Community archives reopen at City Hall

The Boundary Community Archives have once more opened their doors to the public after a fire at city hall has kept them closed since 2013.

Archivist Sue Adrain looks through a photo album donated to the archives. Adrain encourages people to donate historical pieces to the archives.

The Boundary Community Archives have once more opened their doors to the public at Grand Forks City Hall, after a fire at city hall has kept them closed since 2013.

Sue Adrain, archivist with the Boundary Museum Society which administers the archives, works three days a week with the archives, getting them back up to speed after spending the last several years in storage.

It’s been a long time coming, she said, but she’s happy the archives are open again.

“In order to complete the post-fire restoration on city hall, the archives had to be packed up again and stored until work was completed in March of this year,” she said. “Rather than having information scattered throughout the community, it is so useful to have everything in one place.”

Adrain said it was miraculous that the archives escaped the fire in 2013, but they were saved in large part due to a quick-acting fire department and fire-resistant cloth draped over any materials that were being used and not in storage.

The archive is entirely run by Adrain and a staff of volunteers who tackle various projects. This summer, Adrain also welcomed a summer student granted through the federal government.

Adrain said that in addition to museum and city records, a lot of the materials have come from donations—in many cases, by the box found in basements and garages. After going through the materials, Adrain said they are stored and preserved.

The archives house both the museum collection and city hall records. Visitors can find old city maps, photographs, city minutes dating back to the founding, and newspapers—the Grand Forks Gazette among them. When the Gazette was founded, however, there were multiple newspapers servicing every small community in the area.

The archives are an important service to the community, Adrain said, because of the unique role they have in preserving history.

“Archives provide first-hand information about the past,” Adrain said. “The individual paper records, photographs, and original maps held in the archives are the only copies of that particular document, photo or map in the world.”

Adrain said her fascination with history began growing up as a child, and was renewed when she moved to Grand Forks in the ‘70s. She said this job is the perfect fit for a history buff.

“In 2009 a part-time job working with the museum became available and I was ready to make a change,” Adrain said. “It’s the best job, something new every day.”

Locals and visitors alike are encouraged to drop by the archives, where staff can help you locate what you’re looking for and materials are on display. Some of the most used items in the collection include family histories and the old map collection, which can be used in environmental studies of property.

Some of the collections, such as those in the vault, require gloves when handled to keep oils and prints off the materials, some of which are over 100 years old.

“Archives need to be handles with care. Dust in the environment is not only a problem for the material, but also to the human beings working in the environment. Control of temperature and relative humidity is also critical in the preservation of archival collections.”

Adrain said some of her favourite stories coming out of the archives are about family, but a few stand out in particular.

“One inquiry was from a fellow from out of town looking for information on two brothers that tragically died in a house fire in the area. It was through the boys had been buried in Evergreen cemetery but there was no grave marker, so we couldn’t be sure.”

“After some research … the site was located and the fellow came back to Grand Forks with a grave marker. It felt good to see this completed and it’s something that maybe the family just couldn’t deal with on their own at the time.”

The archive is open to the public Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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