by Heidi Bohaker
For those of you who have been members of GRASAC since its inception in 2005, and who were at the founding meeting at Carleton University hosted by Ruth Phillips, you may remember a tour of our then newly-constructed server closet and the rack-mounted servers that held the first instance of the GKS database. The servers were located at Carleton’s Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture, where Ruth, GRASAC’s first director, had her office. These servers and their later upgrades, all funded by Ruth’s grants, hosted subsequent versions of the GKS, and the climate controlled archive room was where all paper documentation of the project, and backups of all the many photographs taken on research trips, were stored.
In 2019, just before the COVID pandemic and with Ruth’s retirement looming, we began the process of moving the project and its documentation to the University of Toronto. We successfully moved the database and all the digital data before COVID hit, but the physical servers remained in Ottawa along with the archival material. Due to COVID restrictions, we were then unable to access ICSLAC to complete the decommissioning work.
During that time, we had to shut down the servers because we no longer had an IT person on site to perform maintenance. But we still needed to power the servers back on, verify that all project data had been properly backed up and shipped to Toronto, and then wipe the server hard drives before the machines could be repurposed to other Carleton University units, and the remaining GRASAC presence within ICSLAC formally shut down. Fortunately, Claude Morin, one of the IT professionals who had originally installed the first servers back in 2005, volunteered to complete the work pro bono.
Thanks to the diligent efforts of former GRASAC project manager Kate Higginson, we were able to do this work on the weekend of October 23-24 with the on-site assistance of Adam Milling, from Carleton’s Department of Art History, as Art History would be acquiring one of the remaining servers. (Others will find a new life in other departments or be recycled as some components are well past their service life).
Claude, Adam and Kate worked long hours on both days, communicating regularly with Heidi in Toronto. A likely descendant of one of the groundhogs present at the first GRASAC Carleton meeting made an appearance on the lawn outside of ICSLAC on the Saturday, but he did not volunteer his services. For those stuck working inside, it was a trip down memory lane looking at email logs, photos and earlier versions of the GKS in various server files. A complete inventory of all files was compared against what had already been transferred to Toronto. The computer drives were then wiped, and the servers removed from the rack and prepared to be sent on their way. And late Sunday afternoon Adam and Kate helped Claude load 14 archival boxes of GRASAC history into the car, and they are now safely in storage at the University of Toronto.
Thanks to everyone who helped conclude this founding chapter in GRASAC’s history, and especially to Kate, Adam and Claude.