|Melanie Wallace became the diocese’s archivist at the beginning of the year.
Well, how to title a short introduction from the archives is not an easy task. A quick canvassing of my friends for an idea for a title revealed a lot of ideas they have about archives and us archivists. Their ideas: “Tales from the Crypt”, “Dusty Dungeon Diaries”, and “Old Times.”
When I tell people that I am an archivist, I get mixed reactions. The most common reaction is a blank stare. Second is the nervous or confused laugh. Third is the “Oh, so you work in a library.” Finally, I often get the “You don’t look like an archivist.” line – which just begs the question: what does an archivist look like?
Well, jokes and assumptions aside, I am thrilled to be working in my dream job as archivist for the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster. I was once asked “Why would you want a job that is made up of dwelling in the past?”
Having grown up in a blink-and-you-miss it farming community in rural Manitoba, I like to think of my job not as a dwelling in, but a harvesting of. History is there, ripe for the picking. Part of my job is to help harvest it, and encourage and help others to use it to benefit and nourish the present – with the hope of a vibrant future.
The analogy is not perfect, but I believe that the richness of where the church has been – be it in times of celebration and joy, or days fraught with pain or disappointment - becomes nourishment for where it is now, and where it hopes to be in the future. Though the church has changed over the years, the Source of its Life has not.
The records of its history touch so many people along the way - whether it is a parish celebrating its anniversary, a member of the public looking to find out about “long-lost” relatives, or a PhD student researching his/her thesis.
So instead of words like “crypt”, “dungeon”, “old”, or “dust” – I like to use words like “revitalization”, “nourishment” and “discovery” to describe my work. God is in the business of LIFE, and history is very much alive because God has always been in it.
Thank you for your warm welcome. I look forward to meeting, harvesting and discovering with many of you for years to come!
Melanie Wallace took over the Diocesan Archivist position in January.