This past year, the Board of the Archives Society of Alberta has focused on expanding our audience base and developing new relationships. I am very proud to report that on these two counts we have been successful beyond expectations.
The first major initiative was the Archives Resources in the Classroom project. Now close to completion, the project has involved the digitization of 10,000 pages of archival material and the development of an online learning object that tells the story of three immigrant experiences. The primary objective of the project is to introduce the K-12 sector to the wealth of archival sources available in this province and to educate school children and their teachers in the basics of archival research.
This project has gone very well so far. We are working hard to meet a completion deadline of June 30th and I must commend all of you who have participated - digitizing, providing captions and other content, translating text, and contributing to creative design jam sessions - for your effort and enthusiasm. We have all learned a lot along the way; lessons I expect we can apply to future projects.
I can say that we have already had a lot of interest in the classroom project - both within the archival community and in government. We presented progress on this project and the ANA database project to Marilyn Kimura, Director of the Centennial Legacies Program, last December and she was as excited about the product as she was relieved that we were doing something credible. She admitted at the end of the presentation that she had had some difficulty envisioning what we were doing but now having seen the product, she remarked that the ANA database would be around a lot longer than any swimming pool that they were funding under the infrastructure grant program. Alberta Learning was also very interested in the potential and is prepared to discuss linkages between the classroom project and the K-12 curriculum.
One of the outcomes of our work with teachers over the last several months though has been a recognition that there is a basic lack of understanding of archives on the one hand and a real interest in what we do and what we have in our custody on the other. This has led to what I consider to be a real innovation on our part - the Archives Tutorial. The tutorial, which is in the final stages of development and will be tested over the summer, is intended first of all to instruct in the basic concepts that are at the foundation of our profession. It is also intended to familiarize the audience with a typical archival repository and provide information on who uses archival material and how to go about doing archival research.
I want to recognize Michael Gourlie at this point for the tremendous amount of work he has put into this project. This was not something we had planned on doing at the beginning of the year and was work he undertook on top of his regular duties as Executive Director and Archives Advisor for the Society. Nevertheless, we believe that it will be critical to the success of the classroom project and any other effort to expand our audience.
None of this work will be worthwhile though if we don't put some effort and imagination into ensuring that teachers, students, and the general public know what we have done, where to find it, and how to use it. The Board has authorized or initiated several ideas to serve this purpose.
You will all remember the meeting of the four western archives councils organized by the ASA with the help of the PAA. The outcome of that meeting was a document entitled "What the West Wants" which was intended to ensure that archives are on the national agenda, to make sure that the grant money continues to flow, and to make sure that we become relevant to Canadians. This document was forwarded to the CCA and discussed at the recent NPT meeting.
The Communications Committee recently ordered a second run of the very popular bookmarks. Each delegate at the ACA Conference held in Montreal last month received a bookmark in their conference bag. They have also been made available in archival institutions, in libraries, and in schools. They are a very useful reminder of where to find the databases we are promoting.
We are also running a series of advertisements in the Legacy magazine. Each one will focus on a different aspect of the products we support and all will contain information on how to access the various databases.
Over the next year, we are planning to present papers at relevant teachers' conferences and conferences relating to online learning. We also plan to enlist the assistance of our membership to meet with teachers in every jurisdiction in the province or least in every jurisdiction where we have members.
Today, we officially launched the Archival Resources in the Classroom learning object, the Archives Tutorial, and the InWord database. The media, government officials, archivists, and descendants of the immigrant families featured in the Classroom project were invited to celebrate the unveiling of our most recent work. It is only fitting, given the support we have received under the Centennial Legacies Grant Program, that the Minister of Community Development, the Hon. Gene Zwozdesky, was on hand to present these products to the public.
Our newly minted promotional video served as an introduction to the ASA, the ANA database, and the educational products at this event. Copies will be made available to members of the ASA for your own promotional or public relations efforts.
I have now completed my term as President of the Archives Society of Alberta so would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the opportunity to serve. It has been a real pleasure to work with all of you over the past four years and a real privilege to hold office during a time when it was possible for us to be leaders in both the archival and the educational community. I wish the best of luck to the new Board.
Jo-Ann Munn Gafuik
June 8, 2004