United Farmers Historical Society (UFHS) - In Good Hands

If there was a perfect job description written for Erin Hoar, the UFHS Archivist role could not have been a better fit. Passionate about all things historical and agricultural, with an impressive education and love for UFA, the UFHS is in good hands with Erin!

Farming is definitely close to Erin’s heart having grown up just outside of Ponoka where her family had a mixed farm. They had various crops and raised pigs and elk. And as a typical high school student hanging out at lunch, Erin and her friends didn’t go to the local 7-Eleven as their urban counterparts, rather they checked out the Ponoka UFA which was located across the street from the school, up until its relocation last year.

Family connection

UFA is also in her blood. Donald Hoar, Erin’s grandfather, worked with UFA and Co-op Oils, a long-standing partnership. And it also has been passed down that her great-grandpa was instrumental in getting the Ponoka UFA up and running. Of course, Erin Is keen on finding some archival evidence of this as she never had the chance to meet her great-grandfather.

“The family connection and just the reputation of what UFA is and what it stands for, from its history as a political movement to the cooperative it is today was attractive to me,” says Erin. “UFA has a recognizable reputation with all of the history, social campaigns and community involvement that’s been done over the years. What the Historical Society represents, bringing these elements together, partnered with my interests, was super exciting for me, topped off by a move to Calgary!”

Erin’s education and experience are impressive. She initially made the move to Edmonton where she obtained a History degree at MacEwan University and a Business Management diploma at NAIT. She is also close to completing an online Cultural Resource Management program with the University of Victoria. This was put on hold while she did her Masters at University of Alberta (U of A) in Library and  Information Studies. In between all of these studies, she also gained some very valuable and rewarding experience working at the U of A Archives as well as the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton.

Add in there a five-year stint with the provincial government, including time within the cultural ministry, giving her great insight into heritage as a whole, but also collection management, archives and research, and you quickly discover why Erin is also a wonderfully, mutual fit for the UFHS!

“I was taken to a lot of museums from a really young age and that’s helped with knowledge of museums from all over the world. Old libraries and archives have always been fascinating,” says Erin. “My parents are also avid antique collectors, so I grew up in a house surrounded by older items, motorcycles, farm equipment. I like the aesthetic of it.”

Historical doesn’t mean old

Erin explains her role as an archivist and the make-up of UFA’s collection, “As an archivist, I look after the historical background of UFA. But historical doesn’t always mean old. We have records from 1909 when UFA started, up until the present. There are text documents and photos, items typically found in archives. There is also a lot of audio and visual content, so beta tape, VHS, cassettes, CDs of neat things. The UFA archives also contain maps and books, so there is a wide range of material that all have different ways of handling them. You need a wide-angle approach on how to take care of a very diverse collection. There are also things like trophies and building supplies. We have textiles as well – lots of uniforms.

“And with these records, they give us such an insight into the past that comes direct from the source that is so fascinating to me and how it can really be interpreted in different ways.”

Stand-out items

When asked what one of the more interesting items was that she has come across in her career so far, Erin talked about the air mail sent by Wop May that they had at the Alberta Aviation Museum. “In Edmonton he was quite a prolific pilot who did bush flying and delivered the mail up north. We had some of that airmail from the early, early 1900s.

“At UFA I really like the photos as it is one of the mediums I am most drawn to. For example, the group photo of the first UFA Board, the fashion, how people looked, the colours and we have that back to 1909.”

How does one donate artifacts?

Of course, during the pandemic, the process is a bit different, but it always starts with a conversation. Ideally Erin will talk to the donor and hopefully see the items in person to discover what they have, the condition it is in and why they’re donating, if they’re okay to give up that information. The next step is usually filling out a form detailing the provenance, the history or custodial history. A decision is then made as to whether the UFHS acquires it or not.

“I have found that people just really want to see historical items go to a good home. They want to know their items will be kept safe and secure and an archive is usually what they think of,” says Erin. “We definitely have the capacity here which is wonderful and helps with the donation process. We can make things accessible to people in the future and to researchers.”

Rest assured, with Erin directing the management of the precious UFHS items, they will be well looked after in her very capable hands!

Erin shows off a few of her notable items from the archives in this short video. Have a look!  View the UFHS highlight video

To reach Erin, email Archives@UFA.com.

View the full archives that are online at here at UFA.com.

United Farmers Historical Society (UFHS) - In Good Hands

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