It’s taken a few decades, but Nancy Maitland is doing the job she always wanted to do. Maitland is the new part-time archivist at the Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society room. She studied archaeology at Wilfrid Laurier University before completing a master’s degree in museology and a certificate course at the National Archives. Maitland’s aim was to work in local history, but she wound up working at the University of Waterloo archives for a short time before taking a job as a corporate archivist at Mutual Life Insurance, which later became Clarica and then Sun Life.
Maitland retired from Sun Life at the end of 2008, and a few months ago she came across the Wellesley posting.
“It was just the right job at the right time,” she said.
Her work in corporate archives has proven excellent training for her current post, as the responsibilities are largely the same: acquiring and preserving materials, arranging and displaying them, and making the material available to the public.
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A good deal of the legwork has been done already; in 2008, Derek Cooke and Lian Goodall catalogued the 1,200 items in the historical society’s collection, scanned about 400 photos and ensured all the materials were stored properly.
Maitland will pick up where their work left off, by continuing to catalogue items as they come in, rearranging the room, changing displays and helping anyone who wants to do research in the archives.
Despite being a native of Kitchener-Waterloo, Maitland didn’t know a lot about the history of Wellesley Township before she started the job, but she’s intrigued. There are several things in the collection that have piqued her interest, including materials on Dr. Deborah Glaister Hannay. A relative donated a number of items relating to the township’s first female doctor, who also served in the Second World War.
The other thing that has caught Maitland’s eye is school attendance records from SS#16 in Wellesley. The school kept daily attendance records for almost every year from 1890 to 1970, including reasons for absences. The records are a valuable resource for anyone doing genealogical research, as well as offering insights into the rural school – Maitland noted that it appears students did go to school in the summer at one time.
That, however, is for someone else to investigate; Maitland explains that she can’t be an archivist and a historian at the same time. Her job is to make the materials available to other researchers.
Maitland’s other goal, in conjunction with the historical society, is to generate interest in the collection. Maitland will be making herself available to speak to interested groups and offer tours of the archives, and the historical society is discussing using the room for meetings and perhaps bringing in people to speak on topics of local interest. Another goal is to build a website to showcase the society’s collection.
Maitland noted with some amusement that she is probably better qualified to do the job now, after years of experience in corporate archives, than she was when she first graduated and dreamed of working in local history.
“It’s very exciting for me, and I have many ideas. With my experience in the corporate world, I’m able to put them into practice.”