National Archival Development Program, 2006-2012

Gone Too Soon…

By Shannon and Kate

As archival staff in a public library that serves the sizable Jewish community of Montreal, we have witnessed firsthand the importance of preserving and disseminating history. Not only does the community as a whole have a complex narrative within the mosaic of Canadian culture but the families that make up the community each have their own unique story. These people have told us their stories and trusted us as a heritage organization to preserve them.  This type of relationship is repeated in numerous archival institutions across our country but sadly, our ability to preserve and share material has been dealt a blow.

On Monday, April 30th, Library and Archives Canada, in addition to sustaining  job cuts that will disrupt services to the Canadian public, announced the elimination of the National Archival Development Program (NADP).  Developed in 2006 to replace older funding schemes, the NADP distributed grants for archival projects in each province and territory as well as supporting the Canadian Council of Archives.  The total funding for archival projects amounted to just over $1 million, a drop in the bucket in the large scheme of things.  The returns on making Canadian heritage accessible to citizens though were huge.  Funding was distributed based on priorities set by provincial and territorial archival councils as well as the merits of the applications.  In short, it was an example of Canadian governance at its best: a great deal achieved through the cooperation at the provincial and federal levels and in support of our national stories told through our diverse communities.

 The JPL-A was itself a recipient of two NADP grants, one in 2007 that supported the up-dating and professionalization of the archives, and another in 2010 that supported the appraisal, arrangement, description and initial digitization of the Young Men’s-Young Women’s Hebrew Association fonds.  Without a doubt, this large amount of work would have been impossible to achieve without the support of the NADP.  The first grant resulted in the cataloguing of over 10,000 images and the second one contributed to the  Y’s 100th anniversary celebrations as well as making preserving and making accessible the social history of this key cultural institution.  It goes beyond the small dollar figures we received though; it helped us build our archival community programme.  Money begets money.  Because the NADP supported us, we were able to raise our exposure in the community and in the city.  Because we had a larger exposure, we were able to attract new donations of archival material as well as significant monetary support from donors.  Without the NADP, the JPL-A would be at least two years behind what we have achieved today.

Small, cultural and ethnic community archives in particular count on the NADP because they generally do not have access to the same support structures as municipal, larger university or provincial archives.  Depending on the community they serve, these archives may not have a donor base at all, may depend completely on the generosity and time of dedicated volunteers, and do as much as they can on ridiculously small to non-existent budgets.  Despite these obstacles and with the help of the NADP, these archives manage to open doors to people searching for their family, are represented in countless scholarly and fictional works, hundreds of films, documentaries and articles, and hold history accountable to the people. 

Canadian history is diverse and complex.  The NADP supported projects that touched the national story as well as smaller narratives in communities and by our families.  Our nation is so much more than what you find in your average schoolbooks.  You can view a list of partial list of past recipients of NADP grants, until 2009, here.  Without the NADP we will never know how many Canadian narratives will be lost to anonymity.    

Will funding be produced to replace the NADP?  No announcements to this have yet been made and the last notification received from the Canadian Council of Archives is that their own existence is now in jeopardy.  The JPL-A certainly celebrates its past achievements made possible by the NADP; but we most definitely mourn for the future of Canadian heritage with this announcement.

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