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Reducing Barriers to the Archives and Special Collections With the Indigenous Access Guide

By Jacinda Brisson, Archives Indigenous Research Intern

Young Canada Works at Building Careers in Heritage (Career Focus)

Our staff recognizes how inaccessible and daunting archives have been due to an institutional history of colonial and elitist practices. Part of my role as the Young Canada Works Archives Indigenous Research Intern is to bridge some of the gaps that exist within museum culture, specifically in archives, that may otherwise be unrecognized by non-Indigenous individuals.

One of the ways to bridge these gaps was by creating the Archives and Special Collections Indigenous Access Guide - the newest addition to the Whyte Museum’s collection of online resources.

This access guide was created to give users a sense of the Indigenous materials we hold in the archives while also providing guidance on how to find materials and search using our online database. To create a guide to the Indigenous materials in the archives, I wanted to develop it with the purpose of increasing accessibility, especially for Indigenous peoples. The guide provides support for Indigenous individuals to conduct their own research in the Whyte Museum’s collections and explore the Indigenous materials we have here. The contents of this webpage are targeted toward local Indigenous audiences, however, non-Indigenous individuals are welcome to explore and use our Indigenous Access Guide as well.

The guide offers a variety of information to make researching Indigenous content easier and more approachable for the user. There are several research tips, diagrams, and search terms to help with using our online database and finding specific archival materials. Additionally, I have included a section that breaks down some of the archival language we use and explains the use of reference codes in our collections and what they mean. This information can be found on the access guide under How To & FAQ, Research Tips & Tricks, Common Search Terms, and Understanding Fonds & Collections.

In this guide, I have included a variety of information on general topics that pertain to Indigenous peoples such as Communities, Land, Peoples & Families, Language, Health, and more. These topics have each been assigned a page to offer a glimpse into the kinds of materials that exist in our archives, with examples of various books, maps, photographs, videos, and other documents. The topic pages can also be used as a starting point for anyone who wants to do research on Indigenous topics. They offer a variety of materials that could inspire or aid in any potential Indigenous research projects or ideas.

The Indigenous Access Guide is one step in the right direction to Indigenous involvement in our archives and a future of Indigenous-led research using our collections. However, there is still much to be done to dismantle the colonial ideologies and practices that exist within our institution. My hope is that we can continue to create resources such as these to increase our accessibility and generate more opportunities for relationships with our surrounding Indigenous communities.

To view the Archives and Special Collections Indigenous Access Guide, go to


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