By Michelle Boychuk (MLIS ’16)
I moved Halifax 3 years ago—I braved the 4 day drive from Edmonton to Halifax to pursue a Master of Information and Library Studies at Dalhousie University. I succeeded in that regard, and stayed in Halifax to work on a project for the Council of Nova Scotia Archives titled “Community Albums.” The project launches on June 27th. Please keep an eye on the Council of Nova Scotia Archives Facebook for the link!
The project takes advantage of the digital medium to provide anyone with an internet connection a glimpse into a variety of communities across Nova Scotia through their archives. Using a virtual exhibit format, readers can delve into albums to see the stories and images that archives have curated to tell the story of their communities since 1867. Although many communities already have their rich histories up for display through their museums, their archives are often left unexplored by those who are not enthusiasts or researchers. Giving archives a chance to shine on their own was one of the things that originally drew me to this project. Readers will be able to search for names, places, industries, or anything they can imagine in a specific album, or even across all albums at once, allowing readers to see connections between seemingly disparate communities.
The beginning of this project was a whirlwind lesson on Nova Scotian history and geography. I visited over 20 archives who had responded to a call for applications in 2015 and early 2016. These trips took me to every edge of Nova Scotia, from Bridgewater to Church Point to Port Greville, and from Antigonish to Lake Ainsley to Isle Madame and back. I was welcomed into each archives and told stories about each community; I gave them the tools to share those stories through this project. One of my fondest memories from this part of the project was being invited for tea after consulting with Cathy Maclean for Lake Ainsley Historical Society and being told the latest goings-on of the area.
Putting the project together has been mostly a combination of data entry, discussion, and scanning. After the initial consult, I left each participant to run wild in their archives, limited to choosing only 50-60 items out of their extensive collections that they felt could encapsulate their communities over the last 150 years. To foster a replication of the uniqueness I saw in the communities I visited I did not place many limits on how the albums were created. Standard metadata elements, archival scope, and a set time period provides a conceptual structure that allows the project to have one cohesive purpose, but the standards are loose enough to allow for the natural differences between each community to be displayed. The organizational structure, temporal focus, item types, and topics covered all come together to create a vast array of combinations which serve to delineate each community, while the structural and thematic similarities between albums will serve to bring them together as part of a provincial whole.