Documenting South Asian heritage for future generations

BengaliFamilyTree

Bengali Family Tree from Chakarbartty Family Fonds — PAA Accession # PR2011.0508/6

In the half-century the Provincial Archives of Alberta (PAA) has been open to the public, they’ve collected almost 2 million photographs, 58 kilometres of textual records, 154,000 plans and drawings and more than 70,000 audio and video recordings.

While many of those records came from the Government of Alberta, the PAA relies on fostering relationships with individuals, community groups and other organizations to bolster their collections and help preserve them for generations to come. This is part of the PAA’s mandate to acquire, preserve and make available records that document what we do in Alberta.

Members of specific communities in Alberta often hold a wealth of records of interest to the PAA. For example, in 2015, the PAA and the Friends of the PAA Society kicked off the South Asian Documentation Project: an initiative to preserve and broaden the breadth and scope of the archival heritage of Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi and other South Asian communities in and around Edmonton.

Braden Cannon, Private Records Archivist at the PAA, has been guiding the project through its phases. After being introduced to different people and organizations in the South Asian community, the Archives organized tours and conducted outreach to explain to these groups what the PAA had to offer and how they could help preserve their records.

“It’s very common to hear donors say that they didn’t think that their history or their family’s history was worth including in the Provincial Archives’ [collections],” Cannon said. “So when we show up expressing interest, donors are often appreciative.  The same was definitely true with this project.  Many of the people whom I met didn’t know what the Provincial Archives was all about but once we got them here, showed them what we do, and asked how we could help them, they really opened up and we started to build that relationship.”

The PAA has a three-year plan to continue acquiring and preserving South Asian records; so far they’ve met with South Asian religious groups, arts and music organizations, and of course, individuals interested in preserving their family records. Cannon said that to date they have acquired more than 1,000 audio recordings, about a metre of textual records, hundreds of photographs and small amount of video recordings.

For information on the programs and services available at the PAA, including information on how to donate your records, visit http://provincialarchives.alberta.ca/.

You can also connect with the PAA on Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch and up-to-date with upcoming events.

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