Better Off Forgetting?

Better Off Forgetting?: Essays on Archives, Public Policy, and Collective Memory

CHERYL AVERY
MONA HOLMLUND
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442689879
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  • Book Info
    Better Off Forgetting?
    Book Description:

    While stimulating debate about our rapidly changing information environment,Better Off Forgetting?focuses on the continuing role of archives in gathering and preserving our collective memory.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8987-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    CHERYL AVERY and MONA HOLMLUND

    We are all archivists. Throughout our lives we select, store, and review. We keep documents, photographs, video and audio tapes as mementoes and souvenirs. Even if one is not a keeper of such memorabilia, we are all implicated in the archival project. We leave a trail of academic transcripts, medical records, job applications, and tax forms in our wake as we move through society. Even graffiti is a record that someone was there, an attempt to project one’s presence into the future. We seem to have a compulsion to document.

    Throughout the country, provincial, federal, municipal, and other archives exist...

  5. PART ONE: THE HISTORY OF FUNDING

    • 1 Pennies from Heaven: The History of Public Funding for Canadian Archives
      (pp. 3-16)
      MARION BEYEA

      It has been thirty-five years since theReport on Canadian Studieswas published, thirty years sincethe Report of the Consultative Group on Canadian Archiveswas delivered, and twenty-five years since the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) was established. This essay, in the course of reviewing the archival scene in the 1975–85 period, looks at the thinking that informed these undertakings, the situations they identified, the recommendations they made, their impact, and what all this said about financial support for archives.

      The idea of a commission to study, report on, and make recommendations relating to the state of Canadian...

    • 2 Lady Sings the Blues: The Public Funding of Archives, Libraries, and Museums in Canada
      (pp. 17-36)
      SHELLEY SWEENEY

      It is difficult to paint an accurate picture of public funding for culture in Canada. Part of the difficulty lies in comparing funding between libraries, museums, and archives. By reviewing variations in spending over time, however, this essay provides the basis for comparing relative changes and trends in priority.²

      Total federal, provincial, and municipal government funding for all three sectors fluctuated from 1984 to 2004, but generally over the 1990s heritage institutions saw a 14 per cent reduction in government spending.³ For example, even though the majority of federal spending on culture goes to broadcasting, in 1990 the Canadian Broadcasting...

  6. PART TWO: ACCESS AND PRIVACY

    • 3 Access-to-Information Legislation: A Critical Analysis
      (pp. 39-59)
      JO-ANN MUNN GAFUIK

      The authors ofThe Culture Shift to Transparencyargue that ‘the last decades of the 20th century saw a dramatic shift in the values, norms, and cultures of information.’¹ Few would disagree. Although opacity and outright secrecy are still powerfully entrenched in some spheres and in some domains, a culture shift towards transparency, to the open flow of information, and to accountability has clearly advanced worldwide. Indeed, the rise of transparency in pursuit of the ideal democratic society is so persistent and so widespread that it is considered by many to be a ‘ social fact.’²

      Freedom-of-information (FOI) legislation, where...

    • 4 Privacy: A Look at the Disenfranchised
      (pp. 60-70)
      DOUG SURTEES

      Access to information is an important tool in our never-ending quest to preserve and perfect democracy. As the ability of governments (and private actors) to gather and use information grows to levels previously inconceivable, the right to access at least part of that information is an important democratic tool. Existing in a somewhat symbiotic relationship with access to information is our right to privacy. Sometimes we think seriously about privacy as a result of our thinking about access to information as a valuable democratic tool. We almost instinctively realize that, as information is made available to individuals, corporations, or democracy’s...

    • 5 The Laurier Promise: Securing Public Access to Historic Census Materials in Canada
      (pp. 71-108)
      TERRY COOK and BILL WAISER

      Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s promise of census confidentiality has become an unlikely flashpoint in Canadian society in the past decade. Opponents clashed in parliamentary hearings, through the media, and at public forums held across the country. How did this obscure bureaucratic instruction, directed by Laurier a century ago at census takers, become such a hotly contested battleground in contemporary Canadian society? This ongoing struggle pitted combatants arguing for access to non-sensitive government records against those believing that the lasting protection of personal information in such records must come first. Nor was it an arcane war fought between researchers in...

  7. PART THREE: THE DIGITAL AGE

    • 6 Search vs. Research: Full-Text Repositories, Granularity, and the Concept of ’Source’ in the Digital Environment
      (pp. 111-123)
      ROBERT COLE and CHRIS HACKETT

      The advent of the digital revolution has raised fascinating questions about the relationship between computer technologies and traditional practices in the organization and analysis of information. One of the presumed benefits of the digital revolution has been its fundamentally egalitarian nature – the availability of resources online will, to a large extent, free researchers from the intervention of librarians, archivists, and other traditional gatekeepers of the cultural record. In one sense, this has come to pass. Digital resources have liberated researchers from many of the limitations imposed by libraries and archives, both innate – the physical location of the institution – and administrative...

    • 7 Preserving Digital History: Costs and Consequences
      (pp. 124-140)
      YVETTE HACKETT

      Archivists have been discussing digital technology and its potential impact on the archival record for more than thirty-five years. Sometimes, it seems that all this effort has had little practical effect inside many of the archival institutions mandated to deal with changes to the processes of records creation, maintenance, and preservation. In large part, this difficulty in integrating digital records into existing archival work stems from the fact that digital technology is a moving target, developing new capabilities and upgrading constantly while simultaneously becoming obsolete at the same rapid pace. Digital technology is multifaceted, affecting most of the tools used...

  8. PART FOUR: ACCOUNTABILITY AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE

    • 8 Archives, Democratic Accountability, and Truth
      (pp. 143-168)
      TERRY EASTWOOD

      In the Broadway production ofBeyond the Fringe, a reporter interviews a pedantic police inspector about the Great Train Robbery. After quibbling that it was not really a train robbery because there was ‘no loss of train, it’s merely what I like to call thecontentsof the train that were pilfered,’ the inspector, when asked who he thought did the deed, replies that the police believe that ‘the tell-tale loss of property, the snatching away of money substance … all point to thieves.’ The reporter then says, ‘You feel that thieves are responsible.’ The inspector replies: ‘ Good heavens,...

    • 9 Archivists and Public Affairs: Towards a New Archival Public Programming
      (pp. 169-192)
      TOM NESMITH

      If you ask most Canadians what links the pursuit of Nazi war criminals, climatology, Alzheimer’s research, Aboriginal land claims, LSD medical experiments, chemical-warfare experiments, unsolved murders from the American civil-rights era, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Stasi secret police, Japanese Canadian wartime compensation, and the Steven Truscott murder case, few would answerarchives– or even know that these are but a handful of examples of the significant role archival records have played in public affairs. Canadians and people elsewhere do not know much about this role, despite the fact that it has been widely publicized in the mass...

  9. PART FIVE: RESOURCE FOR THE PRESENT

    • 10 Reconciliation in Regions Affected by Armed Conflict: The Role of Archives
      (pp. 195-214)
      TOM ADAMI and MARTHA HUNT

      As a result of the horrors of the Second World War, the United Nations was established in 1945 for the purposes of preventing war, safeguarding human rights, providing a mechanism for international law, promoting social and economic progress, improving living standards, and fighting disease. The international political climate of the first four decades of the UN’s existence made the use of peacekeeping forces and the establishment of protocol for international law a potentially contentious subject, limiting the UN’s ability to take action to prevent or prosecute violations of humanitarian law. The changes brought about by the ending of the Cold...

    • 11 Bridging Us to Us: An Argument for the Importance of Archivists in Current Politics and Journalism
      (pp. 215-230)
      ROBERT STEINER

      The archivist, to most of us, is a librarian of memory. We picture archivists bridging generations: some guarding old artifacts for current audiences, others guarding current artifacts for future thinkers, each of them with one foot in another era.

      What could the archivist possibly tellusaboutus?

      A lot, I argue.

      Archivists are, in fact,uniquelyable to confront one of the major rots in the popular culture: the literal disintegration of meaning in political communications and in journalism. That’s because outstanding politicians and journalists share the instincts of outstanding archivists, and archivists thus have a particular ability to...

  10. Index
    (pp. 231-242)