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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

  • 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:

  • 16 Feb 2021 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    Last October, I was invited to present at the Archive/Counter-Archive 2020 Symposium. The theme for the symposium was Black lives and archival histories in Canada. My presentation took place on December 11, 2020, as part of “Panel 1: Place-based/Institutional Engagements with Black Histories.” The organizing committee reached out to me after a former co-worker shared my blog post, “Archiving Hate: Racist Materials in Archives.” They were interested in my perspective on how racism should be addressed in archival training and pedagogy. The issue of racism and oppression in archives was rarely addressed during my studies at McGill University’s School of Information Studies. Regardless, I was aware of how deeply ingrained “neutrality” was in archival education and practice. I decided to focus my presentation on anti-racist and anti-oppressive approaches to archival pedagogy and training in Canada. While these approaches are not new, I argued that they are poorly incorporated into Canadian archival education and training. The research aspect of my presentation was challenging. The prevalence of neutrality in Library and Information Studies (LIS) programs and the archival profession is well known. However, more research studies are needed to understand how critical theory and practices are incorporated into archival education and training in Canada. Despite this, I was able to gather evidence for my presentation.

    Archive/Counter Archive 2020 Symposium poster featuring the panelists and the event details

    I started my research by gaining a greater understanding of various anti-racist and anti-oppressive theories and how they have been applied in practice. There has been an emergence of scholarship and community-centred archival initiatives that look critically at traditional archival practices. These efforts have led to the creation of several critical approaches to archiving including decolonization, postcolonialism, feminism, queer theory, critical race theory, and deconstructionism. My next step was to research how these critical theories and practices were integrated into archival pedagogy and training.

    In terms of examining archival pedagogy, I  reviewed several LIS programs in Canada to find archival course descriptions and syllabi. This was challenging, as some programs published vague course descriptions, outdated syllabi, or there were no syllabi publicly listed. I identified a few programs that included some critical theories and practices in their curriculum. However, when I spoke to a few recent graduates in my network who completed those programs, they had issues with how those critical theories and practices were integrated. In their experience, one former student explained that international examples of critical practices were emphasized over those in the Canadian context. Another former student found that critical perspectives were tokenized rather than included as foundational knowledge. They found that the instructors poorly facilitated conversations around racism and other forms of oppression.

    After searching for a more in-depth examination of this issue, I came across two publications: Education for the Common Good: A Student Perspective on Including Social Justice in LIS Education by students from the Master of Library & Information Science (MLIS) program at Western University and "A Report on Diversity and Inclusion Experiences at the Faculty of Information" from various student groups at the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. These publications addressed the issue of “neutrality” in their programs and made several suggestions for instructors to move towards more anti-oppressive pedagogy. Amongst these suggestions,  it was recommended that instructors receive formal training in facilitating conversations surrounding race, sexuality, gender, and disability.

    As I was searching for an example of an archival course with anti-oppressive frameworks, I discovered that the School of Information Studies at McGill University hired Gracen Brilmyer as a new Assistant Professor. Gracen’s website states that their research interests are “located at the intersection of critical archival studies and disability studies.” Gracen also disclosed that they identify as a “disabled and chronically ill white, queer, non-binary person from a middle-class background.” I was excited that the School of Information Studies hired a professional with an under-represented perspective and research interest. Given Gracen’s positionality and research  interests, I wanted to know if they took an anti-oppressive approach to their pedagogy. I contacted Gracen and they agreed to speak with me. Gracen explained that they were hired to redesign the Organization of Information course, which is a required first-year course. They also will be looking at the program’s archive-specific courses and considering how they can be restructured.

    Gracen told me that their education included critical perspectives and cultural competency training that was specific to the information studies field. With that background, Gracen said they take a critical and anti-oppressive approach to their pedagogy. The Organization of Information course was redesigned to look at traditional and critical theories and practices together. Perspectives and scholarship from professionals that belong to Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) and other marginalized communities are included as required readings. As Gracen is part of the disabled community, they understand that peer-reviewed journals can be seen as a barrier to marginalized communities looking to publish their content. Peer-reviewed journals may reject a perspective, heavily edit submitted content, or hide publications behind a paywall. To address this issue, Gracen includes a range of content that is produced by professionals that belong to diverse communities. Some examples include a blog post, video, or tweet. The course consists of lectures, guest lectures and workshops from professionals who do radical work, and hands-on, problem-based learning. The assignments and activities ask students to think critically about the impact of organizing systems and practices. Based on my experience with the previous iteration of this course, I think that Gracen made some well-needed changes to the course.

    In terms of archival training in Canada, I failed to find a publication or an article that examined how anti-racist or anti-oppressive approaches were integrated.  To get a sense of the archival training offered, I searched the websites of several archival associations and conducted general searches online. There are a few issues with this. It was difficult to see what type of archival training was offered in the past or anticipate what may be offered again in the future. It was also difficult to locate archival training through keyword searches as different terminology may be used to describe the training. I tried different terminologies such as “anti-racist,” “anti-oppression,” “Indigenous,” and “critical.”

    Most of the archival training I found provided “neutral” approaches to professional development. For example, I  identified an archival training on Rules for Archival Description (RAD) that did not include anti-racist approaches to description practices. Some archival training opportunities looked at oppression or marginalization. However, when I read the description or contacted the instructor, I realized that  these training opportunities were not intended to guide archivists on how to apply anti-oppressive practices. There are a few informal, participant-driven conversations for archivists to discuss and share their knowledge on anti-oppressive practices. I decided to reach out to my network and spoke to several archivists in Ontario and Quebec who have an understanding of current archival training in Canada. They acknowledged that more archive-specific anti-oppressive training would be beneficial for addressing issues in the archival profession.  Some of them provided me with suggestions for anti-oppressive training. An example that stood out to me was training on how to provide reference services to BIPOC researchers in light of offensive language in legacy finding aids and historic materials. I also performed online research to find examples of anti-oppressive archival training from the United States. I found a few recorded webinars of critical training for librarians and archivists. One webinar offered training on how to critique library policies, procedures, and practices with an anti-racist analysis.

    As my research shows, more work is needed for Canadian archival education and training to challenge “neutrality” in the profession. This will help prepare students to work with diverse communities and support archivists in challenging oppressive practices. While there is a lack of best practices, there are resources as well as archive and community-based initiatives that can provide a framework for emerging and practicing archivists to do anti-oppressive work.

    Melissa Nelson

    Melissa Nelson is a second-generation Jamaican Canadian from Toronto, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in History, with a minor in Sociology, from Carleton University. She also completed a Master of Information Studies at McGill University. Her experience includes working at George Brown College Archives, The Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives, the Law Society of Ontario Archives, and Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections at York University. Melissa currently works freelance as an archival consultant. Melissa conducts research and produces content on history and archive related topics for her website

  • 25 Nov 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    The 9th International Conference on the History of Records and Archives (ICHORA), held virtually by the University of Michigan School of Information, featured a variety of presentations and keynote speeches. Given the scope of the conference and the quality of the speakers, ICHORA constitutes a good indicator of the current state of archival research and research about archives. The theme of the conference, with a full week-long program starting on October 26, 2020, Archives and the Digital World, allowed for multiple discussions and perspectives that testified to the power of the digital in the overall direction of archival research and practice. 

    [ICHORA 2020 yellow and light blue poster with the title of the conference, the location, and the Michigan University logo. Featuring an 1980s looking computer]

    Past ICHORA conferences gave birth to groundbreaking and innovative scholarship that challenged and changed archival theory and practice. From Andrew Flinn, Mary Stevens, and Elizabeth Shepherd’s presentation about community archives – which led to the article “Whose memories, whose archives? Independent community archives, autonomy and the mainstream” – to Jeannette A. Bastian’s “Reading Colonial Records Through an Archival Lens: The Provenance of Place, Space and Creation” and Tom Nesmith’s “Reopening Archives: Bringing New Contextualities into Archival Theory and Practice,” ICHORA has been a fertile ground for the dynamic evolution of archival theory throughout the twenty-first century. 

    This year’s edition featured a range of presentations that will certainly leave their mark in the archival realm and beyond. Multidisciplinary research is now established as part of the nature of archival studies. This has brought new horizons where a plurality of fields, including anthropology, media studies, history, gender studies, postcolonial studies, computer science, digital humanities, and others have contributed to the expansion of archival studies. On the other hand – and this is something that was evident by the type of research presented during the conference – increasingly, the diversity of archival research is also penetrating other academic fields. 

    Marisa Elena Duarte’s keynote speech set the tone for rich conversations that marked the five days of the conference. Duarte’s eloquent connection between the digital and the birth of new worlds, and on notions around digital bodies of knowledge, testified to the extent of archival relationships and power. Duarte mentioned that “the technically powerful archive is but a shadow of the relationships among us.” As Duarte brilliantly put forward, data sovereignty, digital literacy, and radical empathy signal the dynamic engagement of archives and digital archival conceptions in the shaping of memory and digital relations. 

    Discussions of digitization practices and the impact of the digital world resonated with Duarte’s perspective on knowledge development and the relational encounters of archives. Tomla Ernestine Tatah Lukong, for example, talked about the challenges faced by the Cameroon National Archives. Drawing attention to the volume of records created in Cameroon institutions, alongside financial and infrastructural challenges, Tatah Lukong offered a compelling account of archival advocacy oriented toward bridging the gap in the archives, and on the importance of community engagement in the trajectory of the national archives. While digitization and digital practices have been presented as crucial players that contribute to historical knowledge and access to records, other presentations highlighted darker impulses of digital initiatives and use. Katharina Hering discussed the potential crumbling of historical contexts around digital records represented in the database Acknowledging the immense market power of the genealogy-based platform, Hering highlighted that the maximization of access to records could be made at the expense of political and ethical concerns associated with private information. By paying attention to the participation of public archives in the development and expansion of Ancestry, Hering presented compelling arguments about the importance of the relationality of records and their context, and the responsibilities of archivists who work with public records.

    The manipulation of records and their digital afterlives was further emphasized by a keynote speech given by Tonia Sutherland. Sutherland presented a powerful account aligned with social and cultural tensions associated with the use of what was called “digital remains.” The speaker provided an exposé concerning the commodification of Black bodies and the deaths of black people in digital spaces. Sutherland mentioned that, through the use of images and records about the death of Black people, social and political forces are extending the lives of Black people, and ultimately changing their present and future narratives. Sutherland argued that while offering new uses and recontextualizations, the sharing of records through digital platforms and in the media is deconstructing the agency and the realities of Black lives and death. Accordingly, this use of Black bodies was presented as being performative, where imaginations and projection of narratives ultimately separated the Black body imaginary from the lived experiences of Black peoples. Sutherland identified this process as being very dangerous. In talking about the digital afterlife, Sutherland insisted that race, records, and the violence of archival processes converged. Furthermore, Sutherland presented the digital afterlives of records portraying, using, and recirculating Black death as being part of expansive colonial powers in the digital world.

    Critical views of the digital resonated throughout the conference. Critical lenses on digitization, technology, and archival standards powerfully illustrated colonial conceptions of archival practice. James Lowry, for instance, indicated that normative procedures of the ISO standard emerged from a universalist and colonial framework. This association of documentation standards with the legacies of colonialism was echoed by a presentation given by Hannah Turner, who has done research on the history of documentation in an ethnographic museum. Turner signaled the importance of studying documentation in order to situate ethnographic knowledge development. In doing so, Turner highlighted the durable and performative qualities of documentation technology and situated its crucial role in colonial knowledge production and limitations. Ayantu Tibeso, in turn, challenged conceptions of colonialism, exclusion, and marginalization by drawing attention to the silencing of Oromo peoples through recordkeeping practices in Ethiopia. By situating these activities through a colonial frame of reference, Tibeso reflected on the dynamic nature of colonial practices and of the importance of ancient oral recordkeeping practices in archival spaces. Diana Marsh pursued this theme, providing strategies and practices conceived to fill the gap in Indigenous knowledge, through the power of the digital and of digitization. Marsh reiterated that understanding the impact of digitization on Indigenous research is crucial when crafting archival processes, insisting on themes such as historical sovereignty, representational belonging, and the limits of digital knowledge sharing. 

    All of these notions forced the participants to reflect on traditional archival conceptions of provenance. New perspectives of the concept of provenance was the highlight of two rich presentations. In discussing two feminist activist archives, Jessica Lapp offered a critical analysis to provenance, by proposing what is defined as “provenancial fabulation.” Lapp talked about the many variables associated with records creation, by insisting on the imaginative process of archival creation. Furthermore, Lapp discussed the dynamic and temporal characteristics of provenance, through structures and infrastructures, and ultimately through feminist perspectives that challenge official historical narratives. Gracen Brilmyer put forward the concept of crip provenance, by highlighting the creation of records about disabled people made from the perspective of people in power. Brilmyer argued that traditional notions of provenance contribute to historical absence, erasures, and partial and non-existence evidence. While doing so, Brilmyer offered a critique of this sense of wholeness to recordkeeping, formulated by traditional visions of provenance. Moreover, they indicated that restoring some sort of order to records can provoke inequities and further marginalize people with disabilities. 

    If the impact of archival research and the innovations of archival theory were unequivocally expressed throughout the conference, a pertinent question was at the heart of the panel discussion in honour of Richard J. Cox. David Wallace, Lindsey Mattock, Joel Blanco-River, and the host of the conference Ricky Punzalan attempted to respond to the question posed by the moderator, Jeannette Bastian: Is archival work more a profession or part of a discipline? Based on the responses of the members of the panel, if it is a profession, it is heavily subject to academic directions; and if it is more a discipline, it is a discipline ingrained in practical articulations. David Wallace spoke about the ethics of archival work, being engaged in research and writing. He mentioned that the academic dimension improves the intellectual positioning of archival work. On a personal note, Wallace testified that the social and cultural scope of archival endeavours and research was, for him, a “salvation.” Blanco-Rivera, for his part, emphasized the multidimensional aspects of teaching to highlight the reach of archival theory and practice. Mattock added to this by mentioning that archival studies is an academic discipline that informs practice, with its own intellectual history. To conclude, Ricky Punzalan framed archival studies and practice from a multidisciplinary perspective, suggesting that these discussions do not need to be informed by this binary (profession/discipline), but should rather be thought in terms of a duality that emphasizes the importance of connectivity in the development of archival thinking. 

    Various connections between digital spaces, archival records, and the scope of archival work was reiterated in the final keynote address given by Margaret Hedstrom. Problematizing the use and the ubiquity of the term “curation” in public spaces and social media, Hedstrom associated the power of the digital with surveillance capitalism. Hedstrom offered explanations that touched on the commodification of people and their representations in the archives, and how curatorial practices in the archives must be deliberate and better defined to counter the neoliberal and authoritarian impulses of surveillance capitalism in the digital world. 

    The richness of the various presentations certainly evoked the multidisciplinary and multifaceted scope of archival initiatives and research. While discussions of social justice, colonialism, and social movements emerged – alongside conceptions and the reach of the digital – the different panels convincingly highlighted the impact of archival thinking and archival involvement in the direction of a plurality of memories and memories’ conceptions. ICHORA 2020 certainly left important intellectual trails that will push archival theory toward new areas of research and practice.

    François Dansereau

    François Dansereau is the Senior Archivist at The Archive of the Jesuits in Canada and a course lecturer at the McGill University School of Information Studies. He is the author of the chapter “Men, Masculinities, and the Archives: Introducing the Concept of Hegemonic Masculinity in Archival Discourse” in the volume Archives and Special Collections as Sites of Contestation (2020), and of the article “The Portrayal of Gender in Health Care: An Examination of Hospital Photographic Archives” (Archivaria 90, Fall 2020). Dansereau holds an MA in History from Université de Montréal and a MLIS with a concentration in archives from McGill University.

  • 15 Oct 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    As online academic and professional conferences are now becoming the norm rather than the exception, Claire Williams and Jasmine Charette reflect on the importance of social media in the planning, development, and organization of conferences, and on the use of social media to share crucial information during the course of the 2020 ACA conference.

    Social media is a fantastic tool for engagement and promotion, which the ACA Communications Committee has harnessed over the past several years to advertise and showcase the annual conference.

    The ACA Communications Committee recently reinvigorated its presence on Instagram - this coincided promotion of our ACA 2020 annual conference. Originally, the plan had been to have Claire Williams, Communications Committee member and Host Team member, take awe-inspiring photographs of the beautiful Vancouver for conference attendees to see. However, as the COVID-19 situation developed, we quickly began to realize that the photogenic Vancouver would have to be saved for another year. Instead, Instagram was used to advertise many of our wonderful sessions and plenary speakers, as well as how-to's for registering for the conference and downloading the WHOVA app. Together with Alexandra Alisauskas from the Programming Committee, we crafted a schedule of highlights to share with potential attendees on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. It was wonderful watching the ACA Instagram account grow in size as attendees, organizers, and speakers engaged with our conference program.

    When it finally came down to the week of the conference, we saw followers and likes pour in as we posted about TAATU, the SIS meetings, ‘All Shook Up: The Archival Legacy of Terry Cook’ book launch, downloading the virtual poster sessions, and our amazing opening reception talk with Leslie Weir. We had no further to look then sharing the amazing programming through the conference, as the first and second full day of speakers and sessions began.

    When it came time for our closing plenary (all too fast!) we shared just one of the amazing quotes from Michelle Caswell’s talk on Feeling Liberatory Memory Work. All-in-all Instagram proved to be a great place to share our first ever digital conference and we look forward to promoting the amazing work of our ACA community on this visual platform as we all learn to see archives differently.  

    Given the exceptional nature of the conference, our Twitter and Facebook response evolved as well. While many major updates are communicated to members by email and through our website, our Twitter and Facebook presence (and recently, Instagram), has allowed us to further promote the conference to non-members of the ACA and other interested parties. Thanks to the wonderful visuals cross-posted from Instagram, our Twitter and Facebook page audiences grew significantly in the lead-up to the conference, allowing us to share these posts to a larger audience than in years past, furthering discussion of new theories and great thinkers in the archival field.

    Since not everyone can attend the conference, even with our record-breaking numbers in 2020, we have previously live-tweeted from specific sessions, using and promoting hashtags such as #ACA2020 to add to the stream of conference tweets. This allows for anyone interested to follow along at home, and attendees can read recaps from sessions they may have missed. However, we decided to take a step back from active tweeting during sessions this year and instead highlighted, through retweets, what attendees found engaging and thought-provoking from various sessions. In addition, through our use of Facebook Live, we saw high engagement with the book launch of ‘All Shook Up,’ as the launch was open to the public.

    We are grateful for the impact social media has done to increase engagement with the archival field, presenting new ideas, and keeping us on our toes for how to move forward in these novel times.

    Claire Williams and Jasmine Charette

    ACA Communications Committee

  • 17 Sep 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    Alongside the Association of Canadian Archivists’ move to an online conference in 2020, The Archives and Technology Unconference (TAATU) met via videoconference on June 10.  Started in 2008, this BarCamp for archivists is a place for all archivists interested in IT and digital culture to meet, exchange ideas and have a bit of fun.  The only requirement is that everyone is expected to participate in some manner.  This year, with as many as 92 people on the conference call at one time (the largest number of attendees in TAATU history), participation was, in some ways, greater than ever, if a bit harder to keep track of.

    This short blog post will highlight what was discussed at this year’s TAATU and hopefully encourage people to join and participate in new and different ways – online or not – next year.

    Land acknowledgements

    With such a huge group, split across nations and time zones, land acknowledgements appeared in a variety of ways at TAATU: some individuals unmuted themselves and acknowledged, over video, where they were speaking from. Some people typed greetings in the chat window of our call. Other folks entered information about the land they are living and working on in the TAATU agenda and participants list.  Vancouver participants, as a group, acknowledged by typing into the agenda, the lands of the Coast Salish people, where the ACA conference was going to be held in person.  With people in dispersed locations, it was surprising (in a good way) to see that participants were still able to bring focus to this small act of reconciliation.

    Lightning talks

    There were four sessions this year.  From my notes…

    Peter Van Garderen: Preservation Action Registries and Archivematica

    Peter summarized this project that seeks to share technical best practices. Artefactual Systems, Preservica and Arkivum are all participants. The potential of this is huge but, at this time, it is a proof of concept project with lots of work outstanding.  Peter believes this really is the future of automated digital preservation but questions around data mapping, intellectual entities and complex business processes need to be identified and addressed.

    Krista Jamieson: Archival transcription or Work from home “job jar” project

    At McMaster, they are digitizing a lot of material and this project – while not super techy – is still solid digital work, and it’s lo-fi and accessible to many.  Transcription of digitized records, especially with staff working from home due to covid-19, is work that can be done easily, with just a computer and an internet connection, from home.  An example of a document, with a completed description, can be found here:


    Grant Hurley: Dataverse-Archivematica integration

    Grant talked about this work on the preservation of research data and using Dataverse (an open-source platform to discover research data) and Archivematica (a tool for processing digital objects for preservation and access).  There has been a growing interest in research data preservation internationally and the aim of this project was to investigate how Dataverse datasets could be processed into AIPs.  Grant provided a demo of this first attempt to get the two systems to talk to each other.  There is more work to be done and improvements can be made but there is obvious interest in something like this, as evidenced by OCUL’s sponsorship of the work.

    Jeremy Heil gave an update on NAAB and the monetary appraisal of electronic records. As these were lightning talks and Jeremy was a bonus speaker, I am going to direct you to his slides because I have very few notes of my own! 

    AtoM roadmap committee

    Kelly Babcock led a discussion and encouraged input from the community on what features people are interested in seeing in an AtoM 3.0.  Discussion ideas included:

    -          Recap of AtoM 3 Roadmap Committee activities since March 2020.

    -          What can we do to prepare our AtoM 2 data for migration?

    -          Can we make improvements to our data now to improve interoperability between our repositories?

    -          AtoM 3 features - brainstorming on what TAATU considers the “essential” features

    Following these sessions, TAATU participants then discussed becoming actively anti-racist in our work. The conversation was wide ranging and I will note here just some of the high-level topics that were examined:

    -          RAD: will it be revised? How could this be moved forward?

    -          How can archives revise their own policies without waiting for association or other guidelines?  Examples were shared from Waterloo (language in descriptions), Archives of Ontario (description policy), and the University of Saskatchewan (Indigenous titles and guidelines).

    -          ACA Communications is working on a list of resources; these were published on the ACA blog on June 11

    -          Decolonizing archives

    -          Recruiting and retaining BIPOC archivists

    -          Need for white archivists to confront white supremacy in themselves

    This year’s TAATU ended with a No dumb questions session, inspired by last year’s BitCurator Users Forum.  Given the online nature of this year’s event, a document was set up and people asked and answered various questions.  You can see that document here:

    Remember to open the link in Incognito/Private mode so as to remain anonymous.  This session was a great way to retain the original TAATU spirit of inclusivity with no minimum IT experience required to participate.

    Jenn Roberts

    Jenn Roberts has a wide range of work experience and has plied the archival trade in Canada, the USA and Switzerland. She currently calls Whitehorse, Yukon home and is part of Artefactual Systems' remote workforce.

  • 8 Jul 2020 10:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Emily Lonie, Program Team Chair ACA 2020

    As one of my final acts as Chair of the 2020 Program Team, I have been asked to reflect on the 45th annual conference of the Association of Canadian Archivists. Wow—where to start? How do you sum up such an incredible and historic experience? 

    I couldn’t have foreseen it, but as it turned out, our theme for this year’s ACA conference:  20/20 Vision: Seeing Archives Differently, could not have been more appropriate. 2020 has forced us all to see things differently. 

    To read the full blog post, go here.

  • 11 Jun 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    As written in the ACA Board Statement issued 3 June 2020, we, as archivists, condemn racism, injustice, and violence against Black people. However, as the recent deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, D’Andre Campbell, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery (among far too many others), racialized violence and injustice remain a part of our systems in Canada and North America. In a profession historically dominated by White people, we acknowledge our responsibility to engage with the effects of White supremacy on archives and archival practice. While the Association of Canadian Archivists recently launched an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Task Force to prioritize actions that the ACA may undertake to make our profession more equitable, inclusive, and diverse, we believe that there are initiatives and learnings we can all undertake as individuals to further this work. 

    We have compiled a list of resources and readings relevant to anti-racism, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and archives and archivists in Canada, and the United States. This list (available here) is not exhaustive, and it is our hope that it will continue to grow while inspiring conversation and action in the archival profession. Please email to add to or edit this list.  

    Claire Williams and the ACA Communications Committee

  • 20 May 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

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

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

    Marcel Caya (Photograph by Katherine Sorrell Kirkpatrick) 

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

    François Dansereau (Photograph by Katherine Sorrell Kirkpatrick) 

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

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

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

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

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

    Gordon Burr (Photograph by Katherine Sorrell Kirkpatrick) 

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


    Jazmine Aldrich

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

  • 28 Apr 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

    The COVID-19 global pandemic has forced many archivists to change how they work, and the staff at Concordia University Records Management and Archives (RMA) are no different. RMA is embracing new approaches to their archival projects and the challenges that come with working from home. 
    Toward the documentation of this demanding time, RMA has launched a web archiving initiative, led by Records Management Assistant Olivier Bisaillon-Lemay, to capture sites, blogs, and articles linked to Concordia’s reaction and response to the pandemic. The inspiration for this project was derived from similar on-going web archiving projects taking place at the National Archives of the UK and the International Internet Preservation Consortium. In addition to these projects, web archiving has recently been featured in a New York Times article highlighting the work of the Library of Congress.  
    The goal of Concordia’s COVID-19 web archiving project is to preserve these often-ephemeral sites for their long-term informational value as well as their look and feel, which often provides additional contextual value. These sites have been brought together and centralized in a COVID-19 web collection for those currently interested, and for future researchers potentially focusing on Concordia’s digital footprint during this unprecedented time. 

    Figure 1: Concordia University COVID-19 Web Collection  

    A secondary goal of the project is to open it to the wider Concordia community and incorporate a crowdsourcing element. Each week, through RMA’s social media channels, the department is encouraging faculty, staff, and students to send along COVID-19 sites with a Concordia connection. 
    Web archiving at Concordia
    Although web archiving at RMA is not entirely new, the reality of archives staff now working from home has placed renewed focus on the RMA web archiving program. As of summer 2018, RMA has used the Archive-It platform to archive university sites – an effort linked to RMA’s mandate to preserve and make accessible the history of the University.  
    Over the last two years, RMA has archived over one million documents and 177GB of content related to Concordia University. This content is broken down into the following five collections housed on Archive-It: Institutional Web Collection, University Publications, Student Associations and Groups, Sir George Williams Affair – 50th Anniversary, and the COVID-19 Collection.  

    Figure 2: Concordia University Records Management and Archives (RMA) Data Archived 

    Archiving, and making these sites accessible through Internet Archives and Wayback Machine, has already facilitated the work of archival researchers tracking information from inoperative sites.  
    Crowdsourcing call
    A foundational aspect of the project from its inception was to seek participation from the Concordia community toward documenting the diversity of perspectives represented within the University during the COVID-19 pandemic. Promotion of the project currently includes a weekly social media campaign that highlights the collection of material and takes advantage of the #WebArchivingWednesday hashtag on Twitter. RMA has also launched a page advertising the project that encourages members of the community to get in touch with site URLS for the collection.  
    Between mid-March and early-April, 2020, RMA captured 538MB and over 21,000 documents from the official University website and student publications The Link and The Concordian 
    Browse the Concordia COVID-19 web collection at:


    John Richan 

    John Richan is the Digital Archivist in Records Management and Archives at Concordia University, Montreal, where his primary responsibilities are tied to digital preservation activities. John holds a MLIS from McGill University with a specialization in Archives. His professional interests include working open source applications and systems into digital preservation workflows. 

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