Navigating a Decade of Growth: The Atlantic Baptist Archives Journey

in ACBAS, Front Page

By Catherine Fancy and Jen Richard

Acadia’s Archives have been collecting Baptist records for 160 years. In that time, the Baptist landscape in Atlantic Canada has experienced many changes and evolutions. The Archives have remained committed to staying at the forefront of these developments and ensuring the Baptist record continues to be preserved for future generations of Baptist scholars, historians, and community members. As we reflect on the past ten years, it’s evident that the Atlantic Baptist Archives at Acadia University have undergone significant growth and transformation. From January 2014 to December 2023, our collection has expanded in both size and scope, presenting exciting opportunities and unique challenges along the way. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the key highlights, statistics, and insights from our journey, as well as outline our vision for the future.

In the foreground of this image, a nineteenth century ledger lays open on a yellow folder and a light-coloured wood table. Both pages are covered in cursive handwriting written in black ink. In the background, there is a wall of library books and a light-coloured research help desk with a dark grey chair behind it. A silver laptop sits atop the desk, and a grey floor is visible.

Collection Overview: A Decade in Review The past decade has seen remarkable growth in our collection, with a total of 267 deposits comprising 73.90 meters of records. While the number of deposits per year has fluctuated, the overall extent of the collection has remained stable or increased—a testament to the invaluable contributions from churches, associations, and individuals across the Atlantic region.

This image contains a bay of grey shelves with white archival boxes on it. There are six horizontal shelves in the bay, and four vertical dividers. There are five white boxes per subdivided shelf. The white boxes have dark grey print on them, and the box contents are handwritten on the box in pencil. A pink wall and beige floor are visible in the background.

Trends and Insights Several trends and insights emerge from our collection data:

  1. Church Deposits: Churches continue to be the primary contributors to the Archives, accounting for most records deposited. However, we’ve also received significant contributions from the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada and affiliated associations within the region.
  2. Geographic Distribution: Nova Scotia churches and associations lead in terms of deposits per year, likely due to their proximity to the archives. It is evident that challenges exist for churches in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, where in-person deposits may be more difficult to facilitate.
  3. Collection Growth: The growth of the Atlantic Baptist Archives has outpaced that of the Acadia University Archives since 2020, highlighting the increasing significance of our holdings within the university’s archival landscape.

 This image contains a close-up view of a pile of old letters, strewn about at various angles. There are seven letters visible, four of the letters have light blue-grey paper, and three of the letters have off-white paper. All are written in dark brown or black ink, in cursive handwriting.

Challenges and Solutions Despite our growth and success, we’ve encountered several challenges that require thoughtful solutions:

  1. Volume of Deposits: Large deposits, particularly from churches undergoing closure or name changes, pose challenges in processing and access. To expedite processing, we’re exploring strategies such as pre-deposit file listings prepared by church clerks.
  2. Proper Housing of Records: Some records are deposited in poor-quality containers, risking damage and inefficiencies in storage. Encouraging the use of clean, standard-sized boxes can mitigate these risks and streamline processing.
  3. Presence of Mold: Moldy records present health risks and threaten the integrity of our collection. Early communication with archives staff and proper handling procedures can help prevent these issues.
  4. Protection of Personal Information: Deposits may contain sensitive personal information subject to privacy legislation. Clear communication and flagging of such information by church clerks can ensure compliance and safeguard privacy.
  5. Adherence to Deposit Procedures: Deposits must adhere to proper procedures to maintain the integrity of the collection. Establishing clear guidelines and consultation processes can mitigate risks associated with non-preferred deposits.

This image is a close-up view of three boxes containing yellow archival files. The boxes are brown and are sitting on a light-colored table. A grey floor is visible in the background. The files are labeled in pencil. The contents of the first file in the first box is visible—it is an old ledger with brown marbling on the cover.

Looking Ahead: The Next Decade As we embark on the next phase of our archival journey, we remain committed to preserving and sharing the rich history of the Atlantic Baptist community. Greater engagement from stakeholders, improved deposit procedures, and ongoing collaboration will be key as we navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead.

The Atlantic Baptist Archives at Acadia University stands as a testament to the resilience and dedication of our community. With a steadfast commitment to excellence and innovation, we’re poised to embark on the next chapter of our archival adventure—one that celebrates our past while shaping our future for generations to come.

Finally, we extend our gratitude to our dedicated staff, partners, and supporters who make our work possible. Together, we’re charting a course towards a more accessible, inclusive, and vibrant archival landscape—one that celebrates the past while embracing the opportunities of the digital age. Stay tuned for more updates!