Before you toss it, ask an archivist

Your records could include valuable pieces of Parksville-Qualicum history

Archives are public institutions that hold the records of individuals, families, community organizations, businesses and governments.

They can include paper records of various formats, photographs, drawings, journals and diaries, film, books, account ledgers and maps.

These items could be considered the memory bank or data base of the community, one that we draw on to understand a community’s development and members over generations.

An archive provides information for decision-making in the present and for celebrating anniversaries of accomplishments and events. The development of a community museum that reflects the significant people, places and stories of the area depends on the content of the community archives, so the more comprehensive the community archives, the more representative are the museum displays and stories.

In Qualicum Beach we are fortunate to have an archives housed in the annex building on the museum campus on Beach Road.

If you want to do research in the archives for information about your family, your organization or your community you can do so with the help of an archivist or archive volunteers. Call ahead to make an appointment so staff is available to you.

You can consult materials in the archives reading room only. You cannot borrow materials or remove them. You can order copies of photos and photocopies of important documents.

Qualicum Beach’s archives are in the process of digitizing its photograph collection, which takes significant time and funds, so not all photos are currently available in digital format. The archives also has a small library of books on topics relevant to the community and its history and these can be consulted or read in the archives reading room. Some books are also available for purchase in the museum gift shop.

An archive is a precious community resource that has a special role to both collect and preserve. Staff time to reach out to community members to collect archival materials is very limited so it is up to community members to think about the potential value of their photos and documents to the community archives, and to contact archives staff to find out if they could be donated.

Staff has the right to refuse materials they cannot use, or do not have the space to store, but it is better to ask them first than to throw out your records and photos.

Leave special instructions in writing to your family about your potential donations so that should you be unable to do the donation process yourself, your records and photos will not be lost or destroyed. It may surprise you to hear that we have not been able to write biographies to learn about and celebrate many important Canadian historical figures because their personal records were destroyed.

You have a choice where you would like your materials to go. Sometimes it makes sense to donate them to an archive in the community where you spent most of your life, and that may not be the community you live in during your retirement years. Community organizations should donate their records continuously, right after every AGM, to ensure a continuity of archival records.

Archives have forms that you fill out when you make a donation so that you can decide if you want to place any restrictions on your records, such as making them available to the public only after your death. The value of an archive is also its preservation role, and it is ideal to have historical materials in a climate controlled environment that archives facilities offer, saved in perpetuity.

Once they are donated and accepted, you know they will be there for many generations to come, for historians, community members and your family members to enjoy reading and researching to tell your life story.

Call 250-752-5533 to arrange your Qualicum Beach archives visit.

— contributed by Nanci Langford for Qualicum Beach Historical and Museum Society

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