Category Archives: Archivy

BCGLA, Public History Initiative, and Queering the Archives

In May, I started an internship at the City of Vancouver Archives with the goal of supporting community outreach and engagement with the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives (BCGLA). This opportunity was provided through UBC’s Public History Initiative, which gives UBC students like myself an opportunity to apply academic skills outside the classroom and expand community engagement with history. Being both a history student and a member of the LGBTQ2+ community meant that this position held particular importance for me, and I had a passionate interest in increasing the visibility and public use of these holdings. 

Detail from Queer Visibility March, June 22, 1991). Reference Code: AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.1776
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SAA 2017 Annual Meeting – Alike/Different

Last July, I was among the many archivists who, seduced by legends of the land of milk and honey food trucks and microbreweries, braved the Oregon Trail to attend the 2017 Society of American Archivists conference in Portland OR.

The Oregon Trail – video game version

The first half of the week was taken up by a two day workshop on arrangement and description of digital archives, led by Carol Kussman (University of Minnesota Libraries) and Chris Prom (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). This was an excellent opportunity to assess our current practices at the Archives, to measure the maturity of our own digital preservation program against other institutions of different scales and to get an idea of how we rate relative to other programs. The workshop was very popular – SAA ultimately expanded the number of seats available due to the demand. Continue reading

Association of Canadian Archivists Conference 2017

In early June, I attended the annual Association of Canadian Archivists conference in Ottawa. The theme was Archives, disrupted – an exploration of “how archivists and archival institutions progress, respond, change and persevere in response to disruptive forces, which may arise from outside or can be self-imposed” (from the conference program, which can be found here). Here are some of the highlights.

Rideau Canal, Ottawa. Photo by Michel Rathwell (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr


In keeping with the conference theme, sessions addressed a variety of emerging and potentially disruptive issues in the archival field, and explored the challenges and opportunities that might arise. Continue reading

Association of Moving Image Archivists Conference 2016

This past November I attended the 2016 conference of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA). It took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – the City of Bridges. Here are a few of the highlights.

The Roberto Clemente Bridge – one of 446 in Pittsburgh! Photograph by Jana Grazley

The Roberto Clemente Bridge – one of 446 in Pittsburgh! Photograph by Jana Grazley


A pre-conference tradition since 2013 is the AMIA/DLF (Digital Library Federation) Hack Day, wherein participants collaborate on short projects to develop solutions to various problems associated with moving image preservation and access. Hack Day is a free event focused on practical outcomes and skill-sharing amongst developers and non-developers. This year’s projects included: Continue reading

Association of Canadian Archivists Conference 2016

I had the privilege earlier this year to present at the Association of Canadian Archivists annual conference, which was held this from June 1-4 in Montreal. This year’s conference theme was Future Proche, and (quoting the conference program) sought to “explore how archivists are responding to the needs and pressures of a technologically-driven society and how we are reacting to the demands of the ‘near future’.”

Montreal skyline. Photo courtesy of Luciana Duranti

Montreal skyline. Photo courtesy of Luciana Duranti

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Association of Canadian Archivists Conference 2015

In June, I attended the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) annual conference in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Hotel Saskatchewan

The venerable Hotel Saskatchewan, site of the 2015 ACA conference

The Association of Canadian Archivists is the national professional organization for archivists in Canada outside of Quebec. Here are some highlights of this year’s event.

TAATU – the technology unconference

If you’re into tech, one of the best parts of any ACA conference is The Archives and Technology Unconference (TAATU). Hosted by the Technology and Archives Special Interest Section (TaASIS), TAATU is laid-back and designed to be non-intimidating for non-techies, but it also has its serious side, perhaps this year more so than others. As more and more Canadian archives adopt AtoM as their holdings management database and experiment with its sister product, digital preservation system Archivematica, TAATU has become a valuable venue for sharing information, including success stories and lessons learned, for both open source products. Continue reading

Our students – Melanie Leverich

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.

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

Our students – Cristen Polley

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

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

History Of The Archives

This post was written by Marek Bula.

The Archives has a long history. Here’s a look at how we grew.

J.S. Matthews’ home, where the archives were kept before being moved to the Holden Building in 1931. Reference code AM54-S4-: Str P90.01

In 1931, Major J.S. Matthews’ extensive personal collection of photos and documents relating to Vancouver was moved to the Holden Building, Vancouver’s temporary City Hall at 16 East Hastings. This included thousands of documents and photographs—such as interviews with early pioneers and aboriginal people—relating to the history and development of the City of Vancouver.  Continue reading

Our Students – Rachel Sim

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