Programs and Projects

The Canadian Archive of Women in STEM

The history of women scientists and engineers in Canada is still in its infancy. This can be largely attributed to their invisibility in traditional and established archives, which collected the records of men and tended to privilege their life and work.

Another major obstacle has been these professional women’s inclination to underestimate their own accomplishments, with the result that most did not seek to preserve their papers, and neither did their family, friends, or colleagues. There is a pressing need to provide current and future women scientists and engineers in Canada, and in other countries, with an accurate and inspiring understanding of their past, to learn about the lives and accomplishments of those “who came before them”.

Significant initiatives have recently taken place in Canada to recover and research the lives of women scientists and engineers. A key event was a twoday international and interdisciplinary workshop held in 2014 at the University of Ottawa, under the auspices of the INWES-ERI (Education and Research Institute) and of the NSERC Regional Chairs for Women and Engineering. INWES-ERI Board members Ruby Heap, Claire Deschênes and Monique Frize led the meeting which ended with the adoption of an action plan aimed at the creation of a National Archive of Women Scientists and Engineers.

The INWES Education and Research Institute is working to increase public access to records documenting the work and the history of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). One of the main locations for these archives is at the University of Ottawa. Entitled Creating the Canadian Archive of Women in STEM, this project aims at preserving and providing access to professional material of women involved in STEM activities, artefacts and other digital objects. This resource will complement the current archival material collected at the University of Ottawa’s Canadian Women’s Movement Archives, which also includes material from engineers and scientists. Recovering material that defines the work and stories of women in STEM and preserving them for use by future generations is a main goal of the project.

Priority Objectives

1. Build an inventory of existing archives of women in Canadian STEM;

2. Develop a guide on how to collect, preserve and donate archives;

3. Run an internet campaign of awareness on the importance of planning the donation of archives;

4. Develop a web site and show examples of archives collected;

5. Run a follow-up workshop in 2019 to assess progress on primary objectives and develop the next steps.