Archives volunteers concerned; no more archivist, financial issues

City officials say they will meet with volunteers from the North Battleford Historic Archives to address their concerns about the future of the organization.

City Manager Randy Patrick told city council members Monday such a meeting would be arranged in the coming weeks. That assurance was provided after council received correspondence from longtime archives supporter and volunteer Barb Sealy about the recent changes impacting the organization. 

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Those changes include a decision by the city to leave unfilled the City Archivist position after the retirement of Tammy Donahue Buziak last fall. There are also plans for archives to continue on a volunteer-only basis, something that concerned Sealy.    

“To learn that our city archives may be left in the capable hands of a dedicated group of volunteers without the guidance and expertise of a paid professional is of dire concern to me, both as a one time volunteer committee member but also as a concerned citizen of this community,” Sealy’s letter stated. “Hundreds of people in the areas have donated documents, photographs and other items which tell the story of this city in the knowledge that these will be documented, catalogued and preserved for future generations. I am one of them in some small way. The guidance of an archivist like Tammy Donahue Buziak proves invaluable to volunteers who assist in this process.”

She added that while volunteers seek to deal with the requests for information that come to the City Archives, “only a paid archivist can provide a scheduled time frame and the necessary helpful assistance in locating materials within the collection.”

“The tasks and skills required to organize the collection and supervise the volunteers are many and I have mentioned but a few. Budgeting, long term planning and grant applications which have to be submitted according to recognized procedures are all functions with which a volunteer is not likely to be familiar.”

Sealy expressed further concern about what might become of the material in the archives. 

“My awareness of the possible demise of the North Battleford Historic Archives has come to me by chance, and I suspect that the majority of the people of this city are also unaware of what may transpire and the implications. However, many like me, will be astounded when they learn that the organization may be eliminated, especially those who have donated items for posterity. Others will no longer take the steps of donating, since the care and attention that these donations deserve is no longer a certainty.

“We have demolished historic buildings in the past without due consideration. Let us not demolish another gem in this community. A new archivist needs to be employed to continue this valuable work.”

In response to the correspondence presented at the meeting, Councillor Kent Lindgren acknowledged some of the changes were a response to the greater financial challenges faced by the city this year.

“The question that is arising from this for me is how administration intends to support archives going forward without that paid position and what maybe the approach might be to ensure that we have strong archives without that,” said Lindgren. “As you all are aware of the challenges we face in this community and city and this is part of that. We want to make sure that they are well supported.”

Some of the points made in Sealy’s letter came as a shock to others on council including Councillor Kelli Hawtin.

“That was a bit shocking news to me because I didn’t understand that our archives were in jeopardy,” said Hawtin. She voiced her support for the archives and for “preserving history.”

“There has been no discussion around the table here about the demise of archives,” said Councillor Len Taylor. “There were some financial issues and a change in employment but beyond that there was no discussion.”

Taylor said he appreciated Sealy’s letter so “we can focus ourselves to ensure that in fact we find a way to support the archives one way or another.”

Mayor Ryan Bater encouraged administration to meet with the volunteers about their concerns, and City Manager Patrick responded he would do that.

“I know the volunteers have put in a huge effort in the past years and its something we want to maintain,” said Patrick.

The city manager added that archives was “in good shape right now and we want to find ways to keep it that way.”

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