My summer in the archives: a co-op placement retrospective

August 30, 2022
Co-op student Dayna Fleming processes artifacts in the Adbusters Media Foundation fonds

While summers are known for long days and warm weather, I have been hunkered down in an unlikely place: the basement of the Maggie Benston centre, room 0400. My name is Dayna Fleming and I am a graduate co-op student from the University of British Columbia. I was hired to spend my summer learning about archival processing, under the guidance of the lovely staff at the SFU Archives and Records Management Department.

The title of my position is Project Archivist. I work directly under Melanie Hardbattle, the Archives’ Acquisitions and Outreach Archivist. During my co-op term, I have worked on three main projects where I was tasked with processing records acquired from private individuals and organizations.

The first project that I worked on was the Arthur Erickson fonds. This archives consists of moving images relating to architect Arthur Erickson, his achievements, and his travels. Included are ten home movies filmed by Erickson during his trips to India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Japan. These travel films, dated to the 1960s and 70s, will soon be available for viewing online in SFU AtoM.

Arthur Erickson travel films

The next project I worked on was the Adbusters Media Foundation fonds. While many of the records are born-digital, for this task I was asked to focus on physical records like magazines, merchandise, legal paperwork, and marketing materials. While organizing the records, I learned the history of Adbusters and some of the early campaigns that they spearheaded such as Buy Nothing Day, First Things First, and Media Carta, a legal battle to air consumer advocacy ads on Canadian television networks. But my favourite thing that I found in the boxes is the Moreo.

Advertisement for the Moreo, Abusters Magazine vol.9, no.2, issue 34

The Moreo is a ceramic cookie promoted by Adbusters. Consisting of two ceramic chocolate wafers with a white filling shaped like a smoking cowboy, the purpose of the Moreo is stated to “gently remind [us] that Nabisco and Kraft food products are now owned by Philip Morris tobacco” (Adbusters Magazine vol. 9, no. 2, issue 34, p. 46). The Adbusters fonds is definitely the most interesting set of records I have ever processed, and I am glad I got the chance to arrange and describe them. They also serve as important social justice and activism records originating from our greater community. You can now research the Moreo and other Adbusters-related materials in the SFU AtoM Database.

The final project that I worked on was the research papers of an SFU faculty member. For this project, I was tasked with making sense of notes, research paper drafts, statistical analyses, and correspondence. I organized everything into a giant spreadsheet and identified any potential access issues with the records, as some of them contain personal information that will need to be restricted. This project is ongoing. It will be leaving my hands as my co-op ends and I return to my coursework this September, but I am happy to have helped get the ball rolling.

I feel very fortunate to have worked for the SFU Archives and Records Management Department this summer. I would like to thank Melanie Hardbattle and Richard Dancy for all of their guidance and support, as well as the rest of the team for providing a fun office atmosphere!