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

Upcoming Cemetery Tours

South Peace Regional Archives is hosting two cemetery tours this summer and we’re inviting you to join in!

On Tuesday, July 4 and Friday, August 25 at 7:00 PM we will be hosting our annual cemetery walking tours.  Join us at the Grande Prairie Cemetery (84 Avenue and 112 Street) to discover the rich and interesting history of Grande Prairie and area through the lives and stories of its people.  Our tour will highlight the lives of those who served in the two world wars.  Please note that this will be the same tour that was given last summer.

Call the Archives at 780-830-5105 to register (limit of 25 participants per tour)

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

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

Career Opportunity: Full-Time Archivist

South Peace Regional Archives is seeking an Archivist for a full-time, continuing position beginning November 1, 2016. The Archivist oversees the process of acquisition and the preservation of archival records. S/he participates in developing educational programs and events to enhance public awareness, and reports to the Executive Director.

South Peace Regional Archives is a community Archives, established in 2000 and funded by four municipalities. There are three staff members. It is currently housed in the Grande Prairie Museum, with a new building planned for in 2017-2018. The job description can be viewed on the website at www.southpeacearchives.org.


  • A degree in Archival Studies, Library and Information Studies, History or related discipline.
  • A solid understanding of the principles and standards of archival science.
  • Familiarity with primary historical research techniques.
  • Awareness of Canadian and Alberta history.
  • Strong organizational, communication, analytical and research skills.
  • A strong aptitude for independent decision making and acting with initiative.


Salary Range is $42,000-$55,000 (commensurate with education and experience)

Please forward a resume and cover letter no later than September 30, 2016 to South Peace Regional Archives Executive Director at director@southpeacearchives.org.


Here is the complete job description:


South Peace Regional Archives

Archivist Job Description

The purpose of the South Peace Regional Archives Society is to encourage the appreciation and study of the history of the south Peace River Country of Alberta by acquiring, preserving, and making accessible to the public, records in any format which reflect the cultural, social, economic and political history of this area. The Archivist at South Peace Regional Archives oversees the process of acquisition, preservation and accessibility of archival records. S/he participates in developing educational programs and events to enhance public awareness. S/he works with and reports to the Executive Director.

Responsibilities and Activities

  1. The Archivist draws on extensive knowledge of archival science to acquire authentic records of enduring value to develop a “full spectrum holdings”; meaning a full range of both public and private records related to the south Peace River Country of Alberta regardless of media.
    1. Appraises records offered for donation to determine whether or not they should be acquired.
    2. Guides members of the public through the records donation process, advising them on the legal transfer of ownership, and negotiating access and use conditions.
    3. Maintains the accession register and the accession files.
    4. Assists in producing and implementing policies and procedures regarding acquisitions.
  1. The Archivist supports the mission and business goals of the SPRA by overseeing the physical control and permanent preservation of the records.
    1. Evaluates and assigns use and value priorities to the archival holdings so that the appropriate preservation and conservation measures are applied to the records.
    2. Performs tasks and supervises the preservation activities of archival technicians, volunteers, contractors and interns.
    3. Examines the records and uses technical knowledge to identify formats and determine specific care and storage requirements.
    4. Provides instruction to other staff, members of the public, and other institutions on the proper care, handling, and preservation of records of all media.
    5. Assists with grant applications for preservation projects.
  1. The Archivist establishes intellectual control of the records according to national archival standards.
    1. Conducts research to determine the provenance, arrangement, composition, scope, informational content, and internal and external relationships of the records.
    2. Prepares detailed descriptions about the structure, function and content of the records and records creator according to the Canadian Rules of Archival Description.
    3. Reformats the material as necessary for public access, including scanning and uploading to provincial databases and the SPRA website.
    4. Manages the reference library in the reading room by assigning Library of Congress numbers to each volume.
    5. Assists researchers and members of the public, providing access to holdings and advising them with respect to provincial access and federal use legislation.
    6. Processes requests for reproductions of photographs and digital media.
  2. The Archivist participates in planning educational programs and special events in accordance with the South Peace Regional Archives Society’s goal to promote appreciation for the historical resources and culture of the south Peace.
    1. Develops exhibits to increase the profile of the SPRA.
    2. Provides archival education by conducting workshops, giving presentations, and writing articles for publication.
    3. Participates in provincial and national associations, advisory boards and cross-government initiatives to foster partnerships with various stakeholders groups.
    4. Provides professional advice to archives staff and members of the public.
    5. Provides advice regarding national and provincial legislation as it relates to archival practice.
  1. Performance and Evaluation.
    1. The Archivist position carries with it a probationary period of six months, during which time employment may be terminated by either party without penalty.
    2. A formative evaluation of the Archivist will be conducted by the Executive Director on an annual basis to support the goals of the organization and the individual.
    3. A summative evaluation will be activated only in extreme situations.


Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

  • A degree in Archival Studies, Library and Information Studies, History or related discipline. A Master’s Degree is preferred.
  • A solid understanding of principles, standards and methodology of archival science and records management, and proven skills in the interpretation and application of archival theories.
  • Familiarity with primary historical research techniques and trends and awareness of the needs of disciplines that utilize archival sources.
  • Awareness of Canadian and Alberta history, political climate, and social context in which records were created.
  • Good understanding of system requirements for the Archives.
  • Strong organizational, communication, analytical and research skills.
  • Supervisory and interpersonal skills to motivate staff, volunteers, members of the public, outside organizations and other stakeholders.
  • Good conflict resolution and negotiation skills.
  • A strong aptitude for independent decision making and acting with initiative.

How Have the Archives Helped YOU?

Do you have a story about how South Peace Regional Archives has touched or impacted your life in a positive way? We’d love to hear about it! We are currently working on a case statement about the Archives and its needs and we need first-hand evidence about how the Archives has helped people. Please email Leslie at friends@southpeacearchives.org to tell your story or get more information.

Wanted: Photos of Harry Adair

Attention, descendants of the families who purchased the Adair Ranching Company north of Wembley in 1930!

Cornelius Toews
Gerhard Jacob Weins (Wiens?)
Jacob Epp
John Gossen
Abraham Funk
Abraham Kathler
Abraham Friesen
Jacob Franz
Jacob Berg
Henry Sukkau
Jacob D. Nickel
Herman Wall
John Goerzen (Goertzen?)
Peter Friesen
A. Regier

This summer, the Friends of the Archives are planning to reenact the story of Harry Adair at the Scenic Heights picnic grounds.  Do you have any photographs of Harry Adair in your family albums that you are willing to share?


Archives Week 2014 – Politics & Government

For Archives Week this year, we created a virtual exhibit centered around the theme of Politics & Government.  At first glance this may not seem like the most thrilling topic, but the government touches nearly every aspect of our lives and we’ve put together a collection of photographs showcasing their involvement in South Peace communities throughout the region’s history.  You can view the exhibit here.