Community Archives: the view from Canada

I attended an excellent conference in Calgary, Canada, 14-18 May, offered by the Association of Canadian Archivists. There is great interest in community archives and identities in Canada, in particular associated with the treatment of people from the First Nations. One very controversial issue is around the management of Residential Schools run by churches on behalf of the state from 1880 to 1960s. It is complicated, involving claims of abuse, missing children, loss of cultural identity, class actions. Lots of church archives are being kept very busy finding records relating to individuals. Lots of the issues seemed to me to have an overlap with the UCL research into community archives and identities, although from a different perspective.

One thing though is the terminology: ‘community archives’ to them means, the archives of a local community ie a geographic area such as a town, whose archives will go to the Provincial Archives, so they don’t understand why ‘community archives’ has any link to this First Nations archive discussion. Of course, I spoke up but understanding will be greater when more of the project publications come out.
They are having a Truth and Reconciliation Commission now, which is setting up a TRC research and documentation centre, which raises issues about the nature of the record, whether it is real or virtual centre, where the records come from and whose they are, what models of curation, how it overlaps with museum, oral history etc. I think the ideas here from the project on curation models would really help them.

Elizabeth Shepherd

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