Category Archives: Preservation

Map of New Westminster District – a collaboration

We have a very large and rare 1905 map in our holdings that was dirty and falling apart. Last year, we collaborated with the Land Title & Survey Authority of British Columbia (LTSA) and the BC Archives to conserve and digitize it. This is the story of why that conservation treatment happened and how it was done.

Image of the entire conserved map

Low-resolution version of Map of New Westminster District, 1905. Reference code AM1594-: MAP 138. A high-resolution version is available from our online search.

The 1905 Map of New Westminster District is almost 1 metre wide and over 2 metres long. It shows District Lots and other divisions of land for all of Metro Vancouver and as far east as Hope. Continue reading

Association of Moving Image Archivists Conference 2014

In October, I attended the annual conference of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) in Savannah, Georgia. Here are a few of the highlights.

One view of the vendor's area of the conference. Photograph by Lindy Leong for AMIA

One view of the vendor’s area of the conference. Photograph by Lindy Leong for AMIA

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2013 Association of Moving Image Archivists Conference

In early November, I attended the annual conference of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) in Richmond, Virginia. Here are a few of the highlights.

Buttons from AudioVisual Preservation Solutions, consultants specializing in AV preservation.

Buttons from AudioVisual Preservation Solutions, consultants specializing in AV preservation.

The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) is an association for many different types of professionals involved in the preservation and access of moving image heritage. Members come from all over the world to attend the conference.


In partnership with the Digital Library Federation, AMIA held its first Hack Day. Software developers and non-developers (like me!) spent a day solving problems. I was part of the group of non-developers that created a guide to using FFmpeg software which was aimed at archivists who would like to use it but find it too complex. We put the guide on a wiki, expecting it to become more useful as information is added. Our group won one of the jury prizes. Continue reading

Boxes and More Boxes: Constructing Safer Housing for Panoramic Glass Plate Negatives

This post was written by Kathy Kinakin, one of our volunteers.

What to do when set to the task of rehousing of 335 17.8cm x 43cm panorama glass plate negatives stored in the drawers of a filing cabinet? The negatives are part of the Stuart Thomson fonds. Thomson was active as a commercial photographer in Vancouver for several decades in the first half of the 20th century. The negatives are large, very fragile and heavy, and because of their unusual size, the solution isn’t as easy as putting them in standard archival envelopes and an off-the-shelf archival glass negative storage box. In this case, a custom-made housing was necessary.

The glass negatives as they were stored in the drawers of the filing cabinet. Photograph by Kathy Kinakin.

The glass negatives as they were stored in the drawers of the filing cabinet. Photograph by Kathy Kinakin.

Glass plate negatives are normally safest when housed in envelopes and placed upright on their long edge in a storage box, as this protects the delicate surface of the negative from pressure. The size and weight of these negatives meant that only 7-10 of them could be put in a single box before it became too heavy to handle. A box like this would be quite thin and very unstable when sitting on a shelf so this was not a practical option. A larger, more stable box with spacers to securely hold the negatives could be used, though with the number of negatives needing to be housed, this wouldn’t be an efficient use of space. With all of this in mind, I decided to build a custom sink mat for each negative, and a custom clamshell box for a group of mats. Continue reading

Spotlight on volunteers – Kaitlin Haley

Kaitlin Haley began volunteering at the Archives in the summer of 2012. After completing a Bachelor of Arts degree at UBC in history and political science in 2010, she worked as a flight attendant, taking a break from school and deciding on a graduate studies program. An interest in archives and libraries lead her to us. Like many of our other volunteers, Kaitlin has given of her time generously elsewhere including lifeguarding for the World Police and Firefighter Games, running activities at the Musqueam Reading Club and facilitating and helping to organize events for the Beauty Night Society.

Kaitlin at UBC holding her B.A.

Kaitlin at UBC holding her B.A.

After being accepted to several archival and library schools across Canada, Kaitlin chose the program farthest from this coast, Halifax. She will be earning a Master of Library and Information Studies at Dalhousie starting in 2014. Her choice to defer for a year will allow her to continue working for the UN as a flight attendant. Between stints in Africa, which she is currently visiting, we hope Kaitlin will find some down time to visit us before she goes jetting off again! Continue reading

2012 Association of Moving Image Archivists Conference

In early December, I attended the annual conference of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) in Seattle. Here are a few of the highlights.

Cinerama street view

The Cinerama has been restored to its 1963 space-age look. A showing of “Hendrix 70: Live at Woodstock” was a highlight outside of the conference program. Photograph: Sue Bigelow

The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) is a professional association for those involved in the preservation and access of moving image heritage. Members come from all over the world to attend the conference.

Ffmpeg workshop

There was an excellent workshop on uses of ffmpeg for archivists. Ffmpeg is open source, free software for working with multimedia files. One of the advantages for archives is that ffmpeg is always adding the capability of working with new types of files, but not getting rid of any old functionality. This means that if archivists encounter an outdated type of file, ffmpeg may be able to work with it. Ffmpeg software can analyze a file and report on all the different kinds of data inside. We store the original files in our digital archives but we also create another version using ffmpeg that can be viewed on a modern computer. Continue reading

Spotlight on volunteers: David Marriott

David Marriott began volunteering at the Archives last September and in that time has dedicated around 300 hours to the Archives! David holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree with a major in Film Production from Concordia University’s  Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. David is the writer/director of numerous short films including Dapper (2007), winner of The Muse Entertainment Enterprises Scholarship, and Dreamland (2009), winner of the Special Jury Mention, Festival des Films de la Relève . His most recent film is the short Backlot (2012). In 2010, David co-created the Black and White Film Foundation, a non-profit screening black and white films at the J.A. De Seve Theatre.

David at our 2011 screening, “Celebrating Yaletown Productions” at the Vancity Theatre.

At the Archives, David has had the opportunity to work on many projects. The Celebrating Yaletown Productions screening was a special event for which he helped design advertising and event materials. David also had the opportunity to sit in the editing suite with Michael Collier, the donor and curator, while the Digibeta tape for the show was being created. This summer David is helping with our screening for 2012. He will not be in town to enjoy the fruits of his labours, but if you will be here mark November 18th on your calendar now for Vintage Vancouver! Continue reading

DigCCurr 2012

This past May, I was fortunate to participate in the DigCCurr Professional Institute on Curation Practices for the Digital Object Lifecycle at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). Led by UNC-CH faculty members Dr. Helen Tibbo and Dr. Christopher (Cal) Lee and taught by digital curation experts, the DigCCurr Institute brings together government, university, and private-sector information professionals for a week’s study of strategies and methods for the long-term management of digital materials.

DigCCurr 2012 instructors and participants on the last day of the Institute

Of the 35 participants in the Institute, I was the only municipal government employee; other participants came from institutions as diverse as the Yukon Archives, the University of Melbourne, the Silicon Valley-based Computer History Museum, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Despite our institutions’ respective differences in size, location, and acquisition mandate, the results of the pre-institute survey that participants completed showed similarities in both the nature of our holdings and the difficulties we face in caring for them. Continue reading

Using Archivematica

UPDATE, February 18, 2015: Our January 2012 post linked to an article on As the content on that domain is no longer available, we are reproducing the article below. Our original post is at the very bottom of this page.Archivematica-logo


The City of Vancouver Archives has been contributing to the development of the Archivematica digital preservation system for the past several years and we have just started using the 0.8 alpha release for production. This is an overview of why we got involved and where we are now. Continue reading

The Archivist Detective – Digital Forensics for Archivists

It was a day just like any other at the City Archives. Archivists and researchers spoke in whispers as they gently leafed through decades-old memoranda and Kodachrome photographs. Just then, at the front desk, a mysterious stranger appeared with a hard drive and a look that said she wanted to donate it. When she couldn’t answer how much data was on the drive or how it was formatted, it was clear that this day would not be normal after all and… it would not be easy.

Examples of digital storage media - Photo by Danny Nicholson, CC BY-ND 2.0 (

Archives Manager Heather Gordon likes to say that being an archivist is like “playing detective”. There has always been an aspect of detective work in what archivists do—from digging through boxes left abandoned in a garage searching for records to helping researchers find the documentation that helps them accomplish their work. In the age of digital acquisitions, her statement couldn’t be more true. Unlike their physical analogue counterparts, donations that come to us in folders on digital media can’t be easily leafed through and assessed at first glance. Those folders and their contents are made of bits that don’t have meaning without some kind of hardware and/or software intermediary. Continue reading