By Jennifer Anderson
In December, many of our clients, donors and readers are preparing for Christmas. So many Christmas traditions are linked to anticipation—preparing surprises for loved ones, dreaming up projects for the New Year, offering comfort and warmth to family, friends and strangers.
That feeling of anticipation is not unlike what it is to work as an archivist. In some ways, it feels like Christmas all year round in the archives: opening boxes, making discoveries, and anticipating the interest that the public will find in our collections. The work of a reference archivist is like customer service: it gives us great satisfaction to be able to assist researchers. Archival work also inspires a sense of gratitude to colleagues who work together to make good things happen.
A case in point: working with the Sears Canada fonds has been the source of much enjoyment for me, and for my colleagues. The collection includes material relating to Sears stores across the country, as well as Sears Canada’s parent companies, all of which are household names in Canada: Simpson’s, Simpsons-Sears and Sears-Roebuck. The fonds consists of textual documents, photographs, scrapbooks, audiovisuals, drawings and architectural blueprints. Included in the acquisition were 200 boxes of published catalogues, which will supplement the already substantial and frequently consulted catalogue collection in Library and Archives Canada’s holdings.
One very pleasant surprise in the fonds: thousands upon thousands of archival photographs, which are of exceptional quality and interest. Documenting the leisure pursuit of shopping, but also the practical elements of the retail economy and the working lives of store personnel, the photographs are sure to interest the public. And they are fun! These photos also include glimpses of company-sponsored social and cultural extracurricular events like curling, bowling, dance parties and concerts.
Thanks to colleagues across Library and Archives Canada, as well as outside this institution, who were involved in the acquisition, organization, description and digitization work, all geared toward making the Sears Canada fonds discoverable.
Over the coming years, we look forward to seeing this material being used to generate new research findings. Please reach out to us if we can assist you in getting started on your own research.
Jennifer Anderson was an archivist in the Public Services Branch, and she previously worked in the Science, Environment and Economy section of the Archives Branch, at Library and Archives Canada.
I’m very interested in accessing the thousands of Sears photos! How do I do that? Thanks for any information.
Thanks for your question. The Sears fonds has a fantastic collection of photographs.
The best way to look for the photographs is to use the Collection Search (https://recherche-collection-search.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Home/Search). After your enter your search terms, you can click on the links below and then click on the box called “view lower level descriptions” for details. The titles of different files will show on your screen. Many of the photographs have been digitised.
Photographs of clothes and other merchandise, store layouts and displays, different departments (store displays, switchboard, car repair, etc.), in-store promotions, exterior shots of buildings, etc. can be found in the series “Photographs and related material.” Most of the Sears photographs can be found here.
Photographs in the “Charitable initiatives” includes images of the Sears drama festival, Easter Seals and other charitable activities sponsored by Sears.
There are also photographs of business activities and portraits of executives. These can be found in the Administrative records series.
For more information, please use the Ask Us A Question form (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/assistance-request-form/Pages/assistance-request-form.aspx?requesttype=3).