The City of Coquitlam Archives is the home for a variety of City records, including Bylaws and Council Meeting Minutes, but did you know that the archives also houses records of people and organizations from the local community? Canadian Municipal Archives are unique when compared to archives in other countries, in that they will acquire and house community records alongside municipal government records. This is known as the Total Archives concept which was developed by Canadian archival community in the 1980s, as a strategy to document all aspects of Canadian society.
Community records help to tell the story of a city through the people that lived and worked there over the years. These can be the records of families, individuals or community organizations and businesses. The scope of these types of collections can vary from many boxes, to just a few photos. Records created by the City of Coquitlam inform us about how the city was governed and provide evidence of the City’s decisions. However, City records don’t necessarily tell us much about the lives of individual citizens. Community records can provide those different perspectives.
So why are community records important? Historically, archival institutions have been a record of those who held a position of power or who are recognized as an expert in their field: think government officials, successful literary figures, etc. However, that excludes many people from the historic record, including working class people, as well as members of other marginalized groups. Preserving community records is an important way of honouring the people who helped build and maintain the local community.
Here at the City of Coquitlam Archives, a large portion of our collection is comprised of community records, and they continue to stream into the archives. Here are some examples of recent additions that have been processed in the last year:
The Shyla Seller Collection
Shyla Seller is an archivist, writer, editor and musician who lives and works in Vancouver. She grew up in Coquitlam, attended Parkland Elementary School, Como Lake Middle School and Centennial Secondary.
In the 1980s Shyla’s grandparents, Bill and Nina Seller, owned a chain of Hol ‘n’ One Donut Houses across the Lower Mainland, including one at the Lougheed Mall, where Shyla worked as a teenager.