Spring Cleaning at the Archives

Recently, as part of our Integrated Pest Management program (IPM), the SPRA held its first annual spring cleaning bee. You may be thinking, “Integrated Pest Management! Does the archives have bugs?” No and yes. Technically, most bugs are not true bugs, they are insects. (I know a gardener who takes the terminology very seriously and I do too as a gesture of solidarity). So, no bugs in the archives. But the occasional spider and millipede does get in there. Both eat other insects. Luckily, the spiders like whatever it is they put in the pest traps and the millipedes seem to starve to death so the records remain safe.

IPM is less about dealing with a pest problem and more about preventing a pest problem.

Material coming in is inspected. Any items that look suspicious are quarantined. Pest traps attract wayward critters and give us an indication of what is wandering in. But the most important preventative activity for our IPM is housekeeping.

We regularly clean our working space but the storage shelves are a bit trickier. In both the unprocessed area and the processed storage vault, the shelves are full of boxes. Not something that gets dusted every day. Or week. Or month. It is a big job. Not a job for one or even four staff, only one of whom is here full time. The job needed doing and we needed help so we called in our volunteers. It was a great fun day of dusting, reorganizing, and out with the old.  (Empty boxes only. This is an Archive after all) We followed up all that hard work with a potluck lunch.

A few shelves in the vault still require dusting and a pest spot check in the bottom rows of boxes. It won’t be as exciting now that Meg isn’t here to scare me with, “Oh my gosh! This one is huge!” Thanks, Meg. I  had skipped my cardio that day and needed to get my heart rate up.

While it wasn’t all done, we accomplished a lot. More than just cleaning. It was great to get all the volunteers and staff together. We’re not all in at the same time and catching up helps us bond as a team. Volunteers were able to see more of the archive than they usually do. They are generally very focused on their projects and don’t get to see the other work areas. And last but not least we were able to assure ourselves, by moving around boxes and checking files, that the SPRA really is in good shape. If we ever do encounter a pest problem, we’ll be better able to pinpoint the possible causes and determine solutions because we have limited the possible start time to some time after June 2017.

That is a lot of value for a cleaning bee at the Archive. Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers and staff who made it happen.

by Archivist Josephine Sallis

What A Collection

Ethel Vader’s Golden Jubilee Senior Citizen Award

I always like it at the archives when someone comes in carrying boxes, which happened last month. My next favorite thing is when I hear there are more boxes at home.

South Peace Regional Archives is now home to a wonderful collection of information from the Grimm, Vader, and Scott families who lived in the Rycroft area. The collection consists of hundreds of negatives, photographs, account books, certificates, WWII letters, etc., the list is long and extensive. One item from the collection is a certificate that was given to residents of Alberta on its Golden Jubilee in 1955. The certificate in this collection was given to Ethel (Scott) Vader. Ethel was born in North Dakota in 1888, moving with her family to Calgary as an infant. Ethel and her husband Dan moved to Spirit River where they remained for many years.

These extensive family records still need to be processed by our Archivist but will be a great benefit to historians and family researchers in the years to come.

By Research Archivist Patricia Greber

 

Work in Progress: Bill Turnbull fonds Part 2

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

UPDATE – Beaverlodge’s First Double-Murder?

Was this case ever solved?

In 1914 Leonard Stephens came to Canada from England. He made his way to the Peace Region and filed on 16-72-10-6 as well as 27-72-10-6 near Beaverlodge. Another Homesteader Samuel Timmins filed on 22-72-10-6.

Both men were trappers and set out together in 1922 to check their lines. Leonard’s family realized that he and Sammy were late on returning and contacted the R.C.M.P.

The R.C.M.P. investigation turned up the bones of the men and a grisly discovery – the men had been killed by bullets to the back of the head.

In 1926 a notice was placed in the newspaper for claimants on the estate of Leonard Alfred Francis Stephens.  It states his date of death as on or about February 15, 1923.

Grande Prairie Herald Sept. 13, 1926

 

Leonard was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Goodfare.

Less is known about Samuel Timmins; I am not even sure where he was buried.

This story was brought to the attention of the archives by a researcher. If you know anything more, let us know and we will share it with the interested party.

 

Today the person interested in this case has informed us that this was not murder after all but a case of men who were inexperienced in dealing with the harsh weather in the area. More information can be found in an article in the Shoulder Strap (a Police publication) July 1940 or by calling or visiting SPRA.

 

Photo: Beaverlodge, 1930

Source: Information on the murder victims was found in Beaverlodge to the Rockies p. 35-36

Written by Researcher Patricia Greber

 

New Photos At SPRA

A collection of photographs is one of the newest donations we have received at South Peace Regional Archives. The photographs date from 1916-1920s, and have been passed down through the Arnold family.

The Arnolds traveled on the first train that came to Grande Prairie, settling in the Bear Lake district. Edward Arnold, along with his wife Sadie, daughter Louise and son Joe, first rented land from the Patrick family and then settled on NE 12-73-8-W6. Louise attended Big Horn School and later worked as a teacher at Currie School. Mrs. Arnold served as the Niobe postmistress from 1918-1919 and sadly losing her husband Edward in December of 1919.

The pictures depict life in the Peace Country in those early days.

L-R unidentified lady, Mrs. Bredin and Louise Arnold at Bredins in 1921.

 

*top photograph – Currie school students with teacher Louise Arnold

Source: La Glace book “Yesterday and Today” p.154 and information provided by the donor.

SPRA looking for New Executive Director

Applications closed May 5, 2017

SPRA looking for New Executive Director

South Peace Regional Archives Society is seeking a resourceful, energetic person with a commitment to preserving local history for the position of Executive Director. The director is responsible for management and leadership in the Archives and supervises three additional staff members.

Qualifications/Abilities:

  • Relevant degree in Business, History or other suitable discipline.
  • Willingness to train in Archival practices.
  • Ability to promote the Archives in the community.
  • Strong organizational and communication skills.
  • Aptitude for independent decision making and acting with initiative.
  • Supervisory and interpersonal skills to motivate staff and volunteers.

 

SPRA is a community archives funded by four municipal governments, and is an institutional member of the Archives Society of Alberta.

Please forward a resume and cover letter no later than May 5, 2017 to director@southpeacearchives.org.

Serendipity at the Archives

At SPRA we often come across donations that intersect, a photograph or document in one collection can help tell the story about a completely different collection or seemingly unrelated person. An occurrence of this happened last week, I happened to glance over to see what Karen was working on when a photograph caught my eye. It was the same photograph of two men playing chess that I had posted to our Facebook page, with the hopes of learning the player’s names.

 

Karen was working on a donation of records from the Grande Prairie Golden Age Centre and voila, here were my chess players pictured in their scrapbook fully identified, my questions answered.

Karen Burgess processing the Grande Prairie Golden Age Centre scrapbook

 

To put this in perspective, donations can sit on our shelves for 2-3 years before we get to them and add in the coincidence of looking to identify a picture from a separate collection, then there is the fact that processing started on a collection containing the same photograph, and lastly noticing the photograph while Karen was examining the scrapbook. Definitely one for the books!

So now I am happy to report that the names of the people in the photograph are Frank Rennie, Soren Frederickson with Dorothy Tarrant watching. In the back ground is L-R Reg Eyres, Harry Rogers, Fred Towns and Bary Eyres.

By Researcher Patricia Greber

Work in Progress: Bill Turnbull fonds

Above photograph: Bill Turnbull out for a run, 1976

Bill Turnbull was an educator and photographer in Grande Prairie through the seventies and up to the early 2000s. He was also very active in the running community in Grande Prairie, being one of the members of the old Grande Prairie Legion Track and Field club who helped found the Wapiti Striders Road Running Club.

Between 2013 and 2016, Bill donated over 10,000 photographs to the SPRA. Processing of these records has now begun. On the donation form, the receiving archivist noted that the photographs relate to local running clubs. As I work through the arrangement and description project for this collection, it turns out that the contents are about more than just running.

The photographs in this collection were taken to record the activities of local people many of you probably know. Almost by accident, they have also recorded a history of the urban and rural spaces these people lived in. The site featured in some of the photographs is Muskoseepi Park. The area seems more like a rolling meadow. The trees are so sparse and small. The Heritage Village has very little tree cover and is easily viewed from a distance. It feels like I am looking at the childhood photos of someone I just met.

That is one of the interesting things about records: even the creator is not always aware of the story he is recording. When Bill Turnbull donated his photographs, he said they were about running. The collection is more than that. It is also about people working together for a common cause, people enjoying their life and their youthful vitality. It is also about Grande Prairie and the communities around it. It is going to take a while to process these “running club” records but I think the story they will ultimately tell will be a large one.

by Archivist Josephine Sallis

The Heritage Village, 1988

Fashions in Farming – The Tractor Farmers

The Teepee Creek news correspondent looked around the neighbourhood and began to wonder if there was something to be said for power farming. The writer appears to have been one who favoured farming with horses, but was beginning to have some doubts. The references to the Wheat Pool seem to hint at dissatisfaction with the organization. Since its founding  in 1923, the Pool had had its ups and downs and not all the member farmers agreed with some of its policies and practices.

Researched & written by Kathryn Auger

Photograph description – Arnold Christianson with his discing outfit, a steel wheeled tractor and disc, 1928.

teepee-creek-1

The Grande Prairie Herald Nov 1, 1929

The Grande Prairie Herald Nov 1, 1929

 

All in a Day’s Work

It sounds like Vernon Conners ran into the snowstorm and cold that we talked about in the Thursday File last week. He was taking supplies in to Peter Comeau who was trapping along the Porcupine River, and on his return Vernon recounted the harrowing tale of John Connolly, who had to climb a tree to escape a pack of wolves.

Researched & written by Kathryn Auger

Northern Tribune Nov.21, 1935

Northern Tribune Nov.21, 1935

 

Photograph description – #175.035.07,  Bruce Fjellner in front of his log cabin with furs from wolf and bear trapped about 1936 or 1937. Bruce was born June 9, 1901 in Sweden and married Selma Soderquist in 1934.