Meet the OJA's Inaugural Penny Rubinoff Fellow: Renée Saucier

Renée Saucier.Starting this week, instead of biking past the Miles Nadal JCC on my way to the University of Toronto’s St George campus, I’ll be taking the Bathurst bus north to the Ontario Jewish Archives. I recently graduated from the University of Toronto’s Master of Information program, where I specialized in archives and records management. I spent the past two years working at the University of Toronto Libraries’ web archiving program, and the past year volunteering at The ArQuives (formerly the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives), where I am currently processing the Inside Out LGBT+ Film Festival fonds.

As an archivist with a special interest in web archiving and community archives, I’m particularly concerned with the preservation of the very recent past and present. I was immediately drawn to the Penny Rubinoff Fellowship as an opportunity to continue to do this work, as well as to further develop my skills and acquire a deeper understanding of the operational aspects of a community archive. Having become familiar with Toronto’s early Jewish community while conducting research for the History of the Hospital for Sick Children project, I am curious to learn more about Jewish history throughout Ontario, and how this community archive works to build relationships with and preserve the histories of these many diverse communities.

Over the next four months, I will be engaged in all aspects of the Ontario Jewish Archives: accessioning materials, assisting researchers with reference requests, planning community collaborations, spotlighting materials on the website, and gaining insight into the operational aspects of the OJA. I am particularly excited to be on board to observe how the archive team plans and prepares to adopt a new digital preservation system. I have been warmly welcomed into the organization, and look forward to all that the next few months have to offer.

Practicum Experience: Ndali Maureen Ugboma

Photo: Ndali Ugboma
Photo: Ndali Ugboma

The time I spent at the OJA was the greatest adventure ever. I was a practicum student and volunteered for 105 hours. As a future information professional and a graduate student at the University of Toronto, I was happy to be a part of the OJA family because being part of a family makes you feel appreciated and proud of yourself. And I am really grateful for being part of the family.

I decided to take the practicum course because one of my course mates (Ritchie Singh) recommended it. Before volunteering, I kept wondering how I could gain Canadian work experience, and I always imagined what the social work sphere would be like if I finally had the opportunity. However, when I got the chance to volunteer at the OJA, Michael Friesen (my supervisor and boss), I will admit, I admired his work efficiency and accuracy. If I could choose a supervisor again, I would choose him all over again. Oh, did I forget to mention Donna and Faye? They were terrific and accommodating. I could remember the uncountable times I approached Faye for answers. These three people made sure that my time at the OJA was worth it. 

Okay, let’s get into it! My early days at work, my nerves were on the edge. Although I studied the theoretical aspect of recordkeeping, putting it into practice was a difficult task. I didn't know where to start from -- it all started from trial-and-error. As time went on, I finally got my balance.

I started by completing the background of the organization, including its history and activities. I re-arranged the documents and created finding aids, assessed the condition of the records, created a file-level finding aid, and transferred all the records to acid-free boxes. Using Rules for Archival Description, I also arranged the records into files and series, created item-level descriptions, and assisted in creating a fonds-level description in the recordkeeping database.

To me, the work made me feel like an investigator, especially the administrative history. I tried to put some pieces of information together to make sense of what I was proposing to my supervisor. However, I can say I feel differently toward my career as a future archivist because I know what my expectations are for the future.

My observation: I am not exactly sure about this, but are all archivists very quiet at work? OJA is one of the quietest workplaces I have ever been to, and I loved it. Well, if I should be truthful about who I am, I like a very calm place where I can be in my world, and I was glad to be placed there. At OJA, you could only hear keyboard clicks for hours and all eyes on computers. But there is a fun part: During working hours, I used my headphones to keep myself busy while working on my assignments. Overall, it was worth the ride.