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Bright horizon

Spotlight on alumni

Greg Walsh (BA’97) was the 2008 Horizon Award winner. The award recognizes alumni who realized extraordinary achievements before the age of 35. Walsh is the youngest provincial archivist in Canada and an accomplished musician. Our contributor Bojan Fürst had an opportunity to meet with Walsh at the Rooms, the site of Newfoundland’s provincial archives.

Q: Tell me about your love of archiving. How did that start?
A: I think it started when I was about 15 or 16 when I attended a career fair in my high school and came across this profession called archivist. At the same time, my home community of Bay de Verde was going through a bit of change. I was kind of conscious that part of my own community history was disappearing. So a combination of having an awareness of my history and culture disappearing and coming across this job description and... I decided that, ‘I think I could do that for the rest of my life.’

Q: So you came to MUN and studied... what?
I moved to St. John’s in September of 1993, 17 at the time, and went to the only archives that I could find, the provincial archives in its former home at the Colonial Building. I knocked on the door, not knowing that you are not supposed to knock on the door, you are just supposed to go on in, so I knocked, and knocked, and knocked and no one answered. Eventually I got into the building and simply stopped the first person I saw. I asked them what do they do here and they said: ‘I am an archivist.’ And I literally asked them ‘How do I get your job?’ The archivist I met that day was Cal Best. He handed me his business card and said: ‘You know, maybe you should do a degree in history.’ So I did. As simple as that. Four years went by very, very quickly.

Q: Tell me a bit about your experience at MUN. What was that like? Did it change you?
Going to Memorial for me was one of the most important things I’ve done. I met some amazing people at Memorial; friends I lived with in Burton’s Pond — friends for life, instructors, who, I’d like to think, recognized in me passion for history and challenged me and nurtured me along the way. People like Shannon Ryan, people like George Casey, people like Pat Byrne. Heather Wareham, who is still an archivist at the Memorial, gave me my first job in archives and encouraged me to go to graduate school.

Q: What do you do now day to day?
Day-to-day management of the archives. However, I still like to accompany archivists on visits to basements and attics and houses and get my hands messy. I do from time to time get a call from someone saying: ‘You know, I have an old shoebox of records you may want to take a look at.’ Respecting the job descriptions of other staff, I will often say: ‘You know what, I’d really like to see that.’ It keeps me grounded and it keeps me focused on what archives are all about.

Q: Then, there is the other Greg Walsh — the one that plays music. What is that Greg Walsh doing today?
That other guy is very busy. Very busy doing what he loves dearly. Music has been in my family for generations and I guess it’s fallen to me to keep it going. I don’t play music for a living. At times I think I could, but I consciously decide not to have it as work. I still play as much as I can. I don’t practice as much as I should or as much as I probably could.