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Vancouver Women in Focus Society fonds
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- Multiple media
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- Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the fonds.
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- Vancouver Women in Focus Society
Physical description area
9.69 m of textual records and other materials
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The Vancouver Women in Focus Society, commonly known as Women in Focus, was established as a non-profit society in 1974 and originally started as part of the Women's Office at the University of British Columbia. It began when two members of the Women's Office Collective, Jeanette A. Auger and Marion Barling, taught a workshop in video skills and produced a special series of half hour programmes entitled Women in Focus. The original function of the group was to “support the production of feminist video and film, and to encourage women artists in the making of images which reflected their lives and experiences.” The group then further expanded out into distribution and in 1975 became the first national feminist film and video distribution centre in Canada. Women in Focus continued to grow and develop as a society by conducting video production workshops, lectures, concerts, film screenings, poetry readings, dances, and presentations on the theory and practice of feminist art. As part of its public programming mandate, Women in Focus rented out videotape production equipment and published a quarterly member newsletter called “Focus.” In 1978, the group began their gallery program as an offshoot to the Vancouver Women’s Film and Video Festival. The group continued to host sporadic monthly exhibitions of local women artists until 1986, when they established the Floating Curatorial Gallery as a year-round schedule of exhibitions.
Women in Focus additionally had “a mandate to emphasize women’s and artists’ issues among public policy makers on regional, national, and international levels.” As such, Women in Focus participated in and/or was a member in organizations such as: The National Action Committee on the Status of Women, the Association of National Non-Profit Artist-Run Centres, the Independent Film and Video Alliance, the Canadian Museums Association, Amnesty International, the B.C. Museums Association, the British Columbia Federation of Women, Vancouver Artist’ League, Vancouver Cultural Alliance, the Canadian Conference of the Arts, the B.C. Film Industry Association and the Coalition for the Right to View. The society also organized several film festivals in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, and attended festivals elsewhere, becoming part of an international network of feminist groups. Women in Focus was further involved in multiple projects and groups dealing with violence against women, pornography, child abuse, women’s labour laws, lesbian rights, racism, education, women in politics, and women in prison. They distributed a variety of educational materials on these subjects and maintained a significant print library of books, newsletters, pamphlets, magazines and newspapers.
During the period covered by these records the society moved from the Women’s Office to #6-45 Kingsway, Vancouver, then to #204-456 West Broadway, Vancouver, and then to their final location at 849 Beatty Street, Vancouver. The office on Kingsway was next door to the office of Vancouver Rape Relief, and there was close community between the two groups, as well as with other local women’s groups. By 1990, Women in Focus’ film library had almost 200 titles and they were distributing tapes all over the world. However, the group was experiencing financial difficulty by the spring of 1991. The Women in Focus Board of Directors decided to close the society and seized a sizable amount of money from a bank account shared with In Visible Colours, a women of colour film and video group, in order to pay the society’s creditors. The ensuing legal battles caused large financial and organizational strain, as all members of the board resigned and were replaced multiple times. After a year of inactivity, the Society attempted to return to its normal operations. However, in March of 1992, Women in Focus received notice from Canada Council informing them that their Distribution operating grant had been terminated. Women in Focus ceased its distribution operations, left the Beatty Street location, and placed the society’s assets into storage. The Society stayed in operation for another year, organizing gallery shows in other organizations until March 1993 when Women in Focus ceased operations entirely. In April of that year, the group official disbanded.
Because of the collective nature of the group, it was not run on a hierarchical basis. The group was run by a volunteer Board of Directors and one or two permanent staff. Smaller standing committees were also established to handle the various functions of the society, such as the Gallery Committee and the Finance Committee. Funding was generated through a distribution, a wide variety of grants, events, and fundraising ventures. Because the group was predominantly run by volunteers, the membership frequently changed. However, there are some names which recur frequently, both as representatives of Women in Focus and in relation to independent projects mentioned in the Women in Focus records. These include Marion Barling, founder of the group; Lyn MacDonald, Susan Moore, Michelle Nickel, Jill Pollack, Nicola Sumner, Colleen Tillman, Kern Windwraith, Sue Jenkins, Sara Diamond, Jill Baird, Jackie Levitin, Robin Lawrence and Zainub Verjee.
Scope and content
The Vancouver Women in Focus Society fonds reflect their activities in video production and distribution, gallery exhibitions, activism and lobbying, community engagement, and research. Materials include correspondence, office files, newsletters, grant applications, sales and rental records, legal documents, catalogues and bibliographies, clippings, posters and flyers, meeting minutes, books, newspaper clippings, and financial records. The fonds also contains several non-WIF records relating to feminist and women’s issues, general art and film, as well as local and federal politics that reflects the context of the time and place in which Women in Focus were operating.
Records relating to the first series, the Administrative series, includes files dealing with the maintenance and upkeep of the society such as: meeting minutes, sales and rental agreements, artist contracts, artist resumes, notes, lease information, WIF newsletters, and legal and court documents. The series also consists of two subseries: Financial and Correspondence.
Records relating to the second series, the Production and Distribution series, include files dealing the Women in Focus Society’s production and distribution of feminist video and film. Production records include: meetings and records from the production committee; files relating to various individual productions; and publicity for WIF productions. Distribution records include: distribution statistics; catalogues; distribution information and research; and distribution correspondences.
Records relating to the third series, the Gallery series, include files dealing with the Women in Focus Society’s art gallery events. Gallery records include: records relating to the gallery committee; artist submissions; publicity for gallery shows; research into potential gallery shows; gallery guides; information relating to specific shows; and gallery sign in books.
Records relating to the fourth series, the Events series, include files dealing with the Women in Focus Society’s various events that they hosted or participated in. Event records include: publicity for events; project budgets and logistics research; correspondences and press releases about events; documents relating to workshops; research relating to participating in other events. Many records in the Events series relate to project-specific grant applications in the Administrative series.
Records relating to the fifth series, the Resources and Reference series, include files dealing with the Women in Focus Society’s research into related organizations and various of topics of interest. Records related to other organizations include: publicity for non-WIF productions; newsletters from other organizations; and artist profiles. Records relating to topics of interest cover political and social issues as they relate to women and/or art. These records range from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. These files include: government publications; magazines; newsletters; newspapers; zines; pamphlets; and photocopies of books.
Immediate source of acquisition
The Vancouver Women in Focus society maintained their own records and print library. On January 19 1988, Women in Focus donated some of their materials to University of British Columbia for preservation. This accession was processed in 1989. The accession included office files, financial records, receipts, and related research materials pertaining to the activities and interests of the society. Women in Focus had custody of all of their remaining records until their disbanding in 1993. A portion of the materials were given to the Satellite Video Exchange Society (now VIVO Media Arts Centre Christa Dahl Library and Archive) on 21 March 1993. This included distribution files, a portion of the print library, slides, and photographs. This is also where Women and Focus’ video and film productions now reside. The remainder of the materials was kept in a storage facility for an undetermined amount of time until they were donated to the University of British Columbia in about 2008. These materials were processed in 2016.
The records in this fonds were originally arranged and described by Danielle Baxter in 1989 and consisted of 18 boxes and 1 oversize folder. Baxter organized the fonds into six categories: Correspondence, Financial, General Business, Other Productions, Resources,Reference, and Women in Focus Productions. Within these sub-groups, files were arranged alphabetically, with further alphabetical or chronological organization where necessary. Correspondence relating to special projects of Women in Focus and its members were interspersed with general Women in Focus correspondence, or filed under separate headings, as determined by considerations of bulk and continuity. Printed material from the Women in Focus resource library was in separate boxes, files by subject or source, and groups for space efficiency rather than in any particular order.
This original accession was appraised again and re-arranged and described in 2016 to integrate the first accrual. Intellectually, records were re-arranged into five series and two subseries. The General Business series became the Administrative series, with the Correspondence and Financial series becoming subseries. Other productions and the Print Library became part of the Resources, References series. The Production and Distribution, Gallery, and Events series were created to emphasize the Women in Focus Society's primary functions, many of which were expanded after the original accession.
Some records were removed from the collection including duplicate material, non-WIF publications that had deteriorated and may be found in other archives, and confidential information such as resumes, cheque stubs, payroll, and personal financial records.
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Some files are temporarily restricted - see archivist for details.
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Further accruals are not expected.
Photograph number PH-249 was skipped during processing as a result it does not exist.
1167 photographs : b&w and col.
ca. 100 posters
8 audio cassettes
2 vinyl records
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The fonds was arranged, processed, and described by Eirian Vining, December 2016.