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Volunteer ‘burn out’ puts DC archives in jeopardy

South Peace Historical Society pushes council for full time archivist
Volunteer archivist Lynn Washington in Dawson Creek’s archives. The historical society is asking for full time funding for a professional archivist to look after its collection. Jonny Wakefield Photo

Volunteer burn out is putting the long-term viability of Dawson Creek’s archives in doubt, members of the South Peace Historical Society told city council Monday. 

The group is pushing the city to put up $50,000 for a full-time professional archivist to manage the society’s collection of books, newspapers, documents and photographs. 

Volunteers are putting in around 110 hours a week at the archives, located in the basement of the Calvin Kruk Centre, which opened last fall. 

Caitlyn Triebel, a member of the historical society, told council that an “extensive” project to digitize the archive's collection is taking its toll on members. 

“Quite frankly, a lot of people are getting burnt out,” she said Monday.  

The group is asking council to consider a new fee-for-service in its 2016 budget for an archivist. 

Frank Breault, another historical society member, told council that Dawson Creek has become the de facto centre for historical artifacts in the South Peace. The group has around 30 requests for grants out to various organizations, and while some money has come in, the group needs sustainable funding.  

He added that Peace River and Grande Prairie both employ full-time archivists to look after the towns’ historical records. 

The Fort St. John museum has a curator who does some archival work, but not a full-time trained archivist, Breault said.  

Faced with a deficit—known as the fiscal gap—it seems unlikely the current council would support a new annual expenditure of $50,000. 

However, Coun. Charlie Parslow noted that the city paid for a “first-rate” facility for the archives when it renovated the Kruk Centre. 

The new office has computers, workspace and a climate-controlled room for historical documents. 

He said council should look at the books next year to see if money could be found. 

“We’re at a point where council needs to make a decision: do we wish to be a centre for archives?” he said. 

“Because we need to have this professional support.” 

Council will consider the request in 2016.

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