Meet the Archivist
Hello there! This blog post is coming to you from Heather, the new Archivist here at the Museum of Lennox and Addington. I couldn’t be more excited to join the team, and I am so looking forward to getting to know our community. I originally hail from Sudbury, and after spending the past three years living out on the east coast in New Brunswick it is good to be back in Ontario, closer to family. Lennox and Addington is a whole new area for me to explore, and I can’t wait to dive in. In my free time you can often find me at the library, exploring hiking trails, or visiting other local museums and heritage sites, when I am not spending time with my dog and three cats, or riding my horse. I’m always looking for suggestions for new sites to check out!
Pippi, Ginny, Cali, Holly, and Merlin (Left to right, top to bottom)
I am often asked what led me to become an archivist, or what my background is that allows me to do the work I do. It was a long and winding road which led me here, and I questioned my path plenty of times along the way. I can’t put my finger on exactly when I fell in love with history, or what got me hooked, but growing up history was all around me, in the books I read, the movies I watched, even the video games I played. Every family summer vacation involved many visits to museums along the way, and even though we visited the same sites year after year there was somehow always something new to experience, and these were highlights of the trips for me. To this day wherever I travel I seek out the local museums and historical sites.
National Railway Museum, York, England 2019
Though it seems my love of history was always there I did not always know where that love would take me. I started my university career thinking I would pursue a degree in science and follow a more “practical” path. It took less than one term for me to realize that road was not for me, and by the second term I had jumped ship to Ancient Studies and Classics. I loved diving into the stories of “ordinary” (upper class) everyday people through their letters, books, and poetry that made their world come alive in a way no history textbook could. While completing my undergrad I worked for a summer at the City of Greater Sudbury Archives, digitizing minute books, newspapers, and audio cassettes. One of the projects I worked on was digitizing the oral histories of Ukranians who had immigrated to Sudbury, something I think about frequently these days. The power of archives to connect with the community around them, preserve voices that would otherwise be lost, and help those voices to be heard is one of the things I love most about this job.
Nevertheless, it took me some time to find my true passion and several years of navigating through the choppy waters of graduate studies. My plan had been to carry on and do a PhD, but the deeper I got into my Master’s program in Scottish Studies, another of my passions, the more I came to realize that life as an academic was not for me. Instead, my love for museums and cultural heritage, in general, led me to complete a second masters degree in Public History. That opened up a whole new world for me as I began volunteering and working in museums. I was at first torn between a career in museums and a career in archives, but when I landed an internship at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick I knew I had found my place. However, I realized I needed more formal education in archival theory and practice and thus embarked on a third masters degree in Archival studies which I have nearly completed. Over the past three years, as an intern and later as Archives Manager of the Charlotte County Archives, and through my academic work, I’ve developed my passion for not only preserving history, but making it relevant and accessible in the present. I love meeting people from all walks of life, and getting to know their stories. Working in smaller communities I’ve also found my passion for local history. I have seen firsthand the ability of archives to reunite families, to give people a sense of place and an identity, to better understand the world around us, and to build for the future.
Gertrude Preston of Amherst Island on a road trip with a group of friends, 1920s
Archives are not a static entity, trapped in the past, but rather are always growing and changing with us. While archives continue to preserve paper records as they have always done, one of the modern challenges faced by archivists that I look forward to is continuing to adapt the archives to the digital age. This includes the preservation of both these paper records in digital form and what we refer to as “born digital” records in forms that survive as digital technology evolves and changes, to ensure that these valuable historical records are not lost.
I’ve always been drawn in by the social side of history, how people in the past lived, and how they saw the world around them. Archives offer so many different windows into the stories of our past, and often you can really get to know the individual(s) who created them and step into another world through their words and images. I am thrilled that I have found a place where both the Archivist and the Public Historian in me can shine, and I can’t wait to share our stories with you.