Re: Freight Car Archives


I did the Public Archives of Canada gig a few years ago.

The Merillees collection was tossed by his heirs into boxes for
transport to the archives, and now the order in which they were so
tossed is sacred.
I understand how provenance can be valuable, say with presidential or
other historical figures' private papers. This is not the case with the
Merrilees collection but there is no telling that to the archival Nazis

In defence of LAC, a few comments.

I have a friend who works at LAC, and when I visited Ottawa (including
considerable time spent at the archive), she took me to one of the
non-public portions of Library & Archives Canada, the work-offices in
Gatineau. One thing she mentioned to me is that there is just about nobody
on staff who actually cares about the transportation portfolio, and so
nothing gets done with it with regards to organisation.

It's not so much that the order in which everything was thrown into the
boxes is "sacred", but more that nobody gives enough of a damn to be
bothered to do anything about it. Any work done with regards to
transportation matters is only that what absolutely needs done, and
nothing more. This is actually what got me started on considering
switching my studies from linguistics to history - get a job at LAC and
work with the transportation portfolio. My friend in Gatineau said the
staff would love me for it.

With regards to the ordering of the photos in the index card boxes: it is
not at all random, though it may certainly seem so when you flip through
and see boxcar, Maurice Richard, tank car, tank car, Montreal Canadiens
team photo, random soldier, boat, tank car, Audrey Hepburn. The order in
which the photos are filed - by PA number - is the order in which they
were requested and retrieved.

the archival Nazi officer of the day told me that photos are to be moved
and viewed with two hands at all times. And that if I used only one
hand to view a photo just one more time, I would be thrown out the door.

Great collection. No fun at all.
I don't know about that, I had a great time. I never had any issue at all,
and found the staff very helpful and accomodating, to the extent of saying
sure, go ahead and take pictures of the pictures if you want. The only
stipulation I was given was that old papers had to be handled with gloves:
perfectly understandable.

Frank Valoczy
Vancouver, BC

Frank Valoczy
Vancouver, BC

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