The City of Vancouver Archives was kind enough to adopt me as an intern this summer. Never before has twelve weeks passed by so quickly! During my time at the Archives, I had the pleasure of dabbling in a number of aspects of archival work, including some unexpected outreach work acting as a researcher in the Archives’ new instructional video.
Artistic expression aside, I can now proudly say that I have processed a group of records from start to finish, appraising, selecting, arranging and describing the records of Richard Dopson, a prominent member of the Vancouver gay community and an important individual in the development of gay sports in the city. Organizing the records created over the last 30 years of passionate involvement on the part of Mr. Dopson was no small task! Vancouver hosted the Gay Games in 1990 and Dopson was co-chair of this international event.
The first box I ever opened as an archivist mostly contained ephemera collected by Mr. Dopson. Later boxes contained the more traditional archival records: minutes of meetings, research files, correspondence and those records generated in doing business and getting things done. Most of the ephemera was offered back to the donor.
A week and a half of my time was spent under the supervision of Rosaleen Hill in the Archives’ conservation lab. The delightfulness of Rosaleen’s company was eclipsed only by the fun that I experienced when taking on the tasks of a conservator. Most of my work in the lab involved cleaning—I cleaned glass plate negatives, architectural plans, and the backs of some canvas paintings—but I also had the opportunity to use the humidification chamber to flatten the architectural plans, several panoramic photographs, and a number of posters that were a part of Richard Dopson’s records.
As much as I love to clean and flatten records, the most exciting part of my lab experience was the afternoon outing that Rosaleen arranged. Thanks to her connections, a small group of us were given a behind-the-scenes tour of both the Museum of Anthropology and the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Although I had a general idea of what to expect from my internship, there was nothing that could have prepared me for my time spent in the Reading Room. Having never worked or researched in an archives before, I was amazed at the wide range of resources that are available to researchers. It takes an expert to know one’s way around the stacks and direct people to the materials that they need. The Archives has on its staff a number of individuals who possess such expertise, but also provides a series of reference guides to researchers. These guides are a quick way for people to familiarize themselves with some of the Archives’ resources and begin to conduct their research.
Part of my internship involved updating these guides with my fellow intern and archivist-in-training extraordinaire, Kevin Owen. The revision of the guides will be an on-going process sparked by the adoption of a new database at the Archives. Kevin and I were able to complete the guides for using the fire Insurance and sectional maps, the City Directories and for researching buildings and houses. These new guides provide detailed instructions on how to use these resources and conduct your research, and are supplemented with a series of photographs.
Of course, my experience would not have been nearly as enlightening or enjoyable if not for the people at the Archives. I must thank Archives Manager Heather Gordon for the opportunity, and the rest of the staff for all their guidance and patience. I learned so much this summer, largely because of the people with whom I was working. I also have to thank my fellow interns for making my time at the Archives especially fun! I could not have asked for a better internship, or better company.
Editor’s note: Rachel is a Dual Master’s of Archival Studies/Library and Information Studies candidate at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (University of British Columbia). Rachel plans to return to the Archives in early 2013 for a Professional Experience course helping our Digital Archivist Glenn Dingwall research the administrative histories of civic departments.