A Brief History of the Salt Spring Island Archives

The Salt Spring Island Archives began with a collection of records the Historical Society had accumulated and stored in a vault in the Acheson house. In 1989, the elderly Achesons had passed on and the family decided to sell the house, leaving the Society records without a secure home.

At that time Mary Davidson was president of the Salt Spring Island Historical Society and Peggy Tolson was vice-president. They heard of the Heritage Trust of British Columbia and decided to apply for a grant. They were astounded when they received $8000.00 with which to establish an archives.

At the next Historical Society meeting the grant and plans for the archives were announced. The membership was surprised to learn that they were the sponsor of an archives, but agreed to a motion by Sue Mouat that support be given. Davidson and Tolson were then accepted as volunteer archivists.

The Mary Hawkins Memorial Library granted permission for the Society to keep a filing cabinet for the records in a corner of the book repair room. A fireproof filing cabinet was purchased and some office furnishings such as a typewriter and stationary was stored with volunteer secretary, Agnes Cunningham.

In a joint venture with the Mary Hawkins Memorial Library, an undeveloped area in the excavation under the library was turned into a large room. A Windfall Grant of $30,000 and the expertise of Trish Morgan, then chair of the Mary Hawkins Memorial Library and architect, brought the project to fruition.

The archives was allotted a 10'X28' space at the inside end of the Windfall Room. Furniture was purchased, shelving installed and a new, more satisfacory filing cabinet procured. The secretary returned the typewriter and the archives opened for business.

Over the years the archives has survived he threat of floods, stemmed by fast action on the part of the library maintenance volunteers. High levels of dust from the removal of concrete walls for further library renovation, was overcome with a tremendous amount of careful cleaning. Now the archives remains in the clean, acid free, humididty controlled environment where it will be safe for years to come.

The archives is grateful to Society members who have volunteered to assist in the archives, including Sue Mouat, Anne Humphries, Charles Kahn, Judy Norget, Usha Rautenbach, Agnes Cunningham and Jan Dunn, as well as other interested persons who have contributed much time and effort, such as Ruth Sandwell,Wilf Allen and our devoted webmaster, Frank Neuman and his wife, Gail.


DRIFTWOOD May 31, 1989 Grant buys large vault for archives
An $8,000 grant has been awarded to the Salt Spring Historical Society for establishment of a local archives dealing with the history of the island.
The project will involve several island organizations before it is completed—including the Historical Society, the Mary Hawkins Memorial Library and the local Museum Society.
The heart of the archival system is a fireproof, 600-pound filing cabinet already brought to the island and installed in the basement of the library.
(The Historical Society said special thanks are due to Salt Spring Freight, which transported the safe at nominal cost, and installed it in the library at no charge.)
Historical Society and Museum Society archival material has alreadybeenreceivedandisinthe process of being filed. All items must be cross-indexed, it said of the work which lies ahead.
Archivists for the project are Mary Davidson and Peggy Tolson. Tony Farr, Olive Clayton and Tony Luton are assistant archivists. Agnes Cunningham is the project's typist, and Tom Holtby is in charge of photography.
The archivists are now hoping to borrow for copying, or to receive for filing, any of the following items:
- family photographs and/or documentspertainingtothehistory of Salt Spring Island;
- original photographs and/or documents in need of a permanent, safe home; and
- historical materials pertaining to organizations, societies and groups on Salt Spring, including old minute books, photographs and membership lists.
Archivists say borrowed items will be quickly returned.
Once in place, the archives will be made available to qualified enquirers, the Historical Society says.
Funding for the project was made available as of April 30, 1989. It was financially assisted by the ministry of municipal affairs, recreation and culture, through the British Columbia Heritage Trust and B.C. Lotteries.


Thank you, Usha. That article really took me back the the late 1980s

It was an exciting time, but this so called vault was an great error in judgement. The fireproof filing cabinet was not opened often enough and was sitting on a cement floor that allowed moisture to get through it and into the filing cabinet. Soon everything in the cabinet had a damp feel to it. Then we had to return it to the place where it was purchased and traded in on the side file cabinet that served well for the next twenty years. (Is it still in use? I can't recall seeing it when last in the archives.) Again, the Salt Spring Freight was very obliging in taking in the useless cabinet and bringing back the replacement. Bill Cunningham and Don Davidson set the new one up on a wheeled platform that Bill made, so that it would not be sitting on the damp cement.
Of course all the documents had to be carefully spread out to dry completely, before being refiled.
We were all real novices at this new job we had taken on. But we gradually learned over the years. Thank goodness for those who took the offered instruction courses and Frank, of course, who all contributed to making the archives what it is today.


The Salt Spring Island Historical Society Archives is a non-profit, volunteer, community project.