A Volunteer's Tale
by Clelia Scala
St. Aubert. Co.' L'Islet. Que., May 10. 1943.
Dear Isabel. The days work is over. brushes washed. also dishes…. I have been busy sketching the departing snow…. It's fun painting snow without winter and frozen fingers…. The war news is much more cheerful and if we can keep it up the Nazis will be hunting for alibis. and making movies of themselves giving candy to the Norwegian kids. and the pope will be coming out in favour of democracy. and it will be nice to be in the sun again while the world settles back to all its bad old habits.
Well cheerio. and the best of good wishes.
Alex. [Y. Jackson]
In his letters to Isabel McLaughlin, A.Y. Jackson discusses his relationship with his surroundings; predominantly his relationship as an artist to Canada's geography, but also his thoughts on politics, literature, and his fellow artists. A.Y. Jackson's letters to Isabel are fascinating -- as are most of the other documents in the Isabel McLaughlin collection at the Queen's University Archives. Thanks to a grant from Young Canada Works, the generosity of the Queen's Archives, and the efforts of archivist Heather Home, I was able to spend the past three months on the fourth floor of the Queen's Archives in processing these documents.
Isabel McLaughlin (1903-2002) was an important Canadian modernist painter and the daughter of the Oshawa industrialist and philanthropist R.S. McLaughlin. Isabel spent her childhood in Oshawa and in her late teens moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. Her schoolbooks from Oshawa show that she had a keen interest in art from an early age. After leaving Paris in her early twenties, Isabel studied in Toronto under the tutelage of Arthur Lismer and Yvonne McKague. Many of the famous Canadian artists of the twentieth century can be counted among Isabel's friends. She traveled with Lawren and Bess Harris, she received advice from A.Y. Jackson, A.Y. Casson sent her silk-screened cards every Christmas, Prudence Heward wrote to her at least once a month, Timothy Finley called her "Aunt Izzy," and the list goes on and on. Of the many impressive cards and letters Isabel received from her friends, I was particularly impressed with a homemade card from Paraskeva Clark that had a Joan Miró print casually tossed in as a gift.
Isabel was a remarkable woman, and one of the many things that impressed me about her was that she chose to remain unmarried at a time when it was not popular to do so. Isabel was an attractive, talented, popular, and wealthy woman with many suitors, yet rather than marry she choose to travel the world and paint, ski, and spend time with friends. Her independence gave her the time to participate in many arts organizations, including the Canadian Group of Painters; she helped found this organization in 1933 and became the group's first female president in 1939. She devoted a great amount of her time and energies to helping her fellow artists and improving her own skills as an artist. As I processed Isabel's documents, I became increasingly impressed by her generosity and accomplishments.
Working on the Isabel McLaughlin fonds was not my first archival experience. I have been volunteering at the Queen's Archives since January 2003. During my months as a volunteer, Heather Home and Gillian Barlow had shown me how to process documents, from pulling staples and de-creasing papers to determining how to arrange the series within a collection and how to create a finding aid. Isabel's documents, however, were more complex than anything I had worked on before. Because of the original artworks, the monetary value of the collection was greater than that of anything I had dealt with before, and I was nervous accordingly. More important, because of the age and fragility of the documents, I had conservation concerns.
The conservator at the Queen's University Archives, Margaret Bignell, showed me how to process photographic material, including transparencies and fragile paper documents. Also, under the tutelage of Heather, I learned how to make boxes and folders to custom fit fragile or valuable documents (even if you have no interest in viewing the Miró print, I suggest a visit to the archives to see the impressive workmanship and ingenuity that went into its casing). Although a great deal of my summer was spent in perusing, filing, and describing Isabel's photographs, letters, and other documents, I was also involved in other aspects of archival work, such as participating in a selection process for a Group of Seven exhibit at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.
I started volunteering at the archives because I suspected that I would like archival work; now I am convinced
Queen's University Archives and the Kingston General Hospital, Administrative Records Management and Archives Program were fortunate again to be awarded a Hannah Internship by Associated Medical Services (AMS).
Dr. Jason A. Hannah, a neuropathologist in the provincial Department of Health, first founded AMS, in 1936. AMS began business as a physician-sponsored, non-profit Ontario corporation, intended to benefit both patients and physicians. It was first incorporated in 1937, and its goal was to provide a prepayment method for hospital and healthcare expenses. With the advent of provincial medical care in 1969, the AMS Board re-directed its focus to the advancement of medical history within Ontario. In 1973, AMS signed agreements with the five Ontario universities with faculties of medicine or health sciences; each received financial support for a Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine.
As part of its mandate, AMS encourages the archives and museum community by assisting them in the organization of collections in the history of medicine and helps them to train qualified archivists and curators. Work on patient records is excluded from being eligible for the projects.
In our case, when we are fortunate enough to be able to host an intern, they will spend half of the project in the Kingston General Hospital with ARMAP working on the gathering and organizing of archival material and the other two months at the Queen's University Archives describing archival collections or fonds already transferred by the ARMAP staff.
Last year our intern was Sarah Wiebe. Sarah has her MLIS from University of Western Ontario. She has a strong interest in archives work and enthusiasm for working with records at all stages of the life-cycle. Sarah worked with Gillian Barlow, University Records Archivist, on several projects this summer. She organized "Diagnostic Index" records, and created a RAD standard finding aid. She also worked on analyzing the Department of Diagnostic Radiology records and the KGH Public Relations records and creating finding aids.
The Hannah Internship provides an enriching experience for all concerned at Queen's University Archives, igniting renewed enthusiasm for all aspects of the preservation of the history of medicine and medical education in archives.
Donor Appreciation Days
Photo by Jeremy Heil
During the past two years Queen's University Archives has undertaken a new and, we like to think, improved way of showing our appreciation to the multitude of donors that so kindly contribute to our institution. In the past, Queen's Archives often expressed their appreciation for donations through many varied events, with the events centred on large donations from single donors or creators. The gifting of large and significant donations were, and still remain, the mainstay of any research archives such as ours, but it was felt that the entire gifting community deserves our appreciation, not only those that donate large and voluminous fonds. It is often the smaller donations, the bits and pieces, that greatly assist in filling the gaps and holes in our some of our collections, giving the future researcher a more complete picture of the time, the event, and the landscape of their enquiry.
And so it was that "Donor Appreciation Day" was born. For two years now we have invited individuals who have donated any form, or quantity, of archival material, as well as those who have made monetary donations, to come and celebrate the newest acquisitions to our institution. We hope that our guests will enjoy an afternoon spent getting to know their fellow donors, meeting archivists, faculty and historians from the local area and listening to the invited speakers share their thoughts on archives and history, or simply relating some of their personal anecdotes and remembrances. The location of Donor Appreciation within the Agnes Etherington House helps in creating an informal yet distinguished atmosphere where our donors can mingle, examine the archival documents on display from a sampling of our new acquisitions, listen to live music performed by students from the Faculty of Music and enjoy the provided refreshments.
Photo by Jeremy Heil
Queen's Archives has been privileged to have two remarkable speakers (who are also donors) in these first two years of the event. In the inaugural year, Roy Bonisteel, author, journalist and broadcaster, regaled the audience with tales from his professional and personal life. Mr. Bonisteel's remarks were infused with great wit and humour leaving the audience chuckling and delighted for the remainder of the afternoon. Last year's speaker, Hugh Segal, politician, author and pundit, gave an inspirational and thoughtful talk on the importance of archival institutions, not only for the study of things past, but also for the formation of the future. Even the veteran archivists in the crowd felt a renewed and bolstered sense of pride in the daily work of an archival institution.
Donor Appreciation Day is a new tradition at Queen's Archives, a tradition that we hope you will be a part of in the future.