10 June 2012

The Power of the Record

Ian Wilson, former Archivist of Canada, illustrated the Power of the Record, that is, when we HAVE “the record” and have ACCESS to it. He spoke to the opening plenary of the Ontario Genealogical Society’s annual conference in Kingston, Ontario.

At issue are the astonishing, decimating cutbacks underway for Library and Archives Canada (LAC) in Ottawa. LAC is THE centre of our national documentary heritage. Genealogists and family historians are probably the largest user-group at that institution, whether we visit in person or view their materials via interlibrary loan.
Few genealogical societies are showing public support for the protests on their websites. Why is that? It seems individual Geneabloggers and comments on social media pages are doing the work to promote petitions and write letters.

James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, determined that the 21st century requires the slashing of jobs, country-wide programs, interlibrary loan of microfilm, and access in general to the institution itself. Why? Because digitization is the way to go and/or everything is already digitized; it’s not clear on which the Minister bases his shocking decisions. As Ian Wilson put it calmly in a nutshell, “The Minister has been misinformed.”

We have already lost acquisitions of historical Canadian material. We are losing knowledgeable custodians for preservation, conservation, reference services, and ironically, digitization. A Guelph Mercury headline said, “The federal government is systematically depriving Canadians access to our own history.”
Funeral at LAC; photograph by Jeffers Lennox

Everyone suffers! — archivists, librarians, journalists, researchers and students of all ages and interests — and ordinary Canadians looking for information they deserve to have. I cannot find words eloquent enough to express the damaging precedent we are facing. Others are expressing it:

■ One of the best, most informative articles is by archivist Myron Groover at
■ Canadian Association of University Teachers,
■ Canadian Library Association,
■ Jewish Public Library Archives
■ Canadian Council of Archives Call to Action
■ National Archival Development Program
■ Mnemosyne’s Magic Mirror:
■ And the ongoing posts from John D. Reid at

We need more headlines like:
Federal cutbacks to impact local libraries .. Ottawa East EMC
Nanaimo Archives in crisis after feds cut grants .. Nanaimo News Bulletin
Cuts to archives threaten our ability to preserve our precious heritage .. Montreal Gazette
Archivists protest in Ottawa .. CBC
Canada’s National Archives being dismantled and scattered .. Boing Boing
Cuts to Canadian archives suit the Harper Tories ..

I can only urge you and everyone you know to write letters immediately to James Moore, Stephen Harper, and your own Member of Parliament. Petitions are good, but a personal letter is better—the Power of the (written) Record!

© Brenda Dougall Merriman, 2012


Unknown said...

Well stated, Brenda!

Unknown said...

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