After two terms at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at UBC, I was lucky to spend twelve beautiful summer weeks in the care of the Archives with my co-intern Cristen Polley.
Ah, the Archives! Shelves of ancient, crumbling volumes disappearing into shadowed heights, honeycomb walls of coiled scrolls, one skeletal, omniscient archivist-monk carrying a lantern… I can imagine hypothetical archivists and conservators cringing in horror. If you’ve read as many fantasy novels as I have and have been afflicted with similar fantasies/nightmares, I can assure you that the inside of the modern archives is much more sensible altogether, all uniform rows of acid-free boxes, labeled and ordered. Dust is out, HVACs, environmental standards and lint-free gloves are in. The labyrinthine memory of the mortal archivist is vastly improved upon by systematic arrangement and archival description databases. Gothic architecture or no Gothic architecture, in the archives—the real archives—there is still a sense of awe in the presence of the remains of history, an awareness of its fragility before the ink-fading, data-corrupting streams of time.
Records from the Victorian Order of Nurses. Photo by Cristen Polley.
Earlier this summer, archivist Chak Yung showed us to the boxes of unprocessed records we would spend the next month with, closely examining, analyzing, inventorying, describing and rehousing in archival-quality containers. Based on study of the records, we would reconstruct the lives of the records’ creators, their activities, and the logic of their recordkeeping system for future researchers—not always a straightforward task, since most of us don’t organize or label our files with their eventual comprehensibility to total strangers in mind. Continue reading
Since I began my archival studies degree, I have been keen to get some hands-on experience. This summer, the City of Vancouver Archives took me in for a three-month internship.
On my first day, archivist Chak Yung introduced me to fourteen boxes of records from City Stage Theatre, which I would process over the next month. I was fortunate to be assigned a fonds with a diversity of materials. The City Stage fonds includes textual records (such as correspondence and play scripts), newspaper clippings, promotional materials (such as colorful handbills, posters, and programs for plays), stage plans, Playhouse magazines, reel-to-reel audio tapes, and approximately 500 (mostly professional black and white) photographs.
A sample from the City Stage Theatre fonds – Playboard magazines, reel-to-reel audio tapes, box office reports, and sheet music from a theatrical production. Photograph by Mel Leverich.
It was a pleasure to be assigned to the City Stage Theatre fonds, as it documents a fascinating part of Vancouver’s theatre history. City Stage Theatre was a professional theatre company based in Vancouver that operated from 1972-1986 and was founded and managed by Ray Michal, a passionate advocate for theatre in this city. In its early days, the theatre was located in a converted donut shop at 591 Howe Street where they offered short shows over the noon hour for the downtown business crowd and local residents. As Michal explained in an interview, “we wanted to break some of the preconceived notions of what going to the theatre was all about … You could just walk up to the shop, and buy an hours’ worth of theatre. Just like you could walk up to the deli and get yourself a corned beef sandwich” (AM1560-S6-F50). Continue reading
My summer internship at the City of Vancouver Archives was filled with wonderful experiences along with the occasional adventure, so much so that it has taken me a while to catch my breath and finally write about it. As a student in the Master of Art Conservation program at Queen’s University, the Archives fostered an ideal learning environment for a conservator-in-training to reinforce the skills acquired through the past academic year. I was fortunate to learn from not one but two experienced conservators. Working under the supervision of Sue Bigelow and Rosaleen Hill, the Digital Conservators at the Archives, I had the privilege of taking in a double dose of valuable knowledge.
The Award of Merit 1943, one of the many spectacular works of art found in the Archives. This image consists of merged photographs of the parchment before (left) and after (right). treatment.
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.
Rachel hard at work as Researcher #1 in the Archives’ 2012 how-to video. Still from 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. Continue reading
There are a number of things which bring joy to an archivist’s heart: the tactile pleasure of (carefully!) handling an old and worn ledger, the completion of a meticulously-filled spreadsheet of file and item descriptions, rows upon rows of immaculate Hollinger boxes, and trays of homemade treats in the office. However, as an intern at the City of Vancouver Archives over the summer, I came to learn that it is often the many large and small discoveries which occur in the process of archival work that end up being the most gratifying and memorable experiences.
Kevin Owen with Major Matthews and Jack the Cat. Photograph by Rachel Sim.
Some of these discoveries are of the dramatic variety, such as when you are removing a piece of art from a frame for rehousing, only to find that the backing board in the frame is in fact a painted photograph from the 1890s. Continue reading
Here at the Archives, we’re used to working with pre-existing documents and media, though we recently decided to try our hand at creating something new. The idea arose to make a video introducing and promoting our public reading room, which is open for anyone to come and conduct research.
The first step was to find inspiration. Prior to our new video, proper Reading Room protocol had been communicated through a series of humorous “Dos” and “Don’ts” photos. We loved the way it was fun and tongue-in-cheek while getting the important facts across.
This series of posters created by the then-Public Archives of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada) shows good and bad Reading Room behavior. Don’t behave like the gorilla!
One other work we enjoyed while preparing this video was created by our friend and colleague at the United Church of Canada BC Conference Archives, the late Bob Stewart, entitled “The Archives – More than a Holding Operation”. The title makes its way into a line in our video, our own little tribute. Unlike Bob, our Archives does not have access to a choir – and none of us can boast rapping skills (well, one of our interns, but we could not convince her to go on camera). Continue reading
To this budding archivist, there is perhaps no better sight than pristine Hollinger boxes filled with records rehoused for permanent preservation—records said archivist appraised, selected, arranged, and described. It is comforting to know that future researchers will benefit from my endeavours, and humbling (read: scary) to think that I helped preserve one small part of our heritage.
Summer Archives Intern Tom Jackman, pictured with records from the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation fonds
Of course, “small” is relative. As a summer intern at the City of Vancouver Archives, I processed records of the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation—an accession totalling 70 boxes! The Bid Corporation (BidCorp), a non-profit corporation created in the late 1990s Continue reading
From January to March 2011, I worked as a professional work experience student at the City of Vancouver Archives, where my focus was on motion picture film preservation and description. After my initial training by Chak Yung, my first task was to write archival descriptions of a dozen films, including promotional films about Vancouver from the early 1970s and Protest (recently featured on CVA’s blog), a film documenting demonstrators picketing a movie house on Granville Street that was showing the infamous 1979 film “Caligula.”
It was my great pleasure to join the City of Vancouver Archives as a work experience student from Fall 2010 until Spring 2011. This was a UBC-SLAIS professional experience project that focused on the creation of a web presence for the Archives’ Major Matthews Early Vancouver Online project.
Lisa Snider with Major Matthews and Jack the Cat
First, I developed a design and layout for a template that was used for the Major Matthews section of the Archives’ website. Using the Matthews template as a guide, I created the individual pages that formed this section. Some of the pages focused on the project itself, while others focused on the Major and his work.
I then created and organized the Volume One web page so that viewers have three options. You can
- search the entire volume by keyword
- download Volume One in its entirety, in either PDF-A or ODF format, or
- download/view any of the 254 individual chapters of Volume One in PDF-A format
The template created for Volume One will be used by Archives staff for Volumes Two to Seven. Continue reading