ACA2011 Conference: Day Two

The second day of #ACA2011 open with a plenary session by Dr. Laura Millar. Milliar’s presentation was titled Challenging the Fundamentals: Considering the Future of the Canadian Archival System. The organizational theme of Milliar’s talk was based in creating a new ‘strategic plan’ for the Canadian Archival System. This plan called for a coordinated national strategy for record keeping and preservation, a plan for preserving the digital record, public engagement, and a revised education system. Milliar maintained that archivists should be “auditor, protector, historian, advocate, and adviser.” According to Millar, the archival field is currently faced with a time of opportunity – to shape the future of the profession and to shape the society’s perception of the field. Similar to Terry Eastwood’s presentation yesterday, Millar’s talk emphasized the need to be proactive in shaping the archival profession and was hopeful in looking toward future archival developments.

The morning session I attended was entitled The Tangible and the Intangible. Speakers included Anne Lindsay of the University of Manitoba and Creighton Barrett of Dalhousie University. Unfortunately the third panelist, Teague Schneiter, was absent. Barrett’s presentation explored English ballads as a type of intangible heritage. This talk highlighted the problem of documenting and arranging intangible heritage based on guidelines designed for written, Euro-centric documentary heritage. Additionally, Barrett called for the use of flexible arrangement during the archival processing of intangible heritage, which would allow cultural heritage to be linked to a provenance of place and an expanded definition of creation.

Lindsay’s presentation provided an interesting contrast to the paper presented by Barrett. Lindsay’s paper, entitled “Archives and Justice: Willard Ireland’s Contribution to the Changing Legal Framework of Aboriginal Rights in Canada” focused on the contributions of archivist Willard Ireland which impacted political, social, and legal forms of knowledge. Lindsay provided an excellent summary of Ireland’s involvement in two legal cases which examined the question of Aboriginal title and treaty rights. This presentation saw the role of archives as that of a witness and as playing an essential role in the creation of memory. One of the more profound examples in this discussion of archives of witness was Ireland’s court testimony. This testimony placed a piece of paper with 159 ‘X’ marks on it, into the context of a larger treaty framework. The work presented by both Barrett and Lindsay was intriguing and provided food for thought regarding how to best contextualize and preserve unique forms of heritage.

This first afternoon session I attended discussed Collecting in Canada from a historical perspective. This session included presentations by Paulette Dozois (LAC), Anna Shumilak (LAC), and Edward P. Soye (Royal Military College). All three papers in this session focused on the development of different aspects of the archival system within Canada. There was a particular emphasis on the development of LAC. Dozois‘ work focused on the legacy of Joseph Pope in the shaping of the Canadian archival system, and Soye’s work highlighted Dominion Archivists Arthur Doughty’s efforts to establish a war museum. This session provided a great overview of the development of government archives within Canada and a good starting point for discussion of how these early beginnings have shaped current government archive policy in Canada.

The final session I attended today was entitled Round Peg Square Hole. This session featured Geoffrey Yeo of the University College London, Joseph T. Tennis of the University of Washington, and Fiorella Foscarini from University of Toronto. All three speakers examined ways in which the movement to a digital environment have challenged traditional assumptions about archival practice. Yeo’s work discussed the rise of participatory digital environments and the notion of multiple modes of arrangement. Termed ‘arrangement on demand’ Yeo suggested that is impossible to predict how all users would like to use archival material and which type of arrangement of material would best facilitate this use. Yeo suggested that technology has provided archivists with an opportunity to arrange records in multiple ways, without changing their physical context. This was a great technology conscious and forward thinking panel that combined traditional archival theory with potential tech innovations.

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