The Ottawa Jewish Archives has a new professional archivist in Zoe Thrumston, who assumed the position last month.
Thrumston brings a strong academic background in the areas of library science and information and archives management to the position, and says her goal is to “get more people to engage with the Archives and experience the history of their community.”
Thrumston grew up in South Bend, Indiana, and attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where she majored in Middle Eastern and Jewish studies. She was planning to become a diplomat, but says she changed her career path after spending a year in Israel volunteering with Yahel helping the Ethiopian Jewish community.
“It was the best year of my life for so many reasons, and it changed the way I wanted to see myself participating in the world,” she said.
Thrumston came to Canada and earned a master’s degree in Middle Eastern and Jewish studies at the University of Toronto, and a second master’s in library science at the University of Ottawa.
“Before [uOttawa], I wanted to do an academic side of library work, but then I changed my mind and wanted to do something more community based. I wanted to be hands-on with actual people, instead of being up in an ivory tower,” she said.
Thrumston’s most recent job was at the University of Ottawa Archives and Special Collections. There, she said, she learned about the science and principles behind working in archives.
“There are set rules to archival work, no matter where you go. An archivist should be able to practice archival anywhere, so that’s what I’ve taken from that job to apply here,” she said.
While working at uOttawa, Thrumston also volunteered at the Ottawa Jewish Archives – so she was already familiar with the Archives’ mission to “acquire, preserve and make known” the documentary heritage of Ottawa’s Jewish community.
“People give us their memorabilia, their family photographs and their manuscripts, and my job is to make sure they don’t get lost,” she explained. “Then, when researchers want to access these documents, they come to me and I make them accessible.”
Thrumston says she is enjoying her new job and finds the historical documents interesting.
“It’s a smaller archive, which means there’s less material to go through, but it’s more familiar because it’s also now my own community and it has a really rich history,” she said.
Thrumston also enjoys her job because while some archives can be difficult to access, the Ottawa Jewish Archives are located in the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC), making them accessible.
The Archives are there to help anyone researching the history of Ottawa’s Jewish community, “from kids doing research for their middle school poster boards, to seniors doing their family trees,” she said.
Thrumston says she wants members of the community to know that the archives are meant to be easily accessible, so people should “come to us and not be intimidated, and know that we are here for them.”
The Ottawa Jewish Archives are located within the Greenberg Families Library at the SJCC and are open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm. Thrumston can also be reached at email@example.com or 613-798-4696, ext. 260.