The following report is from the Archives Committee of Canadian Yearly Meeting, shared with the CFHA in light of our upcoming Annual General Meeting on September 24th.

2022 08 04

To Friends in Canadian Yearly Meeting and beyond

We send loving greetings from the annual gathering of the Canadian Yearly Meeting (CYM) Archives Committee at the Canadian Quaker Library and Archives (CQLA) and Pickering College, Newmarket, Ontario.

We gathered for a day and a half with most of our Ontario members on site and those of us further afield joining via zoom. We are delighted actually to be in the CQLA for the first time as a committee. This reflects the lightening of limitations of the Covid pandemic. We are truly grateful to Pickering College not only for their long term hosting of the CQLA but also for welcoming us here this weekend including providing accommodation for those staying overnight.

We have the gift and privilege of being responsible, on behalf of the CYM Board of Trustees, for the right holding and care of the historical records of Canadian Yearly Meeting, of Canadian Monthly Meetings and individual Canadian Quakers. This work has most recently been tasked to us by Canadian Yearly Meeting during our Reporting and Clearness session held in February 2020.

A renewed agreement with Pickering College enables us to appreciate the College’s significant contribution to Canadian Yearly Meeting. It provides climate controlled space in our Library and Vault, and support from their custodial, reception and Information Technology departments, amongst others. We appreciate that we and local Quakers support the College’s Quaker values and provide resources for the Quaker and social justice studies of interested teachers and students.

We are delighted to have heard of work being done by friends in Kenya and other parts of Africa to create their own African Quaker archives so that they, rather than colonial counties, are the keepers of their Quaker history.

On tour of the Library and Archives vault, led by our CYM Archivist Michelle Tolley, has enabled us to appreciate the work that has been accomplished over the past year, yet to see how much remains to be done for us to be faithful to the responsibilities entrusted to us. We are guided in our work by the five year goals approved by CYM during our Reporting and Clearness and the Turner Report.[1] The Turner Report, from the two-week evaluation of the CQLA by James Turner, Archives Committee member and retired professor of library and archival studies, identified short, medium and long term recommendations needing to be implemented. However, some of these need time.

We are developing new ways for accessing records in our vault by use of a program, ArchivesSpace. It is a medium term project to move information about all records in the vault onto ArchivesSpace. This will make searches for information much easier including being able to search for materials that are stored in several places. We are working to renew and expand CQLA pages on the CYM website. We are doing initial exploration of the multi-year task of digitizing our collection so that it can be much more accessible to Friends in Canada and around the world. A first step was all of us attending a workshop on digitization so that we all can understand the power yet complexities of combining technology and history. We are extending our relationships with others interested in Canadian Quaker history such as the Canadian Friends Historical Association (CFHA).

We are grateful to all the Meetings and other who have deposited records with the CQLA this year! We encourage Monthly Meetings and CYM Committees to let us know how else we may serve them. The CQLA holds histories of Friends in Canada going back to the 1790s. We remind Friends that the tides of history continue and encourage ways of recording this so that Friends of the future may know Friends of today. This treasure trove holds wonderful resources for sharing the history of Quakerism in Canada, including the witness of Friends during many social justice campaigns, for us in religious education. We appreciate the requests we have received so far this year and welcome more!

We are aware of the significant challenges of maintaining the funding needed for the CQLA to continue its work. We appreciate the flexibility confirmed by the Clerks of CYM to enable us to extend our search for funds. We are exploring avenues both within and beyond Quaker sources. We ask Friends to hold this in the Light believing that we are entrusted custodians not only for Canadian Quakers but for wider Quaker and Canadian communities for these important records. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve in this ministry, one that brings us joy and laughter as well as challenges! We look forward to continuing this work confident in finding Way opening as we move ahead.

Elaine Bishop

Clerk, Canadian Yearly Meeting Archives Committee

[email protected]

For the CYM Archivist: [email protected]



[1] The Turner Report is available for anyone interested by contacting Elaine Bishop [email protected]