Thanks to Ed for pointing out this CBC News article to his readers. The story is about the case of several hundred missing items from the Ontario Archives.
The CBC story focuses mainly on a final report written by Audior General Jim McCarter concerning the missing items and on the painter, A.J. Casson, whose prints have gone missing - or, as the auditor general concludes, were stolen while the works were being moved.
But Ed brings up a good point, one that is far too often overlooked. While the auditor general finds fault with the archives operations, I wonder if the auditor general examined the staffing situation or the funding in the Ontario Archives?
Not being familiar with the Ontario Archives, I cannot make any direct comments. However, I can state that most archives I have known are usually struggling with inadequate funding and staffing. Materials pile up, overwhelming the staff. It is so typical a story that whenever I hear it told, I cringe and laugh a disturbed-ready-for-the-loonie-bin laugh.
It is not uncommon to have an archives staffed by maybe 2-3 professional archivists assisted by support staff or students. Nor is it uncommon to have the archives department low on the budget list. But these realities contribute to the problem of missing, uncatalogued items. And let's be honest, they are not just missing items - they are lost history, pieces of the past taken away from the public's right to see and explore and experience.
These realities are rarely discussed. Rarely. Policitians are more than happy to talk about preserving the past and digitization projects, but rarely talk about the people behind the scenes. It is as though the work gets done magically, overnight, like those Elves in that Grimm Brothers' fairy tale.
What will it take to change the discourse? Shall we lose more stuff, shall we let more go uncatalogued until things reach epedemic levels. Sadly, it is usually at that stage when the powers that be take serious notice.
about the author
- David Kemper
- I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.
I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.
I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.