I’m happy to announce that my Archivist Interview series is not over yet! Today I have a Q&A with Krista McCracken, who works at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (pictured above). She’s also a graduate of my alma mater, Western University, where my mom is currently taking history courses. Read on to learn about her job.
1. Can you tell us a bit about the archives at Algoma University?
Algoma University has two distinct archival repositories – the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC) and the Engracia de Jesus Matthias Archives and Special Collections.
Algoma University is located on the historic site of the Shingwauk and Wawanosh Indian Residential Schools. This located was directly related to the founding of the SRSC as a grassroots community archive and cross-cultural education project in 1979 under the auspices of the Shingwauk Project.
The SRSC is jointly governed by the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association (CSAA) and Algoma University and collects material relating to residential schools, Indigenous communities, and healing and reconciliation. In addition to managing an archival collection the SRSC has a long history of managing projects relating to “sharing, healing, and learning” and is dedicated to raising awareness of residential schools.
Located within the Arthur A. Wishart Library, the Engracia de Jesus Matthias Archives and Special Collections collects materials relating to Algoma University, the Algoma region, regionally significant individuals and business, and community organizations. The Archives is particularly strong in the area of labour history, community history, and Northern Ontario.
Algoma University is also the repository of the Anglican Diocese of Algoma archives which cover over 150 years of the documentary history of Northeastern Ontario from Mattawa in the east to Thunder Bay in the west. Encompassed by the Engracia de Jesus Matthias Archives and Special Collections the Anglican Diocese of Algoma archives are an amazing source of both community and church history.
2. How long have you worked there and how did you become interested in the field?
I was hired in 2010 as an Archives Technician in the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre. I’ve held a couple different roles at Algoma since 2010 and my work is constantly filled with new challenges and opportunities.
I graduated from Western’s Public History MA program in 2009 and my first job after graduation was working as a Digitization Facilitator for OurOntario’s Community Digitization Program to help small heritage organizations and libraries setup digitization programs. I loved the digital outreach, access, and community history aspects of that job – all of which are part of my current position. Prior to working at Algoma I had no idea of the range of possibilities within the archival field. I feel very lucky to have found a field and workplace that combines so many of my passions.
3. What are your current duties and projects?
I currently oversee the day to day archival activities of the SRSC and Engracia de Jesus Matthias Archives and Special Collections. Since we’re a small shop this includes a whole range of things including: shepherding new donations, accessioning, arrangement, physical processing, digitization, reference requests, educational and instructional programming, display development, and social media. I also oversee any students and interns who are working in the archives.
4. Can you share more about one of your favourite items?
One of my favourite items is a sympathy card that is part of the Postcard series in the Benna Fuller fonds. Benna Fuller (1888-1977) was the daughter of Benjamin Fuller, a principal of the Shingwauk Residential School. Benna later taught at Shingwauk until 1945. She was very involved with the Anglican Church in Algoma as a Women’s Auxiliary life member, an organist, and Sunday school sister.
The Benna Fuller fonds includes hundreds of photographs relating to the Shingwauk Residential School, the Fuller family, and life in Northern Ontario. The Postcard series includes over 250 photographic postcards, handmade cards, and correspondence.
This handmade sympathy card from 1908 is one that makes me chuckle every time I see it. The tag line of “Bear up the worst is yet to come” merges a bad pun and a very unsympathetic sympathy statement in a way that tickles my funny bone.
5. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself or your work?
Six years after starting at Algoma I am still constantly humbled by the amazing work that has happened on this historic residential school site. I feel very fortunate to have worked with so many inspiring residential school survivors and intergenerational survivors – they are a constant source of advice, laughter, and hope.
Thank you, Krista McCracken!
You can find Krista online at kristamccracken.ca or on twitter as @kristamccracken.