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Guy Berthiaume, National Librarian and Archivist of Canada – Interview by Pamela Lutzker

 

Guy Berthiaume
Dr. Guy Berthiaume

I sat down to speak with Dr. Guy Berthiaume on the first day of the 2017 ALA-ICA conference.  Dr. Berthiame is the National Librarian and Archivist of Canada. He earned his doctorate in history at the Université Paris VIII in 1976 and worked in academia until becoming involved with archives at the Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec (BAnQ, the Library and National Archives of Quebec), where he served as Chair and CEO.  Dr. Berthiame moves easily between French and English, and is active in promoting francophone organizations like the Reseau francophone numerique (RFN).

LutzkerP
Pam Lutzker

The national archives of Canada, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), is unusual in that it combines the national archives with the national library. I asked how this arrangement differed from most other national archives. Dr. Berthiame enthusiastically described how the two areas complement each other. The library is very public-focused, always looking for ways to get more people to come in and get involved.  Archives are more inward-focused. Their mind-set is more “If they build it, people will come.” Working with librarians has helped the archivists to become more open and to work to bring in the public.

I asked about special projects at the LAC. Dr. Berthiame noted that all of the Canadian WWI military records will have been digitized and put online in time for the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I (11/2018). The LAC is also actively working to collect records and information about the history and culture of the indigenous people of Canada, also referred to as the First Nations. Dr. Berthiame said that archives are important because they are the beginning of the chain for change.

Funding for the LAC is an on-going effort. Dr. Berthiame noted that the people who make the financial decisions in the government understand the importance of records and archives but are pulled by competing prioritiesincluding issues like poverty and disaster relief. The case for funding the archives must be made with the understanding that there are other priorities. With that in mind, he has brought to the table groups seeking private money to help fund different programs.  

Dr. Berthiame said that two issues in archiving keep him up at night. The incredible amount of digital records and the fact that information is increasing exponentially, which requires making plans to accommodate those records. The Canadian government has instituted an information governance planbut did not include the national archives in the process. So the national archives now has to work within the existing system to develop a plan that will allow for records no longer of business value to be transferred to the archives.

The increase in number of digital records is only going to become more challenging as government officials begin to use more social media. Dr. Berthiame noted that the Canadian Prime Minister likes to tweet as much as the U.S. President.  The national archives will be held responsible by future generations of historians if those records are not captured and archived as well.

At the conclusion of the interview, I asked Dr. Berthiame what advice he would give to those beginning a career in archives.  He replied that it is important to keep your mind open.  Don’t think that the profession as it is now will remain that way forever.

ALA-ICA Conference

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Kate Eminhizer

When given the opportunity to participate in a major international conference, you take it. That is exactly what I and fellow student Pam Lutzker did in November 2017 when we travelled to Mexico City to attend the ALA-ICA Conference. Student participation was promoted by Dr. Ian Wilson, former Director of the Library and Archives of Canada, former Vice-President of the ICA and current advisor to the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates. The trip also had the support of Dr. Sandy Hirsch of the SJSU iSchool. In addition to participating in Conference Logoconference sessions, Pam and I were extended an invitation to observe the annual meeting of the Forum of National Archivists (FAN). The overall intent of the trip was to grant students who had worked on the International Directory of National Archives the opportunity to converse and network with some of the archivists of those archives.

ALA Conference 2
From left to right: Pam Lutzker, Dr. Ian Wilson, Kate Eminhizer

The theme of the conference was “Archives, Citizenship and Interculturalism.” It marked the first time that the ICA conference was hosted by a Latin American city. The Latin American Association of Archives provided a culturally rich atmosphere for professionals from around the world to discuss achievements and challenges within the archival community. Both ALA President Mercedes de Vega and ICA President David Fricker felt that it was imperative to provide an opportunity for professionals in the field to reflect upon the challenges facing the archival community. Sessions at the conference focused on the following topics: interculturalism and native cultures, human rights, illicit trafficking of documentary heritage, archives and artistic creation, archives and academic projects, access to information in relation to personal data protection, natural disasters, regional cooperation, copyright and intellectual property, information systems and digital preservation, big data, and information governance.

As someone who has attended conferences in other disciplines, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of inclusion I experienced. It did not matter to a single person that I was “only” a student. Whether I was speaking with another student or the director of a National Archive, I was treated with respect. There was not a sense of intimidation so commonly found in a room full of established professionals. I felt completely at ease participating in sessions and working with the United Arab Emirates delegation to advertise and promote the 2020 ICA conference in Abu Dhabi. The experiences I have had due to my participation on the IDNA project have far exceeded my expectations.

ALA-ICA Conference 2017

FAN ICA

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Pam Lutzker, 2017 MARA Graduate

I’ve worked on the IDNA project since the Fall of 2016.  Last November, Kate Eminhizer (another student who worked on the project) and I attended the meeting of the Forum of National Archivists (FAN), and the ALA-ICA Annual Conference 2017, in Mexico City.  FAN is a special group associated with the ICA that consists of the national archives from around the world. The meeting took place at the National Archives of Mexico (Archivo Generales de la Nacion de Mexico (AGN)).

AGN

I visited AGN a couple of days before the meeting. It is housed in a huge facility that was once a prison and is considered a National Historic Monument.  You can still see the cells in the side hallways where the records are now kept. The staff there were very friendly and helpful and allowed me to look around—after we broke through the language barrier.

The FAN meeting began with the President of ICA, David Fricker, introducing the interim President of FAN, Jeffrey James. Kate and I later had the opportunity to interview each of them. There were about fifty or sixty attending the FAN meeting, and we met and talked with a number of them, including the head archivists (directors) of Fiji, Cameroon (where the next ICA meeting takes place in 2018), Benin, Mali, Australia, Canada, Jamaica and The United Arab Emirates (the location of the 2020 ICA Congress). There were many more—too many to mention. The one thing I noticed was that each and every one was enthusiastic about their own archives.

A special thank you to Dr. Ian Wilson, former National Archivist of Canada (1999-2004) and current advisor to the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates, for facilitating all interviews and for helping us make arrangements to attend both the FAN meeting and the Annual Conference.

The Lessons of Reflection

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Figure 1. Celebrating the ICRC Archives Featured Image
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Brenda Williams

When I decided to become involved in the IDNA Project, I did so from a research perspective.  As a researcher, I have had the opportunity to explore many archival institutions, but I had absolutely no background in archival science.  I must admit being afforded the opportunity to be a part of the IDNA Project spiked my interest in archival science.  As a student pursuing my MLIS degree at San Jose State University, I decided to enroll in a few MARA classes in my last year of study.

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Figure 2. International Council on Archives logo

This fall I am enrolled in the Archives and Manuscripts and Preservation courses.  As I started learning about provenance, original order, appraisal, arrangement, description, analog and digital preservation, and the archival community, all I could think about were the archival institutions I researched and the data I compiled for the project.  Upon reflection, the little details started to take on a new meaning for me.  I began to consider how archivists look at records in groups and how the records are related and collected based upon the activities of the organizations/persons that created them.  I pondered the importance of the creator of the records and how important an archives mission or vision statement is to the appraisal process for potential acquisitions.  I was no longer thinking of the information I had collected as just facts about the archives.  I started considering the cultural heritage community and the role that archival theory plays in archival institutions and how this theology is shared internationally across this community.I am reminded of the National Archives of Romania, whose mission places great emphasis on the preparation, selection, and preservation of records containing documentary evidence of national identity, proper functioning of government and cultural memory.  With this mission in mind, it only makes sense their holdings consist of records from government entities, private collections, and public and private institutions.  I can also see the value in why the archives serve as the authority on which governmental and organizational records hold historical value.  In Romania, no organization or government department can dispose of records without the national archives evaluating the material to determine historical value (National Archives of Romania website, 2017).

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Figure 3.  British Library Endangered Archives logo

I think of the value of collaboration within the archival community when I reflect on the archives in Madagascar.   The Madagascar Archives contains collections documenting the history of the Malagasy people as well as the history of the nation.    The collection of Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony has been digitalized through the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme, which is supported by the Endangered Archives Programme. It contains royal archives from 1864 to 1895 and marks the beginning of archival history for Madagascar.  It is amazing these records have survived, and they can be digitalized and shared thanks to the preserving spirit of the Madagascar Archives and their initiative to reach out and collaborate with wonderful programs like UNESCO dedicated to safeguard heritage collections that are at risk (British Library Endangered Archives Programme website, n.d.).

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Figure 4.  Roll of microfilm

Lastly, the Archives of Serbia comes to my mind as I learn about digital archival practices and preservation techniques.  One of the functions of the archives is to develop and improve archival practices across the republic.  The Archives of Serbia sticks out in my mind because it has an interesting organizational structure.  One of the departments within the archives is called the Department of Technical Protections.  This department is dedicated to conservation and preservation of analog and digital materials.  In its efforts to preserve materials the archives have developed its own microfilm collection.  Preservation is so important, and I really liked the emphasis the Archives of Serbia placed on this important practice (Archives of Serbia website, 2017).

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Figure 5. Thank you IDNA Project.

Reflecting on my experience with the IDNA project, I no longer just see the institution, repository, or the collections when I consider archives.  My eyes are now open to the science behind what archivists do, and it is through the dedication of the individuals working together within an archive and the formation of external partnerships outside of the archives that makes the cultural heritage of these international institutions what they are.  A big thank you to the IDNA Project for taking me under your wing and for providing me the opportunity to grow as a person and to gain knowledge and develop a new perspective on archives.

Sources:

Advantage website (2017).  Advantage preservation: Libraries and historical societies [Figure 4. Roll of microfilm image].  Retrieved from:  http://www.advantage-companies.com/preservation/markets/libraries-historical-societies/

Archives of Serbia website (2017).  Internal Organization.  Retrieved from:  http://www.archives.org.rs/o-nama/unutrasnja-organizacija

British Library Endangered Archives Programme (n.d.).  Safeguarding the political history of pre-colonial Madagascar: The archives of Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony (1864-1895).  Retrieved from:  http://eap.bl.uk/project/EAP856

Idealist Careers website (2014).  5 “thank you” letters you could send to people in your network that matter, [Figure 5.  Thank you IDNA Project image].  Retrieved from:  https://idealistcareers.org/5-thank-letters-can-send-people-network-matter/

International Committee of the Red Cross website (2014).  Celebrating the ICRC Archives, [Figure 1. Celebrating the ICRC Archives featured image] Retrieved from:  https://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/feature/2014/06-06-international-archives-day.htm

National Archives of Romania website (2017).  About the Archives, NAR History.  Retrieved from:  http://www.arhivelenationale.ro/

RICHES Project website (2014).  Annual Council of the International Council on Archives, Girona 2014,  [Figure 2. ICA logo image].  Retrieved from:  http://www.digitalmeetsculture.net/article/ii-annual-conference-of-the-international-council-on-archives/

Vanderbilt College of Arts and Science website (2017).  Slave Societies Digital Archive, [Figure 3. British Library Endangered Archives logo image].  Retrieved from:  https://www.vanderbilt.edu/esss/

 

 

 

 

 

IDNA in the Society of California Archivists

alyse-dunavant-jonesAlyse Dunavant-Jones, a researcher with the IDNA project authored an article published in the Society of California Archivists Fall 2017 issue.  The article is based on a presentation given on June 9th 2017 by members of the research team on lessons learned during their time contributing to the IDNA publication.

Here is the link to the newsletter to see the full article http://www.calarchivists.org/resources/Documents/Newsletter/2017fall.pdf

Congrats Alyse!

The Importance of International Archives Day

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Neela Morari

International Archives day falls on June 9th every year and was a result of a resolution of 2000 participants of the 2004 international Congress who requested that the United Nations create an International Archives Day. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of national archives—the importance of archives to the public, the benefits of records management to the decision makers and the need to preserve the archives for one and all.

This summer, I had the opportunity to participate as a researcher for the IDNA project. My research on the West African country, Guinea, led me to an article describing exactly what the International Archives day was created to accomplish. In Guinea, the 2017 celebrations were attended by several personalities, from political figures to historians. The Director of National Archives stated that “the objective of the day is to make the public aware of the importance of archives as a basis for rights and freedoms” (Nabé, 2017). The message that concluded the ceremony was the wish that the following year a whole week would be dedicated to raising awareness instead of only one day. 

Just a few short weeks into my position as an IDNA project researcher, I much appreciated a different International Archives day celebration that raised my own awareness.  Experienced researchers from past and current semesters delivered a presentation entitled “Lessons learned while gathering data for the International Directory of National Archives.” Social media as resources, understanding cultural privacy versus the right of access to information, and challenges that may be faced when it came to dispersion of archives and resources were some topics that helped me during my research. Google Translate was another useful tool recommended to help in retrieving information from webpages not in English. The presentation also clarified the iterative nature of the whole research process from gathering data from multiple resources, social media and research articles, to narrowing down to the most current and accurate information. 

I have had the opportunity to visit a handful of countries and was always interested in learning about the local history. This interest had led me to applying for the position of a researcher for the IDNA project. My usual go-to for information would be history books at a local store. However, in the future, when an opportunity presents itself, I will definitely perform some online research on national archives of a region prior to my visit. For now, I will make some virtual international visits through the International Council on Archives website which has an “About page” on International Archives Day with links to a list of how various regions of the world have celebrated the day since 2009.

References

About the International Archives Day: https://www.ica.org/en/about-international-archives-day

Lessons learned while gathering data for the International Directory of National Archives.  (2017): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Asq6en8yqIM

Nabé, A. (2017). The national directorate of archives of Guinea celebrates the international day of archives. Guinée Culture: http://www.guineeculture.org/La-Direction-Nationale-des-Archives-de-Guinee-celebre-la-journee-internationale.html