Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Library and Archives Canada Tries to Digest Himalaya of Information from Outgoing Liberals

An article in this week's Hill Times, the paper that covers Parliament Hill, describes the role of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) in preserving the huge quantity of policy papers, briefings and other documents accumulated during the 13 years of Liberal government.

The article Archivists scramble to preserve outgoing governing Grit records explains that LAC has full legal authority over official ministerial records.

"Nothing can be destroyed without his [Librarian and Archivist of Canada Ian Wilson] authority, except for personal notes and papers, not related to the job, that individuals want to keep private. But everything that is public, such as the political websites during the election campaign, ministerial websites, blogs and e-mail records are being flagged and stored."

And earlier this week, LAC specialists started contacting the members of Stephen Harper's Cabinet to explain to all the new ministers how to organize the classification of their documents, as a way of facilitating their future archival treatment.

And that treatment is growing increasingly complex with the proliferation of formats (many of which quickly become obsolete). The archives of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien that were recently received by LAC personnel include not only some 1400 boxes of paper documents, but also hundreds of thousands of photos, thousands of video and audio cassettes and megabytes of electronic data.

Of course, not all documents become quickly accessible to researchers, in particular anyone trying to understand the intent of legislation, or the political calculations and trade-offs behind certain bills. Cabinet confidences remain confidential for a number of decades.

LAC is in possession of the documents of every Prime Minister of Canada since 1867 with the exception of those of John Diefenbaker and R.B. Bennett, whose papers were given to universities in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:06 pm

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