30 July 2018

Showing Library and Archives Canada the way

I let out a cheer on reading toward the end of the article Expanded Colonist archive offers 1960s history at your fingertips from the Victoria Times Colonist.

It quotes Dave Obee, editor and publisher of the Times Colonist, that digitally preserving its archives and making them freely available is not the only thing that makes this online record unique.
“This thing has really changed the way B.C. history is being researched,” said Obee.
“More and more information is available now because of this project,” he said. “It has really made a difference.”
Obee said one remarkable moment was when the T’exelcemc People, the Williams Lake First Nation, successfully sued for compensation over the theft of their village site, using a letter from the newspaper as part of their case.
A piece of the T’exelcemc evidence was a letter, published on Nov. 7, 1879, in the Daily British Colonist, from Chief William of the Williams Lake First Nation, who detailed the lands from which his people had been pushed.
“I wouldn’t have expected to see that kind of result,” Obee said. “That [Chief William’s letter] only came to light because the Colonist had been digitized.”
“With something like this at hand you can almost rewrite the whole way history is even done,” he said.
Exceptional community leadership made this happen in Victoria.
Not all places are so fortunate.
Help in fulfilling the promise of Truth and Reconciliation does not just come from digitizing a few indigenous publications as Library and Archives Canada did, and then only because of special funding.
Library and Archives Canada has no champion librarian for newspapers on staff and has deliberately abrogated it's leadership role under the Federal-Provincial Decentralized Program for Canadian Newspapers.
When will it take that responsibility seriously?

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