Thursday, May 3, 2012

Archives? Who Needs All That Old Stuff? A Look At Our Northern Neighbours

Last night, Edvard Munch's painting called "The Scream" brought nearly $120 million at auction at Sotheby's.  An as-yet-unknown buyer had some very deep pockets.

These days, deep pockets are hard to come by.  In fact, the Canadian Council of Archives could sure use some right about now.

Even though you probably never heard of it, you should be very, very concerned that the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) will be forced to close its office doors in Ottawa tomorrow afternoon. 

Having lost its principal funding source, the not-for-profit CCA is now one of the latest casualties of the Harper government’s current war on just about everything “not-business.”  Remember, these are the same government folks that decided last year that Canada’s “long-form” census was just a waste of money, having no practical business use.   

Abstract demographics and statistics is not their best game.

This time, Library and Archives Canada (LAC)  will have to reduce its own staff by 20%.  Overall, LAC will wave good-bye to $9.6 million over the next 36 months.  Of course, they’re not alone.  The CBC, the National Film Board, the National Battlefields Commission and other cultural agencies will lose substantial chunks of funding as well.  

At first glance, museums seem to have escaped; still, they got hit hard last year.

Of course, for some, there’s a bright side, even in these austere times.  The budget contains $400 million to increase private sector investments and support creation of large-scale venture capital funds. Oh, yeah, then there’s that $110 million per year to the National Research Council to double support to companies through the Industrial Research Assistance Program.

See, there’s still money for the basics and the essentials.

So it appears that the Harper government has determined that archives and libraries are essentially “non-essentials”, especially when there are deserving private-sector businesses in need of additional subsidies. You know, the “job creators” and all that …  It appears that it has also been determined that “real” research needs to be business-oriented and profit-directed.

While going very politely, the CCA is not going very quietly.  In fact, they’ve issued a “call to action” on their way out the door.

The “call to action” below from the CCA came across my desk yesterday evening and appears in full below.  

Remember: it’s not just those retired hobbyist-genealogists who are worrying about the devastation wrought upon the Library and Archives Canada (LAC)  and other institutions by the 2012 budget of the Harper government.  Here’s the take by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, who, like genealogists, find some passing value in libraries and archives.  

As you read the CCA “Call To Action” below, think hard.  

This is a 100% Canadian thing and could never, ever happen here in the good ol’ US of A, right?  

Crippling budget cuts for cultural institutions and subsidies for businesses? No way!!!  Shuttering libraries and archives?  Unheard of!!!  Who would ever think of such a thing??!!??  We’ll always have our own beloved National Archives and Records Administration and its regional branches, right? 

What’s that?  They shut down the NARA “reading room” in Pittsfield last year to save $$$?  Oh,  well then, never mind….

As I continue to harp on about all this, I also will continue to stress the point that elections usually have unintended consequences.  Failing to understand that can cause you to look very much like that person pictured in the Edvard Munch painting referenced above once you've realised what's actually happened.

Anyway, read the CCA’s “Call” below:


 Who:  To members of the archival community and archives supporters

What:  The following call to action is in response to the elimination of the National Archival Development Program by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) on April 30, 2012, and the resulting impact on Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial archives councils, and the Canadian Council of Archives.

Background:  On April 30, 2012, LAC eliminated the National Archival Development Program (NADP), a 1.7 million contribution program administered by the non-for-profit Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) for LAC and distributed to Canada’s 13 archives councils to support archival activities locally.  Through the councils, NADP funding is on the ground in our 10 provinces and 3 territories, ensuring that Canada’s history is preserved in local communities.  Canada’s archival councils provide user-centred services, providing support to archives and archivists so that they may better serve all Canadians.
 A one-of-a-kind program, NADP’s goal is to assist in the preservation and accessibility of Canada’s archival heritage through the following objectives:
-          Increase access to Canada’s archival heritage through the national catalogue of archival descriptions
-          Increase awareness and broaden use of Canada’s archival heritage
-          Increase representation of Aboriginal peoples and under-represented ethno-cultural groups in Canada’s archival heritage
-          Increase the capacity of archival networks to undertake strategic and development activities; and;
-          Increase the capacity of archival institutions to preserve Canada’s heritage. 
 NADP funds the following activities across Canada:
-          Development of the national on-line catalogue of archival descriptions, and its provincial and territorial counterparts, so all archives, including the very small, can reach Canadians
-          Provision of archival and preservation advice to archives
-          Job exposure for new graduates from Canada’s archival and information studies programs
-          Access to archival holdings information on-line
-          Outreach and educational activities in communities to help small institutions manage their treasures
-          Cataloguing of archival materials to make them accessible to the public
-          Training opportunities for local archives run by volunteers or one-person operations
-          Site assessments to both urban and rural archives, to safeguard Canada’s documentary heritage
-          Preservation  of at-risk documents and other archival materials, including electronic records

Impact:  NADP was a joint federal/provincial/territorial initiative; NADP, and its predecessor financial assistance program, was a critical source of funding to the community – CCA has operated for 26 years; elimination of NADP means that 11 of the 13 provincial and territorial councils will collapse within 30 days to 6 months, without any financial support.  A number of councils have suspended their operations.  The CCA’s physical office in Ottawa will close its doors to the public effective May 4, as the organization moves to a virtual office and staffing has been immediately be reduced from 8 FTE to  4 FTE, and will soon be further reduced to a maximum of 2.5 FTE.  Further adjustments may be necessary  – but at this time minimum administration services will be maintained for the small program Young Canada Works in Heritage Institutions,, Arcan-l and other secretariat services.

WHAT CAN YOU DO:  If your MP is a Cabinet Minister, call the local office and offer a briefing as well as the letter.  Write the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable James Moore, and your MP asking them to stop the NADP cut. 

Use the following key messages:
·         Canada’s documentary heritage is preserved it its over 800 archival institutions
·         NADP supports archives to preserve Canada’s documentary heritage for Canadians
·         NADP leverages financial and partnership opportunities for archives across the country
·         CCA serves the Canadian public. CCA's work ensures the preservation of Canada's heritage for the benefit of all Canadians-now and for the future. Through initiatives such as , CCA is the window through which the world may access Canadian archival information
 ·         Archives support Canada’s economy. Sustaining Canada's knowledge-based economy means sustaining and facilitating access to our knowledge resources. Archives are fundamental to the success of countless public, private, and educational enterprises.
·         Archives preserve Canada’s past. Millions of historical documents, photographs, maps and audio-visual materials are held in archives across the country
·         LAC’s stakeholder forum meetings cannot and will not take the place of an archival network of dedicated professionals and volunteers across Canada that took 26 years to build.  The damage done by elimination of NADP will take years to re-build.

Tell your own story about the value of the NADP and CCA’s services; use the following examples:
• books and other outputs that have utilized holdings made accessible by NADP
• non-traditional users whose access has been facilitated by NADP
• achievements realized through expertise made available to you through archives advisors, preservation services, training opportunities.
• how has and provincial/territorial networks helped users find you
• what holdings have been preserved through NADP and in what ways has that had public acknowledgement
• what activities by other groups have been assisted through the results of NADP funded projects
• what federal initiatives have benefitted by records that were preserved or made accessible through NADP

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