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Q&A with U of T Scarborough's newest archivist

Amanda Tome has joined U of T Scarborough as an archivist.

It’s an archivist’s job to be our gatekeepers to the past by providing a secure and reliable place to store important information that can be accessed for generations to come.   

In the digital age the roles and responsibilities of an archivist has taken on a different dimension as new strategies are needed to balance the needs of providing digital access while preserving the integrity of archival materials.

Writer Don Campbell spoke to new UTSC archivist Amanda Tome about what an archivist does in the 21st century and the unique challenges that come along with the job.

So what does an archivist do in this day and age? I take it the role is probably different in the 21st century than it would have been in the past? 

Archivists acquire, conduct archival appraisal – that is determine what should be kept for the future – arrange, describe, preserve and provide access to archival material in both analogue and digital formats.

Being an archivist in the 21st century means striking a balance between access and preservation. So that means developing strategies to preserve the increasing amount of digital material while still caring and processing the analogue backlog and having a robust online presence.  It is also a time for increased collaboration and partnerships with stakeholders.

What got you interested in this profession?

After graduating with my BA, I took a summer job as a records manager for an office in Montreal.  I didn’t really know what to expect because I had no clue what records manager actually did.  As the summer went on I realized I really liked the work.  Around the same time, some of my friends doing their masters degrees had mentioned that they thought that archival work would be something that I would be interested in.  So I did some research into records management and archives and the various schools that offered master’s degrees in these fields and decided that the work was something I would really enjoy and could see myself doing as a career.  

What interests you the most about your work? 

One of my favourite things about being an archivist is that you are always learning.  You’re learning about the different subjects in your holdings, you’re learning and investigating different software that you think may benefit your repository, you’re learning about different preservation techniques for a variety of material, and you’re learning from your colleagues.  Canada has a great archival community.  The archivists are always willing to help and answer questions, which is really fantastic.

 What’s the most interesting artefact and/or collection you’ve worked with? 

It’s hard to pick just one.  Every collection or fonds (the archival term to describe records created by a person or organization during the course of their existence), contains interesting and significant material.  That said, the one record that I think about quite a bit is a late 18th century handwritten math textbook from Scotland.

Looking at the math textbook brought back a lot of memories of elementary school math courses.  It was interesting to see that the foundation of math including addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, hasn’t really changed and that these fundamental principles still hold true today. 

 What roles and responsibilities will you be performing at UTSC?

A lot of my work in the next year will focus on processing the various collections and fonds, putting descriptions online, and providing access to the material to users either in a digital or physical format.  

In addition to processing and description responsibilities, I will be providing reference services to users wanting to look at the material and use it to inform their research, acquire new material, conduct archival appraisal of the material, and work with liaison librarians to offer faculty use of archival material that may compliment their curriculum.


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