Write Us into the Story

Archives and Archivists in Narratives for Children

  • Shelley Sweeney
  • Cheryl Avery


Archivists need to increase public understanding, support, and engagement in archives to enable archives to fulfil their missions. As one way to increase support, archives have increasingly carved out time and resources for various types of outreach. One important audience that has long been acknowledged is children. In the past, archivists have visited classrooms, brought children to archives, and prepared kits of archival facsimiles or surrogates on websites for children to use with the guidance of teachers. But another way to reach children includes narratives in books, films, and television directed at children. This article explores a number of titles to see whether archives and archivists are accurately portrayed in the narratives. The numbers are few, and the portrayals are generally weak. Two exceptions were books created by an archivist and commissioned by an archives. These two approaches led to significant works that enhance children’s understanding of archives and archivists and lead the way as examples for future archival endeavours to emulate.


Les archivistes doivent faire croître la compréhension, le soutien et l’engagement du public à l’égard des archives pour permettre à celles-ci de remplir leur mission. Pour accroître ce soutien, les archives consacrent de plus en plus de temps et de ressources à divers types d’actions de sensibilisation. Un public important, reconnu depuis longtemps, est celui des enfants. Par le passé, les archivistes ont visité des classes, amené des enfants aux archives et préparé des trousses de reproductions d’archives ou de substituts sur des sites web pour que les enfants puissent les utiliser avec l’aide d’enseignants. Mais une autre façon d’atteindre les enfants est d’utiliser des récits dans des livres, des films et des émissions de télévision destinés aux enfants. Cet article explore un certain nombre de titres pour voir si les archives et les archivistes sont dépeints correctement dans ces récits. Les chiffres sont bas, et les représentations sont généralement faibles. Deux exceptions : des livres créés par un archiviste et commandés par un service d’archives. Ces deux approches ont donné lieu à des ouvrages importants qui permettent aux enfants de mieux comprendre les archives et les archivistes et qui constituent des exemples à suivre pour les futures initiatives en matière d’archives.

Author Biographies

Shelley Sweeney

Shelley Sweeney is Librarian Emerita and Retired Head, University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections, Winnipeg, where she started in 1998. She was the University Archivist at the University of Regina (1983–1998). She was in the first class of the Master of Archival Studies program at the University of British Columbia (1985) and received her PhD in archival enterprise from the University of Texas at Austin (2002). She has taught sessions in the University of Manitoba Archival Studies MA program and sat on a number of thesis defence committees. She was President of the Association of Canadian Archivists, Secretary of the Academy of Certified Archivists, and Secretary General of the Bureau of Canadian Archivists, and she helped found three archival associations and sections amid other professional work. Shelley has written journal articles about shortfalls in funding for archives and about academic archivists as agents for change, an encyclopedia article on provenance, and a textbook chapter on primary and archival sources, among others. She co-chaired the establishment of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba in 2013.

Cheryl Avery

Cheryl Avery works at the University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections. An archivist since 1983, Cheryl joined the University of Saskatchewan Archives in 1991, serving as University Archivist from 1994 to 2004. She has served on various archival associations, including the Canadian Council of Archives and the International Council on Archives Section on University and Research Institution Archives, and she was the National Archival Appraisal Board’s Regional Director for the Prairies (transitional). Among other publications, she was co-editor of The Power and Passion of Archives: A Festschrift in Honour of Kent Haworth (2005), ka-ki-pe-isi-nakatamakawiyahk (Our Legacy) (2009), and Better Off Forgetting?, a book of essays on archives and public policy (2010).

How to Cite
Sweeney, Shelley, and Cheryl Avery. 2021. “Write Us into the Story: Archives and Archivists in Narratives for Children”. Archivaria 92 (November), 140-59. https://www.archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/13823.
Review Article