Archives, historical climate records, and the climate observations of Thomas Corcoran, Hudson's Bay Company, 1827-1841

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Comeau, Martin
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Growing interest in the natural environment has prompted important research into climate issues such as global warming and, more generally, into how humans interact with the environment. The information resources for this research are clearly important to its advancement. One primary source for climate researchers is the historical archival record. Archives hold massive amounts of information from so many different sources on so many subjects that the historical record in archives can overwhelm researchers. The archival profession thus plays an important role in helping researchers locate and understand these records. This thesis looks at the use of archival records in paleoclimatology, which is the study of climate before the general availability of written climate records. The first chapter provides a general overview of the different records that contain paleoclimatological information and some of the reasons why societies record such information. The second chapter expands on this overview by discussing in more detail the characteristics of particular archival records and the types of information paleoclimatologists seek in them. The final chapter examines some of the records created by Thomas Corcoran, a mid-nineteenth-century employee of the Hudson's Bay Company. His records are an important case example of climate information for that period. Finally, the thesis will suggest how the archival profession can help find and thus 'create' records related to climate. This new conception of the archivist's role suggests that the archivist is no longer a mere keeper of the records, but an active participant in record creation.