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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

  • 7 Jun 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    ACA 2021 Virtual Conference - June 7-11, 2021

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

    The ACA 2021 Annual conference is right around the corner! In the Field: The ACA blog is featuring the profile of a few members who will be presenting at the conference, June 7-11, 2021. Today we are featuring the profile of Sofie Tsatas, MA student in Information Studies at McGill University.

    Can you tell us your school and program of study?
    I am currently pursuing my Master’s degree in Information Studies at McGill University.

    What is your presentation about?
    My presentation, which is titled “Decolonized Listening in the Archive: a Study of how a Reconstruction of Archival Spaces and Processes can Contribute to Decolonizing Narratives and Listening,” looks at ways in which we can decolonize archival practices and spaces, and how that would impact musical records created by Indigenous artists. My research draws upon the book Hungry Listening by Dylan Robinson, as well as the art and musical exhibit Soundings (2019-2021), curated by both Robinson and Candice Hopkins, which focuses on the question “how can a score be a call and tool for decolonization?” From 2018-2020 I did a Master’s degree in Musicology at the University of British Columbia and I wrote my thesis on the music of Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Cree musician. Writing this thesis resulted in a lot of much needed reflection regarding my role as a settler and uninvited guest residing on Turtle Island (North America) and I realized that I wanted to continue working towards decolonizing efforts in my current degree, particularly regarding musical records. While there is still much for me to learn, this research has been very rewarding!

    What brought you to the field of archival studies and/or practice? 
    I’ve always loved information, and while my music history degree seemed like a good fit at the time to satisfy my need for musical research and analysis, I realized that working more closely with particular historical records and documents was much more suited for me. I remember once reading personal letters from the composer Clara Schumann (1819-1896) addressed to her husband Robert for a school project a few years ago, and how amazing it felt to sit with these records and read something so intimate of someone I never knew. As an archivist, I can do this every day!

    What kinds of archival futures are you invested in? Where do you see change happening? What changes are needed? Where do you hope the profession will be in 10 years? 
    I’m interested in continuing work and research in decolonizing archival practices and spaces. I would love to work in community and participatory-based archives with Indigenous Nations, focusing on musical records. Through this research I’ve learnt that there are some amazing platforms out there that are Indigenous-led and based in Indigenous notions of stewardship and record-keeping that are still not yet implemented in many archives. I want to help implement these systems and I think that in doing so, the role of the archivist will change in some ways.

    Are there any other sessions at the conference that you’re excited to attend? 

    I am especially interested in the “Creating Trust and Transparency: Building Trauma-Informed Archives” Forum and the “Stories We Tell: Narratives of Inclusion” Session!  Everything looks so amazing and I’m excited to hear some of my friends and professors speak as well! Like Isabel, I am new to the field so I am also looking forward to the virtual meetup.
    Is there anything else you want to tell us?

    Fun fact about me: I manage a Bookstagram account (Instagram for books!) called @readingwithsof because I love to read! It is also the most welcoming online community I’ve ever been a part of and I am so happy to be able to share and talk about books in a safe space! 

  • 3 Jun 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    ACA 2021 Virtual Conference - June 7-11, 2021

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

    The ACA 2021 Annual conference is approaching fast! In the Field: The ACA blog is featuring the profile of a few members who will be presenting at the conference, June 7-11, 2021. Today we are featuring the profiles of Kelsey Beauvais and Laura Hernandez, Archivists at Library and Archives Canada. 


    Title of your presentation to the ACA 2021 conference? 

    An exercise in digital curation: Enhancing archival description and digital processing for the Prime Minister Papers Project. 

    Can you walk us through your academic and professional path?

    Kelsey Beauvais: I went to Laurentian University following my passion in history and completed an Honours Bachelor's degree. I already knew by this point that I didn't want to be a teacher - which seemed to be the only profession and career advertised at the time. My love for historical research and passion in exploring oodles of primary sources lead me to continue my education with a Master's degree at Université de Rennes 2(Year 1)/University of Ottawa (Year 2). 

    [Portrait of Kelsey Beauvais, wearing dark-rimmed glasses, a salmon-pink scarf and a black t-shirt]

    Laura Hernandez: I completed an Honours History and Anthropology Bachelor's degree at Western University. I wanted to either become a museum curator or continue my academic path towards a PHD. I decided to continue at Western's Public History Master's Program at Western in the end as it was best suited for me. 

    [Portrait of Laura Hernandez, wearing black-rimmed glasses, and a grey and light green shawl]

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

    We both have what is perhaps considered non-traditional paths to archival practice and we often joke about being "accidental archivists". 

    Kelsey: It's been an up and down journey in the search for a career. I've worked with heritage organizations and mainly supporting GLAMs, but it became clearer to me that I was searching for a niche where I could work more closely with historical sources. This really stood out for me while I was working at CCUNESCO as a Program Officer and coordinating the Canada Memory of the World Register; where my values, interests, knowledge and skills came together at a crux in archival practice. Enter the most amazing opportunity as an Archivist with LAC on the PM project! 

    Laura: I had multiple jobs in museums since I was a teen, but I always found myself enjoying the research side of things. A big recession hit right after finishing my Masters but I was lucky to get a job with a private firm in Ottawa as a historical research analyst. I worked there for nearly a decade on historical litigation research projects including co-managing TRC research work. That helped me get a foot in the door at LAC, first as an archival assistant in Government Records, then as an archivist for this project! 

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

    There is a delicate balance in respecting and understanding what's been done in the past and why, versus understanding and accepting that practices and even archival concepts need to evolve over time. They call it archival science for a reason, there are trial and errors, we come up with solutions and innovations that work for a particular record, project or situation that may not be feasible in the future. Best practices, methods, and concepts will always be a work in progress as society changes and evolves. In order to move Archives forward, we must root ourselves in principles, but be open to change and most importantly, to sharing our lessons learned and solutions. 

    Can you tell us about your research approach and perspectives?

     The idea behind this presentation arose from informal conversations and brainstorming on how to process databases/data sets. While the records were suitable for preservation, we felt these were too valuable and complex to leave in their current state. This meant we needed to explore ways to create additional access points for these while maintaining their integrity. Our overall approach has been a practical and agile one particularly when it comes to description: maximizing what is already available (metadata), using this to supplement contextual information, and adhering to best practices to ensure the authenticity/integrity and long term preservation of the records. The bulk of the research came afterwards as we sought to validate our belief that archivists can have a greater role in digital curation allowing us to collaborate with other areas and to innovate in order to enrich descriptions of records when feasible. 

  • 1 Jun 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    ACA 2021 Virtual Conference - June 7-11, 2021

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

    The ACA 2021 Annual conference is approaching fast! In the Field: The ACA blog is featuring the profile of a few members who will be presenting at the conference, June 7-11, 2021. Today we are featuring the profile of Michelle Phan, recent graduate at the University of Toronto iSchool. 

    Can you tell us your school and program of study? 

    I am a recent graduate from the Master of Information program at the University of Toronto’s iSchool, where I specialized in dual streams of Critical Information Policy Studies and Archives and Records Management. 

    What is your presentation about? 

    My presentation, titled ‘Towards the Rebel Archive: Seeing Prison Abolition through embodiment, ‘value’, and process is based on approaching social justice based archival literature from the perspective of prison and police abolition. In my research, I seek to disseminate the impacts of prison abolition as praxis in the archives and observe the participatory model from the abolitionist perspective.  

    My presentation will be an amalgamation of a series of research projects conducted based on sex worker advocacy networks such as Butterfly Network here in Toronto, as well as an annotation project conducted by Nigel Poor and the incarcerated men of San Quentin State Prison in California. 

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

    I was hesitant to return to academia and archival studies for a long time because of the very visible gaps between theory and practice, particularly in the use of the term ‘decolonization’. Meanwhile, I began to engage more in critical race theory, particularly the works of Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Angela Davis, Katherine McKittrick, and Kelly Lytle Hernandez. Hernandez highlights the rebel archive in her work and this concept is what drew me to the broader frameworks of archival theory.  

    What kinds of archival futures are you invested in? Where do you see change happening? What changes are needed? Where do you hope the profession will be in 10 years? 

    Archives should be ultimately interested in Black liberation and Indigenous sovereignty. Reciprocal and relational praxis is imperative to the way communities want to be represented.  

    I continue to think to Jenn Cole’s words on relinquishing knowledge by “knowing that sometimes waiting is the work” (2019, p. 71) in changing what is valued in archival practice. I hope that a shift towards practice as process/progress encourages archivists to take time to think through decision making processes.   

    Are there any other sessions at the conference that you’re excited to attend? 

    I’m looking forward to so many panels! Black Archives Matter, At Home in the Community Archives: How the ArQuives: Canada’s LGBTQ2+ Archives Has Evolved in Collaboration with Their Volunteers, Towards Acknowledging Emotions in Archival Education, and Dionne Brand reads from The Blue Clerk.  

  • 27 May 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    ACA 2021 Virtual Conference - June 7-11, 2021

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

    The ACA 2021 Annual conference is approaching fast! In the Field: The ACA blog is featuring the profile of a few members who will be presenting at the conference, June 7-11, 2021. Today we are featuring the profile of Isabel Carlin, Master student at the University of British Columbia iSchool. 

    Can you tell us your school and program of study?

    I'm in the dual Master of Archival Studies and Master of Library and Information Studies (MAS/LIS) program at the University of British Columbia iSchool.

    What is your presentation about?

    My presentation, "Home Archives: Online Political Record-keeping in the Diaspora" is about digital recordkeeping practices at Sulong, which is a Filipinx-Canadian student organization at UBC. I've been a member of Sulong since January, 2020, and since the COVID-19 pandemic we've had a huge increase in membership and, consequently, a proliferation of new electronic records within the organization. This presentation is an opportunity for us as an organization to think through the material and political implications of our digital technology usage, and a way for me to learn about how archival theory applies to real-world communities and situations.

    I've been particularly intrigued by the general theoretical trend towards immateriality in discussions of electronic archives — what 'is' a digital record, how are archival bonds made 'real' in a virtual environment, what is originality, etc. It's true that digital records are different from physical records for many reasons, and those reasons are deserving of study. At the same time, I want to explicitly situate workers and infrastructures in our discussions of digital technology, in alignment with the leftist analysis that Sulong brings to its work.

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

    My undergraduate degree at University of Toronto was in Indigenous Studies, History, and French Studies, which ended up creating a pretty cool intersection of post-/anticolonial studies situated across the globe (here on Turtle Island, in Southeast and East Asia, and in former French colonies in North Africa and the Antilles). Discussions of colonial and imperialist power, particularly in the context of research ethics, led me to think about the ethics of data storage and collection and, more broadly, knowledge systems. I applied to the UBC iSchool thinking about how hegemonic archives have been used as tools of imperialist power, and I'm currently grappling with what I feel is a lack of leftist, materialist archival theory, which I hope to contribute to in my future work. 

    What kinds of archival futures are you invested in? Where do you see change happening? What changes are needed? Where do you hope the profession will be in 10 years?

    I'm interested in anti-imperialist and revolutionary archival futures. As a member of a movement for liberation in the Philippines, I know that archives will continue to be useful as we carry our ancestral stories of resistance; today, for example, I still know the name of Gabriela Silang, an Ilocana revolutionary hero who led uprisings against Spanish colonialism in the 1700s, because the Filipino people continue to remember our struggles of resistance. I'd love to see a greater recognition of non-Western ontologies in archival theory, and to see how archives embedded in activist communities (like Sulong!) can leverage the tools of Eurocentric theory and practice for revolutionary aims. 

    Are there any other sessions at the conference that you’re excited to attend? 

    I have to say, all of the sessions look incredible. I wish I could attend all of them!! I'm especially excited to attend the BIPOC Archivists Forum, and the Stream A sessions on Wednesday (The Home in Transition, Under Construction, and the workshop on Incorporating Indigenous Ways in Archival Policy and Procedure Development). I also can't wait to attend the virtual meetup on Tuesday, since I'm so new to the field — really looking forward to meeting other archivists.

  • 25 May 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    ACA 2021 Virtual Conference - June 7-11, 2021

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

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

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

    Title of your presentation to the ACA 2021 conference?

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

    Can you walk us through your academic and professional path? 

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

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

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

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

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

    Can you tell us about your research approach and perspectives? 

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

  • 20 May 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    ACA 2021 Virtual Conference - June 7-11, 2021

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

    The ACA 2021 Annual conference is approaching fast! In the Field: The ACA blog is featuring the profile of a few members who will be presenting at the conference, June 7-11, 2021. Today we are featuring the profile of Annaëlle Winand, PhD candidate at the École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’information de l’Université de Montréal.

    [Black and white portrait of Annaëlle Winand in front of a "Creature from the Black Lagoon" poster]

    Title of your presentation to the ACA 2021 conference?

    What’s in Between? Archive(s) and the Unarchived and Unarchivable Space of Found Footage Cinema

    Can you walk us through your academic and professional path? 

    Back in Belgium, where I am from, I studied history. After I graduated, I taught for a very short time in secondary school before deciding to go back to university to specialize in archival science. I was then hired by the Archives of the University of Louvain-la-Neuve where I worked as an archivist for a little more than two years.

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

    I always tell the same (true!) story: at some point in my life, I declared that I wanted to work with “dead things”… How wrong was I? More seriously, while studying history, I was always working in and with archives. When I decided to re-orient my career it felt quite natural to study the very material I have been involved with for so long. The Archives were also a place I liked, and I was curious about what felt like “behind the scenes” of such institutions.

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

    The theme clearly resonates with archivists trying to be more introspective, asking what we should do about the power dynamics that exists at the core of our work. But it also asks the question: what is home? What archives have we been building so far? Does it need improvement, renovation or, more radically, foundational work? I am truly looking forward to discussing these important questions during the conferences.

    Can you tell us about your research approach and perspectives?

    My work emerges from the “exploitation” framework studied by Yvon Lemay and Anne Klein, which places the uses of archives as an integral part of their trajectory. What especially interests me is the non-traditional uses of archives (or material that is called archives) and how they reveal blind spots in archival science. My dissertation, for example, explores the notions of the unarchived and the unarchivable through absence, invisible, forbidden, and unthinkable.

  • 29 Apr 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for all, archives notwithstanding. A large part of outreach and access to archives involves physical appointments to view archives and collections. Like many other archives, I had in-person archival launches planned for the spring of 2020 that were postponed indefinitely due to the global pandemic. The launch of the S. J. V. Chelvanayakam Fonds, organized by a faculty member, the donor, and myself, was planned to have several multidisciplinary international scholars and community members who would interact with the archive and plan a talk around their findings. Through grants, we intended to fund the speakers’ travel and accommodation. Several months after our library shut down in-person services in March 2020, it was apparent that we needed to adapt our planning to fit around the long-term restrictions that many countries were facing. 

    The S. J. V. Chelvanayakam Fonds is a personal and professional collection that was created in Sri Lanka. The archive was safeguarded and brought with the family when they immigrated to Canada. It was apparent that this fonds would attract many scholars from around the world, and not just Toronto. 

    The event, held in February 2021, served a dual purpose: announcing the acquisition of the archive and opening the digitized portion of the collection. Four months prior to the event, we selected which digitized files were relatively low risk to release online to the public. This was done in consultation with members of the community and our international Tamil Advisory Group. Three months prior, the faculty member selected our potential speakers and researchers. The finding aid was released online as well as the approved digital professional files. In the final two months prior to the event began the logistics and promotional planning which entailed a great deal of work. For the logistics planning, I found planning a clear timeline, schedule, tasks, and roles of participants, using a tool like Excel or other planning tool, was immensely helpful to track all of the details. 


    Pre-registered: 287 

    Attended: 196  

    Number of attendees who registered in advance and attended: 122 

    Number of attendees who registered day-of and attended: 74 

    Countries attended: 8 (Canada, France, India, Netherlands, Norway, Sri Lanka, UK, USA) 

    Total time of event: 183 minutes 

    Average attendee time: 105 minutes 

    We expected that this launch would garner international interest and planned accordingly. We chose to plan the webinar launch at 9am EST, a time at which we hoped that many people from Sri Lanka could join, which is 10.5 hours ahead of EST. Luckily, our institution has access to the Zoom webinar feature which allows for an unlimited number of people and we also used the Interpretation feature so we could make the event bilingual in Tamil, the other language of the fonds. Of course, this launch was not planned in a silo. We had the benefit of working with our Informational and Technology Services department, who helped us set up the Zoom webinar registration according to our preferences, as well as hosting a trial webinar one day prior to the event that proved to be essential with the organizers, speakers, and interpreter. We had a number of staff on hand to assist day-of, with such tasks as fielding questions in the Zoom Q & A box, and also switching the cameras between speakers. After creating promotional posters and emails, our communications team and alumni relations helped spread the word of the event through social media and listservs 

    There were both advantages and disadvantages in having an online archival launch. A clear advantage is that the budget was significantly less than what would have been necessary for an in-person event. As we wanted to invite several international scholars and speakers, there was no need to pay for flight and hotel costs. One of the greatest obstacles overcome by an online launch is breaking the barrier of access: we had a significant number of 196 attendees who attended from eight countries. One of the disadvantages is not being able to provide technical support to attendees, or the event not reaching possible attendees due to lack of technical knowledge or access to Zoom. We tried to overcome this by making registration information very clear. We sent out many reminders to pre-registrants, which included the Zoom link to the webinar, including one final reminder the morning of the event. As you can see from the statistics, however, 74 people still registered the day of the event, which proves that day-of mass communication of the event is essential. To overcome any technical obstacles for attendees, we had slides during the first five minutes of the webinar demonstrating how to turn on the Interpretation feature and how to ask a question. Every five to ten minutes, these instructions were repeated in the chat to new participants and for reminders.  

    We did not know what to expect for an online archive launch but the feedback we received greatly exceeded our expectations, most likely thanks to our speakers who used the archive creatively and thoughtfully in their presentations. Our attendees were engaged all throughout, seeing as how many attendees stayed throughout most of the 183 minutes of the webinar. The attendees also asked thought-provoking questions during the Q & A period. Based on my experience organizing this online archive launch, online events can be as engaging as in-person events. In this scenario, we reached a wider audience than would have been possible at a physical archive launch. If you are curious about hosting an online archives event, please take a look at our webinar recording for the S. J. V. Chelvanayakam Fonds.

    Tanis Franco

    Tanis Franco is the Archivist at the University of Toronto Scarborough where they acquire, process, and facilitate access to archives and digital collections in the Archives and Special Collections unit. Franco has over 9 years of experience working with archives in university and cultural heritage settings and holds a Master of Information Studies from McGill University and a Master of English Literature from Concordia University.

  • 14 Apr 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    As any young professional will know, having the support and guidance of senior staff can be the biggest blessing and privilege. Their words of wisdom and wealth of experience are invaluable and can make the difference in a young professional’s career.  For me, one of those people is Paulette Dozois (PD), now retired Senior Lead Archivist at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Paulette spoke to me in early February about her career, a phone call that lasted only an hour but that could have continued for days.

    Without mentioning any dates (!!) Paulette told me about the beginning of her career working at LAC as an Assistant Archivist in Private Records (or the Manuscript Division) and then as an Archivist (HR-02), where she worked on the MacKenzie King diaries, the Robert Borden fonds, the “four unknowns” — John Abbott, John Thompson, Mackenzie Bowell and Charles Tupper —  then the Richard B. Bennett fonds. Following her time here she transferred to Public Records (also known as Government Records) where she had many different responsibilities but settled with the Department of External Affairs fonds (Foreign Affairs) for twenty years. Her final ten years at LAC were spent working on the Block Review project with the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) group.

    In addition to her time in the Archives Division at LAC, Paulette also spent a year in Policy, a year at the Directorate of History and Heritage at the Department of National Defense, and spent some time working on a contract with the Yukon Archives in Private Records.

    Paulette was awarded the Archives Association of Ontario’s JJ Talman award in 2020 —  a testament to her dedication and leadership in the archival profession. Heralded as a champion of researcher’s rights, Paulette received the award for “her innovative approach to access” through the “identification and examination of representative parts of the archival record and opening the records based on the findings.” The full text of the award citation is available online and includes a very funny anecdote about white gloves!

    Caption: Image of Paulette Dozois, courtesy of Rodney Carter.

    Alt-text: A photograph of Paulette Dozois wearing a red scarf.

    RM: What did you study?  Did you choose your degree based on a desire to work in archives?

    PD: "There was none of that back in the dark ages!"

    Paulette holds a Master of Arts in Canadian History from Carleton University. While completing her work for this degree she did research at the then Public Archives of Canada and was inspired by the work she saw being done there. She said that she’s an "unedumacated archivist"!

    This led to an interesting discussion about the formal education of archivists in Canada. Paulette told me about the aptly-named “Archives course” that new archivists took within about the first five years of being hired. It was a 6-week course delivered by the Public Archives of Canada to archivists across the country with upwards of 50 students at a time.

    Through the course she learned the “basics of archives.” During that era, PAC had three types of archivists: special media, private and government. There were no reference or access archivists then as each group of archivists did their own reference work. But with the advent of Access to Information and Privacy legislation, government records were being transferred to LAC “in tsunamis [and] Reference Services came into being as a point of necessity because of the volume of requests.”

    Paulette told me that “when she started, the [Prime Minister] records up to St. Laurent were all right there on the 3rd floor of [395 Welllington]! You could just walk down the hall and get a box and bring it down to your desk. The government archivists were up on the 7th floor with the tiny windows! Users were sent right upstairs to see archivists; the building was much more open in that way.”

    Caption: Photograph of Library and Archives Canada Ottawa research facility at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa, Ontario.  Photograph by Sophie Tellier (LAC).

    Alt text: Image of large building flanked by banners that read “Library and Archives Canada - Bibliothèque et Archives Canada.”

    RM: What were your impressions of the field, or of the work, when you "joined"? 

    PD: The field was "predominantly, overwhelmingly male and now it's mostly female I think. When I was in the manuscript division first, there were a few women who'd been there a while, the government archives division, when I put my name on the transfer list, the equal opportunities for women had cited the division because there were no female [archivists], just one female [senior archivist] Barbara Wilson.” Paulette did emphasize that she “never had any trouble, [her colleagues were] very respectful.”

    RM: Looking back, what are some of the major shifts you've lived through with regard to archival work?

    PD: "[In] the beginning the archivist did almost all function: reference, custodial, appraisal, acquisition. […] The archivist was really in charge of those records. You did it all. Over time, the amount of authority that a particular archivist has over a fonds has diminished. [...] It had to happen. [...] So much changed when ATIP came in. Our responsibilities increased intensely."

    Her advice is that "archivists should be part of the decisions," because silos won’t serve the record well. “There is just one record.”

    I asked Paulette about her involvement with the ACA.

    PD: “[I] started in the early 1980s on the membership committee, and then the membership chair for a long time. Then I was on the Public Relations committee and I was chair when we did the booklets like Business Archives." Paulette recalls organizing a pop-up frame to set up behind the table at events, getting the ACA out and present in the community. She started publishing and giving papers, and was on the editorial team for Archivaria for a while. At this point in the interview Paulette paused as if this was the extent of it, only to continue by mentioning that she was on 4 or 5 program committees for conferences, chaired the Newfoundland conference program committee in 1993 (Between The Rock and a Hard Place: Archival Theory and Practice). And it didn’t stop there: "I was the one who got approval for the special interest section on access and privacy issues in the 1990s." Paulette also spoke to the importance of the annual conference as an opportunity to establish and maintain the "links across the country that make the ACA a strong organization."

    Caption: Cover page of the Business Archives booklet published by the ACA in 2000.  Copyright Association of Canadian Archivists.

    Alt-text: A blue and white rectangular image that serves as the cover page for a booklet entitled “Business Archives” with various images representing industry such as an oil rig, textual documents, machines, a satellite and a factory-like setting.

    RM: What advice might you give to a young or aspiring archivist?

    PD: "Dress properly (laughter). You know there was a time it was unheard of for an archivist to show up with jeans on. Just not done. [...] Have fun! If there's one word to describe how I feel about my career it's LUCKY. There were some tough times but we got through them."

    I think I speak for many when I say that I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with Paulette, to have had her ear, her kind smile, and to have been able to sit in the corner of her very full office furiously scribbling notes as she told me stories and shared her wisdom on finding aids to restricted files and a few detours in between. Congratulations to Paulette on her well-deserved retirement!

    Rebecca Murray

    Rebecca Murray (RM) is a Senior Archivist in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, Ontario.  She is also a member of the ACA’s Outreach Committee and Mentorship Program.  She sometimes wears jeans to the office but will now never do so without thinking first of Paulette’s advice!

  • 31 Mar 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    For many staff in Libraries, Archives, and Museums (LAMs), it is difficult to carve out time to craft a competitive grant project, find an appropriate grant to apply for, and successfully work through the grant application.
    There are resources available, but many fail to cover all areas of the grant process, and many more are too generalized to be effectively deployed in a LAM setting. Very few are comprehensive to LAMs, provide grant specifications, or offer advanced searching. There are no grant templates that allow LAM staff to plug in content and create applications. Fundamentally, there is no all-inclusive LAM grant toolkit.

    Lucidea- provider of the ArchivEra and Argus collections management systems as well as industry-leading library automation and knowledge management software—partnered with grants expert Rachael Cristine Woody to provide a solution to these problems. They now deliver a single venue to meet the majority of grant needs, and have created a LAM grant toolkit—including a comprehensive grant database spanning Libraries, Archives, and Museums, with opportunities in the United States and Canada. Users can quickly see opportunities that best match their needs, with specifications such as: deadline, award range, and project theme—the most important things you must know to determine if the grant opportunity is a good fit. This resource provides LAMs with access to over $200 million annually—especially meaningful when budgets are constrained during COVID.

    The toolkit is designed to empower LAM professionals by providing all the information and tools needed to confidently apply for grants. Included is a LAM grant workbook that introduces every typical grant application field and provides four grant application templates. It guides users through each application area, outlines what content is needed in order to be successful, and inspires action with four plug-and-play project frameworks.

    Lucidea invites you to view the Grants Directory and/or download a copy of the grant workbook.

    Rima Ghanem

    Rima Ghanem is a Cultural Sector Research Analyst at Lucidea, where her primary focus is on archival and museum collection management systems. Rima holds an MA in Cultural Management from Université Saint-Joseph and an MAS from the University of British Columbia. Prior to Lucidea, Rima worked at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar, and other MENA region heritage organizations.

  • 10 Mar 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    It seemed fitting that, in preparing for an interview with Jamie A. Lee, PhD, about their new book Producing the Archival Body, I would feel an embodied manifestation of my own anticipation: a stomach-fluttering nervousness and excitement, a difficulty swallowing when considering whether or not I was up to the task, a chill in my blood when I decided I probably wasn’t.

    Fortunately, Jamie A. Lee, a longtime interviewer, educator, and archivist quickly made clear that our conversation needn’t be stressful or fear-inducing: in situating our bodies -- even virtually -- they began the interview by envisioning that I’d flown to Tucson (in a non-covid world!) and that we were sitting in the unseasonably warm winter sunshine of a cafe, sipping lattes and listening to chirping birds. The physical sense of comfort and connection took hold right away to ease our discussion.

    [Portrait of Jamie A. Lee, PhD, with a dark blue blazer and black-rimmed glasses. Courtesy of Jamie A. Lee]

    Because Lee has been engaged in the work of documenting LGBTQ+ stories for years now, and because they have written about and presented on the Queer/ed Archival Metholodolgy extensively in recent years, Producing the Archival Body is in many ways a culmination of those experiences and efforts. “The book interrogates how power circulates and is deployed in archival contexts in order to build critical understandings of how deeply archives influence and shape the production of knowledges and human subjectivities” ( The chapters interweave theoretical application with personal anecdotes and subject interviews, and I found myself often returning to the personal stories to understand the depth and richness of the theory through those connective tissues. What follows are a few of our discussion points.

    KW: Can you tell me about the journey this book has taken from dissertation to book?

    JL: It's been interesting to be finishing the book, in the midst of the pandemic. It feels so good to have that out in the world. Of course, it's so nerve racking. My writing feels so personal, like your heart’s on your sleeve, and you're so vulnerable. So, this is the first time I’ve been interviewed about the book. And the first time I’ve ever written a book; I came to the academy older (I turned 50 last year, in the pandemic).

    “With each inclusion and exclusion, archivists have the power to develop the historical narratives, records, and collections, as well as the archival institution.” (p. 68)

    One of the starting points for the book was to think about: what relationships does the archives have to humans? I started thinking through the body, bodily functions, and human subjectivities and all that that entails to consider the archives as archival body. We each have techniques, embodied techniques, that we use in our everyday lives. What are they and how do they carry into our work as archivists. And as archivists, we have all of these [archival] practices, but sometimes it feels more like we’re putting widgets into cogs on assembly lines because we can do them without critically thinking and reflecting upon what we’re doing and why. We’re not asked to pause and to see the big picture of the humans and the many complexities that make the records and the archives, and make the ideas of memory meaningful, and be important and be valued. These are the issues at the center of my work, including not only my published manuscript but also my ongoing research projects, multimedia projects, and public-facing digital humanities projects. I am interested in how to recognize, acknowledge, and work with nuance and complexity. 

    In 2008, Lee founded the Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project, Arizona’s first LGBTQ archives. Since 2011, this project has expanded into the Arizona Queer Archives, AQA, which has become an archival laboratory of sorts where community members and graduate/undergraduate students work together on building the archives. It is in these collaborative spaces where Lee continues to develop and apply a Queer/ed Archival Methodology, Q/M, to support archivists through rapidly changing information environments and the implications — socially, culturally, and technologically — of these changes.

    [Arizona Queer Archive "Made for Flight" Kites Display. Courtesy of Jamie A. Lee]

    When, in 2008, I initially founded the Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project, what is now the AQA, I wanted to know “what do I have to do to make this the right way, to do a good job?” What I found was that the “right” ways felt like they were doing more harm to the communities -- and as a part of the community, it was my role to push back at that and to make it better. I learned so much along the way about my own assumptions, and really tried to pay attention to the relationships I have with people. I wanted to demonstrate responsibility and respect for the people I was working with. If I didn’t have that, basically I was aligning with what we, as archival studies scholars, often critique of the institutional mainstream archives.

    When I started my PhD program, Professor Susan Stryker arrived at my university as the new Director of the Institute for LGBT Studies. She came with an archival background after having directed the GLBT Historical Society and History Museum in San Francisco. I took her seminar on Somatechnics and the Technologies of the Body. It was in this course that everything I thought about archives kind of blew apart. That was where I began to realize that the body is so central to everything we do. While I wrote my dissertation, I drew from somatechnics literatures, queer theorists, and also from Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s 25 Projects central to decolonizing methodologies to develop the Queer/ed Archival Methodology. I really wanted to both center temporality and bodies. How do archives influence people? How do we see interconnections between people in the archives? 

    Those were the initial questions that I was building upon in moving the dissertation to the book project. The biggest thing, for me, is always the stories and the storytelling part of this work. That’s why I started each chapter with stories and put myself out there personally to say, “This matters to me because these are my histories too.” I’m a part of all these things, and there’s no way to discount the body and to break apart the body from each of these records. 

    KW: Who did you envision reading this book when you were writing it? And how would you teach it in your classroom?

    JL: I could see community archivists picking up the book and being inspired. I’d want them to recognize that theory is emerging in their own everyday work within their home communities. Students in archival studies, in gender and women’s studies, in rhetoric, maybe in digital humanities would be able to find information here to think about the role the archives plays in all these areas -- maybe in understanding composition or how the stories come together. 

    [Selfie photo of Hope Herr-Cardillo processing Jay Kyle Petersen’s Collection, 2017. Courtesy of Jamie A. Lee]

    In my own classroom, I could see teaching a couple of chapters, especially the one on the finding aid [Chapter 2, which includes an extensive section on reimagining the place of archivist’s personal reflections in the archiving process]. The postmodern turn in archival studies is still important in today’s classrooms. In the book, I considered incorporating posthumanism as heuristic, a tool, to inquire into the relationships between archives and humans. I know a lot of students are interested in thinking about things like the etymology of terms, what do those terms mean when we bring them to bear on our own collections and collecting practices?

    “...archivists rarely return to finding aids to attend to time, the shifting bodies of records creators and bodies of knowledge, and any descriptive mistakes or needed revisions....Therefore, I understand that developing the conversational aspect of the finding aid is a way for the AQA to embody its participatory ethos.” (p. 58)

    KW: That view seems like it’s part of the idea that we build the world we want to live in -- at least as archivists and archival studies educators. 

    JL: Yes. We have more power to do good than we think we do. We think there are so many gatekeepers around who aren’t going to let us do what we want or need to do, but we just need someone to say “Yes, I’ll do it.” Someone said to me 12 or 13 years ago that since I had the filmmaking equipment and local elder LGBTQ people were dying, I should collect their stories. I said “yes.” And that was how I started Arizona’s first LGBTQ archives. We have a lot of power to collect and build our histories and to shape all of the many nuanced narratives that don’t often get a chance to be seen. 

    KW: Who are some of the most significant influences on your work?

    JL: When I first read Jasbir Puar’s book Terrorist Assemblages, Elizabeth Freeman’s Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories, and Avery Gordon’s Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination -- those three books knocked my socks off in my first semester of my doctoral studies. Professor Frank Galarte worked closely with me in this first semester to challenge my assumptions and grow my ideas of the archives and what they can do. I’ve always been curious about time, space, and the understanding of our bodies in that time and space, and where that all overlaps with archives. Those three books really opened up doors for me to just try on ideas and noodle my way through it.

    KW: How would you characterize your methodology?

    Lee has written extensively on Queer/ed Methodology, which informs much of their work and this book.

    JL: I bring in a queer methodology; not just a queer theoretical lens, but a way to use a queer methodology to also suggest storytelling as a method. It goes beyond the act of collecting the story to the act of telling the story. I think that we should pay attention to thinking about what stories these records will tell, and then put the records into the collection in that way. It’s a way to understand relationality.

    “Like both haunting and decolonizing as temporal methods of producing and consuming archives, queering provides a means for reimagining normative assumptions within archives and about the bodies of knowledges therein." (p. 78)

    KW: What do you want readers, current and future, to know about Producing the Archival Body?

    JL: The book is similar to my own personal trajectory in the archives, including me entering the archives as a non-academic social justice activist. So we can see the ways we move through and have different journeys when we’re working in archives. I would like our students to learn in the classroom that we’re all wrestling with these same ideas, and that we can make different inroads and interventions. I’d like our students to have the confidence to push for social justice and make change in whatever archives they’re working in. 

    There’s a quote from one of my earlier documentary films that has stuck with me. Pastor Anita Hill was ordained by St. Paul Reformation Lutheran Church; she was a lesbian and would not divorce her partner or be celibate. At her ordination, we interviewed Bishop Krister Stendahl who said, “The drop makes a hole in the stone, not by its weight, but by constantly dropping.” Thinking about social justice, it’s not like one big thing is going to change it. But it has to be all of these little drops continuing to drop. How can we spread this urgency to make change? Even if it's small and incremental, it could be lasting. So how do we do it?

    Kristen Whitson

    Kristen Whitson has a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and she has worked in digital preservation, community and indigenous archives, and LGBTQ+ archives. She is currently a Program Assistant with Recollection Wisconsin.

    Jamie A. Lee is Assistant Professor of Digital Culture, Information, and Society in the School of Information – Arizona’s iSchool – at the University of Arizona, where their research and teaching attend to critical archival theory and methodologies, multimodal media-making contexts, storytelling, and bodies. For more information about Lee’s research, visit their website:

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