Meet Jill Shaw, Archivist and Records Analyst


Jill Shaw, City of Vaughan Archives

By Rebecka Sheffield

I was lucky enough to meet Gillian “Jill” Shaw in 2009, at the University of Toronto iSchool, where we were both students. We caught up again last week to talk about outreach and advocacy in the context of municipal archives. Since graduating with her MI degree in 2011, Jill has been working in the field of archives, museums and records management for both the public and private sector. She currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Municipal Archives Interest Group (MAIG) for the Archives Association of Ontario, a professional association that includes more than 300 members across the province.

Jill recently joined the City of Vaughan Archives as an Archivist and Records Analyst. Located in one of the fastest growing city in Canada, Vaughan Archives now serves more than 300,000 residents, city staff, and curious researchers. The archives houses all City records with long-term value, business, church and school records, directories, census records, and historic photographs, as well as maps, plan and land records dating back to the 1790s. In addition to municipal records, the archives collects personal papers and is the official records source for the Vaughan Township Historical Society, Woodbridge Agricultural Society, and the Burwick, Vellore and Maple Women’s Institutes. As you can imagine, Jill keeps busy! She is not only responsible for managing archival records, but also provides guidance to City staff on how to manage their current recordkeeping practices.

Over the past several years, the City of Vaughan Archives has actively sought to increase its community presence using  a variety of outreach strategies. The archives has, for example, invested in greater social media use, including its Facebook and Twitter pages, and the City of Vaughan’s blog, where visitors can learn about all of the programs and services that are available. The archives also uses social media to promote a number of physical exhibitions of materials from its collections that are on display at various locations throughout the City of Vaughan. A list of the archives’ social media addresses can be found at the bottom of this post.

Jill is particularly proud of the archives’ “mini-series” posts, which have been produced as part of the City’s community engagement program to connect citizens to municipal services. Over the past few years, this mini-series has introduced  visitors to new archival accessions, discussed preservation and conversation concerns, and provided information about outreach initiatives produced by the archives, including tours, exhibitions, and preservations to students. The mini-series posts also report on community events that have involved archival staff. Archival staff were available during Vaughan Culture Days and even offered samples of a cake baked with a 1875 recipe found in the historical collections;! They were also part of an event at a local public library that helped bring together children and experienced stitchers to in an old fashioned quilting bee.

In addition to “mini-series” posts, the archives also uses social media to showcase its collections to a broader and increasingly younger audience. Each month, Jill works with City staff to select an image, document or collection to feature in a series called “The Way We Were.” This series allows the archives to showcase both frequently used and lesser known collections held in the City repository, and to generate engagement with the collections in new an exciting ways. Jill has noticed that the use of social media has facilitated an increased interaction between the archives and the public it serves, as well as contributed to a greater awareness of the rich documentary heritage collected and preserved by the City.

Jill and her colleagues continue to develop new strategies for engaging the City’s older demographic. Over the past few years, staff have observed that seniors rarely contact the archives through email and are not as comfortable using the internet or web searching. As a result, the archives’ otherwise very successful social media outreach does not always reach the city’s senior population, which continues to grow. In response to this challenge, Jill has made sure that the archives takes part in events throughout the city and has even volunteered to be the Secretary of the Vaughan Township Historical Society, a local historical and charity group. This experience allows Jill to connect with folks who might not otherwise learn about the archives. As well, the archives has established a partnership with the Vaughan Citizen, a local newspaper. Each week the newspaper published an archival image of interest to the community a segment called “Vintage Vaughan.” Jill has found that this partnership has lead to a noticeable increase in the number of local seniors interested in donating their materials to the archives.

The great news is that reference and research requests have increased over time and donations continue to come into the archives. Jill has also noticed a steady rise in the number of people who access the archives’ blog or other social media. All of this demonstrates the importance of diversifying outreach strategies and meeting community where they are, whether that be at quilting bees, through social media, or in local newspapers.

You can find out more about the Vaughan Archives:

On the Web:

On Facebook:

On Twitter:

On the Vaughan City Blog:

Vintage Vaughan (through the York Region Media Group website):

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