California, Irvine, as well as coordinating community engagement for ArchivesSpace, an open source application used to manage and describe archival collection material. Since 2019, I have been at the California Digital Library supporting the Online Archive of California and Calisphere – two services that provide broad, public access to digital collections contributed by libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage organizations throughout California.

    Madelynn: I have an academic background in literature and art history, and transitioned from full time contract teaching to librarianship about ten years ago. My first full time job was as evening circulation supervisor in a small academic library and from there I was pretty ambitious about gaining as much experience as I could across different areas of librarianship while simultaneously enrolled in an online MLIS program. I have been at the University of California, Irvine since 2018, where I started as the Research Librarian for Digital Humanities and History. I have been the Head of Digital Scholarship Services since 2020.

    A snapshot of the Calisphere website, the statewide aggregation of digital collections contributed by libraries, archives, and museums throughout California. Calisphere provides free access to unique and historically important artifacts for research, teaching, and curious exploration.

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

    Christine: As an undergraduate, I was a student in both film & media studies and history programs, with my interests intersecting at the representation of historical narratives in the media. So when I started my first internship at an archives, it was as if my interests glass slipper-ed into an actual tangible career path, but now adapted to explore how archival practices – and the visibility of firsthand accounts – influence the historical record.

    Madelynn: Archival studies was always something that was interesting to me, and I managed to pursue professional development and projects related to archives early in my career even though it wasn’t always directly related to my job at the time. For example, when I was working the night shift in circulation about 10 years ago, I wrote a CLIR Hidden Collections grant proposal after finding some materials stored in an old chicken coop on campus. The proposal made it to the final stages and ultimately wasn’t funded, but it was a great learning experience. Now as a Head of Digital Scholarship Services, I have formal responsibilities around digital stewardship in many areas, including digital collections.

    Q: What does the theme of the ACA 2023 conference, “Belonging: Considering archival bonds and disconnects,” mean to you in terms of overall archival orientations and practice?

    Madelynn & Christine: The conference theme speaks to the importance of representation, particularly narratives that are often misrepresented or excluded in the mainstream historical record. Aggregation aims to increase discoverability of historical resources, and web usage analytics demonstrate that digital collection aggregation can amplify the visibility of records; however, whose stories do aggregation service models privilege, and whose stories are absent? How do we ensure aggregated materials maintain appropriate cultural context? Our assessment project and research are centred in identifying strategies to mitigate the disconnect, particularly with a focus on surfacing and shifting change to address the priorities expressed by community-based archives in an effort towards representative and inclusive aggregation and exhibition practices.

    Q: Can you tell us about your research approach and perspectives?

    Madelynn & Christine: Our assessment project is rooted in identifying pathways to support a representative aggregation of digital collections, surfacing the barriers to participation, and defining actionable strategies to responsibly surface historically excluded narratives. By extension, we are concerned with sustainable and inclusive approaches to digital exhibitions. We are working with a consultant to conduct this assessment and develop a guide for effective and meaningful collaboration with community-centred archives. Our approach involves data analysis of current participation in aggregation services, website analysis of aggregation service scope and policies, environmental scans, and interviews and surveys with community-based archives.

    Q: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s conference?

    Madelynn & Christine: We look forward to learning from colleagues about initiatives they are embarking on to facilitate belonging and inclusion in their archival practices! We are grateful for the opportunity to share a progress update on our research assessments and welcome ideas and feedback.

  • 20 Jun 2023 11:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    L’édition 2023 de la conférence annuelle de l’ACA approche à grands pas! En prévision, le blogue de l’ACA, In the Field, publie des entretiens avec quelques conférenciers au programme cette année. Aujourd’hui nous vous présentons Simon-Olivier Gagnon, doctorant en archivistique au département des sciences historiques de l’Université Laval.

    Q: Quel est le titre de votre présentation? Parlez-nous de votre sujet en une ou deux phrases.

    Simon-Olivier: Les archives d'en bas en France et au Québec, du singulier au(x) collectif(s), de l'individuel au(x) commun(s).

    Avec les collègues du projet de recherche Autres archives, autres histoires : les archives d’en bas en France et au Québec mené conjointement entre le Québec (Université Laval) et la France (Université d’Angers), nous discuterons des relations entre archives et pouvoir ainsi que des modalités d’émergence, d’affirmation et d’animation de projets d’archivage alternatifs.

    Q: Pouvez-vous nous présenter votre parcours académique et professionnel? 

    Simon-Olivier: Pendant mon parcours en sociologie qui s’est terminé avec une maîtrise portant sur Michel Foucault et le souci de soi, j’ai travaillé dans diverses radios communautaires au Québec, dans les Territoires du Nord-Ouest, en France et en Écosse. Mon expérience au sein de ces radios m’a amené à m’intéresser à leurs archives, et ce, dans le contexte particulier d’anniversaires commémoratifs. La thèse que je réalise actuellement s’intitule « Archives et radios communautaires : concevoir une archivistique communautaire ». Il est possible de suivre le cours de mes recherches et mes publications via mon carnet de recherche.

    Q: Qu’est-ce qui vous a amené.e à vous intéresser au domaine de la théorie et de la pratique archivistiques?

    Simon-Olivier: Je crois que tout a commencé avec ma pratique de l’échantillonnage musical (sampling) et de la réalisation de musique instrumentale de hip-hop (beatmaking). Pendant des heures, à la fin de mon adolescence, j’écoutais des vinyles pour repérer des extraits de mélodies à découper et à actualiser dans un montage sonore. Après mes études en sociologie, j’ai voulu revenir à ce type de rapport aux documents sonores et à leur interprétation. J’aurais pu me diriger en recherche-création, mais j’ai voulu me former à la discipline archivistique avec tous les enjeux sociaux, culturels et éthiques qui s’ensuivent.

    Q: Le thème de la conférence 2023 est Belonging: Considering archival bonds and disconnects. Qu’est-ce que ce thème signifie pour vous en lien avec la pratique et les axes de recherche en archivistique? 

    Simon-Olivier: Les liens archivistiques ne sont pas visibles à l’œil nu, ils méritent d’être révélés, exposés, mis en scène. C’est ce que nous avons réalisé dans le projet 2012 : Mémoires à faire, un projet portant sur les archives du Printemps québécois. Dans le cadre de ce projet collectif, nous avons, à notre manière, contribué à restituer au public certaines archives (radiophoniques, sonores, textuelles, etc.) de ce mouvement étudiant. C’est ainsi par notre intervention archivistique que des liens archivistiques se sont révélés entre une communauté de documents et des producteurs.

    Les cinq épisodes du balado 2012 : Mémoires à faire sont disponibles sur différentes plateformes d’écoute et sur Internet Archives. Les archives pertinentes au projet, comme des tracts, des affiches, des photographies, ont par la suite été disposées dans deux vitrines, dans les locaux de L’Orchestre d’Hommes-Orchestres ainsi que dans celles de notre diffuseur CKIA-FM Radio Basse-Ville.


    Photos prises à l’occasion de la marche d’écoute collective, le 24 septembre 2022. Crédit photo: Débora Flor.

    Q: Pouvez-vous nous parler de vos approches et de vos perspectives de recherche? 

    Simon-Olivier: Mon rapport aux archives vient de gens qui sont animés par une passion : ce sont des amateur·trice·s, des non-professionnel·le·s, des chercheur·e·s indépendant·e·s, des dilettantes qui manipulent des documents et qui finissent, somme toute, par sauver des pans entiers de l’histoire. Ces gens-là, qui demeurent trop longtemps et trop souvent dans l’ombre, jouent un rôle quant à la mémoire de la société civile, des organismes communautaires et, plus largement, des mouvements culturels contestataires et de la contre-culture. Je m’intéresse à la figure que j’associe à « l’archiviste ad hoc », aux gestes de cette figure, au sein des radios communautaires et universitaires.

    Pour plus d'informations au sujet du projet : 2012: Mémoires à faire | Facebook

  • 15 Jun 2023 10:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The ACA 2023 Annual conference is fast approaching! The ACA blog, In the Field, is featuring the profile of a few members who will be presenting at the 2023 conference. Today we are featuring the profile of Shadreck Bayane, Records Specialist at the Botswana Investment & Trade Centre.

    Q: What is the title of your conference presentation? Tell us about it in 1 or 2 sentences.

    Shadreck: Titled “Access to information for visually impaired people: Artificial Intelligence (AI) to assist the cause?” my paper will be delivered through a panel discussion. It examines key issues of accessibility to records and information for people with disabilities (visually impaired) when or if AI is deployed as a possible assistive technology.

    Q: Can you walk us through your academic and professional path?

    Photograph of Shadreck Bayane

    Shadreck: My professional journey dates back to two decades ago when I joined the Botswana National Archives & Records Services as an Assistant Records Officer in the Attorney General Chambers and Office of the President, respectively, after graduating from the University of Botswana with a diploma in archives and records management. I worked with revered technocrats (high ranking government officials) whose wisdom and sense of duty rubbed off on me and sharpened my intellectual pedigree from that early stage of my career.

    I have since spent the better part of my career in the corporate sector with an archival science degree, after working for the Government for a year. I am a certified records analyst and currently work for the Botswana Investment & Trade Centre (BITC) in Gaborone, Botswana as a Records Specialist – having previously worked for the Botswana Public Officers’ Pension Fund (BPOPF), Public Procurement & Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) and Botswana Savings Bank (BSB) in the same capacity.

    I also serve as an International Correspondent for the Institute of Certified Records Managers (ICRM)’s Newsletter, covering areas outside USA and Canada.

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

    Shadreck: Prior to my dive into archival studies, I had a short stint in the law enforcement field – working with legal documents. When I was contemplating what to study at the university, a friend suggested the records management course, which struck a chord with my records experience. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Q: What does the theme of the ACA 2023 conference, “Belonging: Considering archival bonds and disconnects,” mean to you in terms of overall archival orientations and practice?

    Shadreck: As part of my preparations for presenting at the conference, I recently attended a PWD (people with disabilities) function whereat a question was asked as to how the rest of us can contribute to economic empowerment of people with disabilities. In the instance of archival practice, I understand this question, as read with the ACA conference theme, to be calling upon us in the profession to perform our functions and research in a manner that promotes inclusivity, diversity, and connectivity of the people we serve.

    So, the ACA’s view of belonging as a fundamental human need is apt, and relatable.

    Q: Can you tell us about your research approach and perspectives?

    Shadreck: My research is currently focused on archives, digitization, and artificial intelligence, and the interest is bolstered by my current participation in the international scholarly project InterPARES Trust AI where the resources and expertise are world-class. I am a strong proponent of impactful research which contributes to both the academic body of knowledge, and the practical advancement of society – with a particular concentration on our marginalized communities.

    Q: What are you mostly looking forward to at this year’s conference?

    Shadreck: No doubt it is going to be an interesting and successful conference. Take a look at the credentials of speakers, venue, activities, the messaging around the event, and the vibe. Alluring! I look forward to joining a diversity of archivists and other allied stakeholders from all corners of the universe as we feast on the archival discourse.

  • 13 Jun 2023 10:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The ACA 2023 Annual conference is fast approaching! The ACA blog, In the Field, is featuring the profile of a few members who will be presenting at the 2023 conference. Today we are featuring the profile of Adam Williamson, a 2nd year master’s candidate at the University of Toronto’s iSchool.

    Q: What is the title of your conference presentation? Tell us about it in 1 or 2 sentences.

    Adam: The title of my presentation is “Empty Buildings and Burnt Records: Cultural Destruction and the Threat to Ukrainian Identity during the Russo-Ukrainian War.” The somber title reflects my exploration of the Russo-Ukrainian War’s impact on Ukraine’s cultural sector and what that means for Ukrainian identity. I make comparisons with the former Finnish province of Karelia during the Winter War (1939-1940) to draw parallels to better understand the impacts on Ukrainian identity. 

    Q: Can you walk us through your academic and professional path? 

    Adam: I am currently going into my second year as a Master of Information candidate at the University of Toronto. Prior to my master’s, I studied history at Brock University, which influences my research interests concerning archives. Professionally, my career has taken me in many interesting directions ranging from Parks Canada and the CRA to a research assistant at Brock University for a digital oral history archive. Currently, I am back at the federal government working for the National Research Council as an Information Management Policy Advisor. 

    Phorotograph of Adam Williamson

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

    Adam: For me, it was my exposure to oral history and digital archives as a research assistant that pulled me into the archival world. Listening to people’s stories, helping preserve them, and understanding their importance for the community’s identity connected with me. The role of identity in archives stuck with me as I continued to explore research about it. Without that first experience, I wouldn’t have found myself in the archival field. 

    Q: What does the theme of the ACA 2023 conference, “Belonging: Considering archival bonds and disconnects,” mean to you in terms of overall archival orientations and practice? 

    Adam: In my mind, it raises the important questions of how archives should serve their society, who they represent, and who falls through the gaps. This can be seen in discourses on community archives, both in terms of where they fit in the archival community and as a response to historical and current archival gaps. Archives help build community bonds through a sense of self, and this raises the question of what is the best way that archives can help build these bonds based on the communities they serve. I don’t have any answers, but I believe attempts to answer these questions are central to shaping and improving archival best practices.

    Q: Can you tell us about your research approach and perspectives? 

    Adam: Two major challenges shaped my research approach: my inability to read Ukrainian and the length limitation on the paper. To overcome this, I opted to select three case studies that had English-language articles written about them and used them as snapshots for the larger picture I was exploring concerning the Ukrainian cultural sector. I also decided to make comparisons to Finland during the Winter War to draw parallels and contextualize what is happening to Ukrainian identity in the short term. Underlying all of this was my use of archival theory, including the concept that archives, and other cultural institutions, are a powerful force in helping a society anchor its sense of self through the memories they hold. One perspective I brought, likely due to my history background, is that while the conflict is the result of modern politics, the question of Ukrainian identity has roots that run centuries deep.

    Q: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s conference? 

    Adam: Just attending is exciting, as this is the first academic conference I will be attending, let alone presenting at. The great thing about this conference’s theme is how it allows archivists to have different interpretations of what exactly is meant by belonging in an archival context. This is what I am looking forward to: seeing how emerging and professional archivists approach this theme and taking their perspectives with me as I continue developing as an archivist.

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