ASA’s Archives Institute

The Archives Society of Alberta (ASA) offers a 6-day intensive course providing an introduction to the fundamental principles and tasks undertaken by the archival profession. Topics include acquisition, accessioning, appraisal, arrangement, description, preservation, conservation, and disaster planning, among others. The course is taught by experienced ASA staff members as well as guest lecturers. Participants receive an Archives Institute certificate from the ASA upon completion of the course and take home exercise. The course is perfect for those working in or managing archival institutions with no previous education or training.

This year’s Archives Institute will be held May 4-9 in Calgary. The deadline to register is April 17, 2015. For more details, please visit our website.

We hope to see you at the Archives Institute!

April Showers bring Spring Emergencies

With spring fast approaching (finally!), archives must ensure they are prepared for any disasters caused by the change in the weather. Monitor surface runoff water, or overland flow, near your facility. Overland flow happens when water from meltwater or precipitation flows over the ground. This is caused by heavy precipitation and/or soil saturation. Check the Alberta Flood Map Application to see if your facility is located on or near overland flow areas.

River flows and levels can also fluctuate during this time of year. Become familiar with which water basin your facility is located in and monitor flow rates and water levels in your area.


The Louise Bridge during the Spring Flood of 1915. CCG-3034, City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives.

Check eavestroughs and drainage around your building for debris that may have accumulated over the winter. Debris, such as leaves or litter, may prevent water from being redirected from your facility and may cause water to enter your building.

Thunderstorms are also common during this time of year and may affect the electricity in your building. Power surges can cause data errors and loss of memory in computers and damage other electronic devices. Surge bars divert excess electrical energy from your electronic devices to prevent any damage. Ensure your facility utilizes surge bars for all of your electronic devices.

Do you have any advice on how archives can prepare for spring weather? Let us know in the comments!

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Business Continuity Awareness Week

bcawThis coming week (March 16-20) is Business Continuity Awareness Week! Business continuity planning is an important part of emergency planning as it focuses on how to resume vital services quickly in the event of an emergency. The theme for this week is exercising and testing plans. The Business Continuity Institute’s (BCI) awareness week includes some interesting events and resources that may be of interest to archival institutions:

BCI is an international organization established in 1994 to support individuals and organizations with business continuity through resources and certification programs. Their Business Continuity Awareness Week is a great opportunity for archival institutions to review and test their business continuity plan!

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Project by the Numbers

ASA’s Flood Advisory Programme is six months into its two year project! This is some of the work we have completed so far:

  • Travelled 3834 kilometres
  • Treated 625 items
  • Conducted 10 site assessments
  • Created 10 work plans
  • Placed 9 supply orders
  • Posted 8 blog entries
  • Created 5 online resources (ASA’s Flood Assistance Page)
  • Wrote 4 condition reports
  • Hired 3 contractors to complete work at heavily impacted sites
  • Attended 3 archives week events
  • Filmed 3 how-to videos
  • Attended 3 webinars
  • Wrote 2 newsletter articles
  • Wrote 2 board reports
  • Hosted 1 expert from CCI to advise on the treatment of damaged records
  • Attended 1 workshop

We are looking forward to the next 18 months!

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Squeaks and Squawks

How to identify members of the rodent or bird family that may find solace in your collection’s facility.

  • Common mammals that infest archival institutions
    • Mice
    • Voles
    • Rats
    • Pigeons

House Mouse

Credit: Mark Robinson

Credit: Mark Robinson

  • Found worldwide, they travel the world via trade routes on boats
  • They prefer warmer climates
  • Signs of infestation include feces; urine; stains on textiles, holes in textiles, leathers, wood, paper, and anything else they can use to make a nest
  • Identification: 5-8 inches long, with a long tail, furry, light brown in colour, with large ears
  • Feeds on leftover food, insects, plants, antler and cellulose plastics
  • Average lifespan is 1-2 years
  • The best form of control is to seal off any hole 6 mm or larger in the collection’s facility, including around windows, doorframes, and the foundation, with a material like copper gauze that mice can’t chew through
  • Their presence could indicate a larger issue of an insect infestation


Credit: Jean-Jacques Boujot

Credit: Jean-Jacques Boujot

  • Found in meadows, fields, and prairies
  • They prefer underground burrows with thick grass
  • They do not infest buildings, but their presence could promote other pests to move in
  • Identification: 5-8 inches long, furry, dark grey brown in colour, with smaller ears than a mouse
  • They scavenge for food including scraps and vegetation
  • Average lifespan is 2-16 months
  • The best form of control is removing vegetation in close proximity to the collection’s facilities


Credit: Rekel_

Credit: Rekel_

  • Rats are uncommon in Alberta, due to its province wide rat control program, but they are common in the rest of the world
  • They prefer warmer climates, and must live within heated buildings
  • Signs of infestation include oily marks on the wall; feces; crumbs; holes in wood, textiles, leather and other things used to make their nests
  • Identification: 13-18 inches long, very long tail, furry, brown, black or yellowy white in colour
  • They scavenge for leftover food
  • Average lifespan is 1 year, but they can live for 3 years
  • The best form of control is to seal holes with a metal or concrete filling, cleaning often, ensuring garbage bins have lids, and putting metal grates on vents and drainage pipes


Credit: Joseph Baranowski

Credit: Joseph Baranowski

  • They are found worldwide from temperate, tropics, to the arctic
  • They prefer manmade environments like large cities
  • Signs of infestation include droppings on buildings and statues, feathers, and nests
  • Identification: They around 11 inches long with large bodies and smaller heads, and the colours they sport range from blue-grey, grey, black, and white
  • They need open water to survive, and they eat scraps, seeds, grains, grass, and berries
  • Average lifespan is 3-5 years
  • They won’t affect a collection, but their food scraps, nests, and droppings will attract other pests like insects to the area
  • The best form of control is keeping the grounds around the facility clean, and putting bird spikes on roof ledges to deter pigeons from nesting there.

The information on rodents and birds discussed in this blog post are summarized from the Identification webpage by Please refer to their site for more information.

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International Fires Cause Damage to Records

Two fires have been reported at institutions housing records this past weekend, one at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences in Moscow and the other at CitiStorage’s Record Centre in Brooklyn.

On Friday, January 30, 2015, a fire broke out at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences in Moscow. Firefighters were unable to contain the blaze until Saturday evening. Although no one was injured, it is estimated that 15 per cent of the collection has been damaged by the fire and fire suppression methods. The cause of the fire is believed to be an electrical short-circuit.[1] The Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences was established in 1918 and houses an extensive collection of books and documents related to the social sciences. It contains the largest collection of Slavic language books in Russia and holds records from UNESCO and the League of Nations, among other organizations.[2]

Video of the fire at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences in Moscow (0:29 min).

In the early morning of Saturday, January 31, 2015, a fire started at the CitiStorage Records Center in Brooklyn. Firefighters were called and the blaze was extinguished, however, firefighters were called back to the site an hour later as another fire had engulfed the warehouse. The facility had both fire detection and suppression systems and, although the sprinkler system was activated during the first fire, the sprinkler system was inactive during the second fire. The cause of the fires is currently unknown. CitiStorage is claiming that the building and their holdings at this location are unsalvageable.[3]

CitiStorage is an organization offering records management and storage facilities in New York and New Jersey. Many institutions utilized their services, such as the New York court system, the city Health and Hospital Corporation, and the city Administration for Children’s Services, among others.[4] Privacy issues are a concern as the debris contains confidential and sensitive information. Scorched records are not only at the site of the fire but scattered along the riverbank.


Fireboat extinguishing fire in Brooklyn with records in the water. Photo credit: Vladimir Badikov.

In many cases disasters such as these cannot be prevented, but we can prepare our facilities with equipment and supplies to deter or contain these incidents and train our staff on best practices for evacuation, salvage and recovery. Consult with your local fire department to design or examine your fire detection and suppression systems. Check that your fire detection and suppression systems are activated and functioning properly. Check electrical wiring and other potential fire hazards often. Prepare and practice fire drills. Provide staff training on the proper use of fire extinguishers. Consider purchasing emergency supplies specifically for fires (this may include fireproof storage cabinets or boxes, fire blankets and polyethylene sheeting to protect records from water damage from sprinklers).

Please take the time to implement or re-examine your institution’s fire preparedness and recovery strategies.

[1] AFP, ‘Fire in major Russian library destroys 1m historic documents,’ The Guardian, January 31, 2015, accessed February 2, 2015,

[2] Jon Stone, ‘Huge library containing historic texts and 14 million books goes up in flames Moscow,’ The Independent, January 31, 2015, accessed February 2, 2015,

[3] “Company statement regarding fire at Recall CitiStorage Facility,” CitiStorage, accessed February 2, 2015,

[4] Benjamin Mueller and Nate Schweber, ‘Papers fuel a 7-alarm fire at a warehouse in Brooklyn,’ City Room, January 31, 2015, accessed February 2, 2015, Lead Team Logo

Creepy Crawlers

Archives strive to acquire, preserve and make accessible archival records; however, some insects value these records for their taste rather than their archival value. Here are some insects whose food source may be located in your archives:


Photo credit: Valter Jacinto


  • Found in North America
  • Like warm, humid climates
  • Signs of infestation include uneven holes and edges, visible feces and discolouration (yellow stains)
  • Identification: body is carrot shaped, approximately 12.5 mm, covered in scales, usually gray in colour, three pronged tail
  • Feed on starch, such as paper, adhesive paste, and book bindings
  • Average lifespan is 2 – 3.5 years
  • Climate control and regular cleaning regime is the best form of control

Photo credit: Malcolm Tattersall

Book Lice

  • Found in North America
  • Like cooler, humid climates (9-15°C and relative humidity 50% and higher)
  • Signs of infestation include the presence of booklice (they eat very slowly and damage is usually minor)
  • Identification: translucent, gray or brown body, less than 4 mm, back legs are thicker than front four legs, wingless
  • Feed on mould and fungi found on food, paper and wheat starch paste
  • Average lifespan is 24 – 110 days
  • Humidity control is the best form of control

Photo credit: e_monk

Varied Carpet Beetle

  • Found in North America
  • Most commonly brought indoors on clothing and in floral arrangements
  • Signs of infestation include presence on windowsills and damage to fabrics
  • Identification: round body covered in white, brown and dark yellow scales, approximately 6 mm, larvae covered in hair
  • Feed on silk, leather, furs, wool and carpets (larvae) and pollen and nectar (adults)
  • Average lifespan is approximately 1 year
  • Insect traps are the best way to control an infestation

Photo credit: Mohammed El Damir

Casemaking Clothes Moth

  • Found in North America
  • Like dark spaces and are weak flyers (will only fly around infested area)
  • Signs of infestation include visible fecal matter and cases attached to infested material or the walls/ceiling near infested material
  • Identification: body and wings are a golden yellow, approximately 10 mm wingspan, long, narrow wings, larvae carry case which takes on colour of food source
  • Feed on rugs, wool, feathers, felts, hair and furs
  • Average lifespan is less than 4 months (adults life for 4-6 days)
  • Active IPM system is best form of control

Photo credit: David Short

Brown House Moth

  • Found in North America
  • Most active during summer and autumn
  • Signs of infestation include larvae’s cocoons on or near food source
  • Identification: brown wings with dark brown spots, between 8-15 mm long, larva head is tan with a white body
  • Feed on paper, book bindings, dry organic material, carpets, dried specimens and furs
  • Average lifespan is one year
  • Active IPM system is best form of control

This information was summarized from the Pest Fact Sheets, which is a great resource to help identify common pests:

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Pests and Susceptible Archival Material

Some archival material is more susceptible to pests than others. Here are some materials found in archives to monitor for pest infestations:

  • Paper
    • Paper often has gelatin based sizing (sizing is what makes paper slightly water repellant, smooth, and durable). This high protein gelatin sizing is nutritious for pests.
  • Bound Material
    • Leather, vellum, parchment, wood, rabbit skin glue, isinglass glue, and cloth are all found in bound material and targeted by pests, such as silverfish and mice, as sources of food.
  • Leather
    • Leather, and the residual products left on leather from the tanning process and leather dressings, attract pests. There are sugars and salts present that attract beetles, rodents, and silverfish.
  • Gelatin, and Albumen Photographs
    • These photographic processes incorporate high-protein materials such as gelatin and egg whites, making them attractive to pests such as silverfish.

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New Year’s Resolutions for your Archives

New Year’s resolutions are goals for the upcoming year. Why not make disaster preparedness goals for your archival institution this year? Here are some ideas from the Flood Advisory Programme:

  • Update your institution’s emergency response plan
  • Ensure you institution has an emergency response kit, including supplies and safety equipment
  • Provide staff with emergency response training, such as mock disasters
  • Contact local emergency responders, such as your fire department, to discuss optimal emergency response strategies
  • Discuss emergency preparedness with your local heritage organizations to create an emergency response network
  • Research local vendors and conservators regarding their services and fees during disaster recovery
  • Research what types of disasters are covered by your institution’s insurance policy

Crystal Ice Cream billboard, 1936, Glenbow Archives, NB-55-369

Share your organization’s New Year’s resolutions in the comments!

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Introductions to the Lead Team

The Flood Advisory Programme’s Lead Team has taken over the ASA’s blog! We thought we would introduce ourselves by describing three things we love about working at the ASA.

Amanda (Lead Archivist):

  1. Working with new people

The Lead Archivist position allows me to meet and work with new people on a regular basis. I love learning about what our institutional members are working on and the different avenues archivists take to get their work done. It is an amazing learning experience.

  1. Learning more about conservation treatments

I have done basic conservation and preventative care treatments during my education and career; however, working one-on-one with a conservator over the past three months has shown me the depth of the conservation field. Emily has taught me so much about conservation treatments already and I look forward to learning much more as our project continues.

  1. Traveling

Emily and I are both new to Alberta and we have had the opportunity to travel to many new places to meet with our members. I am looking forward to seeing more of beautiful Alberta!


Emily (Lead Conservator):

  1. Helping preserve history

The Lead Conservator position allows me to work with people who share my passion to preserve history. During our site visits, and attended events, Amanda and I have been able to meet archivists, conservators, historians, and collection managers. It has been a pleasure to work with others towards a common goal.

  1. Learning more about archives, and the many hats that archivists wear

While I have experience treating paper and bound material for various archives, I have never had the opportunity to see what archivists do. It has been a wonderful experience working with Amanda over the last few months. She has taught me new terminology, and the difficulties that born digital records provide. I look forward to learning more from her as our project progresses.

  1. Outreach and events

Within the past three months Amanda and I have been able to attend the Creepy Alberta launch at Heritage Park, the City of Edmonton Archives’ exhibit Tonight’s the Night, and the Provincial Archives of Alberta’s Annual Film Night at Garneau Theatre, just to name a few.

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