04 March 2012

Will LAC deaccession its photography collection?

In his presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on 14 February Marc Mayer (Director and Chief Executive Officer, National Gallery of Canada) spoke of the Gallery's "extraordinary and very comprehensive collection of photography ... a very large collection of 19th century French and British photographs and a very important collection of 20th century photographs.
According to this testimony at the end of the 1970s a deal was struck between the National Gallery, Library and Archives, and the National Film Board. Canadian historical photography was to be collected by Library and Archives. Canadian contemporary photography was collected by the stills division of the National Film Board. That division was merged with the National Gallery in the 1980s.
Marc Mayer mentioned that the gallery was "speaking with Library and Archives in order to present Canadian historical photography."
That could mean the National Gallery becoming a venue, one of many, at which items for the LAC collection are presented, a substitute for a National Portrait Gallery. Or it could mean being an exhibition space for a wider range of photographic subjects.
It might also imply something more permanent than providing exhibition space.
Daniel Caron has emphasized that he regards government documents and publications obtained under legal deposit as the heart of the LAC collection. In an era of declining absolute budgets why would he not look to deaccession collections that don't fit that narrow definition of mandate. Photographs of artistic merit could go to the National Gallery, that might include the Karsh collection. One also might question whether the documentary art collection could be part of the deal.
Other photographic collections might be made available to an appropriate local archive. For instance, the Topley collection might go to the Ottawa City Central Archives at 100 Tallwood  Ave.
Moves like these are rarely made public until they are a done deal, so we are left to try and interpret the tea leaves of presentations such as this by Marc Mayer to sus out what might be in the works.
Read the text of Marc Mayer's presentation at http://goo.gl/H5hMY

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