What’s old is new again

June 5, 2017

Library celebrates the official opening of the University Archives


Since 2013, Valla McLean, university archivist, has been building the University Archives from the ground up—researching best practices, getting the word out about the archives’ development and determining what records to collect. Along the way, she and Kathy Blasko, archives technician, have been filling requests and managing the collection, and they’re now ready to share what they’ve gathered.

The University Archives in the John L. Haar Library officially opens this month.

“There are different ways that you can, as an archivist, decide which records you’re going to keep,” says Valla. “Unfortunately there’s no handbook to follow page by page.”

So Valla conducted an analysis to determine which records and materials produced by MacEwan would be most relevant to collect. Some of those records include Board of Governors’ minutes, employee newsletters, Convocation programs, student yearbooks and materials related to Dr. Grant MacEwan, the university’s namesake.

“If you want to understand the current environment or culture of an institution, or why things are the way they are, you have to understand its history, and if you don’t have those records preserved, you’re not going to be able to find those answers,” says Valla. “That’s why I like history. You can’t understand the current world you live in if you don’t understand the past. Thankfully people have been keeping records of the past for a very long time.” She adds, “Plus, old photos are very fun to look at.”

“If there’s one thing that people are really interested in when they come to us, it’s often photos,” says Kathy.

If you have any questions about the University Archives or wish to find certain material within, hours of operation and contact information is available on the library website.

What you should know about accessing the archives:

  • The archives is a closed stack—no browsing allowed.
  • Make an appointment before dropping in so staff can determine in advance if they have the records you need.
  • Materials cannot leave the archives.
  • Copyright and FOIP still apply; ask staff for more information.
  • No food or drink allowed.
  • Bring a pencil if doing research; pens could inadvertently mark up the documents.

Read stories featuring collaborations with the University Archives team:

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