The end of total archives? : an analysis of changing acquisition practices in Canadian archival repositories
Since the early 1990s, Canada's publicly funded archival repositories have been reducing their involvement in the acquisition of private-sector records. The decline in central government involvement has been matched by a steady increase in the number and nature of community-based, institutional, or organisational repositories. The acquisition and preservation of privately generated archival records by the public sector has been a central aspect of Canadian archival practice for many years. It is partly a result of the Canadian perception that government has a significant role to play in the social and cultural affairs of its citizens. It has also resulted from an inclusive definition of the concept of `archives, ' one that has encouraged the preservation of a wide range of historical materials for evidential, informational, and cultural reasons. This concept has been called `total archives' and has evolved into a `Canadian archival system. ' This thesis examines the evolution of Canadian acquisition practices, from the beginnings in the mid-1800s to the present day. The first seven chapters trace the history of acquisition policy, which began in the colonial and early Confederation period with the appointment of Douglas Brymner as the first `national archivist. ' The role of Arthur Doughty, Dominion Archivist and consummate collector, is examined, as are the findings of subsequent Canadian commissions concerned with archival work: the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, in the 1950s, the Royal Commission on Government Organization, in the 1960s, the Commission on Canadian Studies, in the 1970s, and the Consultative Group on Canadian Archives, in the 1980s. These chapters trace the activities that influenced archival acquisition at the time, as well as the effect of these events on the archival community's perceptions of the nature of archives and the role of the archivist. The last chapter examines conditions influencing archival acquisition in Canada in the 1990s. These include the restructuring of government in the face of a growing public deficit, with the consequent reduction or elimination of non-critical public functions. Also discussed is the effect of increased government accountability, as evidenced by access to information legislation, on acquisition. As well, the impact of sophisticated information and telecommunications technologies is reviewed. The archival community's reactions to these changes is explored. The thesis concludes by considering several questions raised throughout the thesis. What is an archival record? What is the purpose of preserving archival records? What actions may be taken to ensure the preservation of Canada's documentary memory in a time of changing governmental and societal priorities? The reality of territoriality and regional identity, and the importance of preserving society's collective memory, are examined in the context of archival management.