Facing years’ worth of archival work, the Prince Albert Historical Society volunteers and summer students have a heap old photographs and paperwork to sift through.
Having recently reached the one-third mark in re-archiving what is estimated to be more than 300,000 photographs, the Daily Herald donated an additional mountain of material to the organization earlier this month.
"The beauty of the donation for us is that with the terrific work of their volunteers, all of these photos and negatives can be sorted and filed for everyone to use," Daily Herald managing editor Perry Bergson said. "When you've been telling a city's stories for a century, you end up with a lot of history sitting in boxes."
“Putting a number is just a guess -- 200,000 (photographs)?” volunteer Ken Guedo said, assessing the pile of archival material. “I don’t know.”
Although thankful for the donation, it means that the society will need more volunteers to sift through it all.
The current small but dedicated group of volunteers are already kept busy with daily additions to their archival material, and don’t have enough time to properly archive the new influx of material.
“When new stuff comes in we have to determine which folder is the appropriate place to put it, and that never stops,” Guedo said. “Newspaper clippings, for example … there’s always something to do.”
The various piles of new material stretched throughout the museum basement needs to be dealt with, otherwise it’s redundant, fellow volunteer Jamie Benson said.
“You don’t just preserve them to preserve them, you preserve them so people can access and use them in the future,” he said.
“I’ll bet you 100 years from now, somebody looks back to see what P.A. looked like.”
Requests for photographs and information are constant -- particularly during the summer, when the museum is open to the public on a full-time basis.
The beauty of the donation for us is that with the terrific work of their volunteers, all of these photos and negatives can be sorted and filed for everyone to use. - Daily Herald editor Perry Bergson
These requests are the reason volunteers and summer students spend countless hours plugging things into a computer database, and organizing them in file cabinets and boxes, Benson noted.
This month’s influx in Daily Herald photographs is just the latest, Benson said, with past volunteer Bill Klassen having spent years sifting through hundreds of thousands of previous photo archive donations, filing them and writing corresponding descriptions in Word Perfect.
Volunteers and summer students are furthering this work by updating the original computer archive with more in-depth descriptions.
Fellow volunteer Walter Hlewka spent five years dealing with the museum’s cache of maps.
“He went through this awful, awful mess that we had,” Benson said. “Some (maps) were in shelves, some were just rolled up and stuffed in a cardboard box -- he went through all of them.”
Now, the museum has 455 maps, repaired and labeled, rolled out flat in a large file cabinet, ready for public eyes.
In addition to their need for volunteers, Prince Albert Historical Society archivists are always on the lookout for more photographs to help map the Prince Albert of the past.
Pointing to a picture posted to the wall, Benson noted, “That’s a picture of a parade, right? But really, what it is, is a picture of the buildings in the background. That will tell us information about what was where, and when.”
The Prince Albert Historical Society can be contacted at 764-2992, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.