On April 30, 2012 the Audrey & Harry Hawthorn Library & Archives at the Museum of Anthropology learned that the National Archival Development Program (NADP) has been eliminated as a result of the most recent round of cuts to the heritage sector initiated by the federal government. The elimination of this 1.7 million dollar grant program will have a devastating effect on the ability of archival institutions across the country to engage in the vital work that allows them to preserve and to make accessible their holdings to the public. This funding was not a simple hand-out, but was leveraged by individual institutions with cash and in-kind contributions to complete projects that bring value to all Canadians. The NADP also funded our provincial database of archival holdings, MemoryBC, and enabled provincial and territorial archival councils to provide education, advisory and preservation services to archival institutions at the regional level. With the elimination of NADP funding these services are unlikely to continue.
The Audrey & Harry Hawthorn Library & Archives has directly benefited from NADP funding. In 2008 we were able to hire a short-term archivist to process and create a finding aid for the Vickie Jensen and Jay Powell fonds. This large set of records includes over 5 metres of textual records, 28,000 photographs and 500 audio recordings which were amassed over three decades of living and working with First Nations communities to help revitalize and preserve indigenous languages. The Jensen and Powell fonds is of vital importance to the cultural heritage of Canada’s First Nations and received a designation of Canadian Cultural Property in 2010 due to its outstanding significance and national importance.
More recently, the NADP funded a project to digitize a collection of open reel audio recordings, including field recordings from the 1950s and 1960s containing First Nations songs and stories. This collection of recordings also includes lectures and talks by noted Northwest Coast artists such as Bill Reid, Robert Davidson, Roy Vickers and others. With the creation of digital copies, we are able to make our audio recordings accessible to indigenous communities, scholars and the general public. However, this project is about more than just digitizing a specific collection of audio materials, it is also about creating the infrastructure and means to assist indigenous communities to address their own analog holdings. To this end, MOA partnered with the First Nations Technology Council (an Irving K. Barber Learning Centre funded project), who supplied equipment for the NADP project, in exchange for MOA and the Oral History Language Lab developing a tool-kit to assist with digitization at the community level. This important initiative began with seed money from the NADP, but will continue to benefit the preservation of indigenous heritage at the community level.
With the loss of the National Archival Development Program the types of project described above will be difficult, if not impossible, to complete in the future. The Audrey & Harry
Hawthorn Library & Archives are devastated by the loss of these funding opportunities, as are hundreds of other archival institutions across the country. Archives and the documentary heritage they safeguard, are integral to fostering a sense of democracy, in knowing ourselves and keeping traditions, languages and cultures alive.