Learning, Connection and Fun

My Summer at the Archives

Posted on: August 23rd, 2017 by

By Rachel Vandenberg – Archival and Curatorial Assistant

Over the past few months I have been fortunate enough have the opportunity to work at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives as the Archival and Curatorial Assistant. This summer I have been able to learn about archival practices and curatorial management from our awesome Archivist, Tristan Evans, and wonderful Curator, Adrienne Rempel. These two have been great mentors and hilarious co-workers during my time here.

The Archive reading room where I spent time assisting researchers

The Archive reading room where I spent time assisting researchers

So, what did I do over the summer? Well…

I spent most of my time at the Archives building helping out, and learning from, Tristan and Adrienne. I started out the summer by processing a donation from the Soroptimist Club of Chilliwack. This was quite a large donation, filled with scrapbooks, meeting minutes, and club records, so it was a time-consuming process. Tristan was able to guide me through the process and showed me the ins and outs of being an archivist along the way. As the summer went on I was able to process many more donations. In addition to processing donations, I also learned how to assist researchers and preserve documentary artefacts. One of my favourite parts of working at the archives was meeting the people who bring in donations. Whether they are bringing in a single piece of paper, or a whole box of objects, the donor always has a story to go along with it. Interacting with donors made me realize that the documents and artefacts we work with are deeply connected people and their community.

I enjoyed the hands-on work with the CMA object collection

I enjoyed the hands-on work with the CMA object collection

The first big item on the Museum’s agenda after I was hired was the upcoming exhibit Gold Mountain Dream: Bravely Venture into the Fraser Valley. To my surprise, I was given the opportunity to help with the planning of the exhibit! Adrienne showed me the behind-the-scenes process of how to plan an exhibit. Everything from the small details visitors might not notice, like the font size of text or the level of lighting in the room, to the big details, like which objects are used or what colour the walls will be, is taken into consideration when planning an exhibit.  It was a much more comprehensive process than I had previously imagined. In the end, the exhibit looked amazing and the information is very interesting. You should definitely stop by the museum and have a look! There is so much to learn about British Columbia’s gold rush past and the forgotten history of Chilliwack’s Chinatowns.

Overall, my experience at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives has been incredible! I began this position hoping to gain some valuable work experience in the public history field, but I ended up with a lot more; I got to work with awesome people, be actively involved in my community, and learn so much along the way.