Dieter Buse of the Sudbury District Archives Interest Group (SDAIG) spoke at the opening of the Greater Sudbury Archives building in Falconbridge in May. The following are his words.
In my view cities without archives are like persons who have Alzheimer’s. They are in danger of losing their memory and their identity.
I must state that the push for an archives came because the Land Records for Sudbury & District were leaving our community. Members of the Sudbury District Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society wanted these records to be preserved here. On Oct. 25, 2004 Beth Carbone, for the Sudbury OGS, made a presentation to City Council advocating an archive. Numerous meetings were held during 2005, and with the overwhelming support of local genealogists, various cultural groups and historians, it was agreed to form what became known as the Sudbury District Archives Interest Group.
By October 2005 we were registered as a non-profit charity whose mandate was (and is) to work toward an archive for Sudbury & District. We worked with city library staff. Simultaneously, we created a long list of records we knew were scattered about the district and many are now housed here (such as those of Memorial Hospital).
In October 2007 we again presented to City Council and by then had helped obtain this building and an operating budget for staff. We also contacted and invited archivists to Sudbury who had built other archives and could advise on the needs and procedures.
We have received some donations from service clubs, councilors and individuals. We have started to purchase reference materials necessary for staff and researchers. We hope to offer scholarships for students researching local history. We have a website and are improving it.
Our membership is 112 and I invite everyone here to sign up for life for $10.
None of this would have been possible without the work of Karen Russell. That tenacious woman—she could spend more time on the phone in a day than most of us in a year—made sure we met, everyone was informed and chased down all possibilities. Her plan for the opening was to appear as Mrs. Bell and to have Stompin Tom Connors perform. Perhaps we can still have that kind of opening.
But having a building and staff—yes council, we need more staff is just a beginning. We need a user friendly and accessible collection of records. Extreme case—East Germany before the wall: a bureaucrat held guide book to the records and read parts. However, just last month in Berlin and despite place being repainted, had me set up with newspapers and helped scan unto memory stick technology. We have in our community many historians and genealogists—I see some here–who have used other archives and they are available to help as volunteers for this one. Today we have much electronic technology for use by staff and researchers. It will be good to have the basic record collections listed on an easy to use website from which photos can be directly downloaded—those are possible directions.
Archives are important to communities. The records contain our identity’s base, the accounts of our institutions and our people. Sudbury has always been more than mining. Many ethnic groups came here to work. Hundreds of small businesses served the corporations and the consumers. All their records need to be assembled and made accessible. And we need memoirs, letters and diaries so that the personal stories too emerge. Having this large depository and place to house the memories is a first big step to helping understanding more thoroughly our history and showing it. We must have an educational program for youth to experience hands on history.
We might even consider some projects. For instance a city I know well had an archivist and local historians write a brief to become a World Heritage Site—and that draws tourists. Perhaps we can aim at a National Historic Site interpretive centre—none exists in that large triangle between Ottawa, Fort St. Joseph and Moose Factory. Why not a place to demonstrate dealing with and overcoming pollution, namely Sudbury’s regreening story? Does anyone here remember Happy Valley? From Thomas Edison to Tom Davis….a National Historic Site about reshaping landscapes. Bottom of building offers great display space.
I repeat: a city without an organized, accessible collection of its records is like a person with Alzheimer’s: it is in danger of losing an awareness of what it all was, its composite and diverse identity.
Two practical issues— 1) join our group.2) Start digging through your attics and finding those records that will stop us having community Alzheimer’s.