Introducing: Archives Processing Assistant Maddy Martin

Introducing: Archives Processing Assistant Maddy Martin

Hi! My name is Maddy and this summer I am working as the Archives Processing Assistant here at the Jewish Museum & Archives of BC. As the Archives Processing Assistant, I am processing a donation by the National Council for Jewish Women, Vancouver Section (NCJW). The Council has donated many records to the Archives over the years so while their initial donation has already been processed, I am working on a 2011 donation. This donation amounts to approximately 30 banker’s boxes of records. These boxes include records ranging from program brochures, event planning files, and VHS tapes to various photographs. Going through these files has been an interesting process; I have learned a lot about the NCJW and the way in which archival material is preserved and organised.

I am currently a student at Simon Fraser University finishing up my bachelor’s degree in History. Once I graduate, I plan to move on to complete a Masters in Library and Information Studies, Archives, or Museum Studies. Since working at the Pitt Meadows Museum last summer and now here at the Archives, I have become even more passionate about continuing to work in this field. Working on processing a significant archival donation in order to preserve it and make it accessible to researchers has been a very rewarding and educational experience.

The processing of this donation was begun last summer by another intern who completed about half of the boxes. Therefore, I started this project by taking an inventory of the records that had yet to be sorted. Once I had an idea of what sort of files were in each box and compiled a list for each, I began the preservation process. When processing archival material, preservation is incredibly important. In general, this means removing any staples, paper clips, or other metal from the files as they rust over time and can accelerate the degradation process.

Following this step, I remove any duplicates that existed within each file. This has been an ongoing process because there are many duplicate folders that exist in multiple boxes, some of which were processed last summer and some that were not. I have been separating these folders and saving them until I have gone through everything so that I can keep only one or two copies. As happens in many offices, the NCJW often produced duplicates, misplaced things, and otherwise had interesting filing practices sometimes. This has made organisation an interesting challenge. We want to maintain the NCJW’s organisational structure to the best of our abilities, but this structure shifted and changed over the years with different members and presidents, which has made this difficult. We also want this collection to be accessible to researchers in the future and so this often means that the existing organisation must be broken in order to accomplish this.

Perhaps the most oft duplicated files are the event invitations and programs. Since the establishment of the Vancouver Section of the NCJW in 1924, they have organised numerous fundraising and community events, many of which became annual events like the Friends & Angels Dinner. In general, the design of these documents was consistent over the years, but it has been interesting seeing the progression of these events and how they have changed in order to fit the goals of the organisation as it evolved.

Processing this significant donation has been an incredibly interesting and rewarding experience. I have learned a lot about the history of the NCJW in Vancouver, in addition to how archives function and process material that is donated. I am excited to continue working on this project; my next step will be creating a finding aid at the end of the summer in order to make this collection accessible to researchers. These files hold so much history and they deserve to be made available to anyone who seeks to learn more about this significant piece of Jewish history in Vancouver.