Alberta Provincial Archives

Cheruby's sister gave us a tour of the archives in Alberta on Saturday before we headed home. It was pretty cool. She is filling her head with a lot of information that she will never need again. What parts will be forgotten and what parts will be remembered? How many stories will she know that won't be her own? It's nice to meet people that enjoy their job at a basic level like that.

We were first introduced to the more public area, the Reading Room. There are separate sections in the Reading Room for local history and maps and photographs and encyclopedias and Alberta law books and homestead information. It was a round room with square little off-shoots to the rooms. I liked it. There was a display with World War I letters and documents which included a telegraph advising Mrs. Stanley that the government regretted to inform her that Pte Stanley had been killed in action on such and such a date. It seemed so cold, but that's how it was done. At least they paid for the characters to say, "We regret." Another document was the discharge papers for another soldier on compassionate grounds. I can't help but wonder what qualifies as compassionate grounds for the army during war time.

After the Reading Room, she showed us some of the vaults. We got to see archived stuff from CBC recordings to old manual tax record books (so cool!) to really old long play records to fragile hand-painted glass latern slides of plants to an over-sized photo of the guy that made the lantern slides. The shelving units and banks of lights and the cold storage and everything was so neat and way more high-tech than I would have thought. Of course, there were piles and piles of stuff in the hallways outside the vaults that hadn't been processed yet.

There is the librarian there who decides whether or not a book is historical significant or valuable enough to be stored there. If not, the donor gets to decide what they want done with it. And there are lots of Archivists there that make similar decisions about paperwork and documents and photos that come in. They don't just store government stuff there either. They also store private individual stuff. All the stuff Lando deals with comes in through the private sector.

The coolest thing of all was how truly interested Lando is in pretty much everything in there. Even the boring stuff was kind of interesting. She was so much fun to watch show us things in different vaults and talk about the environmental setting differences for different media and snooping in all the boxes of pictures and records. She was totally into the old fashioned card catalogues that they have. She was telling us about how they were trying to phase them out which is kind of part of her job.

It's also important to note that all the things we looked at are a matter of public record and anyone could ask to look at these things. They just wouldn't have the same experience because they would need to know what they were looking for and we got a personal tour of the facility and got to just poke around.

I have to say that it makes me want to go to the Saskatchewan Provincial Archives and poke around. But what would I poke around for? Lando mentioned that genealogists tend to come in and do research there. They look at the homestead papers and the tax books for counties which I thought was interesting. I should make a trip to Regina with my dad once my brother lives there and we can look into our family.

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