Dr. Dawg

Harper's destruction of our heritage

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LAC exhibition space.JPG

PSAC President Robyn Benson’s post today about the paranoid Code of Conduct being forced on Library and Archives Canada employees reminded me of this excellent post by Ottawa bibliophile Nigel Beale. Beale’s article is a cry of anger, nearly a year old now, about the deliberate destruction of Canada’s priceless national collection of rare books and documents—our country’s material history.

It’s timely to recall that piece, and the work being done by other individuals and groups to stop the vandalism, even though we have unfortunately seen little effect to date.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has been on the case, and shares so much unsettling information that it’s hard to take it all in at once. For example:

LAC is abandoning its commitment to acquire and maintain a comprehensive collection of Canada’s documentary heritage. LAC officials argue that a “representative” collection is all that is possible in the “digital age.”

…There have been no purchased acquisitions since 2009. The official 10-month moratorium, which ended in January 2010, has been followed by an unofficial “pause.”

There are many examples of important pieces of Canada’s heritage that LAC is not acquiring. Many of these pieces have been or will be bought by other national libraries and private collectors both inside and outside Canada.

One of the worst changes is the decentralization of these resources. Here’s the man in charge:

Daniel Caron, Library and Archivist of Canada, has announced that “the new environment is totally decentralized and our monopoly as stewards of the national documentary heritage is over.”

LAC will be decentralizing a large portion of its collections to both public and private institutions. LAC documents refer to this voluntary group of “memory institutions” as a “coalition of the willing.”

CAUT points out the obvious: “Distributing this material across the country makes it more difficult and costly for researchers to access.” You think? And of this past February, interlibrary loans from LAC have been eliminated.

Here’s a handy list of the slashing and burning of our past being carried out by the Harper government. And it doesn’t stop with LAC. The former Museum of Civilization is also being reconstituted in a conservative frame:

In the past decade, invading and stripping half the Museum of Civilization became a vital mission to a handful of nationalist historians, and their choice of a Trojan Horse is the federal government. Those traditionalists, supported on record by a now boxed-in management, aim at replacing virtually all the main history galleries which now feature ordinary people and everyday life in Canada from AD1000 to 2000, east to west, by inserting instead displays portraying landmark political events, episodes, or persons. In short, the Museum would jettison its broad social history narrative for past parables stitched together with timelines, pictures, and labels covering the walls.

Add to all this wanton destruction the abolition of the long-form census, making our knowledge of trends in present-day Canada incoherent, and one cannot help but be reminded of George Orwell: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

The word “conservative” used to have some association with the notion of conservation. We shall have to find another term entirely to describe the uncultured wrecking crew now running the country.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on March 19, 2013 6:37 PM.

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