Sometimes the smallest things connect.

In between other projects, volunteer Lise Ouimet and I have been going through the archival collection, making the Word documents that summarize each Fonds  more uniform in preparation for a new database.1.


We have the physical care of our collection under control. The paper and sound recording are in a state of the art storage facility with geothermal heat, LED lighting, computerized humidity controls, water sensors, and a security system. The vault, where archival material is stored, has a 3 hour fire rating. It is meant to store community memories for a hundred years or more. The space is the envy of other institutions, but our database, a 20 year old ACCESS program, is not. It is time to increase ease of computer access to the treasures entrusted to our care.

Purchasing a database designed for the archives is the next step so we are reviewing our records. We check the numbers. We add zeros where they are missing. The zeros are important now. They make the spaces line up.

Mid March I asked Lise to update our cumbersome ACCESS database, giving her a specific Word document with more information about a collection of letters received by MacKay Currie General Merchants dated between 1905 to 1906.

Photographs show the business on the SW corner of Shuswap and Front Streets. Its owners were in competition with the McGuire family. Not in business long, MacKay Currie sold out the R.K. Scales who sold out to the S.A.F.E. cooperative. The retail cooperative did have a long history in our community, but that’s another story.

The letters were donated in 1979 and briefly recorded in a three ring binder. 81 letters. No details.

The correspondence covers the wholesale dealings with other businesses. CB Hume in Revelstoke…..

Lise entered the additional information line by line. It was a big job. By the end of the update she backed up her computer and closed it down.

Lise packed up and prepared to leave. She always says she has had a good day but this time there was more.

Lise burst out. “These letters I was working on are so precious!”

“MacKay Currie was doing business all over the province. There’s even a letter from Lytton!” Lise added.

“Lytton is no more. Their museum is gone. The building that … operated out of is likely gone and we have this letter, a piece of paper that connects to a history that is gone. It is so valuable.”

Lise often gets excited but she was on to something. A hundred and fifteen year old document is a rare little bit of Lytton history that has survived and our 20 year old database is closer to being ready for conversion.

It was a good day.

1. A Fonds is a collection of historical papers that span a period of time. The Salmon Arm Museum has 147 fonds with their histories uploaded to MemoryBC.

From our friends at Wikipeida:

[A]…. fonds is a group of documents that share the same origin and that have occurred naturally as an outgrowth of the daily workings of an agency, individual, or organization.[1] An example of a fonds could be the writings of a poet that were never published or the records of an institution during a specific period.

Fonds are a part of a hierarchical level of description system in an archive that begins with fonds at the top, and the subsequent levels become more descriptive and narrower as one goes down the hierarchy. The level of description goes from fonds to series to file and then an item level. However, between the fonds and series level there is sometimes a sub-fonds or sous-fonds level and between the series to file level there is sometimes a sub-series level that helps narrow down the hierarchy.

Photo credit for feature image:

"Most Homes were wiped out by a wildfire that swept through Lytton, B.C., on June 30." Darryll Dyck/The Canadian Press.