Archives Week

Archives Week is celebrated annually during the first full week of February.
Saskatchewan's first Archives Week was celebrated in 2006.
Events featured during past Archives Weeks have included phone-ins shows on Radio; celebrity reading events, open houses and evenings of films in archives across Saskatchewan or of archival value to the province, a screening of the 1973 Saskatchewan-made film Paperback Hero was an example.

The "Archives Pavilion" at the Saskatoon Heritage Festival has been a regular feature in Saskatoon, but other events in communities including Cut Knife, Humboldt, LaRonge, Lloydminster, Melfort, North Battleford, Prince Albert, Regina, St. Isidore de Bellevue, Shaunavon, Swift Current, Wilcox and many more across the province.

Archives Week will continue to be an annual event, celebrated during the first full week of February starting on the Sunday.

  • February 3-9, 2019
  • February 2-8, 2020
  • February7-13, 2021

Why Archives Week?

One thing we have learned is that the memories of Saskatchewan's many achievements are well documented by its archival record. Historical texts, photographs, films, audio recordings and other archival material have been key resources in the telling of our story. Books such as Saskatchewan: A New History and the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, as well as numerous documentary films, newspaper articles and television advertisements could not have been produced without this province's archival institutions.

But few of the people reading those books or watching those documentaries ever stop to consider the historical records that went into making them, or the work that is done to ensure that those records are acquired, preserved and made available. Saskatchewan has over 50 established archival institutions. Saskatchewan's archivists have preserved millions of photographic images, gigabytes of electronic records and thousands of hours of audio recordings and moving images. They have also been at the forefront of technology-enhanced access to those records. Saskatchewan leads the country in producing the greatest number of "virtual exhibits," many of which have K-12 educational components. These provide instant access to key photographs and valuable documents.

Saskatchewan archivists argued for and helped to develop Archives Canada - a national database of archival information. Provincially, we have developed the Saskatchewan Archival Information Network (SAIN), an on-line database of textual records as well as being the first province to initiate an on-line provincial photograph database. 

In honour of our province's heritage and the work that has gone into ensuring its preservation, and to promote the role of archives in society, we celebrate "Archives Week" in Saskatchewan, on the first full week of February, this helps kick off Heritage month and coincides with the birthday of Edmund H. Oliver, who was the first professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan, and arguably the father of archives in this province (see biography).

Archives Week fosters our identity and pride in our past with displays and special events. It elevates the role of our province's archival institutions as keepers of authentic evidence of our past, keeping archives on our map!

Archives Week: Edmund Oliver

Edmund Oliver's Role in Establishing Archives in Saskatchewan 

Although the first mention made of archives was by the territorial government in 1897, no comprehensive collection of records was then pursued. John Hawkes, first legislative librarian, began collecting material in 1907 but did so rather haphazardly, without a discernable sense of selection or appraisal (he referred to collecting "a whole drayload of matter.") The concept of archives was thought about most seriously following the hiring of Edmund Oliver as the University's first professor of history in 1909. Before he arrived Oliver wrote to University president Walter Murray advising him of entreaties he had already made in terms of acquisitions, saying "I have found that students must do laboratory work in history as well as in physics and we must secure the equipment necessary as soon as practicable." Within two years of his arrival Oliver had met and discussed the opportunity of establishing primary research resources with Hawkes, Premier Scott, and Arthur Doughty, the Dominion Archivist; in these initiatives he had the active support of Walter Murray. While Oliver was traveling throughout the province collecting materials from families, his correspondence to Murray indicated his appreciation of the need for appraisal within a collection, and he also foreshadowed our current understanding of archives as vehicles not only of heritage but of accountability and critical analysis. He wrote Murray: "As I understand my work...it should produce not trained historians, but capable and intelligent citizens. As soon as we secure adequate equipment [his 'laboratory for history'], I have hopes that our students may be able to contribute something to the intelligent discussion of public questions. In part this will be a new field even for myself but I am convinced that in this direction lies a great opportunity."

Oliver's conversations with Murray resulted in a letter from Murray to Scott in 1911, suggesting "a commission to go into the question of the preservation of historical documents, or rather for the collection of provincial archives," further suggesting the commission be "a purely advisory body" consisting of the Premier and another member of government, two members of the legislature, a professor of history from the University, the President of the University, and the provincial librarian - altogether remarkably similar to the eventual provincial archives Board established three decades later. Also in that letter, it is clear that Murray and Oliver envisioned an archives collection of both government and private papers. Moreover, both Oliver and Murray, recognizing the value such a collection would have for their students, were concerned not only with future interest in such documents, but in their immediate access and use.

Professor A.S. Morton, often mentioned in regard to the development of the provincial archives, was hired in 1914 - instantly becoming the sole member of the history department, as Oliver (and Frank Underhill) had both joined up for war service. There would have been no reason for Morton, new to the country, the province and the University, not simply to have accepted the philosophy of proactive acquisition as part of his, and the history department's, mandate. This doesn't diminish Morton's role in vigorously pursuing the establishment of the Historic Records Office and, essentially, the provincial archives. Nevertheless, there is good evidence that Oliver truly initiated, and effectively began, a coherent provincial archival collection. Oliver appears to have had and understanding of the role of acquisition, appraisal, access, and accountability in archival work, and he understood that archives serve to document our past as well as inform our citizens. His birthday, 8 February (1881), is therefore a good date to start "Archives Week" in Saskatchewan.