Jo-Ann Munn-Gafuik, ASA President
There is an energy and excitement among archivists in this province that is obvious to outsiders. This is due, in no small part, to the financial resources we have acquired from sponsors at the federal and provincial level and the activity the money supports but it can also be attributed to the dedication, imagination, tenacity, and work ethic of the professional archivists here and the enthusiastic support we get from government. It's good to be an archivist in Alberta - that much was obvious when the ASA board met with the boards of other western provinces last December.
We had a very productive meeting with the western councils on December 8th. At the end of the day, the group produced a document outlining 'What the West Wants' or what kind of support the west thinks the CCA should ask the federal government for during the reassessment of current programs. The document also addressed organizational issues relating to how programs are delivered at the national level. It was presented to the board of the CCA before the Christmas break. To date we have had no word on how it was received or if any action has been taken.
The Centennial Legacies Project is moving towards a completion date of September 2005. The original end date was summer 2004 but the project has been extended another 12 - 14 months to ensure that the PAA can meet its goals with respect to the completion of fonds level descriptions. Although there is continuing development of the Cinemage database to accommodate the imagination of participants, the focus for the next year will continue to be on fonds-level description and digitization.
The Archives in the Classroom project (we are still looking for a catchier title) is moving towards a completion date of June 2004. This is really an amazing feat given the short amount of time we have had to bring this together and the paucity of example. To date, we have digitized over 9,000 pages of photographs, letters, and diaries relating to immigration stories; we have approved a concept for the learning object; and selected three stories to focus on. One of the three stories is about an Italian immigrant named Antonio Rebaudengo who wrote a diary while interned in Kananaskis as an enemy alien during the Second World War. The diary is written in Italian and is currently being translated into English. Both the Italian and the English versions will be available through the learning object and Alberta InWord. We anticipate that we will have to do a limited amount of transcription of hard to read text as well.
Although some institutions are still digitizing, the main effort is now being put into developing the content for the learning object. In this, the teachers are taking the lead, supported by Dr. David Jones, a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary and Collene Armstrong, a pedagogy expert. Michael and I are staying closely involved to ensure that the original objectives are preserved. Needless to say, the process has been very interesting.
One fact that became obvious as we went along was that it was going to be very difficult to integrate some of our more archives-focused learning objectives into the immigration story learning object. We, therefore, made a decision to separate out those goals and work on a separate learning object that concentrated entirely on teaching people how to access archival records, defining some of our obscure terms (like 'fonds'), and outlining how or why records are selected for permanent preservation. This new learning object, which is being funded under the Centennial Legacies Grant, will be integrated into the immigration learning project but will also function independently. We are hoping that it will be completed by June 2004.
Marketing, or making sure that people know about the resources we are developing, making sure that people know how to use them, making sure that people use them, and I guess, making sure archival repositories and programs are relevant to the daily lives of Albertans, is an important element of the projects we undertake. The postcards and bookmarks are a first step but there is much more that needs to be done. We have had a few good opportunities to demonstrate our product to date - Mark Rasmussen, ADM, at the Institutional Forum; Marilyn Kimura, manager of the Centennial Legacies Grant Program, in December; Susan Schroeder, Assistant Director, Online Development at Alberta Learning, also in December. Ian Wilson, National Archivist, will tour the new Provincial Archives building and have a formal demonstration of our databases and classroom project on February 6th. We have been given a 30-minute time slot with the Minister of Community Development on February 12th to show him the electronic catalogue built with money coming out of one of his programs. Our project is being billed as a 'good news' Centennial story.
The next step is getting into conferences where teachers will have an opportunity to see, test, and imagine how they might use the catalogue as well as the learning objects as they are developed. And beyond, we can't ignore, in my view, the value of meeting with teacher groups, school by school, board by board, and that is something we can all do. By broadening our user base to include students and ultimately their parents, we will ensure that we are relevant to Albertans but more importantly, we will ensure that all Albertans are aware of the rich resource preserved in Alberta's archives.
Any other ideas on how to promote this resource? Please call or write to me or any member of the Board.