Meet the Archivist – Ciara Ward

The next member we are profiling is Ciara Ward.

photo (2)Ciara earned her Bachlor of Arts (honours) in Art History from Queen’s.  She then was awarded a Master of Library and Information Sciences from the University of Western Ontario. Ciara isalso Director without Portfolio for the AAO and Co-Chair of the AAO Professional Development Committee

How did you get into the archival field?

When I was in my third year of my Art History BAH I had the opportunity to take a course about Canadian Photography, and it changed my entire world. Previously I had been debating about specializing in the Renaissance (same as almost everyone in my year) because I thought maybe I’d work in an art gallery or museum, maybe even teach. I ended up choosing Canadian Photography as an elective course, just to be different. My Professor for this course (and all the other photography courses I devoured after) previously had a career working at Library and Archives Canada as a photo archivist, so the entire course was actually taught from the archivist’s point of view. I remember on my first day she showed us a slide of Humphrey Lloyd Hime’s Prarie Looking South, and explained to us why she felt it was the perfect example of how photography can be more than “just a photograph”.

I couldn’t get enough of it – looking at photography as a historical document, rather than an art object; it changed my entire perspective. This Professor enabled me to complete an internship at the Queen’s University Archives, where I worked on the Albert Alexander Chesterfield collection, which (among other things) is a collection of early fur-trader photographs-as-documents. Thus began my decent into the archival world – to this day I’ve never forgotten the feelings I had the first time I opened those banker boxes and saw those photos.

What is your favourite part of being an archivist?

For me this is a tie; on one hand it’s an amazing feeling to help people of all ages have the same discovery that I had – that archives can change the way we look at, and relate to, our personal and national histories.

On the other, the community is incredible, and supportive. I can’t say enough about how archivists are always willing to help each other, always looking for ways to collaborate, and always, always promoting advocacy for the profession. We (archivists) really, and truly believe in our profession, and we want others to as well.

What advice would you give students hoping to become archivists?

Get involved and volunteer! Local Heritage Societies, Museums, Art Galleries, Local History Services, and Archives are always looking for volunteers, and it’s a great way develop your skills and pick up new ones. I’d also recommend becoming involved in your local Chapter of the Archives Association of Ontario (AAO), not only will you gain some great experience, but you’ll have the opportunity to work with and meet many archivists in your area, and across the province.

What is your favourite memory of working as an archivist?

Again, I have two. The first is working on a research project for the Rescue Mediums television show – it was fun! I never thought as an archivist working in a small, community archives I’d be working with television producers, but it goes to show you that this profession has a very diverse user base.

The second is working with the local high schools, veterans of all ages and service experience and veteran organizations to compile, edit, and make available the oral histories of our local veterans. One of the main goals of this project was to prove that you “don’t have to be old to be a veteran”. Students interviewed veterans ranging in age from 19 to 96, whose background varied from Afghanistan to Bosnia to World War Two to various training and Peace Keeping missions. Every day I saw the profound effect these oral histories had on both the students and the veterans, and it was truly an honour to bring such a project to life. This project led to collaborations with the Memory Project as well as a nomination for the Governor General’s history award – but it also created some lasting relationships between our local veterans and students.


About durhamregionareaarchivesgroup

DRAAG is the professional group for archives and repositories of the local history of Durham Region and surrounding areas.
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