News Flash

City News

Posted on: March 30, 2021

Transforming a Donation into Searchable Archives

Archives Files

COQUITLAM, B.C., March 30, 2021 – If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to transform a jumbled box of historical materials into a pristine archival collection, a new online exhibit by the City of Coquitlam Archives sheds light on this painstaking process.

The latest in the Archives’ growing suite of online exhibits, From Accession to Access: The Art of Archival Processing, takes readers through the process of turning a donation of community records into a neatly boxed and labeled collection ready for researchers and history buffs to explore. The exhibit can be found at www.coquitlam.ca/archivalprocessing

Creating a Roadmap from Archival Donations

The value of the Archives’ collection largely relies on how well organized, preserved and accessible it is. That’s where archival processing comes in. 

When donations of community records arrive – often in an unorganized state – archivists use a multi-step process to gain an understanding of the materials and, ultimately, create a roadmap for researchers to access the materials. 

From Accession to Access uses the example of the Archives’ ArtsConnect Tri-Cities Arts Council fonds (an organization or person’s accumulated records) to explore and illustrate the steps taken after they were donated in 2018. The donation included seven linear metres of materials – including photos, posters, papers and videocassettes – and 45MB of digital records’ materials dating back to 1964 that can now be searched through the Archives’ online database. 

The meticulous process requires many skills, among them detective work to identify unlabelled items, puzzle-solving abilities to piece together materials from different years and events, preservation techniques to safeguard fragile items and storytelling to make the fonds come to life in a usable form for researchers. The exhibit provides a peek behind the curtain to demystify the process.

Explore Online Exhibits

The City of Coquitlam Archives website at www.coquitlam.ca/cityarchives features 14 online exhibits on a variety of topics. Archives staff produce a new exhibit each quarter, mining the Archives for insightful and sometimes quirky stories about Coquitlam’s past. Some exhibits also share information about new acquisitions and highlight upcoming events.

Each online exhibit marries engaging text with scans of documents, maps and photos to bring the subjects to life. Online visitors can while away a pleasant afternoon learning about the local business that was Canada’s first plywood producer, Coquitlam’s First World War soldiers, the City’s changing boundaries, early scrapbooking efforts, Coquitlam’s May Day tradition, Colony Farm’s Holstein herd, the Westwood racing circuit, the history of Coquitlam Centre and the story of psychiatric nursing at Essondale, among other topics.

About the City of Coquitlam Archives

The City of Coquitlam Archives serves a dual purpose: to preserve and to make accessible. Since the inception of the archives program, the Archives has been raising its profile to encourage people to use its services and discover the trove of records in the collection. Other outreach includes weekly #TBT posts on the City’s social media platforms and a small collection of historic photos at www.historypin.org.

For more information about the City of Coquitlam Archives and to view the online exhibits, visit www.coquitlam.ca/cityarchives.

Media contact:
Emily Lonie
City Archivist
City of Coquitlam
604-927-3907
elonie@coquitlam.ca

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