Archives Awareness and LAC

2-5 April is Archives Awareness Week in Ontario. This year, the Archives Association of Ontario selected “Access your Archives” as its theme, asking its members to:

  • Tell us about a unique outreach initiative your archive has been working on.
  • How do you provide access to your archives collection?
  • In what ways do you make your collection accessible or hope to?
  • What challenges do archives face in making records accessible while respecting users and donors?
  • What archival process or specific record in your collection keeps you up at night?
  • Developments in new networks and collaborations.

I’m sure AAO is hoping to profile good news stories. Good things are happening in various corners of the province we don’t usually hear about, and I hope to read about them.

There’s the other side of the story. Allan Greer, a professor emeritus of history at McGill University, posted an opinion piece on the Active History blog worth reading —  LAC: The Scandal of the Archives. 

The part that resonated most with me as a user of digitized resources from LAC was, “The problem is not with digitization per se, but with the chaotic way in which LAC has dumped their collections onto the internet.” Digitised microfilm is made available through Canadiana Heritage and is divorced from any finding aid. Greer concludes:

Archives don’t simply store and conserve documents; they structure and organize them, carefully recording the provenance of government records, collections of private papers, films, recordings, images, etc. LAC has always been very good at this and generations of archivists built up an infrastructure of guides and finding aids, but instead of using these resources to curate their online collections, the archives seem determined to hide the results of their past efforts from the eyes of researchers.

One Reply to “Archives Awareness and LAC”

  1. “The problem is not with digitization per se, but with the chaotic way in which LAC has dumped their collections onto the internet.”

    Yes, this. Just dump the documents onto the internet, with no attempt to organize into useful or coherent collections, and with no attempt to guide or aid the user whatsoever. And having dumped the documents, you can now tick the boxes where you are “preserving the documentary heritage of Canada” and making knowledge “accessible to all,” as per LAC mandate. If said material isn’t actually accessible, due to chaotic lack of organization and lack of finding aids, it’s at least equally inaccessible to all, which the current Librarian and Archivist of Canada may actually see as her mandate?!

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