Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Who speaks for Canadian genealogists?

Success! Library and Archives Canada is creating a Services Advisory Board composed of representatives of key user communities across the country dealing with the services aspect of LAC's mandate. The draft terms of reference are posted here.

The President of the Canadian Historical Association has been invited to become a member. That makes eminent sense. CHA has a national membership and mandate. "It serves professional historians but membership is open to anyone with an interest in history. The CHA represents the interests of historians and the heritage community to government, archives, granting and other agencies; organizes conferences; publishes the best of Canadian historical scholarship; and awards a range of prizes to historians who have produced exceptional work."

It isn't clear who else, or what other organizations, will be invited to become Advisory Board members. As the single largest user group of LAC facilities, including online, it would be a travesty if genealogists were not represented. Unfortunately there is presently no nationwide organization representing Canada's genealogical interests in the same way that CHA represents historians.

The closest thing is the Canada Census Committee, a grassroots organization. It has done a remarkable job in securing access to historic censuses and continues to work to ensure access for the future. This effort is largely that of Gordon Watts. Gordon continues to keep the community informed through his "Gordon Watts Reports" hosted by Global Genealogy.

Interestingly in his latest issue Gordon reports on meetings he participated in, and thanks the Canadian Historical Association for providing the funding to allow him to travel to Ottawa to do so.

CHA hosts affiliated committees that represent historians involved in specialized areas of historical inquiry. Perhaps they would like to host a Canadian Committee on Genealogy. If I understand the CHA web site correctly, for $50 annually genealogical societies could join CHA as affiliates, much as many of them already belong to the umbrella groups such as the FFHS (Canadian members listed here), FGS and like minded organizations in their own province. If enough did, and put in place a consultation mechanism, it could become the recognized body representing the interests of genealogists and the genealogical community to government at the federal level.

1 comment:

WJM said...

It isn't clear who else, or what other organizations, will be invited to become Advisory Board members.

This approach is typically bureaucratic.

I also don't like the idea of the formal membership approach. Who picks? When it came to the "Lucy Maude" copyright bill, Library and Archives Canada, as one of four hand-picked "consultees" itself, didn't do a very good job of sub-consulting.

At very least, a web forum where questions and concerns can be posted by anyone, and where an answer from LAC would be expected as a matter of course would be at least as valuable as a committee.

Who speaks for Joe and Jane Researcher or Genealogist?

Joe and Jane Researcher or Genealogist do. And can. And should. And will, if given the opportunity.

But when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

And when you're a civil servant, everything looks like a problem that can be solved with a committee, task force, sounding board, or other such bureaucracy.