The fight to maintain a centralized, comprehensive, and publicly accessible national archive is losing ground in Canada. According to a recent update from a group advocating the rescue of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC), efforts to digitally archive the nation's history are being cut back significantly, with the LAC saying that only a "representative" collection is possible in the "digital" age.
The LAC lost half of its digitization staff in the month of April, a cutback that's especially painful considering only an estimated four percent of the library's total material has been digitized to date. The acquiring of new collections has also ground to a halt: the LAC's last acquisition was in 2009, leaving historical documents to instead scatter and fall into the hands of private collectors and institutions.
The Library and Archives of Canada lost half of its digitization staff in the month of April
Existing collections are also being decentralized, allowing private entities to borrow or claim pieces of the archives, much to the detriment of future digitization efforts. Regional libraries, too, lack adequate funding to acquire, maintain, and digitize much of these documents. The new strategy, under the direction of National Archivist Daniel Caron, seems to be "a client-focused collaborative approach" — a BoingBoing reader points out that Caron, appointed to his post in 2009, doesn't even have a background in library studies or archiving, but in economics.
Digital preservation is a huge undertaking, and obviously not as simple as running every page of a book through a scanner. Sites like the Internet Archive are providing excellent platforms for preserving works. But without proper funding for the dedicated archivists who contribute to them, it seems precious historical records — in Canada and across the world — will inevitably fall into the obscurity of private collections.