Who is Our New Archivist? An Interview with Krystal Payne

By on September 24, 2021

The Diocese of Rupert’s Land hired Krystal Payne as the new Archivist back in Spring 2021. I was delighted to be able to get to know her a little bit over a Zoom chat we had back in May. – SK
 
Hello Krystal! Thank you so much for meeting with me. I’d like to start by asking you about your background prior to becoming the Archivist of Rupert’s Land.
First off, thank you for reaching out for this interview! So, I spent about ten years

Krystal Payne is the new Diocesan Archivist. She’s our go-to person for questions about parish records, deceased ancestors, or anything archival-related.

working as a community health educator. I worked in sexual and mental health education and substance abuse education. I went into archives after about ten years because I was really tired of working in a system where I was limited in the help I could offer—I felt like I was constantly putting bandages on big gaping wounds. I had a friend who worked in archives, and they suggested I might like it, as it involves tangible work. And here I am!

Do you have a love of history? Why would the jump from community health to archives seem like the right path for you?
My undergraduate is an interdisciplinary degree in History, Religious studies, and Political Science. I mainly studied human rights and law frameworks. So, I did have a background in history going into this field. Also, when I was working in community health, I had a job working with youth at Klinic Community Health in their Teen Talk programs. I traveled around the province doing health education with these programs and whenever we were in small communities outside of the city (mainly Indigenous communities), youth would continually say that knowing their history and culture was extremely important for their mental health. This wasn’t something we typically heard from kids in the city. Those connections to culture and history were not something that city kids seemed to connect with mental health. So, going into Indigenous communities and hearing it come up a lot, archives seemed like a natural place to move to connect with communities, history, and culture. At the time, I was burnt out of community health, but I still wanted to work with communities and connect with community wellness.

So, tell me about the work of an archivist? What would distinguish an archivist from, say, a librarian?
Archivists work with unpublished materials and primary sources. This is a significant distinction between an archivist and a librarian. Some people call it the “day-to-day” records of a government, organization, or people. There are government archives, institutional archives, and personal archives. Really, it’s preserving those records that showcase the day-to-day functions of people and organizations. A lot of it is not always riveting stuff.

But you do enjoy it, no? What do you find enjoyable about archival work?
I do enjoy it! But I enjoy it more for the idea of what people can do with the data afterward. It’s amazing what can be done with some of those primary sources. Often, archivists are charged with keeping the records for legal reasons, or institutional reasons. I’m more interested in working with organizations and helping them keep the things they need to keep. For legal reasons, often, but also so that they’re able to look back on what they’ve accomplished and retain all the records they need for functioning. I’m very interested in what communities can find from those records. I like working with community historians and genealogists as well.

What interests you about doing archival work for the Diocese of Rupert’s Land?

The Anglican Church in general has an interesting history with archives—a long history of keeping and respecting history. You’ll often find that Anglican churches are very good with record keeping and have been for a long time. The Diocese of Rupert’s Land has a very long history itself, predating even the province of Manitoba. Being able to work with some of those back-reaching records is really interesting.

During one of my first days as editor last summer, I toured the archives room at the Diocesan office, and I remember being stunned by the collection of old church records—I felt like I was in a gold mine of history!
Yea, it’s pretty cool. Even just being able to answer peoples’ questions when they call about a great grandparent wondering if we have records about that person. It’s amazing to be able to do that work with people. This is also where it’s important to have excellent knowledge of the administrative system.
This is another similarity that archivists have with librarians. If you’re in a library and you don’t understand the administrative system, it’s going to be difficult to find the book you’re looking for. You’ll need to know how to filter your search through the library’s system. Archivists work to answer those “filtering” questions—refining the search to locate exactly what somebody is looking for.

I can’t imagine you rely purely on the “software of your mind” and the organization of your own brain! What kind of software do you work with to help with record-keeping?
At the Diocese, we work with something called MAIN, which stands for Manitoba Archival Information Network. It’s an online database where you can search several different repositories at the same time. One of these repositories is the Diocese of Rupert’s Land. If you wanted to, say, search through your parish records, this is where you would look.

What role does the Archives Committee play in your work? Do they offer hands-on support or strategic guidance?
They do both! I’m still navigating my relationship with the Committee, but they’ve been invaluable so far in answering my questions and helping me settle into my new role. Canon 28 specifically lays out that the Committee assists in the policy operations of the archives. Although I do have Committee members helping with record-keeping as well.

What kind of work are you most excited about in the upcoming year? Where do you “want to get your hands dirty” in the Diocesan archives?
Most archives have a backlog, which is basically just the term we use to describe those records that have not been cataloged yet. Currently, they’re sitting on a shelf, waiting for us to describe them and make them available for people to see. I’m interested in digging into this backlog and learning more about what’s in those records!
Following our interview, I asked Krystal to send me some “summer facts” about herself. Below are her responses!

 What was your favourite activity or adventure embarked on over the summer?
My family bought a small, treed cabin lot on Treaty 5 territory (near Manigotagan) and it has been lovely learning about the history of the place. Being close to such a rich diversity of wildlife is also such a beautiful privilege.

The best book you read or show you watched in the last two months?
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice. It’s a post-apocalyptic novel set in a northern Indigenous community where power has recently gone out.  It is beautifully written, and more hopeful than not. One of the few books my pandemic ravaged brain could focus on!

Your favourite summer meal?
Maybe a bit cliché, but slices of fresh garden tomato on toast.

If you have a question about parish records, a deceased ancestor, or anything archival related, you can reach Krystal at the Archives Office: (204) 992-4203 / [email protected]

 

Author

  • Sara Krahn

    Sara Krahn is the editor of Rupert’s Land News.

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