Behind the Scenes: Getting a Student Chapter Off the Ground

After the Association for Canadian Archivists’ 2013 meeting in Winnipeg, we were inspired to start a student chapter of the ACA for students at the University of Manitoba. Choosing to be part of this national organization makes us feel more connected to the Canadian archival scene as a whole and to our fellow students specifically.

Seeing the vibrant student communities in other Archival Studies programs across Canada made us wish for a more connected community in our own program, so we decided to see if we could get a student chapter off the ground. The U of M’s Archival Studies program is unique in Canada in that it requires a thesis to graduate; while this approach has its pros and cons, it means that students can feel a bit disconnected from each other as they complete their coursework and begin writing their thesis. Our initial goals for the U of M’s student chapter were to foster a sense of community among Archival Studies students, to make our work more visible to the ACA and other archivists, and to gather resources for prospective, new, and established Archival Studies students.

The process of getting the student chapter off the ground ended up being a bit more complex than we anticipated; starting a new student group at the University of Manitoba requires quite a bit of red tape and running around. We were lucky to have lots of support from our faculty advisors, Greg Bak and Tom Nesmith, as well as from Tina Chen, Head of the Department of History. On the ACA side of things, we lucked out in having the Director-At-Large in charge of student chapters, Heather Beattie, based right here in Winnipeg.

Students at all stages of their degrees were enthusiastic about starting a student chapter and were helpful in getting the student chapter going. We have a great executive committee: Nicole Courrier is Vice-Chair, Natalie Vielfaure is Secretary-Treasurer, Sarah Ramsden and Kevin Palendat are our Communications Coordinators, and Jessica Nichol is the First-Year student representative. In addition to our own committees, we’re happy that we’ve been able to strengthen ties with the Association for Manitoba Archives through the work of Sarah Story, the AMA’s student representative.

The students who aren’t on the executive are also crucial to ensuring the success of the student chapter. In December 2013, the student chapter sold postcards featuring an image from the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections; we’re grateful to all the students who helped sell postcards and to UMASC for allowing us to use one of their images! We were able to raise nearly $400.

While we haven’t hosted many formal events yet, we are putting that postcard money to good use and bringing in professor and theorist Wendy Duff from the University of Toronto in May! We’re really excited to host Wendy for two lectures, one in the evening of 20 May and one in the afternoon of 21 May. We’d also like to thank the ACA for providing a bit of seed money to get our chapter off the ground—we’re using that money for refreshments for Wendy’s evening event at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections. We encourage all our members to come out to one or both of these events! They’re free to the public and should be interesting discussions of archives and social justice.

Thanks to everyone for a great first year! Elections for next year’s executive will be held the week of 21 April, and nominations can be submitted by 18 April.

Elizabeth-Anne Johnson & Danna Slessor-Cobb


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