Oxfam official moves on from fire

Andrew Robinson
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Not optimistic about saving archived materials from Duckworth property

Bill Hynd spent 29 years working for Oxfam out of an office at 382 Duckworth St. in St. John’s. A fire last week that swept through three buildings put an end to that arrangement.

With that fire came the loss of more than 40 years’ worth of archival materials that told the story of Oxfam’s role in the local social justice movement.

As of Wednesday, Hynd was unable to find out if any materials were salvageable, though he’s not optimistic.

“A lot of it is memorabilia that if the fire didn’t get it, then I suspect the hoses did, because it’s mostly in paper form,” said Hynd, Oxfam Canada’s Atlantic outreach co-ordinator.

A portion of Duckworth Street from McBride’s Hill to New Gower Street remained closed Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the city said it would remain so for at least another two days. An update is expected Friday.

According to Hynd, the building has been declared unfit for habitation, therefore he can’t get inside to see what’s left of his office.

“At the time of demolition, if I go, I might be able to retrieve some things.”

Hynd was visibly emotional as he watched the building burn last Wednesday.

“It was like 40 years of history flashing through your brains in 60 seconds,” he said. “You just realize that a lot of good energy emanated from that humble building.”

A fortuitous visit by a historian last month to Hynd’s office may have helped salvage some of the memories stored in those presumably lost archival materials. Hynd said she took photos of clippings kept in scrapbooks and material covering the walls of his space.

“She’s sending it to me in a USB stick,” he said. “There’ll be some things we’ll have as part of the history of the activities that took place, but I won’t have the scrapbooks and things like that.”

The archives of a person who did local design work for the group may also help retrieve some archival materials covering the last 10-15 years, Hynd said.

Since the fire, Hynd has heard from many well-wishers offering their condolences. Suggestions have been made to put out a call to volunteers past and present who may be able to help replenish Oxfam’s local archives.

The property was purchased for $8,400 in 1972 by a group of people who started the initial Oxfam St. John’s group. It later became a formal part of Oxfam Canada.

Meanwhile, day-to-day work continues for Hynd. He works on a remote desktop, so the fire did not direly affect his ability to correspond with others and continue with his duties.

While he was sad to lose his longtime office and the materials inside, Hynd believes the outcome could have been worse.

“I’m just so relieved that nobody was hurt.”



Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Oxfam

Geographic location: Canada, Duckworth Street, New Gower Street

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