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 MuseumsPests.net. 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, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/31/fire-russian-library-moscow-institute

[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, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/huge-library-containing-historic-texts-and-14-million-books-goes-up-in-flames-moscow-10015455.html

[3] “Company statement regarding fire at Recall CitiStorage Facility,” CitiStorage, accessed February 2, 2015, http://www.citistorage.com/

[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, http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/31/five-alarm-blaze-at-brooklyn-warehouse/?smid=tw-share&_r=0The 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 Museumpests.net Pest Fact Sheets, which is a great resource to help identify common pests: http://museumpests.net/identification/identification-pest-fact-sheets/

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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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Ice Rain, Blizzards, and Hail…Oh My!

With the arrival of winter, we are faced with many challenges and often have to work against the storms in order to maintain the condition of our facilities, and collections. When the temperature drops, it is important to work with your facilities manager to maintain the temperature and RH of your building. Low temperatures can cause frost and mould in areas with higher humidity, and they can also freeze water and drain pipes. Frozen pipes can lead to leaks and floods. Other winter emergencies may include excess of snow, and ice on the exterior of your building. The buildup of snow and ice on your roof can cause leaks, water damage, and mould and possibly cause your roof to collapse.

Whyte Museum

30. Shovelling snow off roof, Glacier House. Trip to Glacier region with Fred Pepper, [1926] / Byron Harmon photographer, Byron Harmon fonds (V263/NA-1360), Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.

Not only is winter potentially harmful to us, and our facilities, it poses dangerous conditions for our furry friends who may seek solace in your collection space. It is important to maintain your IPM system during the winter months.

We recommend checking the facilities internal pipes regularly for frost, remove snow and ice from the exterior of the facility, including the roof, ensure drainpipes are free of snow and ice, and implement your IPM system.

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Alberta’s Archives send you Valentines

The Archives Society of Alberta have asked our members to share their favorite Valentines. Here are some lovely Valentines from the vaults:

Galt Museum & Archives, Lethbridge
19891053006. Young couple chalking hearts onto a tree, Valentine’s Day. 1944.


Photograph donated by Laura E. Hicks of Lethbridge, who served oversees as a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) during World War 2. Sergeant Laura E. Hicks was a Photo Librarian for the Canadian Film & Photo Unit!


Glenbow Archives, Calgary


ASA Valentine Blog

This letter was written by Colonel J.F. Macleod of the North-West Mounted Police to his wife Mary. Yes, the famous Mountie who led the newly-formed force to the West in 1874 and negotiated Treaty 7 at Blackfoot Crossing in 1877, had a romantic streak. On a visit to the Crossing in February 1884 he thought not of the historic treaty signing, but of the tent he had shared there with his beloved wife. He searched out the very spot and wrote her name in the snow with his moccasin.


Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre





University of Calgary Archives

James Wheeler Davidson Family fonds, 2012.004

This is a page from a notebook containing messages written in 1933 by Lillian Dow Davidson to her recently deceased husband of 26 years, James Wheeler Davidson.  Lillian’s notebook clearly reveals the love she had for Jim and how desperately she missed him after his death.  The messages give researchers a glimpse into the private lives of a couple who were often in the public eye, and thus allow the other records in the fonds which document their public activities to be viewed from the perspective of an insider.



Between Me and Thee, my precious Jim

I want, dear, to be sweet and gracious and to keep myself up to date and looking nice for I am still Jim Davidson’s wife and proud to be and want to justify your selection of me as your wife.

You are my ideal of a man, my dear, one who had just plenty of force of character but not so much as to be domineering and tyrannical. Every woman loves a man she can look up to and be guided by. You were an ideal combination of all that is most admirable in the male character. 


The City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives 

CalA 2013-029-008


Love in the flood? The ‘HMS Cupid’ being rowed near the flooded out Langevin bridge in Calgary, July 5, 1902. While this doesn’t particularly look like a pleasure outing, we’d like to think some romantic souls made use of the boat prior to the flood.


Provincial Archives of Alberta, Edmonton

PR2000.0248/26 from the Housiaux family fonds. Undated, but possibly 1920s or 1930s.

PR2000.0248.0026 (front)    PR2000.0248.0026 (back)

It’s animated! It’s not often we come across archival records that move (if we exclude moving images, of course). The little dog will move his mouth to speak into the microphone. The fingerprint (paw print?) “mark” on the back is interesting, especially since there is a matching dog Valentine in the file with Nelly’s fingerprint/paw print “mark.”


Museum of the Highwood, High River

MH001.004.563 (1)

High River Active 20-30 Club Valentine’s queen and king contestants, circa 1975.


Legal Archives Society of Alberta, Calgary

LASA Image #47-G-40


The Honourable J.V.H. Milvain, Q.C., O.C

The Honourable James Valentine Hogarth Milvain, known as ‘Uncle Val’ to his
friends, was born during a snow storm on Valentine’s Day 1904, on a ranch
near Pincher Creek, Alberta.

Milvain graduated from the University of Alberta Law School.  He moved to
Calgary in 1927 and was admitted to the bar that same year.  In October
1959, the Ranchmen’s Club held a dinner in honour of his appointment to the
Supreme Court of Alberta, Trial Division.  Nine years later, Milvain became
Alberta’s first native-born Chief Justice.  He retired from the Bench and
resumed private practice in 1979.  In 1987 Milvain was appointed an Officer
of the Order of Canada.

PAA Film Night – Film is Dead; Long Live Film and The Naked Flame


On Friday, March 22, the Provincial Archives of Alberta presents its 28th Annual Film Night at Edmonton’s Metro Cinema in the Garneau Theatre. Audience members will enjoy a FREE double bill that offers examples of past and present film technology and a feature length potboiler filmed right here in Alberta.

• 7:30 p.m. – “Film is Dead; Long Live Film!” The audience can compare films from the archives’ vaults, projected the old fashioned celluloid way, with digitized films from a brand new film scanner.

• 9:30 p.m. – The Naked Flame A “Canuxploitation” feature shot in Alberta in 1964 that sensationalizes the nudity and arson protest tactics of the Doukhobor sect.
Tickets to both films are free at the door. Metro Cinema is located at the Garneau Theatre, at
8712-109 Street in Edmonton.

Film is Dead; Long Live Film! Panel Discussion
Wednesday, March 27th, at 7 pm at the Provincial Archives of Alberta (8555 Roper Road)

The focus of the discussion will be the massive changes in cinema brought about by the emergence of digital technology at all points in film culture, including production, distribution, exhibition, study, and preservation. The panel will feature filmmakers, archivists, exhibitors, scholars, and producers who will offer their perspectives on this catalytic period of film history. The event will be of interest to cinephiles, filmmakers, film students, and others with an interest in film culture.

The speakers will be:
Tom Bernier (independent filmmaker and Provincial Archives of Alberta audiovisual technician), who will offer perspective on independent celluloid-based filmmaking in an increasingly digital world;
Jeff Brinton (Alberta Film Commissioner), who will be speaking about changes to the mainstream film industry, with a focus on commercial filmmaking in Alberta;
Braden Cannon (Audiovisual/Private Records Archivist, Provincial Archives of Alberta), who will address challenges facing archives in the acquisition, appraisal, and preservation of film and digital moving images;
Liz Czach (professor in the University of Alberta Department of English and Film Studies), who will offer an academic perspective on changes to film culture; and
Marsh Murphy (executive director of the Metro Cinema Society), who will be speaking about changes to the distribution and exhibition of celluloid and digital films.

Christmas in Alberta’s Archives

Since we are approaching the holiday break, the ASA was curious to see what Christmas-themed archives are housed in Alberta’s archives. We asked a number of archives in Alberta to send us their favorite holiday-themed archival holdings. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Millet & District Museum, Archives & Visitor Information Centre (Millet):

Millet’s archives houses photo albums and documents from Millet’s participation in the Winter Lights program. This photograph is from Millet’s participation in a Christmas festival event as part of Winter Lights 2002-2003. The archivist finds the photograph peculiar since there is no snow in the image.

Millet Archives 64.2002.122

Millet Archives 64.2002.122

Hinton Municipal Library and Archives, (Hinton):

Card from donor (back), 2010Hinton’s archivist shares a Christmas letter she received from a donor. This donor helped the archives with information on Hinton in the 1930s and lobbied to have a memorial for men who were killed in a 1938 mine explosion. In this Christmas letter we see what an impact an archivist can have on a member of a community.

Card from donor (front), 2010

University Archives, University of Calgary (Calgary):

This Christmas card was sent home to family and friends in Canada by James Wheeler Davidson, his wife and daughter from Malaysia in 1929.  The text on the card notes how the family “yearn for … friends in their holly-festooned homes”.  Christmas on the beach seems so unorthodox!

UARC 2010.004/1.22

UARC 2010.004/1.22

Sir Alexander Galt Museum and Archives (Lethbridge):

Muriel J. (Mona) Clark (née Waddell) resided in Lethbridge in the 1940s. The photographic collection suggests boisterous personality and passion for outdoor activities. She was a hunter, horseback rider, skater and hiker. Interestingly enough, she was a daughter of John William Waddell, an early Lethbridge photographer and a half-sister to John Enderby “Jock” Palmer, WWI gunner and pilot, who became known as “the Grandfather of Alberta Aviation.” Apparently, shooting guns and photographs is something that runs in the family.


Galt Museum and Archives 19981021027

City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives (Calgary):

The City of Calgary’s Archives submitted a photograph of Santa with an alternative form of transportation.

Santa doesn’t just drive reindeer!  Christmas bus courtesy of the Calgary Downtown Business Association, 1962.

CalA 95-025-003

CalA 95-025-003

Jewish Archives & Historical Society of Edmonton and Northern Alberta, JAHENSA (Edmonton):

Rabbi Ari Dreilich of Chabad-Lubavitch Edmonton with former Premier Ed Stelmach and his wife Marie in 2006. Rabbi Dreilich is presenting the Premier with a Channukiah at the official lighting of the Menorah at the Alberta Legislature that year. The Channukiah was donated by Rabbi Dreilich to JAHENSA. Chabad has been sponsoring the Menorah lighting at the Legislature for 20 years now.


Red Deer & District Archives (Red Deer):

This scan is from a glass-plate negative taken by J.H. Gano of his son at Christmas. Red Deer Archives loves the tree, the decorations, and the composition of this image. From the shine on his boots to the sparkle of the “snow”, this archives wishes everyone who celebrates a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

MG 584 Gano Family fonds; Photographer: J.H. Gano

Red Deer & District Archives, G2274 ; MG 584 Gano Family fonds; Photographer: J.H. Gano

Musée Héritage Museum (St. Albert):

Actors in the Christmas Carol attended grades 7 to 9 under the teacher Helen (née Wibray) White.  Tiny Tim was played by Paul who was borrowed from a younger grade. The teacher who organized the play had donated this photograph to the St. Albert Historical Society. She commented that Kenny McKay who played Bob Crathchit gave the best Crathchit performance during her time as a teacher.

St. Albert Historical Society fonds, 2003.01.1799

St. Albert Historical Society fonds, 2003.01.1799

Esplanade Archives (Medicine Hat):

This image is of a poster that was saved by Gunther Poppe while he was a German POW in Canada during World War II. He was held briefly in Camp #132 Medicine Hat before he was sent to cut pulpwood in a labor camp in Northern Ontario. The caption of the poster is in German, but translated reads, “Merry Christmas our Beloved Homeland.” Gunther Poppe was repatriated back to Germany in 1946 via a camp in South Wales. After living in East Germany for four years, he escaped, and moved back to Canada.

Photo 370.1.32

Esplanade Archives 370.1.32

South Peace Regional Archives SPRA (Grande Prairie):

One of SPRA’s current favourites is the Carlisle family fonds which gets a lot of use because of the beautiful photographs it contains (http://www.southpeacearchives.org/fonds/Fonds399.htm). Part of the family album shows a 1939 Carlisle family Christmas, complete with stockings hung by the chimney with care, tree trimming, Frosty the snowman, and new toys. Ahhh… This particular photo shows children Jim, Mary Jean, and David with their Christmas tree.

Carlisle family fonds, 399.01.18

Carlisle family fonds, 399.01.18

Sylvan Lake & District Archives (Sylvan Lake):

Sylvan Lake’s archives enjoys the porcelain doll that is in the doll buggy in this photograph.  The photo comes from the Cuendet family, a family whose homestead was located one mile east of Sylvan Lake.


Sylvan Lake & District Archives 2000.19.14


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