Volunteering at the Oxford County Archives 3

Yesterday was my last day volunteering at the County of Oxford Archives and it was definitely a full one (until 5:15 instead of 4:30…oops). I volunteered for a total of 50 hours this holiday season and received a crash course in the vast capabilities and responsibilities of a county archive. I was amazed by how much can be accomplished by so few people. The variety of things that the archivist Mary Gladwin conquers is phenomenal and she is a great teacher (and funny too!).

I arrived at the archives and started writing what Mary calls a Wikipedia blurb on my focus of research: Cassie Chadwick. The definition of the Wikipedia blurb is basically a short and sweet overview of the topic that will catch the attention of the students and get them excited to continue research by reading the primary documents provided with the brochure. The brochures are like a treasure hunt, the outside provides information about the County of Oxford Archives, while two of the inside panels provide the Wikipedia blurb. The centre inside panel houses a small envelope sealed with a sticker containing the primary documents. Within each envelope 6-7 primary documents are provided for each student, however each brochure package is not the same; each student will have similar but slightly different documents. This encourages group work and their ability to share to succeed in their studies. Through my research on Cassie Chadwick, I was able to find 17 different primary documents surrounding the mysterious woman and her scams as well as created a timeline that outlines her entire life. All of these were photocopied and made small enough to fit into the envelope. I was given permission to make two of the brochures to take home so that I have a copy of the work I completed.

It is pretty exciting to be part of the learning and teaching process through the use of my brochure. Later in January the COA will be implementing the educational program again using my brochure as well as another on Florence Carlyle that was completed during the last 3 weeks.

During my volunteering I learned just how much work and effort goes into even the smallest of learning materials. It took a lot longer to compile my research and focus it into a timeline format than I had expected, but because of my specific research, the Wikipedia blurb was simple to complete. I think that this program is very important to broadening the scope of history learned at the elementary school level because it allows the students to learn about local history rather than just the overarching themes of the War of 1812 and other topics studied in grade 7 and 8.

Around 4:15pm, the archivist remembered that she had promised me she would teach me how to do basic paper restoration during my time there. So we went into the restoration room and found a ‘weed’ (an historic document that is not of importance/duplicate) and she began to show me the tools needed and how to use them. She has a box of remnants of restoration papers that we tested for colour and settled on the correct one. I fixed a small hole and 3 tears in the document and let it dry while I worked on a document for the Woodstock Public Library. After the first document dried, the archivist showed me how to encapsulate the document so it wouldn’t become more damaged. She let me keep the document and gave me my own archival bone tool to keep.

The entire experience there was great and I am so thankful to Mary Gladwin, Marion Baker and Liz Mayville for making me feel so welcome. I learned so much in such a short time and it makes me look forward to a possible career in archives. I enjoyed the entire experience, even the tedious data entry. I met so many characters in the Oxford Historical Society, Oxford Genealogical Society and the County of Oxford Archives that I can’t wait to go back and visit!

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Mary Gladwin, Marion Baker and myself

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Completed Cassie Chadwick brochure

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Cassie Chadwick Timeline

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Cassie Chadwick brochure inserts

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