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.

The Right of Access vs. Cultural Privacy

Heather Kohles
Heather Kohles

In my research capacity for the International Directory of National Archives I researched the national archive of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Alele Museum, Library and Archive.  In my time researching the Alele I came across the Marshall Islands’ National Archives Act of 1989.  This act spells out the various functionaries governing archival retention for the nation.  Included in the act are provisions that no records available to the public can be duplicated as a whole or in part without the written consent of the archivist.  Furthermore, it is understood that the Archivist has the right to deny consent if the reproduction of said record will not be in the best interest of the nation.

In addition, to my research role, I also was tasked as the project coordinator for the IDNA project.  This allowed me access and review of all the country profiles submitted to the project.  I found situations like those spelled out in the Archives Act of the Marshall Islands to be very similar to other nations who wish to safe guard the dissemination of their cultural information.

This might seem counter intuitive to those of us who have grown up in a nation where cultural objects are preserved and made available, especially now with social media and Archive 2.0 platforms, promoting access and retention of archival digital surrogates.  We have come to correlate preservation with the right to free and open access to those items being preserved.  However, other nations, as a reflection of their social, political or religious environments passionately preserve their culture for those in the culture.  For whatever reason, policies for such private cultures protects the integrity and flow of information within the culture it was created, which in turn makes us as researchers responsible for maintaining ethical access practices to ensure international cultures are preserved according to their standards and not “western” expectations.

References

Alele Musuem, Library and National Archive (2000). National Archives. Retrieved from: http://alelemuseum.tripod.com/Archives.html

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (1989). The National Archives Act of 1989. Retrieved from: http://rmiparliament.org/cms/images/LEGISLATION/PRINCIPAL/1989/1989-0047/NationalArchivesAct1989_1.pdf

Interview with Dr. Pat Franks and IDNA Project Members

SCH_SOI_Blue_WebOn February 8, 2017 an interview with Dr. Pat Franks, Svetlana Ushakova, Pamela Lutzker and Inna Gogina was posted to the ISchools website.  In the interview Dr. Franks discusses the inspiration for the IDNA project and researchers discuss their experience during the international research process, the challenges they faced and the countries which they profiled.

For the entire Interview please visit http://ischool.sjsu.edu/about/news/detail/ischool-professors-and-students-create-first-international-directory-national

International Holocaust Remembrance Day – January 27, 2017

Today marks the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp 72 years ago.  In 2005 the United Nations drafted Resolution 60/7 establishing January 27th as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.   Today, member states and their respective historical organizations, including archives, hold events and ceremonies in honor of those effected by the Holocaust.

This year, the Ukraine will be opening exhibits to the public featuring Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, author of “Night”, and photographer Luigi Toscano.  At Auschwitz-Birkenau near Oswiecin, Poland, items not previously on display from a 1967 excavation can be viewed at the Auschwitz Memorial, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Here in the United States, events will be taking place across the nation.  In Washington D.C., the Holocaust Memorial is hosting the Swedish ambassador to the United States and Holocaust survivor, Bjorn Lyrvall to speak.  A candle light vigil will follow.

For more information on these and other remembrance events please visit the following:

The Auschwitz Memorial: http://auschwitz.org/en/

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance: https://holocaustremembrance.com/

The Jerusalem Post: http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Auschwitz-artifacts-finally-come-to-light-on-Holocaust-Memorial-Day-479321

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:  https://www.ushmm.org/information/exhibitions/online-exhibitions/special-focus/international-holocaust-remembrance-day

National Archives Unit of the Commonwealth of Dominica

robert_clevidence
Robert Clevidence

Thanks to the research conducted by Robert Clevidence, we have our second completed entry for the International Directory of National Archives! From Robert, I learned: The island of Dominica is noted for having been named by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Although concern was expressed for the improper storage of historical documents as early as 1968, it was not until 33 years after the Island won independence from the U.K. (2001) that the National Archives Unit of the Commonwealth of Dominica was funded by the Organization of American States “to conserve and preserve the historical and documentary heritage of the nation and make it accessible for use.” 2 entries completed and only 194 to go!