Rebecca Watson, the AVRC's 2020-2021 Young Canada Works collections assistant. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­I have been lucky enough to have worked with the AVRC team as the Collections Assistant throughout the 2020/21 school year. Due to COVID-19, the position had been moved from a summer position to a remote part-time position throughout the year. This meant that, like students had in the past, I would not be working with any physical material. That presented a unique and extremely valuable challenge, and I was able to witness the ways in which the AVRC had to pivot to remote work in these unprecedented times. Despite and from that, I have gained so much experience — especially the knowledge that even without physically touching the archive, there is no shortage of work to be done!

I am in my final semester of my MA in Art History, and completing a diploma in Curatorial Studies so I was very eager to work with the AVRC. To this point, I had primarily worked with artist-run centers focusing on emerging artists, so it was incredibly valuable for me to gain experience in an archival setting before leaving Carleton. I feel it really helped to fill in the gaps of my knowledge in the keeping of visual history!

I was able to evaluate and edit old slides which had been scanned and digitized, so I had the chance to use my previous experience with Photoshop in the context of restoring visual resources. It was really interesting finding the balance of editing out flaws such as dust or scratches while still preserving the integrity of the image — trying not to adjust the truth of the colours or the photos’ distinctively analog aesthetic quality too much.

In addition to this, for much of the year, I had the pleasure of testing and providing instructional material on Scalar software, which was being used by architectural history students with the support of the AVRC. Being given the opportunity to fully explore this software was an extremely worthwhile experience. Scalar is a tool for online publishing and can be used for projects such as visual essays, online books, and even to present exhibition material. I will now be able to take that experience to my future positions within curating!

Being new to Ottawa, I think one of my favourite parts of this experience was learning about the rich architectural history of Ottawa being kept by and with the AVRC. I’m especially thankful for Nancy Duff taking the time to give me mini-lessons on the subject before each project!

The AVRC team has been such a delight to work with. Even with Zoom fatigue at full force, every week I still looked forward to our Wednesday morning staff meetings that never failed to put a smile on my face! Thank you so much to Nancy, Diane, Adam, Miduran, and Ahmed for such an excellent year full of learning, growth, and many laughs.