Category Archives: ACA 2015

ACA Conference Bites : Stevie, Day 3 – New takes on the old lifecycle

By far the most interesting thing about this session was the way it gave three different speakers from three different parts of the country–and three very different institutions–an opportunity to speak about the way records management is handled within their archives. Trudi Wright, who had been a lecturer during my time at McGill, spoke of her work in records management in Ontario ; Dana Turgeon of the City of Regina spoke of some of the trials and tribulations experienced in merging their archives and records management clerical functions; Kate Guay and Karen Pollock of the Northwest Territory Archives discussed their attempts to get a more structured and standardized handle on their records.

Throughout the conference, I was amazed to learn of the range of operational conditions under which archives function, and could not help but compare and contrast with the status of our own unit. I heard perspectives from small archives with a single archivist or “lone arranger”, larger archives with kilometers of backlog running on a skeleton crew of two or three, archives with a staff compliment numbering in the teens or more, and mid-sized archives with a healthy staff of around six. More than anything, listening to all of these perspectives underscored the various nature of the profession–truly, each archive and special collection is as one-of-a-kind as the material it holds. At the same time, however, hearing of institutions much larger or much smaller than our own facing similar challenges brought a sense of unity–a sense that while we may all be floating in different boats, we are at least together as a mismatched armada on the same tossing sea.


Not a mismatched armada, but it looks suitably chaotic

After this session, it began to rain, which of course made it an ideal time for both the traditional East vs. West ballgame, and walking tours!

The ballgame was, I think, called off as a tie due to showers. The walking tours (one of which, ironically, was about the cyclone which ploughed through Regina in 1912) were more successful. I was lucky enough to get in on the Regina Riot walking tour, which was guided by one of my undergraduate history profs, the deeply knowledgeable Bill Brennan.

In June of 1935, Regina became the endpoint of what has been called the “On-to-Ottawa Trek.” Hundreds of disgruntled labourers from the West had boarded boxcars, heading east in the hopes of getting the attention of the federal authorities. They were protesting the dismal conditions of the federal relief camps provided for unemployed single male workers during the Depression, and wanted to make a case for stronger worker’s rights. While the federal and provincial governments dithered over who was to take responsibility for these men, the trek made it across British Columbia, across Alberta, and into the heart of Saskatchewan.

Finally agreeing to speak with some of the trek’s leaders while the men were camped out in Regina, the trek ground to a halt, with the trekkers being kept under the watchful eye of Regina’s large RCMP detachment. The negotiations in Ottawa swiftly fell through, and it just as swiftly became apparent that the trekkers were not going to be allowed to leave the city in any direction but back West.


Police Department “Wanted for Murder” handbill dated 18 October 1935 from the July 1 1935 Regina Riot. JGD/MG01/XVII/JGD 3095

On July 1st, a public meeting was called to update the population of Regina (who had initially supported the trekkers, but who were by this time beginning to feel the strain of supporting the added population) on the state of the movement. Expecting the trek leaders to be out in full force at this meeting, RCMP and City police gathered in secret, eventually rushing the crowd (most of whom were not trekkers at all), and causing all chaos to break loose in the city. Citizens fought back against police batons (actually baseball bats) and tear gas with sticks, stones, and overturned streetcars. Regina’s biggest department store was looted, and other buildings set on fire. One policeman, Charles Millar, was killed in the crush, and one trekker Nick Shaack, would later die of his injuries.

After this, the movement was disbanded quietly, with the help of the provincial government, as men were sent back to camps and homes. However, damage was done both to the reputation of the local law enforcement who instigated the riot, and the Bennett administration itself.


Regina Riot; policeman dragging away person, other men running towards police, throwing objects. JGD/MG01/XVII/JGD 3093

ACA Conference Bites, Stevie : Day 3 – LAC Plenary

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While Thursday evening was a time of great relaxation (good food, storytelling in the Lady Slipper courtyard, a long walk around Wascana lake, and ice cream outside of the Leg’), Friday was a day that began and continued at a higher pitch of activity. From the outset, we were, of course, prepared for but anxious about our poster presentation which would be taking place at 10:00 that morning. But before that, breakfast, and the plenary.

The 9:00 plenary on Friday June 12 was delivered by Dr. Guy Berthiaume of Library and Archives Canada. Following the massive hits LAC has taken over the past few years, this talk seemed aimed at reassuring the audience that the organization is back on track, with new initiatives that will help revitalize documentary heritage in Canada.

Two of these initiatives involve nation-wide collaborative efforts, both in the realm of acquisitions and, as was previously mentioned in Paul Wagner’s talk, digitization. LAC hopes to institute stronger collaborative methodologies in order to ensure that a) there is some national consistency in who is preserving what, and b) archives and special collections are not constantly duplicating work on the digitization front. Dr. Berthiaume admitted that Canada is lagging behind most other nations in our digitization work, and so this is one area in which LAC will be putting a great deal of effort in the coming years.

After speaking a bit on his goal to make government records more accessible, LAC’s partnership  with, and the fact that LAC has both a flickr and youtube channel, Berthiaume “dropped the mic” (as the kids say).


The moment in Berthiaume’s talk that caused the room to swell with murmurs and Twitter to explode with anticipation was the announcement of the Documentary Heritage Communities Program (DHCP).   After years under a spending freeze, the LAC is now offering a unique opportunity for incorporated and non-incorporated non-profit associations/organizations (specifically local archival and library communities) to increase their capacity to preserve, provide access to and promote local documentary heritage. This will take the form of a variety of financial contributions which will support projects which increase access to, and awareness of Canada’s local documentary institutions and their holdings; an increase the capacity of local documentary heritage institutions to better sustain and preserve Canada’s documentary heritage.

Although our own University Archives and Special Collections is not eligible for this particular source of funding, it is great to see LAC back on their feet and taking steps in a direction that will help hundreds of smaller institutions.

Another interesting idea that came out of the Q&A session after the talk was the notion that we should remember with caution that what we digitize has an inadvertent effect on what people research. Researchers will tend to look for what is online first (for reasons of ease of access, funding, etc.), and so it is necessary that what we put up online reflects an accurate representation of our holdings.


(dun dun DUNNNNN)

ACA Conference Bites : Stevie, Day 2 – Extending Our Reach

Sandwiches are great. Complimentary sandwiches are even better. Sandwiches are what we were given for our first lunch at the ACA conference. Lest you experience envy at their marbled-rye and thick egg-salady goodness, I will neglect to post a picture here. (Also, I forgot to take a picture.)


(a salad)

We also had a salad.( I didn’t take a picture of that either.) But both were very good, and lunch provided a great opportunity for all of us poster-presenters to get together and make our plan of action for the next day. It was wonderful to meet the other presenters and put faces to names (and posters). Two of the presenters I knew from my previous life in Montreal, but most of them were new to me. I won’t drop too many spoilers about the actual poster session here — that will get its own post (and there WILL be pictures)–but eating lunch with the people we would be presenting alongside helped a lot with the nerves. They were all super-nice people.

The next session we went to was titled “Extending Our Reach — Engaging the Public with New Media and Old.” Being someone who does a lot of social media work for the University Library’s University Archives and Special Collections (and even some blogging on the side . . .) this was one of the sessions I was most excited for.

First up was Brett Lougheed from the University of Winnipeg who had some interesting and useful observations on the social media employed both at the U of W and at the U of M. He cracked open the discussion with the adage “the medium is the message.” While in many areas this can be a controversial statement, I think nowhere is it truer than with social media. Different social media platforms shape the way in which we share our thoughts–what we say on a subject on Facebook may be very different from the way we cram it into 140 Twitter characters. How we group and share images on a blog will be different from how we do it on Pinterest (I’m thinking the University Archives and Special Collections needs Pinterest in its life–is this madness?).

Some of Lougheed’s tips, tricks, and observations, as based on his years of experience working with social media in two separate institutions are as follows:

  • Be Unobtrusive – Posts should be informative and fun, spaced evenly enough apart that the user is neither over nor underwhelmed.
  • Facebook – Should not just be a place where you share your Twitter posts. There is room for exposition. Use it.
  • Fun Ideas for Facebook
    • Create an institutional timeline using old photographs and   Facebook’s timeline feature << Definitely something I’ll look into doing for the U of S!
    • Actually make use of the photo album feature (Derp. not sure why we’re not doing this).
  • Image Posts Are King
  • Play Off of the Now – If it is Valentines Day, post Valentines Day content. If the Riders are in the Grey Cup, post Grey Cup stuff (if the Riders are not in the Grey Cup, ignore the Grey Cup stuff — it will just make everyone sad).
  • Twitter Audience – Is mostly going to be people with some sort of pre-existing background in archives and special collections, be they contemporaries, or advanced researchers. This makes Twitter a less-than-ideal platform to engage with new users.
  • Youtube – Is good!
  • Blogs – Should be interactive spaces for discussion, and above all, fun!

Some of these are perhaps self-evident, but all were good points to keep in mind, and I definitely came away with some fun ideas for ways to extend our own online presence. Six months, already! It has been over six months since our Twitter feed and Facebook page and blog were born. I’m a proud Momma.

Next up Andrea Martin and Tyyne Petrowski from the University of Manitoba (interestingly, this was a very Central-Western centric panel. Are we really doing more outreach out here, or just more inclined to talk about it?) who shared their experiences using Tumblr to showcase a collection of letters sent home by Frederick D. Baragar during the Great War. I was intrigued enough by Tumblr as an interface for this sort of project that I put together my own Tumblr blog when I got home, just to get my hands in it. Rather than re-hashing their presentation, I will invite you to take a look at From the Somewhere , which is a truly fabulous example of an easy-to-use, easy-to-maintain-and-update blog that allows non-traditional (and traditional) archival users to engage with primary source materials. in a familiar format.

Last to speak was Saskatoon’s own City Archivist, Jeff O’Brien, who was introduced as having been raised in a culvert by a family of gophers. Which sort of set the tone, as such statements will. gopher_wiki Jeff is such an engaging and amusing speaker, and it is always a treat to listen to him talk about pretty much anything (the gophers taught him well.) On this occasion he was talking about his work with local media (and in particular his CTV news segment Saskatoon Stories) , encouraging those working in archives and special collections to make media relations a priority. Requests from the media tend to be highly time sensitive, and so archives and special collections need to make requests coming in from any news organ a “drop everything request.” We should also attempt to anticipate the needs of news entities (if there’s an election coming up, dig up our stuff on elections before they even ask), and never turn down an interview. He reminded us that “everyone likes a good story” and that archives and special collections, being places filled with good stories, are ideally suited for partnership with news outlets whose goal it is to share good stories.

All that being said, I’m afraid I don’t personally quite have O’Brien’s gift for gab, and I am convinced that propping me up in front of a camera for any length of time could only end badly for everyone involved.

After all, I wasn’t raised by gophers.

Dinner that night was catered by Merv’s pitchfork fondue. This is a picture of Merv. With his pitchfork. SO GOOD!