Why is Canada Abandoning Efforts to Digitally Archive Our National History?

by Knowlton Thomas

Library and Archives Canada is failing to digitally archive our national history, says a campaign called Save LAC. In the campaign's May 2012 update, it states that LAC is "abandoning its commitment to acquire and maintain a comprehensive collection of Canada’s documentary heritage."

In April, it was announced that LAC would cut a whopping 20% of its staff, cutting well over 200 positions and reducing the organization's headcount to fewer than 1,000. Notably, LAC axed 50% of its digitization staff.

In fact, LAC has been gradually reducing its number of full-time employees since 2004. Further, LAC now has reduced access hours to its archives and restricts access to acrhivists and resources for reference staff, the Save LAC Campaign says.

Another issue is funding, where LAC's annual budget is now $33 million less than it was in 1990—all in today's dollars. And that is before the new 2012 budget cuts were instated. These new budget cuts will see LAC's funding slashed by $3.5 million this year, $5.6 million next year, and $9.6 million in 2014.

Save LAC says that a "generous estimation" suggests only 4% of LAC's collection has been digitized so far. And with LAC failing to acquire new collections, historical documents are being scattered, landing in the hands of private collectors and institutions outside of Canada.

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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes and author of Tempest Bound. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys hiking, tennis, and martial arts. more

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