We’ve gone over a little bit of what a historical specialist does , and I’ve mentioned the archives a few times. But what is the Stampede Archives, and what do I do there?
An archives is the place where historical and important records are kept. This term is also used when referring to our collections storage area, where 3D objects are kept. We have records from the agricultural exhibitions to the present, and collect from all areas of the organization. This includes early financial records, rodeo prize lists and almost everything in between. Objects include saddles, hats, textiles, souvenirs, posters, postcards, puzzles and many other types of things.
In the Archives I have the important role of making sure that these objects and records are preserved as best as possible so that we can continue to tell our community stories for generations to come. This starts as soon as I acquire an object.
Process for cataloguing a new object in the Archives
Once something is acquired, it is catalogued, using a system to ensure that we can keep track of where it is, and all of the important information that goes along with it. This can include dates, provenance, manufacturing information, interesting stories or people associated with it, condition reporting and anything else that might be important.. It is given a special accession number which is only assigned to that object.
Once the item is properly catalogued, I determine the best way to store it. Storage isn’t necessarily as straightforward as you might think! Often, objects need to be handled a different way in an archive or collection than how you would actually use it. At home you would use a jug by holding the handle, but in an archive you would support it with two hands at the base and the side- not the handle! Because handles are often added after, they can be the weakest part of an object like this. Proper supports in storage are also important, and making sure an object isn’t stressed.
I also need to consider what materials to store an object in, as different materials interact with each other in different ways. I often used acid free tissue to pad objects or keep them separate from one another as this can help reduce acids in materials, preventing the item from deteriorating over time. I need to make sure I am using the right tissue though- some tissues should not be used with protein- based objects. I have to make sure that I choose the right materials to make an object last in good condition for as long as possible.
Other things to look out for that can affect preservation include temperature, humidity and pests. A stable temperature and humidity are essential to limiting damage. Looking out for pests is a must! Different insects can be attracted to a variety of materials, so you want to make sure your objects aren’t becoming a favourite snack! Limiting access to light is also important. Light can damage an object by fading colours. This is especially true for textiles and paper objects.
Looking after our collections is one of the most important parts of my job, ensuring that the Calgary Stampede’s western heritage is preserved. We can then use these objects to tell great stories, and share them through research, exhibits and programs.
For more information, visit https://www.calgarystampede.com/heritage/about.