Hamilton Artists Inc. was lucky enough to work with Julia Huynh, our Project Archivist over the last six months. Read on to learn more about Julia's experience and her amazing work in our archives!

Working with the Hamilton Artists Inc.’s archive was a great way to intimately learn about Hamilton’s unique local art history. I was genuinely surprised to learn about The Photo Union and the Native Inuit/Indian Photography Association (NIIPA) and how those groups were formed and supported by The Inc. during their years of operation.

I’ve had a lot of other “a-ha” moments in the archive as well, where I learned more about the organization’s history and their impact on the community in greater detail. The Inc.’s exhibitions and programmings have always been responsive and reflective of the issues that the community was or is currently facing. Some examples include film screenings to disrupt artist censorship, exhibitions during and following the AIDS epidemic, and group shows of women artists amplifying second wave feminism.

While cataloguing past exhibition materials, I also saw many familiar names including my studio professors who were exhibiting at the gallery at the beginning of their careers during the 80s! It’s truly wonderful how The Inc. continues to carry the spirit of supporting young emerging artists today. While I was here, I witnessed the early planning stages and the entire exhibition run of Ignition 8 - an exhibition that showcases the work of fourth year students from McMaster’s Studio Art Program. This provides them the opportunity to have a professional exhibition and artist talk with the community. 

I’ve also assisted local researchers like the folks at Building Cultural Legacies project by digitizing records related to the Cold White Peaks exhibition and records about LGBTQ+ artists in the region. I can’t wait to see how the archives will help other researchers and inspire artists in the future. 

But, there is still a lot more to be done in the archives. Afterall, the records span over 45 years! We have over 50 banker boxes and counting! There is a vast publication collection produced by The Inc., various audio and visual materials such as VHS tapes, beta cam tapes and audio cassettes documenting past exhibitions and symposiums and there is a collection of beautiful, large scale scrapbooks created by founders of The Inc..

If you have any questions about Hamilton Artists Inc. and our archives, please let us know, we’d be happy to hear from you. Before parting from The Inc. I will be creating an “ARTchives 101 Zine” responding to your questions about our archives as well as simple tips and tricks you can do at home for your own collections! Follow The Inc. on Instagram to learn more about this!

To-do-a-loo for now,

Julia Huynh is an artist, archivist and researcher based in Toronto. She holds an MA in Photography Preservation and Collections Management. Visit: JuliaHuynh.com 

If you are interested in supporting The Inc.’s archive and mission to preserve this unique local history, please consider donating at this link here. Your donation will go towards purchasing supplies that will help preserve these multimedia records related to the Inc.’s early history.