We were shocked and saddened this week to learn of the cancellation of the National Archival Development Program. This is in addition to a major round of cuts at Library and Archives Canada, which was the funding source of the program.
The funding is used by the Archives Association of British Columbia, as it is in other provinces and territories by their respective archival organizations, to maintain our provincial database of archival holdings, MemoryBC, and to employ a professional archivist and a professional conservator to provide advice to archival institutions and archivists when needed. It also provides professional development opportunities for archivists, so that we can continue to learn to serve our patrons and our collections better. UBC Rare Books and Special Collections has very frequently taken advantage of these opportunities; for example, this program was used to help develop a preservation plan for the Chung Collection, a declared national treasure and one of our most frequently used collections.
This same pot of funds was used to maintain the national archival database, Archives Canada. This database brings together archival descriptions from institutions across Canada. There is no other “one stop shop” for searching archives across the country, making this and provincial/territorial equivalents like MemoryBC absolutely crucial research tools for everybody who uses archives. In our reference and teaching activities here at RBSC, we are constantly referring researchers to these resources.
The other arm of this funding was used to provide matching grants to archival institutions to preserve, catalogue and disseminate our archival collections. In recent years, this funding was used by Rare Books and Special Collections to catalogue and make available the Mike Apsey fonds, the Council of Forest Industries fonds, and the Red Cedar Shingle and Handsplit Shake Bureau fonds (all in our recently created Forest History research guide); the Jack and Doris Shadbolt fonds (featured in our British Columbian Art and Artists research guide); and the Rosemary Brown fonds (the archives of the first black female member of a Canadian parliamentary body). Just from these examples, it is easy to see that this funding is crucial in helping the Canadian public gain access to records ranging from industry, to politics, to the environment, to the arts.
The National Archival Development Program was administered by the Canadian Council of Archives. If you would like to learn more, there is a Call to Action on their website.