2012 SLAIS Student of the Year (Master of Archival Studies)


Each year, the Arts Co-op Program recognizes a graduate SLAIS MAS co-op student for outstanding achievement in all aspects of student performance, including academic achievement, workplace achievement, and contribution to co-operative education and extra-curricular activities.

This year’s winner, Helen Brown, excels in all these areas.

In particular, Helen’s supervisor Heidi Taylor at Playwrights Theatre Centre notes that Helen “far exceeded expectations for what was achievable within limited resources, budget and timeline.”  Outside of the workplace, Helen is also very active in the library and archives community and serves as the Student Representative on the BC Libraries Association (BCLA) Board and the Alcuin Society Representative on the BCLA’s student chapter at SLAIS.

Excellence in the Workplace

Helen worked as an Archival Project Coordinator for the Playwrights Theatre Centre, where her supervisor described her as a “perfect match” for the organization’s “long-term policy development and short-term community engagement goals.” PTC had a wealth of information that needed to be organized, including thousands of photos taken at the theatre company within the past 40 years.  Helen’s job included researching, developing and recommending a records management policy, digitizing and organizing the photograph archives, as well as planning events to help identify subjects in the photographs.

Her ability to research the organization as well as her ability to sort and scan over 300 photographs amongst thousands of pictures of past playwrights and featured productions or events at PTC eventually led to the success of the 40 Years at Play event; according to her employer, this event created a “dynamic range of interactive opportunities for the attendees” and helped “solve many mysteries as to who was in the photos.”  Helen’s work uncovered pieces of the history at PTC, which supervisor Heidi Taylor described as helping to tell a “story to the world” through her “thoughtful, well-executed curation of images.”  Heidi further noted that these activities helped “animate the evening” and “stimulate new relationships between PTC alumni and the current staff.”

Before beginning her SLAIS degree, Helen was fascinated with the library collections and archives of arts organizations in Vancouver and this passion paved the path towards attaining her SLAIS degree as well as joining the co-op program; through her co-op term she was able to merge her interests with her work and education.  Working with the PTC, Helen learned more about contemporary theatre, Vancouver arts and working for a non-profit society.  Helen remarks: “The best part of this experience was how I was able to take all of this information and use it to create programs for PTC which will help them to preserve their own history and the memories of the Vancouver theatre community.”

2011 SLAIS Honourable Mention (Master of Archival Studies)

Each year, the Arts Co-op Program recognizes two SLAIS co-op students for outstanding achievement in all aspects of student performance, including academics, the workplace, and professional and/or community involvement.

This year, Helen Brown was awarded an Honourable Mention in the Master of Archival Studies program.

As a Student Archivist with Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Helen was responsible for several projects, including a detailed disposition analysis that would allow archivists to consolidate archival Department of National Defence files stored at the Winnipeg Regional Service Centre. Her supervisor, David Horky, praised Helen for her “exemplary” performance in the workplace.

Helen is also active in student professional development as the 2011/12 Co-President of SLA@SLAIS and the 2012 SLAIS student representative on the SLA Western Canada Chapter Board.

Excellence in the Workplace

In her role as Student Archivist in the Library and Archives Canada’s Winnipeg office, Helen discovered how to apply the theories learned in SLAIS classes to actual work projects.

A key project that Helen worked on was the creation of a multi-purpose database for classifying records from the Department of National Defence. David commends her for her “outstanding ability to integrate several tasks” in this database, including disposition analysis, intellectual control, and preliminary arrangement – all of which will be a “powerful” reference point for current and future DND records.

She also completed a project involving the identification and secure storage of highly sensitive files from the National Parole Board. Following this, she wrote a report on the methodology adopted and steps taken that her supervisor says will be “a useful tool for [other offices in] the entire regional archival program.”

This work term with LAC increased Helen’s awareness of the archival profession and archival work. Through weekly meetings with archivists and institutions across Canada, she was able to speak with several professionals in the field and gain a better understanding of where she might enter the profession.

Equipped with this new knowledge, Helen says she is now able to draw on both her professional experience to supplement her studies, and to focus her academic projects to fit her career goals. After her term with LAC, Helen decided to take classes in access to information legislation, advanced records management, and French to supplement her professional development. The co-op work experience she gained has opened Helen to further job opportunities in the LAC Federal Records Centre in Burnaby and the Playwrights Theatre Centre in Vancouver.