Why does LAC waste money on biographies?

Leslie Weir’s rationale for her purge mentions “texts written about historical events and public figures that offer mainly colonial perspectives.”

Let’s look at an example, LAC’s biography of Nellie McClung.  Then compare it to that in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

LAC fails in any way to mention what the DCB points to, that “many scholars now find her ideology insufficiently inclusive, given her assumption of Anglo-Celtic and middle-class leadership, her blind spots about native and non-British peoples, her sympathy for eugenics, and her Christian maternalism.”

The DCB entry, which LAC ignores, is not only more balanced but places Nellie in a historical context.

DCB biographies are exhaustively researched. DCB receives Government of Canada funding through the Department of Canadian Heritage.

At a time of financial pressure, why are LAC funds being diverted to an activity outside its mandate?

And, If LAC is proceeding to clean up its website, perhaps a list of what is being amended or removed, and why, could be posted on the website. Be transparent about it and treat the LAC research community with respect.


2 Replies to “Why does LAC waste money on biographies?”

  1. And rest assured at some point in the future someone will look at the updated web site and wonder, “WHAT were they thinking! This all needs to be rewritten in modern context!”.
    And that’s how current mindsets change history.

  2. Absolutely correct; the Dictionary of Canadian Biography is far and away the best for well-referenced biographical essays of Canaidan historical figures. Civil servants are incapable of writing complete and balanced biographies. Most DCB biography was written by scholars working in the field. Some, unfortunately, were written by English professors rather than historians. Francess Halpenny was a most highly qualified general editor of DCB who was recognised by many academic insitutions across the country.
    The more recent effort of Historica Canada called Canadiana Encyclopedia does not hold a candle to DCB. Their biographies are brief and insufficient, aimed to tickle rather than inform, like the Heritage Minutes produced by the same group. Many high profile people like financiers and politicians are on the Board, which gives media attention but does not engender scholarship in the biographies. Why these ‘biography bites’ are even being done is questionable. Even Wikipedia for their topics are more professional entries.
    I have never been on a LAC biography site and don’t intend to try finding scholarship there anytime soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *