The final session I attended on Thursday at NCPH was “Competing Narratives, Competing Needs: The Roles and Responsibilities of a National Archive and its Audiences.” The panel was comprised of staff from Library and Archives Canada (LAC) including: Rebecca Giesbrecht, Jenna Murdock Smith, Jennifer Wilhelm and Katherine Comber as facilitator.
Giesbrecht began the session by comparing display practices and national concern surrounding Canada’s founding documents with that of the United States. I wrote about my views on this drastic national difference in 2012 when I made a visit to the NARA in Washington, D.C. Giesbrecht’s presentation provided a framework of national identity to examine the treatment of ‘founding documents’ by archival bodies and provided insight into LAC’s past and current preservation practices for founding documents.
Following Giesbrecht, Wilhelm discussed the role documents held at LAC have played in relation to the Indian Residential Schools legacy. Wilhelm also spent considerable time explaining the creation bias and archival bias that impacts the IRS documents held by LAC. How LAC describes IRS photographs and documents is linked to archival standards, which often results in titles of records reflecting the Euro-centric views of their creators. Wilhelm also mentioned Project Naming a LAC program designed to identify Inuit in photographs of Canada’s north and LAC’s participation in past Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) national events.
The panel concluded with Jenna Murdock Smith looking at the changing archival policies surrounding documents relating to the Japanese Canadian Redress Secretariat. The Japanese Canadian Redress was the first instance of an individual compensation process being created in Canada to address historical wrongs. Smith’s presentation focused on the archival apprasial of case files relating to the Redress. Early on these case files were considered not of archival value for LAC and slated for destruction, even though these case files contained massive amounts of individual and potentially relevant information. Smith described the challenges of attempting to find a new home for these records and the ultimate the decision to keep the case files because of a technology failure that lost related information.
This was an interesting panel. It was great to see staff from LAC engaging with the public history community and sharing their experiences documenting Canada’s ‘official’ past.