Staff Profile: The Museum Archivist

The Archivist at the Musée Héritage Museum is Vino Vipulanantharajah and we asked him to describe what he does.

   Hello all, this is your resident archivist Vino speaking!   I am responsible for the archives in the museum and my job is to preserve and share the documentary heritage of St. Albert. 

   I look after private papers, manuscripts, oral histories, photographs and other audio-visual materials, municipal records, and also a Métis genealogy database.   A big part of my job is to make sure that archival materials are arranged, described, and preserved so that the public can access our archives for their research and personal use.

  Archives are an important part of so many things we see and do, things like books, documentaries, TV programs, radio, and exhibits. Thus, I consider one of my major missions at the Musée Héritage Museum  is to be an advocate and increase the public awareness of archives.

Assessing the condition of my documents. Not looking good.

  Originally from Toronto I have always had a soft spot for history, so the thought of gathering and deciphering information and working with original materials was appealing to me. I completed my Masters in Information, specializing in Archives and Records Management before moving west and joining the staff at the Musée.  Up to that point my biggest project was processing the Photographic History of the Erindale Campus at the University of Toronto and I also worked on the team that created a new archives for the Toronto French School during their 50th anniversary year in 2012.

   I often get asked what’s “attractive” about archives and why did I choose this profession. The ultimate reason for my choice goes back to my childhood as I have always been infatuated with the idea of time travel.  My biggest dream while growing up was to build a time machine and go see places and people from different times.  Archives have become my time machine.   Looking at an old photograph, video, or the handwriting in a diary transports me to places and times that I’ve never seen before. I really get a rush when processing archival materials and have to figure out unidentified time periods, people, and places. Nothing beats playing an investigator in time!

   Working at the Musée Héritage Museum has exposed me to unique opportunities that are not usually available to an archivist. In addition to my archival duties I have participated in education programs, helped our curator research and install exhibits, administrate the museum’s blog, developed management procedures, looked after IT related issues, helped at our special events and surveyed a forest.  A memorable moment was when I physically helped carry a grizzly bear (not a real one, but the fibreglass Bruin Inn Bear, which is just as big) into the museum to put on display!

  I plan to get more involved working with our education programmers and helping to incorporate more archival materials into our school programs at the museum and heritage sites. I can truly say it has been a life changing experience working and living in St. Albert where I have come to enjoy my work immensely.

Archival Rescue Ranger. There are many of us out there. In the process of decontaminating old records found in the St. Albert Grain Elevators

You can get to know more about Vino’s projects from a couple of St. Albert Gazette articles: A treasure trove of photographic history, and Spring cleaning reveals archival treasures. These articles talk about his first project with the museum and also a recent find at the St. Albert City Council Chambers, respectively.