Archivaria            Contact us

   Members             Volunteer

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

  • 4 Oct 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Emma Metcalfe Hurst is in the final year of her MASLIS the UBC iSchool. Her areas of interest include community and artist archives, intellectual property rights, and public programming. She currently works as an archivist at VIVO Media Arts Centre and Karen Jamieson Dance. 

    Poster for British Columbia: An Untold History, produced by 1871 Productions Inc. and Screen Siren Pictures for Knowledge Network.

    Developing an Indigenous Protocol for a documentary is an ongoing, multi-step process where a one-size-fits-all approach does not apply. Despite the compressed deadlines that are standard in the television and filmmaking industry, as well as the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic during production, telling a collaborative and culturally sensitive story requires the time and care that an Indigenous Protocol mandates. I learned this first-hand while working as an archival researcher for the documentary TV series British Columbia: An Untold History, produced by 1871 Productions Inc., a subsidiary of Screen Siren Pictures, which aired on Knowledge Network. In this role, a pressing set of questions came forward that brought to bear on the project as a whole: How might one undertake ethical research in colonial archives and how can that approach be reflected in the filmmaking and production process? In this two-part blog post, I share how education, relationship-building, and identification became pillars of our project team's approach. In the second part, I provide a framework and suggestions for what can be done better the next time the cameras roll.

    From February through October 2020, I worked as one of six archival researcher student interns and one of twelve researchers (in total) in the archives department for British Columbia – An Untold History.1 The series covers a wide ranging history of the province now known as “British Columbia” through a multi-narrative and story-telling approach. The project also includes an interactive digital media timeline that supports the series by sharing additional stories, personal accounts, archival photos, and documents. Both the TV series and digital media timeline were created and conceived of as online educational tools for secondary and post-secondary schools, memory institutions, and educators throughout the province and beyond.

    During my time with the production, I did a significant amount of archival research in online databases of both large institutions, as well as regional and community archives, to source archival materials that supported the stories included in the documentary series and the digital media timeline. I also worked with the personal archives of individuals featured in the series. Communicating and building relationships with individuals, as well as professional archivists and local historians by exchanging stories, archival materials, knowledge, and resources was a meaningful and necessary part of this work.

    In this project, archival photographs, moving images, and textual documents are used to tell a history of the emergence of British Columbia, which joined confederation in 1871. Needless to say, it was essential for us – not only as archival researchers, but also as a production team as a whole – to think critically about the ways in which we were sourcing and using archival materials, and the people who are inextricably connected to and represented in them. Because archival records have long been used as tools to uphold power, it was imperative for us to begin by acknowledging that archives are not neutral and neither is the act of working with them – especially for a historical documentary; a filmic genre that typically declares authority and proclaims fact. It was also important for us to recognize that the majority of archival records we gathered either overtly or covertly document and legitimize the creation of the colonial nation state of “Canada” and “British Columbia,”2 and that the majority of these records continue to be housed and preserved by state-funded and operated institutions, instead of with the communities who were documented – if they were documented at all. Many of these archival records are also deeply connected to Indigenous nations and peoples who preceded European colonization in the Pacific Northwest of “British Columbia,” who endured and resisted intentional acts of genocide, cultural assimilation, and displacement from their lands by the state and foreign settlers. Additionally, racialized immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers – many of whom experienced government-sanctioned exploitation, discrimination, marginalization, and extradition – also suffered and endured, as evidenced by historical records and personal accounts. With all of this in mind, I sought to approach this work experience by asking: How might one undertake ethical research in colonial archives, and how can that approach be reflected in the filmmaking process?  

    MAP 537 Lower Mainland, B.C. : land subdivision. [1870?], copied [197-?]. City of Vancouver Archives.

    Within the context of documentary filmmaking, my attempt to answer these questions lay in the disruption of industry standards, focusing specifically on the licensing, rights, and clearances department which dictates how archival materials are acquired and used in film. Under the leadership of the Series Producer, Leena Minifie, an Indigenous Protocol initiative was developed and implemented with assistance from myself, the series’ licensing and permissions specialists, and others to function as an internal system for identifying and clearing items-for-use that contained “Indigenous content”which meant: images that depict Indigenous people, ceremonies, sacred places, and traditional practices. In the first episode, about half of the images that were collected for use and identified as “Indigenous” could be categorized as “Culturally Sensitive Materials” today. The Museum of Anthropology’s Management of Culturally Sensitive Material Guidelines define “culturally sensitive materials” as “items that, owing to their power, require special care and handling and/or may only be viewed by certain people” (Museum of Anthropology, 2020). Additionally, MOA acknowledges that culturally sensitive materials “may have a non-material side embodying cultural rights, values, knowledge and ideas which are not owned or possessed by MOA, but are retained by the originating communities” (Museum of Anthropology, n.d.). Local Contexts, an international consortium of information practitioners dedicated to “[supporting] Indigenous communities to manage their intellectual and cultural property, cultural heritage, environmental data and genetic resources within digital environments” (About, 2022) suggests using a “Culturally Sensitive” Traditional Knowledge label on materials to identify “cultural and / or historical sensitivities” (TK Culturally Sensitive, 2022). This can include materials that “[have] only recently been reconnected with the community from which it originates, that the community is currently vetting and spending time with the material, and / or that the material is culturally valued and needs to be kept safe” (TK Culturally Sensitive, 2022). Cultural sensitivities for a material may “...arise from legacies of colonialism [...], the use of derogatory language or descriptive errors within the content and/or content descriptions” (TK Culturally Sensitive, 2022). In consideration of these two definitions, it was important for us to recognize the implications of using such archival materials in the documentary, and to lay out the necessary steps to determine whether or not it would be ethically sound to do so.

    Developing the Indigenous Protocol for the series was an ongoing, multi-step process where a one-size-fits-all approach did not apply. In many ways, it was ever-shifting due to the specific informational and cultural needs of each item and subsequently, each individual Nation, Band, or Tribe. The ever-expanding network of professional and personal connections continued to build upon previous work – work that was not always visible or that I was privy to. For these reasons, in the second part of this blog post, I will share three steps – education, relationship-building, and identification – that were undertaken to my knowledge and based on my first-hand experience to help develop the Indigenous Protocol for the series. It is also important to recognize prior thinking and work that influenced the development of this protocol. Lastly, I will conclude with a few individual observations that point to some challenges, setbacks, and changes that arose in doing this work in hopes of using it as a guide for future consideration and improvement in documentary filmmaking practices.

    Thank you to Hans Ongsansoy and Leena Minifie for the editorial feedback and support on the original paper. 

    End Notes  

    1 - Prior to working on the documentary series as an Archival Research student intern, I assisted with archival research to develop stories to pitch to Knowledge Network, beginning in December 2018.

    2 - See for example, Rachel Alpha Johnston Hurst’s article “Colonial Encounters at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: ‘Unsettling’ the Personal Photograph Albums of Andrew Onderdonk and Benjamin Leeson” (2015) which addresses the role of photography as a documentary tool to fictionalize and validate colonial settlement of British Columbia at the turn of the 20th century. 

    Sources Cited

    Local Contexts. “About.” Last modified 2022.

    Local Contexts. “TK Labels – TK Culturally Sensitive.” Last modified 2022. 

    Museum of Anthropology. “The Collections.” Last modified 2022.

    Museum of Anthropology. “Guidelines for the Management of Culturally Sensitive Materials.” 2020.

    Nickerson, Maria. ON-SCREEN PROTOCOLS & PATHWAYS: A Media Production Guide to Working with First Nations, Métis and Inuit Communities, Cultures, Concepts and Stories, May 15, 2019.

  • 22 Sep 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Amy Tector works at Library and Archives Canada and is adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa and a sessional instructor at Carleton University. Amy’s debut novel, The Honeybee Emeralds, was published in spring 2022. Her second novel, The Foulest Things, is the first in a loose trilogy centered on murders and mayhem in the archives. Follow her on Instagram @amytectorwrites.

    Rebecca Murray is a Senior Reference Archivist at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, Ontario.  She is an avid reader and Editor of the In the Field blog.

    On what felt like the hottest day in Ottawa this summer, local author and archivist Amy Tector biked to meet me at a coffee shop just west of downtown.  Our sandalled feet bobbed under the tiny table, and our cold drinks perspired in the heat despite the air-conditioned store.

    Amy’s most recent novel, The Foulest Things, (to be published September 27th, 2022) is a murder mystery set in Ottawa.  The protagonist is Jess Novak, a newly employed archivist at the Dominion Archives.  She’s working through a series of farm ledgers that have just been acquired through auction (there’s a great side story about a cardigan mishap), and she stumbles across letters that date from the early days of the First World War, linking the past to the present.  I asked Amy about her choice to use letters as the connection to the past and as a way to shed light on a contemporary mystery.

    Amy told me that almost everything she’s written has been influenced in some way or another by A. S. Byatt’s Possession (which, no, I haven’t read but have added to my list!) Amy admitted that writing the letters was tricky; she needed to convey information specific to the storyline yet be natural and channel the character.  Amy wrote The Foulest Things at the same time as she was completing her PhD in literature with a focus on representations of disability in Canadian novels of the First World War.  Immersed in the perspectives of young men from that era, she was able to take what she’d learnt from these works and use that as inspiration in her own writing.

    The letters play a key part in the contemporary mystery, and it’s a popular theme in the historical fictionesque genre to use historical letters as a way to dip into a historical perspective or storyline without devoting every second or third chapter to that perspective or narrative.  Amy’s done it in a really thoughtful and creative way, giving the protagonist another layer of historical detail to absorb as she balances placating her mother, trying to stay on her boss’s good side, and keeping her snoopy colleague at bay.  Not to mention having a social life!

    Before I had finished reading The Foulest Things, I already knew that Jess Novak was a great protagonist and that she’d speak to a lot of professionals in the GLAM sector.  I noticed a lot of parallels between Jess and magazine intern Alice Ahmadi in Amy’s debut novel, The Honeybee Emeralds.  On the surface Alice and Jess are very different, but they both seem to fall into a story they couldn’t have seen coming, each grappling with secret histories while trying to figure out who to trust, how to make it to work on time, and still enjoy life as young women in the bustling metropolises of Ottawa (ahem) and Paris.  I think of Alice at the safety deposit box (you’ll need to read to find out more!) and Jess with the file folder of letters and can’t help but feel that they’re living through similar experiences.  I asked Amy to tell me a bit about her choice to put young female professionals at the front of these stories.

    Amy spoke of drawing inspiration from her students (she teaches at Carleton University) and of enjoying being in the classroom as a way to keep in touch with youth.  She told me, though, that the similarities between Jess and Alice were not planned and that hearing my thoughts was one of the lovely things about talking with readers - hearing about their reactions to her book, the things they loved the most, that have stayed with them, has really touched her as a writer.

    I think that many archivists could probably relate to Jess or Alice in that we’ve probably all got a special box, collection, or memory that we can recall from those early moments in our career.  Something that shaped our work, touched us deeply, and that perhaps has given us that touchstone from which to continue our work over the years.  Am I the only one with an email folder or One Note tab of good memories related to my work?  It’s not exactly a safety deposit box at a historic bank in Paris. Maybe it’s a little closer to Jess’s file folder?  Something that caught our fascination, that puzzled us, that drew us further into the line of work that surely revealed more surprises than we could have anticipated when we started.

    I asked Amy about her thoughts on the relationship between being an archivist and a creative writer.  She agrees that there’s definitely something there.  The potential for storytelling as a result of our work, our interactions with records and researchers, opens the door to something more.  She spoke of opening a box and looking at records, such as photographs, and asking herself: What's in here?  What can I learn?  Archival records are amazing sources for feeding creative and artistic interest, whether it's writing or another medium.  Archives are rich repositories of stories, many of them waiting to be told.

    I asked Amy if she had any advice or for other aspiring authors, especially those in the GLAM sector.  She said, “Believe if you write that you are a writer - no caveats needed.”

    Amy really emphasized the importance of finding a group of people to share writing with.  She said she’s been with the same group for almost 20 years and has learned from both the critiques she’s been given and that she herself has given to others.

    She also recommends The Shit No One Tells You About Writing podcast, which focuses on the craft of writing and the publishing process with a focus on the Canadian context.

    As busy as she’s been writing and editing, Amy’s also been reading a lot!  Her favourites this year include Letters to Amelia (Lindsay Zier-Vogel), which is chock full of archives content (including historic love letters!); The Final Look (Dianne Scott), a novel set on Toronto Island in the 1960s, which Amy found fascinating; and Dark August (Katie Tallo), a murder mystery set in Hintonburg.

    Amy has three forthcoming titles (Keylight Books): The Foulest Things, Speak for the Dead, and Honor the Dead.

  • 2 Aug 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Olivia White is a Digital Preservation Archivist at Simcoe County Archives. Olivia completed her Master of Information and Master of Museum Studies at the University of Toronto. She is passionate about ensuring the stories within archival records can be preserved and shared far into the future.

    The 15th annual Archives and Technology Unconference (TAATU) occurred via Zoom on June 14, co-chaired by Allie Querengesser and Andréa Tarnawsky. The event encourages anyone interested in IT and digital culture to contribute, as there is no minimum IT experience required. This was my second time attending the Unconference as a new professional, and I appreciated the breadth of resources shared during the conversations.

    With about 45 people in attendance, the session began with an icebreaker on Slido, which asked “What are you looking forward to the most about this year’s ACA Conference?” The most common replies related to connecting with others, particularly in person, and learning and listening to the discussions.  

    Figure 1: Screenshot of Icebreaker #1 on Slido, depicting a word cloud with participants’ responses

    A second icebreaker on Slido occurred later in the event, asking participants “Which tech skill or knowledge would you most like to have or improve on?” Coding in scripting languages, such as Python, was the most selected answer. 


    Figure 2: Screenshot of Icebreaker #2, depicting a ranking of participants' responses 

    Lightning Talks

    There were 9 five-minute lightning talks on a variety of topics.

    Peter Van Garderen:
    “Yes, #web3 stinks but hear me out…”

    Peter began by acknowledging the known concerns about Web3, particularly regarding the volatility of cryptocurrency and the common criticisms of NFTs. Peter discussed the potential of applying the functionalities of Web3 towards alternative uses. For example, Peter stated that the concept of registering unique documents to create NFTs could be used for representing assets such as land records.

    Kelsey Poloney:
    AtoM Import Tool for Formatting Bulk Descriptions at Simon Fraser University Archives

    Kelsey discussed the app they created that enables users to convert legacy CSV files into the Access to Memory (AtoM) template for ingest. Kelsey also provided links to additional apps they created: an
    image scanning resolution calculator, and an extent calculator using measurements of box sizes used at SFU.

    John Richan and Sarah Lake: Bitcurator at Concordia University Archives and Special Collections

    John outlined the process of establishing an internship to introduce and explore the application of the
    Bitcurator software at Concordia University Archives to improve upon workflow gaps. Sarah detailed their experience using digital preservation tools, designing workflows, and creating documentation while participating in the internship. 

    Rebecca Dickson:
    “What’s up with COPPUL’s WestVault?”

    Rebecca talked about the Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries’ WestVault, which is a “distributed digital preservation storage service that uses the LOCKSS platform” (Slide 3). Rebecca also discussed infrastructural challenges, and the current activities of the Preservation Infrastructure Working Group.

    Paul Hebbard and Andréa Tarnawsky: Crossing Fonds: Pollinating Access and Interpretation research project

    Paul and Andrea outlined the project’s goal to design a “replicable, open-source digital archive ecosystem that allows generous interaction, study, and exhibition” (“Project Goals,” Hebbart and Tarnawsky’s slides). Paul and Andrea also highlighted
    Wikidata and IIIF, and provided spreadsheets containing a growing list of open-source tools and platforms.

    Elizabeth-Anne Johnson: DANNNG (Digital Archival traNsfer, iNgest, and packagiNg Group)’s resources

    Elizabeth-Anne presented on the history of DANNNG and its resources, such as their Disk Imaging Decision Factors document, and Digital Archives Technical Glossary. Elizabeth-Anne also discussed DANNNG’s forthcoming Tool guide for those with all levels of experience performing digital forensics.

    Kelly Stewart: Industrializing Digital Preservation: Artefactual introduces Enduro

    Kelly introduced Enduro as a tool designed by Artefactual “to aid automation of Archivematica and surrounding workflows” (Artefactual Labs). Enduro performs metadata verification, monitors the ingest project, logs AIP storage, and other automated functions (Enduroproject).

    Corinne Rogers:Using Diplomatics for… Machine Learning? Applying AI to Archival Problems

    Corinne presented upon the InterPARES Trust AI research project aimed to “generate new knowledge on the uses of [Artificial Intelligence]” (“About the Research”). Corinne discussed how diplomatics and deep learning are being applied to digitized notarial parchments from the Middle Ages in Milan to generate a list of the surviving documents of Milanese notaries from the 12th and 13th centuries.

    Anna Dysert and Kelli Babcock: Updates from the AtoM Foundation

    Anna provided an
    AtoM Foundation update, detailing the sustainability of AtoM and community involvement as its overarching goals. Kelli provided an update for AtoM 3 by outlining the activities of the AtoM Foundation Roadmap Committee and the proposed design principles of AtoM 3, such as using archival terminology and its suitability for Linked Open Usable Data (LOUD).

    Group Brainstorming Sessions

    Email appraisal

    Several tools and resources were provided by participants in the discussion surrounding email appraisal, including:  

    Finally, the complexities surrounding archiving MS Team messages was discussed, as they are stored in a strange location in Online Outlook. It was proposed that the decisions made in MS Teams would likely be documented elsewhere, and thus their preservation may be rendered redundant.

    Conciliation of Record and Data Lifecycles

    The difficulties of coping with different lifecycles for records was discussed, as well as the need for digital preservation management to begin early in the records management lifecycle.
    The Relational DataBase Archiving Interest Group Mailing List was presented as a potential resource.

    In conclusion, the Unconference provided an excellent virtual collaboration space to share ideas and keep updated about current activities and research projects related to IT and digital culture.

  • 19 Jul 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Faythe Lou is a settler on Katzie, Semiahmoo, and Kwantlen lands. She holds a Master of Archival Studies from the University of British Columbia and works for the City of Richmond. She is passionate about local history and currently volunteers as a member of the Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission. 

    From June 15 through 18th, I attended my first Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) conference. This year, it was hosted at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in a hybrid format. I attended primarily in-person. UBC is on the unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) First Nation, and I felt privileged to be welcomed into the space by the Musqueam people who generously shared their elements of their culture with us to open and close the conference. For those who haven’t attended an ACA conference, I highly recommend it! I graduated in the spring of 2020, and as you can imagine, my first two years in the field have been non-traditional, unprecedented, even. While my coworkers have been extremely welcoming and supportive, to be honest, working in half-empty offices and from home, alone, has been a bit isolating. Being immersed in the theory and surrounded by other archivists again brought me back to being in grad school in the best way. Now, with a couple of years of experience under my belt, I also felt like I could engage more deeply with the material and think more fully about the practical applications to my work. 

    Attending the ACA Conference, I really felt like a professional archivist! However, being a professional is strange. It comes with connotations of snobbery, gatekeeping, racism, and classism. In a way, feeling like a professional means that I’ve absorbed all the theory, complete with the colonial, racist, sexist, and heteronormative assumptions that come with it. Maybe being a professional archivist also means being a little bit of a know-it-all. 

    A couple of presenters with backgrounds in history remarked off-handedly in the beginning of their presentations that they felt intimidated to present at an archivists’ conference - after all, what could they tell archivists about archives? The theme of this year’s conference, Unsettled: Redefining Archival Power challenged us to be unsettled: to transform the way we view ourselves as professionals and our role in our community. Dominique Luster’s invitation to squeeze our top and bottom lips together and listen was a call that hit the room hard. She further advised to be more “interested than interesting.” To unsettle ourselves, we may need to get comfortable with not being the experts in the room. In fitting with the theme, various presentations discussed how traditional archival theory and practices have been actively harmful to people, communities, and records. Francis Garaba, in his presentation about decolonizing archives, called for a new start. He noted that decolonizing is really the act of re-humanizing the world. It is now widely accepted that archives reflect the inequitable power structures that existed and persist to today, which shapes which people and communities can access their past.  

    For many historically marginalized people, especially non-English speaking women, and other historically marginalized people, this means invisibility in the archives. In Laura Ishiguro’s animated and enthralling plenary, she discussed her own research journeys - adventures in finding and often not finding things while doing archival research. She took us through her research into the 1868 Barkerville fire, noting what records were in the archives but also all the evidence that was absent. She discussed how she’s coming to reconceptualize those absences as abundance. Archives are often the archives of those in power. Therefore, to analyze what isn’t there can tell stories about the lives of these marginalized people as they navigated the complex power structures of their times. During the session’s question period, one participant bemoaned the push towards digitization, often encouraged and demanded by historians, as causing archivists to focus their output on creating more content - sometimes at the expense of context. Ishiguro pointed out that academic historians too are pressured to produce more and more, forcing historians into a structure of work that punishes browsing, which can often lead to deeper understandings of the records. 

    For other historically marginalized communities, they are over-documented in government archives. One of the sessions I found the most interesting was “Lost and Found: Reconsidering Chinese Immigration records at 100 years since the Chinese Exclusion Act.” The speakers, June Chow, Catherine Clement, Henry Yu, and Emilie Létourneau discussed the types of records that document this history of Chinese immigration to Canada and the challenges with accessing and preserving them. I enjoyed how the speakers discussed how they’ve grappled with key archival concepts, like the significance of the creation of the records. Through decades of the Head Tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1923, Chinese Canadians were over-documented by the government. Government officials insisted on documenting heights, weights, and even moles of each person. Clement discussed the Paper Trail to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act Project, which seeks to identify these records and build a digital collection. Most of these records are still in private family records, not in governmental repositories. June Chow discussed how the digital archive will use reparative description for the project. For example, the records will be arranged and described in one big series, rather than using the arbitrary division and numbering used by the government when issuing certificates, which traditionally would have resulted in multiple series. In this way, June explained, families which were separated by unjust policies will be reunited in this archival setting. The way the speakers grappled with archival theory in their work and adapted practices to do right by the people in their records is a great example of how archival practices can be used to uphold unjust power structures, but it doesn’t have to be this way. 

    In Ted Lee’s presentation, he discussed a series of articles and letters published in Archivaria in the 1980s, triggered by George Bolotenko’s 1984 article “Of Ends and Means: In Defence of the Archival Ideal.” Lee pointed out that within the many heated exchanges, the only person who wrote in to Archivaria to denounce the whole exchange was not a seasoned professional, but a student. When you’re a student or a recent graduate, you often feel like your main purpose in the workplace is to absorb and learn. While that’s true, you often lose sight of what you can offer - new insights and perspectives. As a UBC grad, an added bonus of an in-town conference was the opportunity to connect with classmates that I hadn’t seen since we all went home and stayed home in March 2020. During the breaks, it was great to discuss our journeys since graduating. We talked about the stress associated with precarious employment. Of course, the personal implications of precarity include financial instability, the inability to make big life decisions, and the lack of mental and physical health support. However, we also discussed the professional repercussions for the field as a whole. In a conversation with another new grad who found a permanent position around the same time as me, they confessed that it feels like they can engage in the ideas at the conference more fully now. You hold your breath when you’re precarious - you’re afraid to admit you’ve ever made a mistake at work - even if it’s just that you would maybe describe an item differently if you did it now. The conference theme called for us to be unsettled, but when you are precarious, your whole life is unsettled. We have to push for our field to support stable positions that enable archivists to engage in this challenging work.  

    There were many other projects that I found very interesting. In the Poster Lightning Round, Kim Stathers and David Pettitt from the University of Northern British Columbia shared their Rules of Archival Description (RAD) Physical Description Builder tool - a public and open-source tool that allows those who aren’t familiar with the descriptive standard to answer a series of questions in order to build a RAD compliant physical description. It’s public - I highly recommend checking it out! I also enjoyed hearing about Concordia University’s work to establish an Acquisitions Advisory Committee, first internally, and now beginning to branch out to the external community as well. Alexandra Mills talked about how acquisition is often an opaque and mysterious process to those outside the institution. By seeking out sustained external engagement, Concordia will be able to better reflect and serve its community. Alexandra noted that depositing records in an archival repository can cause a psychological distance between the community and its records. By involving the community in all aspects of archival functions, from acquisition to arrangement and description, Alexandra noted this distance could be bridged. I look forward to following the progress of Concordia’s Acquisitions Advisory Committee, as this could be a model that other institutional archives can look to implement. These are both examples of practicing archivists daring to imagine doing things differently. By sharing these projects with the conference attendees, their ingenuity will reach out further in the archival realm.  

    Overall, I had a great experience at my first ACA conference. I was lucky that it took place so close to home for me, as I could attend in-person, but the hybrid format allowed participants to attend from anywhere in the world. Additionally, many sessions were recorded and will be available to attendees for three months following the conference. As there were so many interesting concurrent sessions, it’s a huge benefit to be able to view the recordings afterwards. After a long day at the conference, when I couldn’t find anything to watch on Netflix, I even thought, “Maybe I should watch one of those sessions I missed..?” I didn’t, but I look forward to doing so over the next few months. 

  • 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.

  • 13 Jun 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    The ACA 2022 Annual Conference is approaching fast! The ACA blog, In the Field, is featuring the profiles of a few conference presenters. This post features R.L. Gabrielle Nishiguchi, Archivist at Library and Archives Canada.

    Q: What is the title of your conference presentation?

    Gabrielle: Decolonizing an Archives: The Japanese Canadian Internment Photographs

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

    Gabrielle: I am a government records archivist in the Society, Immigration, Employment, Indigenous and Government Affairs Section, Archives Branch, Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Before coming to LAC, I worked as a historical research consultant at the CBC, Parks Canada, and the Department of National Defence. My MA is from the School of Canadian Studies at Carleton University. I also have a Hon. BA in English Literature and a BSc (Cell Biology) from the University of British Columbia.

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

    Gabrielle: From 1941-1949, the Government of Canada took unprecedented actions taken against Japanese Canadians, including forced removal, internment, confiscation and sale of property and post-war deportations.Archival government and private records from the 1940s preserved by the then National Archives of Canada and used by community citizen activists were critical in building the Japanese Canadian case for Redress.By preserving the records that hold our government accountable in the face of injustice, I viewed our national archives to be one of Canada’s key fundamental democratic institutions and I wanted to work there.

    Q: What does the theme of the ACA 2022 conference, “Unsettled: Redefining Archival Power,” mean to you in terms of overall archival orientations and practice?

    Gabrielle: With respect to my own institution, redefining archival power means that Government of Canada (GC) archivists cannot remain neutral when describing records because neutrality re-enforces the prevailing dominant narrative. To my way of thinking, GC archivists must actively facilitate the creation of space for the emergence of minority narratives and voices that need our assistance to be recognized. This is not remaining neutral. This is choosing sides.And all power shifts are unsettling.

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

    Gabrielle: Learning how colleagues in other archives and memory institutions are having the hard and complex discussions about decolonization and how they are effecting change.  

    Caption: A group of Japanese Canadian deportees, who had been interned during the Second World War, waiting for a train to take them to a ship bound for Japan. Slocan City, British Columbia, 1946. Credit: Tak Toyota (c047398), Library and Archives Canada.

  • 10 Jun 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    The ACA 2022 Annual Conference is approaching fast! The ACA blog, In the Field, is featuring the profiles of a few conference presenters. This post features  June Chow, Master of Archival Studies candidate at the University of British Columbia (UBC) School of Information.

    Q: What is the title of your conference presentation?

    June: Our panel will speak on Lost and Found: Reconsidering Chinese Immigration records at 100 years since the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act. It’s timely to discuss these records created through the discriminatory immigration legislation, and to share work to address the traumas embedded within them.

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

    June: I’m local to Vancouver; I did my Bachelors at Simon Fraser University and had a first career in major gifts fundraising at UBC. Over my time at UBC Library, I helped steward Dr. Wally Chung and his monumental gift of the Chung Collection benefiting academia and the Chinese Canadian community at large. It brings valuable donor relations and person-centered perspectives to my work and research on community archives.

    Q: What does the theme of the ACA 2022 conference, “UnSettled: Redefining Archival Power,” mean to you in terms of overall archival orientations and practice?

    June: Working in community archives and challenging how things are normally done, one can feel simultaneously powerful and powerless which is very unsettling. I’m not sure if it’s a symptom of pursuing graduate studies in a pandemic, but there seems to be a certain ‘TBD’ orientation tied to many issues across the archival field. I don’t yet know if it’s a characteristic of the profession, but maybe it should be to ensure adaptability.

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

    June: I study and practice community archives within Chinatown contexts, in complement to existing heritage and activism work. There’s not a lot of scholarship on Chinese Canadian archives, and very few Chinese Canadian archivists, speaking from here in Vancouver. Our panel is a small step towards addressing this gap. It’s a chance to examine the institutional and community roles and responsibilities that are being redefined together in the pursuit of archival access, accountability and equity. Maybe we’ll be able to build a better model for doing this work moving forward.

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

    June: I’m looking forward to the networking and social events! After attending school in a pandemic, it will be nice to get some face time. 

  • 8 Jun 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    The ACA 2022 Annual Conference is approaching fast! The ACA blog, In the Field, is featuring the profiles of a few conference presenters. This post features Daochun Li, a master’s student at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information.

    Q: What is the title of your conference presentation?

    Daochun: The title of my conference presentation is “Personal Archiving and Identity Formation in the Context of Social Media.”

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

    Daochun: I'm in the dual Master of Information and Master of Museum Studies (MI/MMst) program at the University of Toronto’s iSchool. I completed my undergraduate degree in Languages, Literature and Culture Studies, and Film and Media Studies at Queen's University (Kingston, Ontario). I am also working at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) as an Information Management Student this summer.

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

    Daochun: I have always been passionate about arts, human memories, and storytelling. In the meanwhile, I am also looking to learn more about how and why human memories can be preserved for future generations. My undergraduate experience was eye-opening for me when I encountered a course about oral cultural traditions and a course in semiotic studies. They both influenced me a lot in understanding how information is highly associated with human memories that have the cultural significance of telling the truth and preserving traditions. My experience in media studies further encourages me to explore a pathway that not only involves my passion for information and human memories, but also offers me a chance to critically challenge the current reality of the archival field, and to understand how technology can be better adapted to social needs for meaningful memory-keeping practices.

    Q: What does the theme of the ACA 2022 conference, “Unsettled: Redefining Archival Power,” mean to you in terms of overall archival orientations and practice?

    Daochun: In my opinion, redefining archival power means rethinking what archival practices have been done and what could be done in the future. The power of archives reveals an ability to change, to allow voices to be heard, but it also empowers silences and erasure with the contested interests. Archivists are constantly confronted with choices about what to include and what to exclude. I think that it is good if the questioning process is ongoing, so we are trained to ask ourselves, “why it is important to keep one thing instead of the other?” More importantly, I think questioning must involve pushing oneself one step forward to ask: “Why should it be excluded?” In this way, the status quo of the power of archives can be continuously questioned and redefined by finding voices through silences.

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

    Daochun: I love to start my research with something that I have a connection with. While thinking about the information density of my personal life, I realize that using social media has become one of the major gateways for me to understand my surroundings and become a reflective tool for the curation of self. My personal life and identity have been heavily impacted using social media, and sometimes, it is a bit “spooky” to see how my interpretation of the world and myself could simply be shaped through a platform. My research draws upon the embedded power dynamics within social media platforms by looking at, for instance, the entity of user’s profiles, information policy, and the external flow of social media posts, to explore where and how an individual’s identity is shaped using social media and its potential impact on making personal archiving decisions.

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

    Daochun: I am looking forward to visiting the conference in person this year, and most importantly, spending a few days staying in Vancouver and exploring the city a bit. I’m especially excited about the session of “Lost and Found: Reconsidering Chinese Immigration records at 100 years since the Chinese Exclusion Act” and the session “Technology and Archives” on Friday. I am also looking forward to meeting new people at the ACA conference!

  • 6 Jun 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    The ACA 2022 Annual Conference is approaching fast! The ACA blog, In the Field, is featuring the profiles of a few conference presenters. This post features Michael Marlatt, Film Archivist and current PhD candidate in the Communication and Culture program at York University. 

    Q: What is the title of your conference presentation?

    Michael: I am hosting the Accessibility Forum.

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

    Michael: I am a trained film archivist who graduated from Toronto Metropolitan University’s Film + Photography Preservation and Collections Management MA program five years ago. I am currently working on my dissertation, which looks at the lived experience of students/alumni of moving image archival education programs in North America who identify as having a disability or chronic illness, or are neurodivergent. I’ve worked on preservation projects in the past with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the Canadian Filmmaker’s Distribution Centre (CFMDC), Archive/Counter-Archive, and other organizations. I also serve on various committees for the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) and the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA).

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

    Michael: The interest came from my previous experience working for arts organizations, particularly film festivals. I have been a fan of film history for as long as I can remember and was curious about how film materials were preserved. I have since become just as interested in the experiences of the archivists who care for that film material.

    Q: What does the theme of the ACA 2022 conference, “Unsettled: Redefining Archival Power,” mean to you in terms of overall archival orientations and practice?

    Michael: The theme of this year’s conference makes me think about the role that identity can play in working within an archival institution. I’m of the mindset that diverse representation is needed not only in community archives but institutional ones as well. This extends to upper-level management positions. Hopefully, the conference can be a place for such discussion.

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

    Michael: The work I often do involves interviewing people about their experiences in archival education and their careers post-graduation. My role at this year’s conference is less of a formal presentation and more so hosting a safe space for conference attendees who identify as having a disability, chronic illness, or who are neurodivergent to share thoughts and experiences in the field. I try to bring themes related to disability studies to the moving image archive.

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

    Michael: As someone with epilepsy and a history of working with film, I’m interested in hearing other archivists’ experiences. I’m excited to get a chance to support others who may have always wanted to share these experiences but never knew how. These conversations have the opportunity to examine our profession, perhaps even leading to a reflection of the resources and support that ACA currently provides.

    Connect with Michael on LinkedIn. 

  • 2 Jun 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    The ACA 2022 Annual Conference is approaching fast! The ACA blog, In the Field, is featuring the profiles of a few conference presenters. This post features Csaba Szilagyi, Chief Archivist/Head of Human Rights Program at Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (Blinken OSA) at Central European University (CEU), Budapest/Vienna. 


    Q: What is the title of your conference presentation?
    Csaba: Taming the ghosts: Uncovering ‘tacit narratives’ by rethinking power relations in archives of violent past(s) 
    Q: Can you walk us through your academic and professional path? 
    Csaba: For over 25 years, I have worked in human rights archiving and archival activism in various institutional environments, including the Blinken OSA, Columbia University, Human Rights Watch and the Open Society Foundations. Since 2019, I have been an archival consultant with the Srebrenica Memorial Center Archive in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). As an educator, I have co-taught an archival course and a specialization for students in law, history, and cultural heritage studies. I have an MA in American Studies and am currently a PhD candidate at the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture at the University of Amsterdam. 
    Q: What brought you to the field of archival studies and practice? 
    Csaba: As an advanced graduate student, I got involved with archives by coincidence. Because of my relevant language skills and knowledge of contemporary history, I was hired as a part-time archives assistant to physically process records related to one of the harshest Communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe. In just a few months, working with records on violations of fundamental rights, censorship, and state sponsored terror, as well as curating the microhistories of the oppressed ordinary people inscribed in them, became a lifetime commitment. 
    Q: What does the theme of the ACA 2022 conference, “Unsettled: Redefining Archival Power,” mean to you in terms of overall archival orientations and practice? 
    Csaba: In the past years, I have been exploring ways of making record keeping more hospitable to voices that had been traditionally ignored, misrepresented, obliterated, or entirely excluded from the archives by rethinking archival standards and practices and the agency of the archivist within. The current theme of the ACA 2022 conference underscores the importance and timeliness of these inquiries and promotes inclusion and power relations in the forefront of archival thinking and practice. 
    Q: Can you tell us about your research approach and perspectives? 
    Csaba: My current research project focuses on the roles, responsibilities, and limitations of archives/archiving in creating knowledge on violent past(s)and transforming memory politics relating to violent past(s), based on the documentary heritage of the 1992-1995 wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I am critically examining existing archival standards and curatorial practices and proposing necessary changes to transform knowledge production on and creation of collective memory of political violence in the archives. Finally, I am looking at how bottom-up archiving can contribute to postwar mnemonic practices outside the frames of archives and transitional justice. 
    Q: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s conference? 
    Csaba: Although I will not be physically present at the conference, I hope that I will have the chance to meet colleagues and peers working on related topics online. Case studies on reinstating groups and individuals at the margins of our society in the archives from other parts of the world have always been inspirational for my work. And, hopefully, there will also be something for others to take home from our work at Blinken OSA.


Submission Guidelines

Please complete this form to submit your proposed blog post.

We are looking forward to reading your contribution!

François Dansereau, The ACA Blog Editor

ACA Communications Committee

Our Community

Public Awareness & Advocacy



Contact Us

Suite 1912-130 Albert Street  

Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4

Tel:  613-383-2009 x100


ACA Ask an Archivist

The ACA office is located on the unceded, unsurrendered Territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation whose presence here reaches back to time immemorial.

Privacy & Confidentiality  -  Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct

Copyright © 2023 - The Association of Canadian Archivists

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software