The Comptroller's Office papers document the history of the University of New Brunswick from the 1930's to 1980. Under the successive titles of Registrar, Bursar, and Comptroller, the Comptroller's Office exercised an ongoing managerial function. Whatever concerned the university was the business of the Comptroller's office, from the creation of academic programs, the construction of new buildings, and the conduct of litigation to the purchase of paper towels. Documents originated or received by this office make up five sixths of the collection. The remaining documents came from the offices of the Assistant Comptroller and of the Business Manager, later Vice-President (Administration).
To understand the relationship between the offices which generated the collection, it is helpful to consider the officeholders. From 1930 to 1950 the collection consists of papers written or received and kept by Joseph W. Sears (1901-1988), who was appointed Registrar in 1930. Finding no regular accounting system, he set up bookkeeping procedures for the university1. Besides acting as the university administrator who reported directly to the President, Sears taught law courses,2 handled real estate transactions and insurance, signed cheques and receipts, collected tuition and rents (in person if necessary), placed orders, took minutes as Secretary to the Senate, and (until 1940) did all his own typing. In 1945 he was made Bursar; Edith McLeod, the President's secretary, was made Registrar. In 1950, under somewhat mysterious circumstances touched upon in the collection, Sears resigned as Bursar and was made a full-time law professor. Later he served as University Solicitor; the collection contains leases drafted by him in the 1960's and 1970's.
In 1950 the Bursar's responsibilities were divided between two positions: the Bursar and the new office of Business Manager. Chester L. Mahan (b. 1908), an employee of the Bank of Nova Scotia, succeeded Sears as Bursar; Beverley F. Macaulay (b. 1908) was hired from Bell Telephone to serve as Business Manager. After an interlude in 1958 when R.R. Henderson briefly occupied the post of Business Manager, the positions of Mahan and Macaulay were reclassified as Comptroller and Vice President (Administration).3 Both men left the UNB during the academic year 1974-75. The Assistant Comptroller, Donald G. Sedgewick, resigned during the same period.4 Macaulay generated one tenth of the collection; after his retirement, the papers of the administrative vice presidential office were no longer added to the collection. Mahan was succeeded by Samuel S. Mullin, who as Budget Officer wrote many of the memos in the collection and whose papers constitute the final part of the collection.
The papers were transferred to Archives and Special Collections at Harriet Irving Library in several installments from 1976 to 1983. The total size was originally 130 feet. The files were packed in one-foot document cases, two-foot steel and cardboard cases, two wooden cases, and one metal file drawer. The steel and cardboard cases had partly collapsed. The condition of the documents varies from pristine to poor. Originals on bond paper were filed with carbon copies on economy-grade yellow paper, some of which is wrinkled or crumbling at the edges. Pages were held together with staples (fairly well preserved), paper clips (often corroded), cellophane tape (usually deteriorated) and rubber bands, some of which had disintegrated.
A two-page inventory prepared at Archives and Special Collections list the contents of 38 boxes which arrived in 1981- 82. The files in that segment of the collection were arranged in reasonably consistent alphabetical order from A to Z within each academic year, except for two long periods (Business Manager, Miscellaneous correspondence, 1930-51--actually part of Sears's papers--and 1940's-1980, A-Z) and two gaps (1970-71 and part of 1971-72). Both gaps were filled in from boxes not listed in the short inventory. There was no inventory for the rest of the collection. The boxes not included in the inventory were in no discernible order and in many cases had no label at all. The order of the files within the boxes was also puzzling. Some boxes appeared to be in alphabetical order, some contained portions of an alphabet, and some appeared at first to have been arranged at random or dropped on the floor accidentally and then replaced. The file names were inconsistent, leading (on first pass through the voluminous material) to confusion about whether the files were in alphabetical order. For example, "Endowment fund" was filed sometimes under "e" and sometimes under "f" ("Fund, endowment") and "Graduate school" was also "Department-- Graduate School" and "Department--School of Graduate Studies."
With the assistance of an Arrangement and Description Backlog Reduction Cost-Shared Cooperative Program grant from the National Archives of Canada, the collection was examined, weeded, sorted, repacked, and inventoried from July 1990 through March 1991. The collection has been reduced to 48.5 feet. The numerous duplicate copies--often eight or nine per item, occasionally forty or more--have been moved to fill gaps in other holdings, recycled, or, in the case of confidential material, incinerated. Routine items, such as receipts, collection letter, purchases, and requests for tax information or transcripts, have been recycled or incinerated as appropriate. Samples were kept from large files with many routine items, for example sales tax, payroll, and residence food purchase records. Since there was not enough time to read through every item, items which were not obviously routine were kept. Planning and policy documents were of course preserved. It was also decided to minimize the weeding of files dealing with employee relations, the status of women, fund raising, and the construction of new buildings. All available material was kept concerning Alexander College, the UNB veterans' education project following World War II.
The documents have been safeguarded to such an extent as was practical given the time and resources available. Paperclips were removed, but staples were left in because there was not enough time to remove them and because many of the documents are too fragile to permit the removal of staples. The original file folders were replaced only if they were torn, except that the older papers have been placed in acid-free folders. The most valuable documents in the collection--especially the letters from Lord Beaverbrook--were placed individually in acid free folders. The highly acidic yellow carbon copies were removed if they were routine items or were falling apart; otherwise they were left in the collection. Eventually they should be removed after being photocopied if appropriate.
As a first step in cataloging the collection, a file list was prepared for each box. With the file lists it was possible to try to assemble the pieces and see whether they formed a picture. The principle of alphabetical order within each time period appears to have been followed in setting up the files, as the earlier inventory seems to suggest. Apparently files were maintained over periods of one year or several years, after which time the files were stored and a new sequence was started. Some active files seem to have been retained and ultimately filed with a more recent sequence. There is considerable overlapping in the Bursar's papers before 1957 and in the Assistant Comptroller's and Vice President's papers throughout. It was decided to retain or restore the order of the collection as far as possible rather than to attempt a complete reclassification.
The collection was reorganized according to the following principles. First, the documents were divided into three sections according to the function of the office, not the title of the officeholder. Second, within the category of each office, the arrangement is for the most part chronological. The Senate and Board of Governors documents are an exception; these papers were placed in a separate class and not alphabetized in the appropriate chronological series as was done with the sales tax records. Third, within each time period, alphabetical order takes precedence over the exact dates of the file documents, although the finding aid indicates file dates as well as the date of the period. Fourth, the file titles have been rearranged or reworded to make alphabetization consistent. Finally, the category of miscellaneous documents, 1940-80, was retained from the earlier inventory, and documents found after the beginning of the project ("addenda") were filed in this section.
Fran Holyoke and Elizabeth Melanson of Archives and Special Collection and Cheryle Brown of the Administration Department of Harriet Irving Library deserve thanks for their help with this project. Professor Emeritus Alfred G. Bailey explained the historical background from his own experience as Honorary Librarian and Vice President (Academic).
Dr. Linda Hill
Archives and Special Collections
Harriet Irving Library
University of New Brunswick