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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

  • 5 Apr 2022 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    Olivia White is an emerging archival professional working towards a Master of Information and a Master of Museum Studies from the University of Toronto. She has undertaken roles in archives and heritage organizations, and is passionate about ensuring the stories within archival records can be preserved and shared far into the future. 

    The University of Toronto (U of T) student chapters of the Association of Canadian Archivists and Librarians Without Borders (LWB) worked diligently to produce the 7th Annual Human Library to great success! With about 15 participants and nine professionals in attendance, the event provided an excellent opportunity for students to have small-group discussions about the day-in-the-life of an information professional.
    With a tradition towards an in-person event, the Human Library has pivoted to an online setting for the past two years. The virtual environment notably expands the scope of professionals and participants beyond the Greater Toronto Area, permitting a geographically diverse group of attendees. As a student in my final year at the University of Toronto’s iSchool, I have attended the Human Library annually for three years. This marks my first year attending as an Executive Member of the ACA UofT Student Chapter, and I enjoyed seeing behind the curtain as to how the event is produced.

    Events Coordinator Sophia Dodic spearheaded the event, aptly coordinating timelines and preparing documentation to keep the event planning on schedule. ACA Student Executives Camille McDayter, Steve Kim, and Ursula Carmichael, as well as LWB Student Executive Allison Kaefring were integral during the event planning sessions in which we devised communication strategies and divided the work for reaching out to professionals. 
    As Communications Coordinator, I promoted the event on our social media sites, the iSchool’s discord server, through iSchool newsletters, and in-class announcements. We also posted information on dedicated Facebook groups, listservs, and Slack channels, and had support from Professor Karen Suurtamm to spread the word. With the ever-presence of Zoom fatigue, our early registration numbers were lower than average, but more participants signed up closer to the event date. 
    During the event, we paired professionals to “host” a breakout room based on their professional experiences, which established a meaningful dialogue between attendees. Participants could jump around to different breakout rooms, but many chose to stay within one group to gain a comprehensive understanding of an information professional’s duties. Students received a Human Library handbook with biographies provided by the professionals to determine which rooms to join and guide their conversations. 
    One component of the Human Library that I have always enjoyed is hearing about the everyday rewards and challenges of the information professions. Many professionals also provide resources to learn more about topics of interest – I always come away with a few websites to bookmark for future research. It is also interesting to hear about the journey of iSchool alumni into their current positions. 
    After the event, we circulated a feedback form for attendees to describe their experience to improve upon the delivery of the next Human Library. Finally, we were also pleased to offer two complimentary student member registrations for the upcoming ACA Conference through a raffle for student attendees. With another year of the Human Library completed, it is my hope that this long-running networking event can continue in the future, allowing emerging information professionals to discover the inner workings of archives, records management and library environments. 

  • 29 Mar 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    For the next few weeks, we at the ACA McGill University Student Chapter invite you to join us for an immersive series of blog posts titled PeepShow and Tell: Sex in Archives. Through interviews with researchers and professionals working firsthand with explicit materials, we hope to illuminate the intrinsic value of sex and sexuality within the field of archiving and why these materials deserve to be preserved.

    Ezell Carter, co-author of this piece, is a graduate student with the School of Information Studies at McGill University and the Co-Coordinator of the ACA McGill University Student Chapter.

    For our first post, we spoke with Matthew Lawrence, a graduate student with the School of Information Studies at McGill University and the co-founder of Headmaster magazine, “The Art Magazine for Man-Lovers,” alongside his partner Jason Tranchida. We asked Matthew to tell us more about Headmaster, their engagement with archives, and how sexually explicit collections have shaped culture overall.

    Can you tell us about your magazine, Headmaster, and what inspired you to start it?

    The art journal Headmaster launched in 2010 as “the biannual art magazine for man-lovers.” The first issue was 88 pages, perfect bound, and printed on 70lb paper in an edition of 1000, a format we left virtually untouched for six years. We spent weeks agonizing over paper selection and then finding a printer that would let us do press proofs. Even now we drive to the printer so we can check each page as it comes off the offset printer, saying things like “can we bump up the magenta here?” or “this needs five percent less yellow.. Many people would not find this rewarding, but we do.

    For the past decade, I have edited the art magazine Headmaster with my partner Jason Tranchida. Each issue of Headmaster features nine or ten original projects, based on assignments written specifically for each artist. Released occasionally—issues are numbered, not dated, and the “biannual” idea did not last very long—Headmaster is intended to be sexy and smart, topical without dating itself too quickly.

    What can I find in an issue of Headmaster?

    We have given assignments about an array of subjects: the planet Neptune, the lax public nudity laws in Seattle, the titling of porn videos, the architecture of discotheques. But we always keep returning to specific moments in queer (primarily gay male) histories, and that can lead to some fun archival research work. Once an artist is interested, we develop their assignment for a week or two and then give them roughly 6-8 weeks to complete their project, whether that is a comic style photo novel project about dithyrambs or a cut paper tug of war (to name two recent examples). We work with photographers and writers, but also with artists working in fiber, video, music, and other genres that are not traditional two-dimensional paper works. The most recent issue features an astrology project by House of Rice, Vancouver’s only all-Asian drag family.

    What is one of your favourite projects from Headmaster?

    There were originally three Headmaster editors. The third, Matthew Underwood, stepped back after the first few issues but remained close to the project, creating his own project for Headmaster No. 7. At some of our launch events, he live mixed pornographic VHS tapes under the pseudonym VJ DILF.

    Headmaster No. 7 was field trip themed, and we sent our former co-editor Matthew Underwood to investigate the records of the Gaylactic Network, “a national organization for gay people and their friends, who are interested in science fiction, fantasy, horror and gaming.” In the early 1990s, the group’s geographically disparate members waged a letter-writing campaign to demand queer representation on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Underwood’s project includes a reproduction of a thoughtful but cagey letter from staff research consultant Richard Arnold explaining why gay and lesbian identities would not be an issue by the 24th century. (Figure 1)

    Figure 1. Artist – Matthew Underwood, Headmaster No. 7

    How does the world of archives enter into your work with Headmaster?

    Brown University holds the administrative records, newsletters, correspondence, and promotional material for the Gaylactic Network’s first three decades, and we were fortunate enough to visit the collection with Underwood, who was so charmed by the fan-made comics, memorabilia, and newsletters that he decided to present the materials essentially as is, arranged neatly atop the visually disorienting grid of a transparent Photoshop layer. 

    The sexual content of Headmaster varies from issue to issue, though generally the most explicit projects tend to be illustrated and not photographed. I enjoy the discovery process, and personally get excited when uncovering historical and creative moments that I did not know about previously. For instance, we gave the homoerotic writer Michael Wynne an assignment inspired by calling cards produced for Paresis Hall, an all-male brothel that existed on New York’s Bowery at the beginning of the twentieth century. We found a collector and reprinted some of his postcards for the issue, even though Wynne’s story was completely contemporary. Artist Dean Sameshima used vintage magazine imagery to advertise his own version of utopia. (Figure 2) In a more startling use of appropriation, artist Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Unangax̂) blended colonial imagery of Indigenous destruction with clueless white sports fans wearing feathers and headdresses.

    Figure 2. Artist – Dean Sameshima, Headmaster No. 5

    We began Headmaster at a time when many mainstream periodicals were dying out, but when a wave of underground queer periodicals was beginning to crest: titles like Christopher Schulz’s bear-focused photo project Pinups (which could be disassembled and turned into an almost life-sized poster), Darren Ankenbauer’s raunchier Handbook, or Jessica Gysel’s lesbian-centered Girls Like Us. That wave has largely subsided, partly due to the shuttering (at least in North America) of independent bookstores and other outlets that sold erotic niche zines and magazines.

    What strikes you the most about this work and how it is received?

    Well, as one example, our debut issue features a painting project by Sholem Krishtalka, an artist now based in Berlin who at the time managed Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop. With the 2009 closing of New York’s Oscar Wilde Bookshop, Glad Day had recently taken the title of North America’s oldest gay bookstore. We learned about the store and about Krishtalka and thought we could maybe interview him, completely unaware that he was primarily a visual artist. After sending a cold email and getting a positive response, we asked him to paint some of his favorite images from vintage periodicals sold in the store. One of the most striking is a white page that simply says “’Homosexuals are child molesters.’ That’s what they’ll be saying.” (Figure 3)

    Figure 3. Artist – Sholem Krishtalka, Headmaster No. 1

    I visited New England last week and, scanning through radio stations, listened to a few minutes of a call-in show on one of the area’s many conservative talk radio networks. (This is one of the bluest parts of the country, mind you.) A caller used the words “grooming” and “indoctrination” to describe an interaction between a child and a hair stylist who asked for clarification when asked for “a girl’s haircut.”

    Headmaster remains a labor of love for us. I am studying at McGill University in the Master of Information Studies program with a focus in archiving. I want to move into the archival field and realize that my dream job would be one where I could incorporate my experience in publishing, art, and queer histories. That’s where I hope to go. That’s where my journey with Headmaster has led me.


    You can find more information about Matthew Lawrence and Headmaster magazine here: and here:

    Images courtesy of Matthew Lawrence and Headmaster Magazine

    Matthew Lawrence is a graduate student with the School of Information Studies at McGill University and the co-founder of Headmaster magazine alongside his partner Jason Tranchida.

  • 15 Mar 2022 1:00 PM | Anonymous

    Andrew Chernevych is Head Archivist at the Galt Museum & Archives, Lethbridge, Alberta. He also serves as a Director-at-Large at the ACA and as a board member of the ICA's Section of Local, Municipal and Territorial Archives (SLMT). 

    The social isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic was the last straw. Being an archivist in a small urban centre, a town or a municipality means you’re on your own—professionally speaking. Chances to talk to a fellow archivist are precious and rare. It’s a difficult situation to be in, especially for a young professional. The pandemic made things worse as conferences and workshops got cancelled. How does one hope to challenge oneself and grow professionally under these conditions?

    The pandemic upheaval, however, has brought to life developments that can remedy the problem. One of them is the rapid proliferation of virtual meeting platforms, particularly Zoom. Almost overnight, virtual meetings have become a new normal, upending the culture of professional communication. And this has opened new doors for connecting—notably for archivists in small communities. 

    The first virtual meeting of local archivists took place in June 2021. Fourteen participants from Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia joined a Zoom event to get to know each other and share experiences. Each participant had the chance to introduce themselves, their institution, and share their interests and challenges. It was novel, exciting and perhaps a bit overwhelming. For me, it was quite eye-opening to see so much diversity—in institutional settings, in roles and backgrounds, and in perspectives on archival work. The hour flew by fast. 

    The consensus was that such meetings are useful and that participants would like to make them regular. It was agreed to keep it informal and to have the chair position rotated among the members. It was also suggested to have themes for future meetings —with a focus on a particular subject such as volunteers, grants, digital records, etc. A volunteer facilitator was to take care of scheduling, meeting hosting and note-taking. The group was to be called the Network of Regional Archives or NoRA for short. 

    Since the summer of 2021, we have had two more NoRA meetings. In the fall, we discussed archival databases and most recently in January we delved into a discussion about volunteer programs. Both meetings featured brief presentations by members, Q&A periods and informal discussions. Big thanks to Philip Pype of the Esplanade for chairing both sessions. Personally, I learned a lot. For example, Tara Hurley of Kelowna Museums offered cautionary tales of unethical behaviour of volunteers, while Corine Price of Lloydminster Museum outlined limitations of work-from-home volunteering. 

    The purpose of the group is to provide networking opportunities and a forum to exchange ideas and experiences. Unlike the Society of American Archivist’s Lone Arrangers Section, the NoRA has no formal affiliation or organizational structure. A participant doesn’t have to become a member or take on any commitments. Anyone is free to attend as many meetings as one wishes. It’s open to everyone—one doesn’t have to have “archivist” in their title or have an archival education. In fact, many Canadian lone arrangers have neither. The NoRA collective currently includes a librarian, a museum CEO, a collections technician and an archives manager. We are open to all “small-place” heritage professionals who work with archival records.

    If you would like to participate in future meetings, please contact Andrew Chernevych ( to be added to the NoRA email list. The next meeting will take place in late March or early April; the theme will be announced soon.

  • 8 Feb 2022 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    Josephine Baker is MA Student in Economics, a Heilbroner Fellow, and a Sawyer Seminar Research Assistant at the New School for Social Research.

    A collage of colonial banknotes

    [Assortment of Colonial Banknotes]

    The Project

    Beginning in fall 2021, faculty at The New School launched a Mellon-funded Sawyer Seminar titled Currency and Empire: Monetary Policy, Race, and Power. The goal of the project was to interrogate the connections between monetary systems and (neo)imperial power through deep interdisciplinary engagement. Housed at the Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies, and with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Currency and Empire has rolled out a suite of initiatives and programming. Through seminars, reading groups, and our online archive mapping project, faculty members and graduate students involved with the work of Currency and Empire explore the relationship between monetary systems, the production and consolidation of racial difference, and imperial power. 

    The seminar series, which began in fall 2021 and will continue through spring 2022, has organized meetings around a variety of topics, such as Categorizing Currencies, Colonial Genealogies of Political Economy, Hierarchical Systems of Currency, and the Technopolitics of Money Management. In addition to the seminars, the project hosts informal reading groups every other week. The aim of the reading groups is for participants to build a common language through discussion. Reading group topics have included Theories of Money, Neoliberalism and Monetary (Dis)orders, and Monetary Futures - A Vernacular Archive. The reading group has been a great way to build scholarly community as all attendants are encouraged to participate and play a role in deciding future topics and readings.

    The seminars and reading groups both take place via Zoom and are open to anyone interested in the topic. To register for events or join our mailing list you can visit our website To follow our ongoing work please join us on Twitter @EmpireCurrency and on Facebook @EmpireCurrency.

    The Archive Mapping


    As part of the Currency and Empire project, I have had the pleasure of building an interactive data visualization for mapping archival resources related to the topic of Currency and Empire. The goal of the archive mapping is to create a collective open-source resource to help those interested in the topic explore relevant collections. The archives included span from the more formal – the archives of national banks – to the informal or “vernacular”. The map works by displaying the archives and their themes both by network and geographically. Users of the mapping can apply filters to visualize connections and find specific resources. When scrolling over an archive marker, users see a brief description of the archive and its contents as well as a link to the archive’s website. Thus, the mapping is not simply a list of archives, but a central location for the exploration of archives related to currency and empire.

    An oval shaped data visualization with coloured dots along the perimeter and different coloured lines connecting them at various intersecting points.

    [Currency and Empire Archive Mapping Network Visualization]

    Visualizing the Data

    The data visualization is built using a combination of programming in R and visualizing in Tableau. The visualization helps understand archives through their connections to categories of imperial powers, currency types, general themes, and other archives. One dashboard maps the archives by location and allows users to filter by these categorical variables. The other dashboard illustrates the connections between these archives and their themes via network mapping. Lines connect archives such as the Egyptian National Library’s Car al-Kutub collection or the Banco De Mexico’s numismatics collection to themes like numismatics and counterfeiting, currencies like shells, bonds, and virtual currency, and related imperial powers.

    Contributing to the Project

    One aim of this archive mapping project is to create a collective aggregation of resources. For this reason, the archive mapping is an open-source resource. Information about relevant collections or archives can be submitted via a brief submission form on our website. From here, I integrate the suggested archive into the database for the visualization and update the visualization to include it. By engaging in this type of interaction with participants and archival communities, we can expand the scope of the mapping beyond the knowledge of our team. We encourage those submitting to contribute not only by directing us to new archives, but also by suggesting additional themes or currencies related to their submission. Part of our motivation in contributing this blog post is to encourage ACA community members who are aware of interesting resources related to the topic of currency and empire to consider submitting them so we can continue to expand our database and create a more comprehensive mapping. Expanding our database means that seminar participants and site visitors will be able to explore a more diverse and extensive set of resources in their consideration of the topic.

    Some of the wonderful submissions we have received include:

    • The Baroda State Archive which was described by Shweta Banerjee in her submission as “both formal and vernacular. This is the archive of the Baroda State which was indirectly ruled by Britain. Finance and currency was a site of contestation between the Baroda State, the Colonial state, and merchant-bankers.”
    • The Tunisian Museum of Currency and Money which is held by the Tunisian Central Bank and includes a collection of banknotes and coins as well as tools used to create and destroy currency.


    My participation in Currency and Empire has allowed me to grow as an economist. The interdisciplinary approach to the study of money’s connection to imperialism is a crucial perspective for all scholars, but particularly economists, to consider. Furthermore, work on the archival project has allowed me to advance my personal awareness of the scope of collections relevant to the study of monetary orders. Archives are critical to the study of currency and empire and are essential to understanding the historical context of monetary regimes and imperial power. My hope is that the archive mapping project will help others to expand their knowledge of the collections and records available.

  • 29 Sep 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    About the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) Mentorship Program

    The Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) offers a Mentorship Program that connects emerging archivists with working archivists to help “advise and guide them on career and professional development.” It provides mentees with a mentor to whom they may ask questions about the archival profession. It begins in January and lasts for one year, unless the mentor and mentee both decide to continue. For more information about eligibility and the ACA Mentorship Program in general, please visit the ACA's Mentorship Program's web page. 

    Experiences Within the ACA Mentorship Program: A Mentee’s Perspective (Alesha Grummett-Roesch)

    I heard about the ACA Mentorship Program from a friend of mine who had participated in the program the year before and enjoyed her experiences, which made me eager to have the opportunity to participate. I decided to apply because I thought that it would be a great chance to network, that it would provide a one-on-one opportunity to speak with a working archivist, and that it would allow me to learn more about the archival community in general.  

    The ACA paired me with Rebecca Murray, a Senior Archivist in Reference Services at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). This was the first time that I had participated in a mentorship program, so I was not entirely certain about what to expect. One of the first topics that Rebecca and I discussed was how we wanted to communicate and how often. We decided to have monthly meetings and communicate via email in between the meetings, if needed. Before the meetings, we would plan a few topics that we wanted to discuss, such as her work experiences within LAC, interview tips, the ACA conference, and courses that I took as a graduate student at the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. 

    I enjoy meeting with Rebecca each month to talk about archives. I feel that I learn something new each time. One of the things that surprised me most is the great network that Rebecca has. For example, a few times she invited some of her friends and former colleagues to join our meetings, so that I had a chance to learn more about other archivists’ experiences and get advice from them. I also attended a Reference Archivist team meeting, which was a wonderful opportunity. I was able to learn more about what it is like doing reference work, something that I did not learn much about during my graduate studies. Overall, I have really enjoyed being a part of the mentorship program. It has been an extremely well-supported environment and my mentor has gone far above what I expected. I look forward to seeing what the remainder of the year within the ACA Mentorship Program brings. 

    Experiences Within the ACA Mentorship Program: A Mentor’s Perspective (Rebecca Murray )

    I applied for the ACA Mentorship Program without any prior knowledge of what it might entail. It’s been my first opportunity to be part of a formal mentorship program. I have to admit there was a bit of imposter syndrome at the start – surely I’m not old enough or experienced enough to be a mentor, I thought. 

    My experience with the program has shown me that I do have something to share, even with less than ten years of formal work experience in an archive. I also hadn’t anticipated how much I would learn too. I don’t have formal education in archives or information studies, so being paired with Alesha has been a great opportunity to learn about her education and what she’s learned about the archival profession in a Master of Information program. This was only further cemented during the ACA conference when I had the chance to listen to students and new grads speak about the gaps in archival education and how they view the profession. 

    In inviting other archivists and historians in my network to join us during our monthly chats, I also learned about different types of archives and gained perspective on differences between the private and public sectors. Although we’ve been meeting once a month through any number of online platforms, Alesha and I have also become regular correspondents on any number of topics (mostly) related to archival work. 

    A really interesting and unique thing about this year is that we attended a virtual meet up for all mentees and mentors.  Although not all attended, it was a great chance to “meet” archivists from across the country doing all sorts of different work and to hear about their experiences within the program. 


    The program is not only a one-year opportunity to get advice on a myriad of topics from an archivist, it’s also an opportunity to network and to gain perspective on the range of archival work and institutions in Canada.  It’s a great opportunity for experienced archivists to give back to the community and to (hopefully!) help inspire and encourage the next generation of information professionals. 


    About the 2021 Mentorship Program

    The 2021 ACA Mentorship Program saw a record number of participants. According to Jamie Sanford, the Mentorship Coordinator, there were “36 mentors and 46 mentees,” as some mentors agreed to mentor two mentees. All mentees were matched with a mentor. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, please fill out the mentor or mentee application by November 15, 2021.

    Alesha Grummett-Roesch and Rebecca Murray

    Alesha Grummett-Roesch is a recent graduate of the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. She completed her Master of Information, focusing on Archives and Records Management, in June of 2021. 

    Rebecca Murray 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 Communications Committee. 
  • 15 Sep 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    This past March, the University of Toronto Archives and Records Management Services (UTARMS) launched our Oral History Collection on Student Activism. Having worked on the project over the previous 18 months, to tweak the final lines of code and publish it was exciting, a relief, and a chance to reflect on the long series of questions and discoveries that developed throughout. For myself, the process helped to draw out ideas around transparency, responsibility, and context. It was also a reminder of the creative joy of bringing an initial idea to fruition.

    The project was conceived as a component of UTARMS’ documentation strategy, in particular to respond to the limited record of student voice within our holdings. This was driven by a recognition, by both archivists and researchers, that the fundamental role the social, administrative, and intellectual life of the institution has been shaped by students. Creating this collection carried multiple goals: to provide distinct entry points and perspectives for researchers, as well as to develop a deeper understanding of the barriers in documenting these critical aspects of the University’s history.

    The first step in the project involved the hiring of  a student with a background in oral history to conduct research, interview participants, and help further develop the scope of the project. Through her oral history experience, research interests, and attention to issues on campus and beyond, Ruth Belay brought incredible vision to the project overall. Additional goals then emerged through our discussions together, with current student groups, participants, oral historians and others.

    [Screenshot of Interview with Norman Kwan conducted by Ruth Belay and Daniela Ansovini on the website of the University of Toronto Archives Online]

    One key question highlighted by student groups centered on how such a collection could serve current students and their organizations, with particular attention to the specifics of knowledge transfer in an environment heavily affected by the turnover of each cohort. As Ruth guided the interviews, different aspects of this surfaced, from intentional succession planning to the nitty gritty of navigating the University’s resources and structures.

    Ensuring continued connections to student groups beyond the interviews’ content emphasized the need to consider how we approached these relationships more generally. It became an opportunity to not only uncover concerns, but to build a more critical understanding of both the limitations of and the possibilities created by our position as an institutional repository. One result of this has been to more fully adopt approaches responsive to specific interests, for example, implementing methods to support recordkeeping and preservation of student group records outside of the archive. Another has been to challenge how UTARMS might activate the interviews and engage future students for whom the content might directly address. What connections can be made through the interviews’ content to continuing and relevant conversations through time? How are we gathering feedback and direction from student groups themselves?

    Another aspect of the project which grew from a theoretical understanding to practical application surrounded the ethical principles that guide oral history’s attention to transparency. Expectedly, we began with our consent form, ensuring participants were continuously able to direct the interview, dictate access and use, and were well informed of the intent of the project and the eventual context in which the interviews would exist.

    However, like all else, this expanded as we dug into the specifics. For example, were there differing understandings of archives by participants that obscured an understanding of how the material might be used? Ruth and I became more conscious of how we described the archival research environment and the extent to which we control how information is used in this way. In holding copyright to the interviews, what might use by the University itself look like, and how could we confirm clear consent regarding this? We added a specific clause to the consent form for participants to opt in to any promotional uses of the content by the University.

    Working with participants, each with specific concerns, we adjusted the consent form, adapted aspects of the project and confirmed with interviewees when these represented marked shifts in the process. This process also highlighted the degree to which we wanted to open our method and the context of the project to researchers by outlining our methodology and inviting questions, concerns, and reflections.

    The level of consultation and flexibility that the project demanded has encouraged my own willingness to embrace the evolving and individualized nature of archival work overall (in particular, my own focus and work with private donors). Oral history’s prioritization of the narrator and their experiences extends beyond what is recorded to a commitment to protect their continued autonomy through the process itself. Far from throwing standards, policy, or requirements out the window, for me, it has served as a model to ask better and deeper questions. 

    I have drawn a lot of satisfaction from the lessons learned through managing this project, sometimes tough or unexpected, but fruitful. That said, what was immediately fulfilling was to hear the richness of the interviews themselves. Our questions centred on activism and participants generously seized on this theme, weaving in the personal, pragmatic, and reflective. Mentorship, the role of educational institutions and the responsibility they hold, as well as the many facets of equity surfaced as underlying ties between the interviews. In both listening to these interviews and connecting with all of those who were a part, it has been a motivating project that highlighted the expansive nature of our relationships and the value of questions asked.

    Daniela Ansovini

    Daniela Ansovini is an Archivist with the University of Toronto Archives and Records Management Services (UTARMS) where she is responsible for the private records of individuals and organizations affiliated with the University of Toronto. An aspect of her current role is dedicated to re-visioning UTARMS' collections strategy for private records.

  • 21 Jul 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    In 1975, Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of Timor-Leste (East Timor). Its armed forces continued to occupy the territory until 1999, when a United Nations-sponsored referendum saw the country set off on the path to regaining its independence.  

    How did Timor-Leste (East Timor) win its independence from Indonesia, the regional power, after 24 years of occupation? The Timor International Solidarity Archive aims to help answer that question by locating, digitizing and disseminating archival records on Timor-Leste and the international solidarity movement that campaigned for its right to self-determination during the period of military occupation and crimes against humanity (1975-1999).  

    Screenshot of home page of the AtoM platform of the Timor International Solidarity Archive.

    This project presents numerous challenges in moving past open sources into finding and making available the files of solidarity movement activists. In this blog post, we explore the challenges and two successful efforts to disseminate solidarity movement records, undertaken in Brazil and the United States.  

    We started our research by gaining a greater understanding of the multiplicity of actors involved in the historical circumstance we were examining. The more we deeply understood the history of East Timor and its particularities, the more we discerned that different stakeholders (solidarity groups) played key functions in the independence process. To map the transnational solidarity movements was crucial for the understanding of the blind spots of East Timor history, and the archives were our primary source to achieve this goal. 

    Mapping the Movement : map of the world with member groups of the International Federation for East Timor identified with red dots, 1999

    One of our first challenges was to start extracting important information from the large number of documents on location at Bishop’s and to deeply understand the linear nature of the historical process. In terms of examining the historical archives, we reviewed documents from different contexts and backgrounds, including in the first stage East Timor; Indonesia; Portugal; Canada; United States and United Nations; in different languages (initially English, French, and Portuguese), and from different perspectives (institutional; individual; collective). All these documents provided different lenses to analyze how the transnational solidarity movement was structured and its basis for supporting the independence process of East Timor. 

    To critically engage with the literature and the documents regarding events in East Timor was also an important part of the research process.  Archival records themselves don’t give all the answers, of course. Thus, it was necessary to contrast the primary sources with other research in the field. Most important was to understand how to read archival “silences” and to position the documents within larger perspectives. Here we draw on the challenges identified in such collections as Basements and Attics, Closets and Cyberspace: Explorations in Canadian Women’s Archives, edited by Linda Morra and Jessica Schagerl.

    After establishing a method to compile the essential documents, we were confronted with our next challenge: to use this research as a knowledge-sharing platform that allows other researchers to use this data in their fieldwork. Discussions of digitization practices and the impact of IT resonated in our research as we progressed. Thus, our next step was to direct our efforts to the creation of a solid archival database, entirely online, and to simplify the access of these documents for researchers from all over the world who want to critically engage with the historical perspective of East Timor and the transnational movements that support the country. 

    In 2018, Juliana Brito Santos Leal began working with David Webster as a Research Assistant for this archival project. Juliana was tasked with describing and uploading various documents created by solidarity activists from around the world that were active during Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor. Juliana worked on multiple collections: Canada Asia Working Group, East Timor Alert Network, etc.  

    Another challenge was to have access to new material in São Paulo (Brazil) regarding Clamor por Timor. As a Brazilian, Juliana consulted the archivist responsible in Portuguese by email and asked about the possibility of getting access to the digitized material. This claim was denied because the material wasn’t digitalized yet. Juliana asked if it was possible to go in person to collect the material in the period of one week. Juliana was going to spend in Brazil. The response was negative until Juliana had the permission of the archive's supervisor, who usually goes there once a week. After several calls and e-mail, while Juliana was already in Brazil, the archivists indicated that they do have the files of Clamor por Timor, but they didn’t know exactly how many and where they were in between the 32 boxes of Grupo São Domingo. Juliana then came back to Canada without having accessed the records.  

    After watching our effort, the archive’s director suggested that we ask for a research assistant that works there to find all the documents regarding Clamor por Timor and organize them in one single place. After that, the research assistant could ask for the digitization of the records and for the transfer of the digital files to us. This kind of service, however, was not “institutionalized.” They were only offering it because we couldn’t be there in person to separate and make copies of the documents. Thus, the archival institution charged us for this service. There was a risk: pay and then discover we only have a few pages of the relevant document. We decided to take the risk, and received 1649 pages of documents. 

    These files have now been summarized in English by Katrina Kramer, another project participant at Bishop’s University. At the same time, we selected the Access to Memory platform (AtoM) originally developed with the advice of the International Council of Archives, and began to digitize and describe materials. This began with solidarity group newsletters and has continued with an extensive digitization and description process beginning with the files of the East Timor Alert Network of Canada. For instance, it is now easy to search ETAN records on the web site by keyword, to narrow down by leaflets, or to track the story in other ways. 

    Screenshot of the Timor International Solidarity Archive AtoM platform

    Parallel to Juliana’s work in obtaining Brazilian records, David worked to obtain an important activist collection then stored in a basement in unorganized form, boxing and carrying out an initial categorization along with Arnold Kohen, the activist whose records these were. We then organized the shipment of the records.  

    The following year, Émilie worked closely with the Arnold Kohen collection. Kohen worked as a reporter and activist for East Timor for over 20 years. He was one of the most connected Timor advocates. His collection ranges from 1975 to 2007 which covers the complete occupation of East Timor by Indonesia and the years after.  

    His materials consisted of fifteen banker’s boxes. During 2018, Émilie went through twenty-five years of documents varying from letters to the U.S. Congress, support from various Catholic and Protestant bishops and clergymen from around the world and many newspaper articles bringing awareness to Timor. It was a true education in understanding how a prominent activist worked and what he believed in.  

    It took time to get used to the Access to Memory archival platform, but it is now functioning well. It allows for multiple collections to be displayed at once. For Kohen’s collection, we were able to break everything down by year which kept all of the documents together using the same structure selected by Kohen. For example, a letter written in 1982 would be found in the Humanitarian Project collection, under the 1982 file, classified under documents.  

    For many of the solidarity groups, their documentation is sorted in the same way which makes the platform perfect for sharing and learning about activism throughout the years.  

    Working with the files of activists who you have never met is a valuable way to understand historical processes. Emilie feels as if she now knows Arnold Kohen. We have all found similar experiences in digitizing, describing and disseminating these new archival records. It is our hope that this documentation provides information and access for people to learn through an online archival platform.  

    Juliana Brito Santos Leal, Émilie Labbé and David Webster

    Juliana Brito Santos Leal holds a MA in International Relations at Universidade de Brasília (UnB), in Brazil, and is an MA Candidate in Applied Human Rights at the University of York (UoY), United Kingdom.  

    Émilie Labbé is a recent history graduate from Bishop’s University about to begin her Master’s degree at Concordia University who has worked on the Timor International Solidarity Archive for the last two years.  

    David Webster is a History professor at Bishop’s University and coordinator of the Timor International Solidarity Archive. His most recent book is Challenge the Strong Wind: Canada and East Timor 1975-99

  • 7 Jul 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    With another wave of COVID-19 gripping provinces across Canada, and additional restrictions being implemented to blunt its devastating effects, archives – like many institutions – remain closed to researchers for the foreseeable future. In some cases, archivists themselves have limited access to their holdings, and are required to work predominately (if not exclusively) from home.

    Without the ability to process new collections and with many research requests on hold, the archival staff at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library have taken this opportunity to work on several projects meant to increase the accessibility and discoverability of online holdings. Often left on the backburner as reference services and collections processing take precedence, projects such as revising finding aids and tidying metadata can all be undertaken safely from home, yet can enhance users’ experiences when interacting with online archival interfaces.

    With the closure of the Fisher Library in March of 2020, one of the first tasks undertaken was evaluating our online finding aids and determining which ones required substantial revision. In most cases, old typescript finding aids, often with handwritten annotations, were scanned and uploaded online so users did not have to wait for them to be retyped and uploaded (especially since some finding aids can be over 100 pages). However, optical character recognition (OCR) is severely limited when reading handwriting, which hinders discoverability. Likewise, scanned typescript finding aids pose accessibility challenges for those using screen readers or those who have other vision impairments. Since many of our users have commented on the benefits of keyword searching our collections, especially when looking for a specific name or title, it was particularly advantageous to identify the dozens of finding aids in need of attention, and revising them to allow for Ctrl-F/Command-F searching. Additionally, LinkedIn’s online course for creating accessible finding aids provided basic training to ensure that those with screen readers or other assistive technologies could navigate our finding aids more effectively. While not all our finding aids have been revised, more and more are being reworked as this pandemic drags on. For institutions with much older finding aids, this is also an opportunity to revise any outdated and offensive terminology in archival descriptions – especially those that have been created by the archives. Finding aids pertaining to Indigenous Peoples, the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups should be examined more critically, and revised in a manner which fosters an atmosphere of inclusivity and reduces the risk of making people from these groups feel unwelcomed or attacked.

    During the closure, we have also been taking time to enhance the metadata for our online holdings, in hopes that it will improve discoverability. The Fisher Library is fortunate to have a number of its holdings digitized and available through the Internet Archive. The collection of famed art historian Otto Schneid, whose work on Jewish artists was confiscated by the Nazis in 1939, recently had its call numbers and file titles updated so that researchers can more easily map the digital copy to the exact box and folder contained in the library. Additionally, the metadata for of collections on Access to Memory (AtoM) is currently being tidied and standardized to ensure greater consistency across our own records, which will better reflect both the hierarchical structure of the records as well as their provenance.

    While neither of these projects are likely to be seen as more pressing than clearing a backlog of accessions and making them available to researchers, the closures make it difficult for archivists to physically access the archives, and researchers will not be entering our reading rooms in the foreseeable future. Instead, we have been afforded an opportunity to work on projects that are often neglected, but that can significantly improve our online presence. The librarians, archivists, and staff at Fisher are all engaged in countless other projects as we continue to work from home; hopefully this project report can offer ideas to other archival institutions who continue to work from home.  post may give other archives project ideas.

    Kyle Pugh

    Kyle Pugh is an Archivist Assistant at the Wellington County Museum and Archives, and an Academic Library Intern in the Archival Unit at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. Kyle recently completed his Master of Information at the University of Toronto. He presented at the 2020 ACA Conference on the student panel, looking at archival collections from hate groups.

  • 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. 

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