UNB Archives and Special Collections:About
The University of New Brunswick (UNB) Archives & Special Collections (ASC) is a department within UNB Libraries’ comprised of two units – the University Archives (referred to as Archives – upper case “A”) which contains the University’s institutional records, and Archives & Special Collections (referred to as archives – lower case “a”) which houses various book collections (e.g. Rare Books, Rufus Hathaway Collection of Canadian Literature) and private manuscript holdings that have a strong focus on New Brunswick literature and history.
Access to ASC holdings is split between the library catalogue (WorldCat) for book, periodical and other special publication materials, and archival finding aids, in both electronic and print formats, for the University Archives and manuscript holdings. Books, peridocals and other special publication materials are desribed in accordance with library descritpive standards and arranged in their collections by Library of Congress call numbers. University Archives and maunscripts are described according to archvial descriptive standards. Fonds / collection numbers in each group are prefixed with the abbreviations UA RG (University Archives Record Group), MG L (Manuscript Group Literary, or MG H (Manuscript Group Historical).
Physically ASC has always resided within the Library of the university. Presently, it is located on the fifth (top) floor of the Harriet Irving Library and is serviced by four full-time staff members. Since about 1955, the Department has had only four formal Managers/Heads: Jean Boone (ca.1955-1976), Mary Flagg (1976-2005), Patricia Belier (2005-2011) and Francesca Holyoke (2011- ). Prior to the mid-1950s, the archives unit was managed by University Librarians Marjorie Thompson and A. Robert Rogers, respectively.
Because of the nature of the material held in this department, materials are retrieved for use by staff and to be used in a supervised reading room.
A brief history of UNB Archives & Special Collections
ASC has a long and somewhat complicated history. What follows is a summary of the key events over a span of six decades leading to the current structure of the department.
University Archives (UA RG)
The University of New Brunswick dates it establishment from 1785 by recognizing the petition that prompted the government of the day to focus on higher education.
The date of the University Archives’ founding is considered to be 1931, the year that the library moved from the top floor of the Old Arts Building (the main and for many years, the only academic building on campus) to the newly built University Library. Along with the contents of the library, a collection of university records was also moved to the new library building. Prior to their move, the records had been under the custodianship of the Registrar’s Office until the early 1920s when they were gathered together and moved to a vault in the basement of the Old Arts Building. Although there had never been a written Archives Policy, fortunately faculty and staff from the institution’s early days had the foresight to collect and retain important university documents (e.g. Student Scholarships - UA RG 1; Land Grants - UA RG 2; Ledgers - UA RG 3, Senate Minutes and Reports – UA RG 40 and 41).
Special Collections - Literary fonds / collections (MG L)
Interest in collecting Canadian / New Brunswick literary papers dates back to a suggestion made in 1928 by Charles G.D. Roberts (a Fredericton-born, UNB-educated author and poet) to then-UNB President C.C. Jones, that UNB be a centre for the study of Canadian literature. UNB began building its literary collections with materials relevant to Roberts (and other writers among his family members), Bliss Carman (Roberts’ cousin, who also was born in Fredericton and a graduate of UNB) and Francis Sherman (a lesser-known Fredericton poet who had also attended UNB)<ref>. On 15 May 1947, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada erected a monument located at UNB to honour these three poets. The monument designated Fredericton the “Poets Corner of Canada”.</ref> In 1933, the University Library acquired the nationally-recognised Rufus H. Hathaway Collection of Canadian Literature whose contents focused mainly on Carman and Roberts. In the period from the 1950s to the 1970s, Dr. Desmond Pacey, head of UNB’s English Department, actively sought literary manuscripts from Canadian authors and their heirs. Over the years, other literary manuscript acquisitions have included the papers of Louis Arthur Cunningham (MG L 13), a prolific Saint John, NB author who died in 1950; David Walker (MG L 35), winner of the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Fiction in 1952 and 1953; Alden Nowlan, (MG L 2), UNB Writer-in-Residence and winner of the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Poetry in 1967; and David Adams Richards (MG L 33) winner of the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Fiction in 1988, Governor-General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction in 1998 and co-winner of the Giller Prize in 2000, among others.
Special Collections - Historical fonds / collections (MG H)
In 1941, Dr. Alfred G. Bailey began collecting archival documents relating to the history of New Brunswick. He came to UNB in 1938, the sole professor in the Department of History. Bailey had hoped to establish a series of studies on the development of New Brunswick and the other Maritime Provinces, but upon his arrival, found that “[t]he University Library contained virtually nothing that was useful for this purpose …”<ref> Alfred Bailey. “A history of the University of New Brunswick Library to 1959” (unpublished), Bailey Family Papers, MG H 1, MS188.8.131.52 UNB Archives & Special Collections.</ref>To further exacerbate the problem, New Brunswick did not have a Provincial Archives. Professor Bailey developed a list of about 30 topics covering almost every aspect of NB’s history - economic, technological, social, political, and the development of cultural institutions - with the idea that graduate students preparing theses on these topics would document the written history of the Province. The research documents acquired for this purpose would remain in the Library thus building the University’s manuscript collections. Dr. Bailey then approached the Provincial Director of Educational Services with his plan and was successful in securing a provincial grant for the project, but, with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the government funding was withdrawn. The project was put on hold temporarily, but interest was resurrected a couple of years later when the History Department, along with Dr. Bailey, was moved from the Old Arts Building to a combined office and lecture room in the Library. Dr. Bailey’s proximity to the records, and the larger office space, allowed him to hire a history student to sort through old newspapers and periodicals in an adjoining room “to see whether anything of use could be found.”<ref> Alfred Bailey, 6.</ref> In addition, documents relating to the history of the university, the province, and the region were actively sought via advertisements in the local daily newspapers (See Figure 1). This, then, was the beginning of the archives (small “a”) at UNB.
Figure 1 –University Scrapbooks (UA RG 100), 29 January 1945, p.90.
In 1942, the archives’ holdings of historical manuscripts received a much-needed boost. In August of that year, Dr. Bailey presented a lecture on his proposed series of studies at a conference sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation in Rockland, Maine. As a result of this presentation, a four-year Rockefeller grant was secured, the first grant ever received by UNB for research in the humanities and social sciences fields. This funding, in the thousands of dollars, made it possible to offer fellowships to history students and to purchase the much-needed research materials - newspapers, books, periodicals, and manuscripts - for Bailey’s project.
Further growth in the holdings came as a result of a multi-millionaire’s intense interest in the Library, particularly the archives section. Lord Beaverbrook, a major benefactor of the University and the Province, was Chancellor of UNB from 1947-1964. Through auctions and rare book dealers, Beaverbrook was able to acquire rare and valuable materials relating to the history of New Brunswick and Canada. He also used his personal connections to locate and secure manuscripts and other materials. One such acquisition was the R.B. Bennett Papers. In 1949 Beaverbrook wrote to Ronald V. Bennett, who had inherited his brother’s papers asking, “May I have Dick's papers for the University of New Brunswick?”<ref> Letter, 3 August 1949, Lord Beaverbrook to Captain R.V. Bennett, Beaverbrook Canadian Correspondence, MG H 156, Case 52a, File 2, #31928, UNB Archives & Special Collections.</ref>R.B. Bennett's brother was happy to oblige and the papers were eventually deposited at UNB. Comprised of ca. 600,000 items, the Bennett Papers is one of only two collections of prime ministerial papers held outside of Ottawa. The other, the John Diefenbaker Papers, resides at the University of Saskatchewan’s Diefenbaker Centre.
Around this same time, and until the late1950s, Lord Beaverbrook and Dr. Bailey attempted to arouse the government’s interest in building a Provincial Archives. <ref> It was proposed that the institution be named “The Beaverbrook Institute of Public Records and Archives,” after Lord Beaverbrook, the major driving-force behind the Provincial Archives building initiative.</ref> In November 1958, after the initiative had been stalled for several years, Lord Beaverbrook finally admitted defeat writing “… these [Bennett] papers … will certainly go to the Archives if I can be convinced that the Province really wants such an institution. At present I do not believe it. If the Province had been conscious of the need for archives then their elected representatives would have been much more lively in providing me with the necessary facilities and also encouragement.”<ref> Letter, 30 November 1958, Lord Beaverbrook to R.A. Tweedie, Beaverbrook Canadian Correspondence, MG H 156, Case 44(b), File 9b, #27690, UNB Archives & Special Collections.</ref> In December of the same year, Beaverbrook wrote, when responding to a researcher’s plea for a Provincial Archives, “I agree with everything Mrs. Adams writes and deeply regret the dissipation with regard to the records of the Province. But I think Mrs. Adams has a much deeper interest in the records of the Province than those who are responsible for their custody.”<ref> Letter, 18 December 1958, Lord Beaverbrook to R.A. Tweedie, Beaverbrook Canadian Correspondence, MG H 156, Case 44(b), File 10b, #27777, UNB Archives & Special Collections.</ref> (It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that New Brunswick began to recognize, rather shamefacedly, that it was the only province in Canada without a Provincial Archives.<ref> Marion Beyea. “Records management: The New Brunswick case,” //Archivaria// 8 (Summer 1979) 61.</ref> The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick was finally established in 1967.)
Beyea, Marion.“Records management: The New Brunswick case.” Archivaria 8 (Summer 1979): 61-77. [abstract]
Boone, Jean. “Canadiana in the Harriet Irving Library, University of New Brunswick.” APLA Bulletin 35.3 (September 1971): 64-65. [issue]
Guidelines for Archives in New Brunswick. Fredericton: Council of Archives New Brunswick, 1976.
Gunn, Gertrude E. “Jean M. Boone 1911-1976.” Archivaria 4 (Summer 1977): 195. [abstract/article]
Holland, Harold. “Global preservation assessment. University Archives. University of New Brunswick.” 31 March 2005. (unpublished)
Jarvis, Hope. “The treasure room. VI. University of New Brunswick Library.” Canadian Bookman 20.6 (February-March 1939): 10-13.
University of New Brunswick Archives & Special Collections. MG H 1, Bailey Family Papers.
University of New Brunswick Archives & Special Collections. MG H 156, Beaverbrook Canadian Correspondence.
University of New Brunswick Archives & Special Collections. UA RG 100, University Scrapbooks, 1945.
NB: This entry originates wholly from a paper written by Patti Auld Johnson in 2008 as her "Term Project for Archives (LIBR RM103)." Some material has been omitted, some has been updated.