Archives Week returns to PNLS

Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Northern Advocate. Students from area schools visited the Archives Week exhibit using the educational resources to learn from the content throughout the week.

Archives Week was celebrated for the first time since COVID at the Pahkisimon Nuye?áh Library System (PNLS) in Air Ronge Feb. 5-9 with day-long displays in the upper hall.

Three new displays, archived by Graham Guest throughout the three-year hiatus forced by the COVID pandemic, were featured. They include a collection from Darrel Giesbrecht, a bush pilot in northern Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories in the 1970s and 1980s; the photos of John William Davis, who took a wide range of nature photos during his travels in the north; and  the collection of Paul Floch, who worked with the Island Falls hydro-electric generating station during its construction between 1928 and 1930.

“Luckily he owned a camera and took many historic photographs of the giant project under way,” Graham Guest, archival historical with the PNLS and the Northern Saskatchewan Archives.

Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Northern Advocate. Graham Guest, archival historian, with the Northern Saskatchewan Archives, views further collections from other parts of the north, in the Archives.

The third new collection was one by Larry Hewitt, who lived in Wollaston Lake, Buffalo Narrows, Dillon and Stony Rapids and became passionate about Dene culture.

He spent much time “talking to people, taking photographs and tracing traditional travels routes on maps.

He was hired by Lois Dalby, who worked with the former Department of Northern Saskatchewan in La Ronge and “was at the time, developing materials for northern schools. She needed more Dene information,” Guest wrote, adding that Dalby hired Hewitt in 1977 to gather materials and “in two years he had amassed a collection of 60 audiotapes of interviews, many photographs, annotated maps, journal articles and artifacts.”

Davis, born in Ontario in 1889, “was fascinated with the north and made many trips to northern Saskatchewan over the years, often with his friend Dr. R. Paton, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan.} His son, Jack, also travelled with him on  “a number of his back-country explorations … not much is known about the locations of his photos, but some of the details begin to show a wide-ranging nature of his travels. Dams across rivers suggest he was travelling up the West Side, the Churchill River bridge shows he travelled into the central region and the family recalls he made a longer canoe trip ‘towards the mouth of the Churchill River’ with the help of a female First nations guide.”

Davis died in 1977, but copies of his photographs were sent by family members from England.

The six collections on display throughout the week contain 145 photos in the six collections on display.

The Archives Week display was different this year with displays open to the public daily throughout the week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. rather than the one afternoon during the week that was the former practice.

The Northern Saskatchewan Archives was created to house the large DNS collection of materials, which was kept in Mistasinhk Place, and was a fit for the new PNLS building, which opened in 2002. The new building included a space for the archives, which was created with resources to enable to control heat and humidity, which was vital for an archives.

For, Guest, just retiring from work with the Saskatchewan government, the job of working with the newly formed Northern Saskatchewan Archives was a natural fit.

“I’ve been here for 20 years now and it’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had in my life. It’s always interesting and I am enthusiastic about it and I love photography,” Guest said.

Another addition, Roseanne Dery, is the new program educator with PNLS. She developed resources, which were created age-appropriate for students, offering people an opportunity to view the displays with more depth because of the added educational resources.