Academic journal article Alexandria

Library and Archives Canada

Academic journal article Alexandria

Library and Archives Canada

Article excerpt

SHAPING OUR CONTINUING MEMORY COLLECTIVELY: A REPRESENTATIVE DOCUMENTARY HERITAGE1

FOREWORD

From literacy to democracy, memory institutions have played and continue to play a key role in the functioning of societies.

The various events and emerging social practices that mark the beginning of the twenty-first century confirm that society has reached a point of no return regarding the influence of information technology on the formation of social fabric and social practices. The profound changes that we have experienced for at least two decades are increasingly embedded in our practices and we are beginning to feel the implications. While our relevance as a memory institution is not immediately called into question, these changes will require significant adjustments in how we work if we want to play our role and maintain our relevance in the future.

The core of our mandate is to ensure that the best possible account of Canadian life is captured through acquiring, preserving and making available essential documentary heritage to Canadians. Documentary heritage includes published and unpublished material as well as analog and digital formats of portraits, private and public documents. Through acquisition and preservation, memory institutions are structuring the causa materialis on which historians, genealogists, lawyers, other kinds of experts and all citizens in general are building various interpretations of the Canadian experience in the different spheres of society.

Modernizing our institution means creating a state-of-the-art instrument by which all the work accomplished and all the knowledge accumulated over the last century will be kept up-to-date and will continue to be relevant to serve Canadian society. In plain language, this document lays the foundations to undertake a rethinking of the way Library and Archives Canada conducts business in order to continue to fulfil its legal mandate in a relevant, efficient and effective manner.

What follows articulates the way this will be accomplished.

THE PAST IN CONTEXT

The National Library of Canada, founded in 1953, was a significant contributor to the development of legal deposit and description practices, and the formidable task of developing the Canadiana collection of publications. Since its creation in 1872, the National Archives of Canada was mandated to build an impressive base of material that today supports government business and provides accurate and comprehensive material to support historical, genealogical and general research about Canadian society and Canada.

In 2004, a new institution emerged from the integration of the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada. Library and Archives Canada was born and was the first worldwide establishment to successfully merge its national documentary heritage institutions. This laid the groundwork for LAC to make new contributions to the success of Canadian society - in less than five years it has developed considerable capacity and built a solid foundation to support continuing growth.

The stewardship role of the institution includes: the maintenance of federal government recordkeeping activity; documenting the historical development of Canadian society; reflecting Canada's strengths in literature, music and media; and safeguarding essential records that support citizenship, human rights, legal rights and land claims. As well, LAC enables cooperation and connectivity among Canada's libraries and provides reference services in library and information science. The work in cataloguing and metadata standards, practices and policies ensures consistency with international library standards and alignment of the description of information with digital requirements. LAC is also mandated to provide coordination and leadership to the network of federal libraries to ensure that appropriate information resources and expertise are available for government to function effectively. …

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