It has been a very busy few months meeting people, attending workshops, and researching for the Canada 150 display. Some days I get to be an archivist and work at my ongoing arrangement and description project, the Bill Turnbull fonds.
One of the great things about Bill’s records is that the photographs and files came with a list of titles and dates for sets of photographs. Some of the photographs are individually labeled. This is a dream come true for an archivist. While we do not require that collections be organized before they are donated, we do love when there is an original order we can follow. The arrangement process moves faster for one thing. For another, a discernible original order provides for a better understanding of the context in which the records were created and used. We can be confident we are not messing with the history or contextual information contained in the record.
Sadly, one of the tasks I am spending a lot of time on is carefully scraping sticky residue off photographs. Bill’s photographs are generally in very good condition but a number of them have spent time glued or taped into scrapbooks. It is a bit tedious and I sometimes think, “These photographs are not even that old; maybe this is overkill.” That is my age speaking, though. Some of these photographs are almost forty years old. Not quite as old as me but still old-ish. And with good care, these photographs will be really old someday. Old enough that someone will marvel at the health and vitality of their sixteen-year-old great-grandmother captured in a still image.
That is one reason why we do what we do at the SPRA. Record creators like Bill start the process of preserving evidence of the past by capturing moments and information they feel have value. We help those documents and photographs, and anything else people are generous enough to create and donate, weather the passage of time so they too can become one of the “old-timers” future researchers marvel over.
By Archivist Josephine Sallis