Putting the Art in Archivist

By Stephanie George

Hi! My name is Stephanie and I’m so excited to join Manitoba Arts Council as their Archives Intern. I’m hoping “Artchivist” might catch on?! I was completely thrilled when this job came up, as it connects both of my passions – I have a Masters in English from the U of M and another in Library and Information Science from the University of Western Ontario. I’ve worked and volunteered in both fields, including at Millennium Library, St. John’s College Library and with the Envoi Poetry Festival.

I remember reading over MAC’s strategic plan when prepping for my interview and feeling so encouraged by the following passage: “As the pace of change in our province continues to accelerate, the value of the arts is amplified – they are our oldest and most reliable tools for imagining how we might respond to change, and for prototyping new models of cultural resilience.” This is exactly why I studied literature and I’m so pleased to work for an organization that shares the same values.

MAC has been championing the arts for the last 50 years and with this work comes a lot of paper. My first day on the job included a tour of the three file rooms I would be responsible for. I initially spent a lot of time evaluating what was in each of these rooms and there have been a few interesting discoveries, the strangest being a used pair of white tennis shoes from the 80’s.

Since Manitoba Arts Council is an arm’s-length agency of the provincial government, most every document we produce is considered a government record. This means that all of these documents have to fit under a records schedule that is approved by the Archives of Manitoba. Essentially, these schedules tell you about the life of a particular group of records – how long they live in our office before being transferred to the Government Records Centre and then how long they stay here before being a) destroyed or b) sent to the Archives. The provincial archivists have been so helpful and enthusiastic throughout this process of updating our schedules. As thanks, we’ll send them our 50 year paper backlog!

Most of our current records are living the digital life now but the schedules created for our paper records also apply to their electronic colleagues. There is a pressing need to organize our digital holdings so that staff can access information faster and more easily. It is the perfect time for this work to be completed, as MAC is streamlining its program structure and implementing a new grants management system. I am happy to be a small contributor during this time of change and it’s been a fantastic experience so far – the staff have made me feel right at home, I’ve learned a lot more about the archives and records management aspect of my profession, and there’s only been one major paper cut incident!