Mary Grace Kosta Awarded the AAO's James J. Talman Award


The James J. Talman Award was named after the second Archivist of Ontario, who served from 1935 to 1939. He subsequently served as Chief Librarian for the University of Western Ontario until 1969. The Award is given to individuals who have demonstrated an outstanding level of imagination and innovation in contributing to the profession, their institution, or the archival community, or who have challenged conventional thinking about archival work.


This year, the Talman Award was presented to Mary Grace Kosta for her work developing the student practicum program at the Archives of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph and with which she has demonstrated an outstanding level of imagination and innovation in supporting new members of the archival profession. 


Mary started the student practicum program in 2012, shortly after she was hired as the first professionally trained lay Congregational Archivist. Initially, it was a standard volunteer program but, over time, Mary sensed there was the potential to help address an unmet need in the London community, particularly from Western University, for opportunities for students interested in working in archives to gain practical experience. 


With the Sisters’ approval, Mary expanded and formalized the volunteer program. Through her perseverance, vision, leadership, and creative use of limited resources she transformed it into a structured student practicum program, with a standard syllabus presented each term. Today the Congregation’s student practicum program provides archival studies students - mostly from Western’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies but others have come from Western’s Public History Program and Mohawk College’s Library Technician Program -  with basic training and practical experience with core archival functions including preservation, arrangement and description, as well as digitization and digital preservation. Students may also have an opportunity to assist with reference questions or exhibit preparation and, additionally, Mary established a medical artefacts cataloguing option within the practicum where students learn basic museum registration skills. 


The practicum program now has a formal application, interview and hiring process, followed by structured orientation and training supported by an orientation manual and a detailed processing manual which she has made publically available on the archives’ website so other institutions can benefit from them. The student practicum program runs for a full four-month academic term with students normally committing three hours per week for a total of approximately 40 hours per term. While many students only participate for one term, others return for a second term to gain more experience. 


Since its inception, over 100 students have benefitted from participating in the practicum program and from working with Mary to obtain the kind of experience that can often make the difference when applying for jobs after graduation. Many program “graduates” have gone on to work in the field in Ontario and beyond. 

In the words of her nominator, “from its rudimentary beginnings […] the Congregational Archives student practicum has evolved to become today’s formal, well-structured, and very successful program that provides students with the opportunity to obtain that all-important first practical work experience. It has helped many students gain professional employment and it serves as a model for other institutions. The development and success of the program are the direct result of Mary Kosta’s sense of an unmet need, vision of what could be accomplished, and determination to make it a reality.” 


In recognition of her work and the outstanding level of imagination and innovation involved in supporting new members of the archival profession through the student practicum program at the Archives of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph the AAO is pleased to present Mary Grace Kosta with the James J. Talman Award.