By Kit Andres
How many tiny museums exist in boxes, tucked away in basements, hidden amongst file folders of old report cards and high school doodles? Personally curated collections of show flyers, setlists, and SCENE compilation CDs; physical remnants of local music history that we can’t bear to part with, but don’t know what to do with. These memories need a better home than the dusty shoeboxes under our beds.
We’re all archivists, keepers of the past in a way that’s personally meaningful. Every time we put a ticket stub in a drawer instead of the garbage or post a concert picture on Instagram, it’s an act of preservation. Local libraries and museums in Niagara have collections of artifacts and ephemera related to the area, but there is not yet a collective place focusing on the music scene. With my experience in library work and love for my hometown and its music, I’ve started digging through St. Catharines’ musical past with the goal of creating a local music archive in cooperation with the Niagara Artists Centre (NAC).
There are three main reasons why building this type of database is important: to preserve, be inspired by, and learn from the musical past. It’s a place for us to show and tell the stories that helped shape who we are today. In Covering Niagara, a book about local popular culture in the Niagara region, Nick Baxter-Moore talks about local music stores as community resources. He explains that “the development of local sounds, scenes, and musical communities depends on the support of local infrastructure, institutions, and community resources.” In order to ensure a vibrant and thriving cultural present and future, it’s important to keep building on pre-existing community resources as well as thinking up ways to create new ones.
One thing I’ve learned from growing up in St. Catharines is the importance of starting small and building from there. The archive’s initial focus will be on the years from 2000 to 2010, with the intentions of eventually including items from before and after this decade. These years are personally significant to me, when I started playing in a band, going to shows, and meeting more people.
One of the wonderful people I met during this time is Sarah Yurkiw of Morrissey Music. I recently asked her to share a bit about what was so special about the music scene in St. Catharines during those years. “We had this close knit hometown advantage,” she said. “You could go to a show alone and have an amazing time, meet new people, or run into friends. There was a real sense of community and a whole lot of love.”
It’s this sense of community and love for the city that I want the database to embody. The collection will be available to access online and include audio and visual components – photographs, posters, flyers, stickers, band merchandise, and, of course, the music itself.
Do you have anything that should be included in the archive? This project will be a true community initiative that needs everyone’s help to create.
If you’d like to contribute in any way, please contact Stephen Remus at NAC or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s combine our miniature museums and build something great together.