Tag Archives: archival photographs

Archiving Your Life in a Digital World

Where and how do you store your personal files and photos?  It’s easy to forget that before the days of cellphone cameras and social media, time and effort were put into printing photographs, labelling them, and putting them into albums.

When I was training to become an archivist, I began to realize that my own photos were scattered across Facebook, my phone, and my laptop, and that if I ever wanted to look back on those memories to share with family or donate them to the archives, it would be one great, big mess.

Personal archiving is the organization and safe preservation of material that relates to the life, memories, and experiences of a person.  Modern personal archiving is often concerned with digital preservation, especially bringing together content from social media and digital devices to ensure the long-term preservation of the memories we store digitally.

Digital files could be stored on many different devices.

It’s hard to know exactly what is going to be of personal or historical importance in the future, and hard to know how to choose what to keep and how to organize it so that we can access it later.  For instance, after actress Vivien Leigh’s death in 1967, her laundry receipts ended up providing insight into how mid-20th century haute couture was preserved and presented in public.  Yet, it’s unlikely that Vivien kept these laundry receipts knowing they would provide historical value later.

While we can’t always know what will be important to keep, we can do our best to keep our core memories and evidence of our impact on the community alive by keeping our media and documents organized, in a safe place.  Based on the Library of Congress’s advice for personal archiving, I’ve provided some steps here that can guide you in preserving you and your family’s digital files:

  1. Locate your files.  Are they on your phone?  On your Google Drive?  On your computer?  On a memory card or USB?  On Facebook?  Decide on one place to compile them.
  2. Choose which files are most important to you and the historical record.  Historical value can often be found in items that document activities, people, places, and events.  Delete duplicates and keep the highest quality versions.
  3. Organize your files chronologically, by subject, or both.  Develop a hierarchical structure of folders for storing the files, and name your files and folders consistently.  Include dates in file and folder names wherever possible.
  4. Preserve your organized files by making copies and storing them in different physical locations (e.g. keep one set of files on your computer, one on an external hard drive, or one on a cloud file-sharing drive, etc.).

If many of your files or photos are not yet in the digital world, consider scanning them.  If you are planning to donate your files to the Whistler Museum & Archives, we are happy to scan any physical photographs you may have and send you copies.

While physical photos can be stored in boxes such as these, digital photos require a different system.

Recently, we have noticed our archival collection is severely lacking in donations from the past 25 years; we believe this may be due to the shift to digital creation with the onset of new technologies.  We would be ecstatic if this article could prompt our community to begin donating old cell phone videos and photos (even if their digital quality is that of a potato nowadays!), or even old Word documents of newsletters from local organizations.  The early days of the internet sparked massive changes in how we create, share, and preserve our stories – this time of change merits preservation.  If you’re able to help us fill the 1995 – 2020 gap in our collection, please email archives@whistlermuseum.org.

A Crash Course in Archives

The Whistler Museum and Archives is collecting donations of objects, photographs, video, and other documents to record Whistler’s experience during the pandemic.  We’re accepting items Monday through Friday, 11 am to 5 pm, and all donations will be safely quarantined.  While collecting artefacts is fairly straightforward, as we’ve written in past articles on the topic, archives themselves can be confusing.  So, here’s a quick crash course!

Archives are naturally-generated historical records that are created by a person or organization over their lifetime.  They are preserved in order to demonstrate the function of the donor in society or changes of places and events over time.  Records are usually unique, as opposed to books or magazines, which often have many identical copies (this is one way archives and libraries differ).  For example, a business might donate an advert they created, or a person might donate their photos of the Bike Park from the past decade.

Though archives and artefacts are often grouped together, they are actually separate. Artefacts are physical things, such as Myrtle Philip’s pants and riding jacket shown here, while archives are records such as letters, photographs, films and journals.

Here at the archives in Whistler, we aim to describe, preserve, and provide access to materials donated.  The archives is a tool for researchers – from historians, to genealogists, to filmmakers – to access primary sources and records untainted by censorship or skewing.

The principles an archivist is taught during a degree in archival science are chock-full of French terms, arising out of Belgium and France in the mid-1800s.  Provenance dictates that materials from different origins should be kept separate.  It would be impossible to find anything if we kept all our donations in one big “Whistler Collection.”  Respect des fonds, stemming from provenance, means we must group materials according to the entity which created them or from which they were received.

The archives room within the Whistler Museum is full of the stories of the resort town and those who have called it home.  Keeping it all in order as it grows continuously can be a daunting task, but one our Head Archivist Alyssa Bruijns does very well.

But, wait!  We can’t physically rearrange things into a new order!  We rearrange “intellectually” when cataloguing, because we also have to respect original order.  If we physically rearrange the records donated to us, we risk losing the context of how these records were created.  While keeping this context may not seem useful right now, it may reveal very useful information for a researcher in the future.  When a record is removed from its fellow records, it can lose its meaning and credibility.

So, what’s the point of keeping records if you can’t find anything, maybe by subject or date?  We must describe the records using a catalogue and metadata so we can find them for you.  In fact, in the 1970s, Canadian archivists were among the first int he world to put together a comprehensive description standard that took into account the changes technology brought, called “Rules for Archival Description (RAD)”.   It is the archivist’s Bible.

Many of our archive collections are safely housed in acid-free boxes such as these shown here holding the Blackcomb Mountain Collection.

Archives are meant to last; some archives have already lasted centuries.  To preserve archives safely, we rehouse records in acid-free containers, store in climate-controlled areas, and digitize deteriorating items.  For fragile items and valuable records in high demand from the public, digitization can provide remote access.  Due to media formats dying out a frightening speed (RIP VHS), we must digitize our older media to current formats so we don’t lost it entirely.

Still, even current hard drives can become corrupt and file formats do fall out of use, and this is partly why we never throw out original materials.  Digital technologies still have a shorter life expectancy than paper, though we’re hopeful this could change.  Until then, the Whistler Museum & Archives will keep digitizing to bring you access to our community’s history.  Our photo collections can be found here: whistlermuseum.smugmug.com/; our video collections can be found here: youtube.com/WhistlerMuseum; and our archival catalogue can be found here: whistler.ica-atom.org/.

COVID-19 Archival Donation Drive

The Whistler Museum & Archives is conducting a donation drive in order to collect posters, signs, photographs, videos, records, and objects documenting the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.

All who spent the past few months of the pandemic in Whistler are encouraged to donate any materials relating to COVID-19 and changes made during this time to the Whistler Museum & Archives in an effort to document this time in Whistler’s history.  This donation drive is an effort to collect items such as signs and posters listing restrictions or closures placed in local businesses and public spaces, photographs and videos of the effects of COVID-19 measures, written or visual accounts of individual pandemic experiences, or other items related to social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine.  The Whistler Museum’s goal is to piece together an accurate representation of Whistler’s experience during the pandemic for the sake of the community’s historical record.

The Whistler Museum & Archives Society has been collecting artefacts and archival materials related to the history of the Alta Lake and Whistler area since it was first formed in 1988.  Whistler Museum Collection.

While the Whistler Museum & Archives has always encouraged donations of historical items local to Whistler or demonstrating mountain culture, this COVID-19 donation drive will be larger in scale and specific to pandemic-related items.  Items donated will be added to the artefact and archival collections and preserved at the Whistler Museum & Archives.  Access to items donated will be maintained through museum exhibits, reference services, and digitization projects.

“This COVID-19 donation drive is important – the Whistler Museum & Archives is collecting these items so we can share the legacy of these historic times in Whistler with each other and with future generations,” says Alyssa Bruijns, Head Archivist & Collections Manager at the Whistler Museum & Archives.

The COVID-19 Donation Drive will bring in pandemic-related items and stories is order to preserve Whistler’s unique experience with COVID-19.  Items for donation can be dropped off at the Whistler Museum & Archives between 11am and 5pm from Monday to Friday.  All donations will be quarantined for 9 days before handling by museum staff.

For any questions or to learn more about the COVID-19 Donation Drive, please email Head Archivist & Collections Manager, Alyssa Bruijns, at archives @ whistlermuseum.org.

Whistorical Photo Challenge

It’s time to re-imagine some of Whistler’s historical photographs!

Each week we’ll be posting a selection of photos and we want to see how you recreate them (in a safe, physical distance maintaining way).  Up this week, we have:

Two colourful skiers examine their skis on Whistler Mountain in the 1980s. Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

Myrtle Philip in her iconic hand-sewn pants in the 1930s. Philip Collection.

Katie McGregor, Jean Tapley, and a gentleman friend pose in their fashionable swimwear of 1925. Philip Collection.

John Hetherington poses with an axe while installing the water system at Tokum Corners in 1973. George Benjamin Collection.

You can share your images on social media by tagging @whistlermuseum on Instagram or Facebook, or email us at events @ whistlermusem.org.

We can’t wait to see your interpretations!