City of Greater Sudbury Archives

This morning CBC radio’s Morning North featured a segment on a recent donation to the Sudbury Archives.  Hearing about community archival donations on local media is a rare occurrence so it was nice to see community interest in the Sudbury Archives. Details on the recent donation can be seen here.

The Sudbury Archives was established relatively recently.  In 2008 the city hired a professional archivist and the City of Greater Sudbury Archives opened to the public in May 2012.  The Archives houses municipal government records as well as private organizational, business, and personal papers. Personally, I was surprised by the relative newness of this community and municipal archive.  Naively I assumed that Sudbury would have long ago established an archives to preserve it’s documentary heritage — even if that archive was simply part of a local museum.

The Sudbury District Archives Interest Group was instrumental in partnering with the City of Greater Sudbury to establish the Sudbury Archives.  The Interest Group became concerned about the destruction of Sudbury land records and played a key role in advocating for a community archives. 

The portion of the holdings of the City of Sudbury Archives are available online via Archeion.  The items that are available online are well described and include ample contextual information.  Some of the online records also include images.  A list of the microfilm available for reference in the reading room is also available online.

One of the interesting (albeit a tad cheesy) parts of the Sudbury Archives website is a game called Grandma’s Attic which is designed to teach students about the difference between archives, libraries, and museums.  The game is simple by design but is a great example of an interactive way to teach people about archives. 

Community Archives and Sharing Information

Bates Hall, reading room

Morning North recently featured a segment on the facebook page “Sudbury’s Fine Past & Future Let’s Reminisce.”  The page aims to share photographs and memories of Sudbury.  The page has over two thousand likes and over 50 photo albums focusing on all aspects of Sudbury history including theaters, hospitals, streetcars, and neighborhoods. The success of this historically focused initiative surprised me, I expected to see a page with lots of content added by a small handful of contributors and little discussion.  Fine Past & Future seems to have an active and dedicated community of users and contributors who actively contribute and comment on photographs. 

What intrigued me about the Morning North Interview of the page founder, was the comparison of the page to an archive.  When asked if she thought the page was like an archive Church-Beaudoin indicated that she thought it was something different and that archives were really only for research and not designed for sharing photographs for those with just a casual interest in the past.   [Full disclosure: I almost started telling my car radio the many virtues of archives at this point.] 

A facebook page is definitely not an archive in the traditional sense.  I suppose one could argue that this particular collection of photographs represents a snippet of a personal collection or a personal archive.  Regardless, the comparison of a collection of photos to an archive isn’t what bothered me.  The relegating of archives to serving only professional researchers is what didn’t sit well in my mind. 

Archives do a lot more than merely serve academic researchers. Archives help preserve the heritage of communities and aim to share that preserved heritage with the community.  Many archives have started using social media in a way similar to the Fine Past & Future page–to share photographs and gain user generated metadata about unknown images.  

 Archives also undertake the preservation of physical and digital content.  That user generated metadata is being preserved by archives and not merely left up to facebook to keep safe.  Those physical photographs of community landmarks, historical buildings and community gatherings are being preserved  in acid-free sleeves and environmental conditions that are designed to limit deterioration. 

Yes, archives have traditionally been the domain of academic researchers.  But genealogists, casual researchers and community historians are all welcome in many community archives.  Many archives have created finding aids specifically to help with genealogy research or have reading rooms focused on local history.  The users of archives are just as diverse as the content held by the archive.  Archives need to continue to promote themselves, their services and their collections to the general public. 

Photo Credit: Boston Public Library

Our Roots Our Future

CC licensed, Steven Burke.

This week the Sudbury CBC radio programs Morning North and Points North are running a series called Our Roots: Our Future.  This series is focusing on the history of immigration in Sudbury.  Despite having lived in Sudbury for awhile, I had no conception of the diverse cultural past of the city’s residents.

So far the series has included segments on: 

Well worth a listen if you’re interested in local history or immigration patterns.

Come On Over! Northeastern Ontario A to Z

May 10th marked the release of Come on Over! Northeastern Ontario A to Z by Dieter Buse and Graeme Mount, professors emeritus of Laurentian University. From September to November 2010, while developing the book Buse and Mount were featured weekly on CBC Northern Ontario Radio’s Morning North program discussing communities from their book.

Come on Over! features antidotes and histories from over 100 communities in Northeaster Ontario. Excerpts of the book can be viewed online here. Buse and Mount have managed to succinctly cover a range of material, have used approachable language, and provided reference citations for anyone looking to explore their sources in detail. It’s great to see Northern Ontario history being explored and discussed on a popular forum and appreciated by a range of people.

An official launch of Come On Over! will be held Thursday May 19th at the Art Gallery of Sudbury at 7 p.m.