Holdings reflect province’s history
By Jeff Green
(L-R) Gail Weir, Bert Riggs and Linda White. (Photo by Chris Hammond)
Want to read war-time letters or vintage speeches from some of this province’s pioneering politicians? How about scripts from the ground-breaking comedy troupe CODCO or Joseph Smallwood’s personal copy of the Terms of Union?
Venture down to the lower level of the Queen Elizabeth II Library and you’ll find a researcher’s dream come true thousands of archival items relating to Newfoundland and Labrador’s literary, social, cultural, labour, performing arts, military and women’s histories. Everything from diaries and scrapbooks to maps and personal photographs are carefully accessioned and are part of an extensive collection housed in the Archives and Manuscripts Division. Thanks to the meticulous work of Memorial University archivists, this material is available to anyone.
Formerly known as the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives, the division officially changed its name in June 2005 to better reflect its mandate and purpose. “We still complement the holdings of the CNS and we continue to work with them very closely,” said head archivist Bert Riggs. “But we have grown tremendously over the years to become our own entity. We are a collection of primary resource material for students and faculty at Memorial.”
The division is also open to the general public including staff members here at Memorial who maybe interested in genealogy work or community research.
When the CNS was established 41 years ago, Memorial began collecting many more items than just history books. “Material such as manuscripts and photos and journals and documents came along with the books that were purchased for the actual centre,” said Mr. Riggs.
In 1978, a separate entity within the centre was created to house these archival items. “We have a broad mandate,” added Mr. Riggs, who works closely with archivists Linda White and Gail Weir, as well as a contingent of part-time and student assistants and contract workers. “We have material here that touches on every aspect of this province’s history and culture.”
Today the division houses an array of fascinating items. There’s an engineer’s
log from the Effie M. Morrissey, the famed schooner skippered by Newfoundland
explorer Robert Bartlett; Victor Campbell’s journals from the Scott Expedition
to the South Pole in 1913; and Joseph Smallwood and Gordon Winter’s personal
copies of this province’s Terms of Union with Canada. Then there are the thousands
of community photos, some dating back to the 1860s; speeches from former premiers
and prime ministers; and original scripts and publicity material from CODCO.
To date, archivists have processed several thousand linear metres of material.
They accommodate visitors from all over the university and province, and have
welcomed researchers from parts of North America, Europe and Australia. Archivists
also do reference work via phone, letter and e-mail.
To find out more information about the division and its services visit www.library.mun.ca/qeii/cns/index.php or call 737-4349.