Sunday, 3 May 2015

Dr Guy Berthiaume at the City of Ottawa Archives

On the evening of Thursday 30 April 2015 Dr Guy Berthiaume Librarian and Archivist of Canada gave a talk with title Something old, something new: Access at the heart of LAC’s mandate at the City of Ottawa Archives to a meeting sponsored by the Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives and the Archives Association of Ontario Eastern Chapter. Here are some items I noted.

In Canada, unlike in a few other countries, the experiment of putting the National Library and Archives together has been successful, and the winners are the clients. You get archival and library material in one location, unlike in London or Paris.  (Not mentioned was that this was true before the organizations were amalgamated)

The First World War (FWW) digitization initiative was cited as one of the most ambitious initiatives for making such records accessible to the public online, something increasingly being demanded by clients. LAC has the largest and most significant collection of FWW records in Canada - official records and medals, journals, photographs, art, music and letters. Taken together they tell compelling stories of the men and women who served.

The types of records most requested from LAC, according to a recent survey, are for genealogy followed by those for the FWW. They beat out rare books, cabinet documents and events.

Digitization imaging of the CEF service files responds to the top two areas identified in the survey and is the most ambitious such project ever undertaken by LAC. 400 lbs of fasteners have been removed from the documents (there was some discussion on what to do with them - melt down for "medals" for those who did the work, sell as scrap, cast into FWW souvenirs for sale.)

The four key commitments made when Dr Berthiaume joined LAC were reviewed and progress to date reported. He spoke about public programming, both at 395 Wellington, hobbled as this may be by the decision of a previous Librarian and Archivist to turn over the ground floor of the building to Public Works, and through partnerships where LAC materials are loaned to other institutions. Examples are the loan of a copy of the Canadian Bill or Rights and the Proclamation of the Constitution Act signed by the Queen to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg; for an exhibition of Daguerreotypes being mounted at the National Galley of Canada this fall; and half the items in an exhibition for Canada150 at the Museum of Civilization Canadian Museum of History.

Tribute was made to the Friends of LAC for their financial contribution for acquisitions and their continuing support as ambassadors for LAC.

In closing he stressed again that it's vital that members of the various organization that are part of the heritage community work together.

There were questions related accessibility at 395 Wellington, exhibition space at 395, interlibrary loan, microfilm loan and the last-copy policy; the poor state of microfilm readers at LAC; access to subject expert archivists, acquisition policy (national ve provincial and territorial vs local), the digital challenge, administrative records of the Ottawa Hospital, and accessibility to items stored offsite.

After questions Dr Berthiaume mentioned consultations taking place shortly toward development of a three-year plan. There are no details. I will post as they become available. Stay tuned.

Texts of such talks, about one a week are given, are sometimes posted at

Talks were also given by Ottawa City Archivist Paul Henry and Archivist John Lund. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The meetings referred to are to be Town Hall meetings and are to be held likely in June so as not to be close to the federal election.The public will be able to participate