A Visit to the Archives


On Monday, August 29th, I had the pleasure of paying a visit to the Synod Office in the heart of Shaughnessey on Nanton Avenue.  My journey was two-fold, to deliver some archive material to Melanie Delva, our Archivist and to see the Synod Office.

After a traffic-free trip across town(amazing!), my daughter Chloe and I arrived at 10:00 am, easily found parking and made our way to the main office.  

Picture 1 - A view of St. John Shaughnessy and a lovely courtyard between buildings.

Picture 2  - The outside of the building is not a looker by any means, however, when you come through the front doors and into the entrance way, there is a feeling of awe as the space is so large.  

Picture 3 - The sense of awe in such a large space is compounded when you turn around are faced with a rather overwhelming statue of Lazurus who is easing himself out of the wall (tomb).  It's quite a sight; beautiful, yet unnerving at the same time.

Picture 4 - Here is Melanie in the corridor where archive material is received.   

Picture 5 - This is view of Melanie's office from the Research Room.  She has an eclectic collection of weird and wonderful things which she has collected over the years!

Picture 6  - One of the interesting items in Melanie's office is a picture of her Master's Degree and below it is a prediction - a self-portrait done at the age of 5 - saying that when she grows up she wants to be a librarian!  She came pretty close.

Picture 7 - Tools of the trade.  Acetate sheets, acid-free paper, gloves, pens etc.  Archivists tend not to use gloves unless they are handling negatives or photos because they find that gloves can actually do more damage than plain old fingers which are much more dextrous.

Picture 8 - This is the Reading Room where visitors can look at various books and request further information from Melanie.  

Picture 9 - Into the Vault!   This is the main storage area for all documents that have processed and archived.  It is quite fascinating to be in a closed area with so many documents.  Melanie almost archived herself once when she got trapped in the UBC vault.  However, that's another story..... The stacks roll along so easily (must remember to lock them in place so they don't creep closed!)  All documents are stored by a code rather than place or subject.  Because documents are received all the time it is impossible to keep these categories together, therefore numbers are assigned so archives are easily retrieved from different places throughout.

I warned Melanie about the silverfish and bugs that I found in our documents - No Problem!  she said and explained that her pet spiders in the vault will take care of all that!

Picture 10 -  There are also wide, flat drawers to store drawings and photos in.  Here is an example of some photographs from about 100 years ago.

Picture 11 - Looking back through the closed stacks - plenty of room for the future.  Now that we are now more digital there will certainly be fewer papers to file.  However, the archive still has not come up to the fore with digital storage and if we want to archive current materials we still need to print off documents for the foreseeable future.

Picture 12 -  We did a practice run looking for some St. Martin's material.  Back in the Reading Room we looked up the storage number where some of our boxes would be stored.  Lo and behold, there they were!

Picture 13 - Old school!  A bit of an education for Chloe - she had never seen a card catalogue before.  There are a few different categories, such as Clergy A-Z, and photographs.

Picture 14 - Neatly shelved books dating back to the 1900's.  Some of them were promotional books, enticing people from the Uk to emigrate to Canada.

All in all it was a fascinating tour of the archives.  We learnt so much; even Chloe admitted that it was interesting, but that might have to do with the fact that Melanie has some VERY entertaining stories.  

It is good to know that our documents are being stored safely free from pests and damp and are securely preserved for the future.