We know where we’re going, but we don’t know where we’ve been

The War of Devolution is well under way. It looks like the Canadian government has been significantly reducing its efforts to acquire, catalog and preserve its documentary past, and the 2012 budget forces the knife even deeper. Recent measures taken/proposed by the Library and Archives Canada include: significant staff cuts (including cataloguers, archivists and digitization staff), reading room/library closures, abandonment of its policy of acquiring copies of all newly published Canadian works, and cutting back on its acquisition of documents, which is leading to the dispersion of its documentary heritage to public and private buyers, Canadian and non-Canadian. One other rarely-appreciated but critical archival task is also being severely curtailed: the number of fields in catalog records are to be halved, with the provenance field (i.e. details on where each document comes from, i.e. the “history” of the historical document) being eliminated altogether! Future budgets project that by 2014 funding levels will be 58% of where they were in 1990 (adjusted for inflation).

Details at http://www.savelibraryarchives.ca/. A recent summary here.

Technically not “European” (in my preferred narrow definition), but certainly of importance for anyone doing early colonial history in North America, and anyone who cares about researching history in general.



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