Renowned Regina artist, Joe Fafard passed away at his family home in Lumsden on March 16, 2019. The University of Regina holds archival materials donated by Mr. Fafard and has in recent years digitized a significant portion of them for free access on the internet. These materials can be found at: http://cdm16438.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15390coll1
When Archives and Special Collections began its visual arts collecting program in 1985 and 1986 the records of the Regina Five, a local group of internationally known artists, were among the first to be acquired. That collection grew and other artists of national and international renown based in Saskatchewan and in Manitoba were soon depositing their records with the University of Regina.
Joe Fafard was among them. He also became the first of our artists to make his archival records available to researchers over the internet. The original concept for this digitization project came to us from an art exhibition curator. Terrence Heath is a freelance writer, consultant and curator who, in his past life, was an associate professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan and later director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Completing work on a major retrospective show on Joe Fafard, Heath approached Archives and Special Collections in 2005 proposing that the archives digitize Joe Fafard’s extensive slide collection as a step toward creating an online “research center” on the work of Fafard. This online research center would allow for serious scholarship and was envisioned as aggregating the material of archives, galleries, and other institutions and individuals.
Internationally acclaimed artist and sculptor, Joe Fafard was one of Canada’s leading professional visual artists and had exhibitions of a wide variety of work in galleries and museums across the country and around the world. Much of his early sculpture used clay then in 1985 he shifted to bronze as his chief sculptural medium. Successfully establishing a foundry in Pense, a small Saskatchewan town, Fafard portrayed his neighbours, farm animals, and famous artists that he came to respect as he learned his craft.
Slides documenting almost his complete body of work from roughly the mid-1980s to 2002 were duly acquired by Archives and Special Collections in 2006 and 2007. Over 3,700 slides were received and organized chronologically by project. Fafard’s staff maintained a series of log books that documented project details such as medium of the work, size, number of castings, and purchase information. While these log books were not part of the archival donation the information in them was recorded by archives staff and formed the basis of the archival finding aids produced for the slides (See https://www.uregina.ca/library/assets/docs/pdf/finding_aids/2006_1.pdf
Archives and Special Collections is a component unit of the Library at the University of
Regina, and at roughly the same time that the slides were being described the Library’s Access and Systems department began the digitization of the slides.
High quality master images were created of each slide using a high-end slide scanner and scanning software capable of producing high resolution TIFF format files. Master TIFF files at 4000 dpi were created with smaller derivative JPEG files created for eventual display on the internet.
Numerous staffing and organizational changes at the Library resulted in the project being placed on the back burner in 2008. It would be almost three years before Archives and Special Collections was again in a position to devote time and attention to the Fafard slide project. But these weren’t three wasted years. The University Archivist undertook an educational leave that saw him in Australia learning about digital archives in that country, the Library hired a Digital Collections Administrator with significant technical knowledge appropriate for digitization, and Archives and Special Collections undertook two smaller digitization projects to develop and refine its work processes.
A significant aspect of that process was an understanding of the importance of the context of the original archival materials and conveying that contextual information as accurately and as completely as possible in the digital world. Archives have long been about “context” and their very methods of organization, description, and access reflect that.
In his original approach to Archives and Special Collections, Terrence Heath envisioned something significantly more than a web exhibition of Fafard slides. Luckily all the Fafard slides that had been scanned in 2006 and 2007 had their contextual information dutifully recorded by archives staff from the Fafard logbooks. Now the task was to devise a system to attach the contextual information to the digitized slides and to create a presentation that would provide further background and information on Fafard and his art.
To this end Archives and Special Collections attached to each slide a detailed set of information about the original art object (the sculpture) with descriptive elements for the archival object (the slide) and technical elements about the scanning process and resulting digital files. Specific elements are designed to record contextual information. In addition to obvious elements, such as artwork medium, edition, date and measurement, others provide a short biography of Fafard, a brief custodial history, and lists of further readings and related materials. All these elements are linked to the digitized image of the slide they describe in the CONTENTdm application utilized by the project fulfilling Heath’s original concept of a digital collection with sufficient information to serve as a tool for the serious researcher.
The text of this post is drawn from a more detailed paper on the Fafard Digitization Project presented by the University Archivist at the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, in October 2011. That full paper may be found at: