Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Canadian Heritage Cutbacks

This week has been filled with announcements of program cancellations, staff reductions, and budget restrictions.  Many of these announcements have been related to Canada's heritage field and have the potential to drastically impact heritage sites, archives, and history preservation across the country.

The major announcements include:
  • Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has announced a 20% reduction in staff.  This means that you will no longer be able to visit the archive without an appointment, as reference service staff is being significantly reduced.  There are also rumors about the entire Inter-library Loans department being scrapped at LAC.  This would be a huge blow to researchers and institutions throughout Canada who rely on loans to access material. 
  • Parks Canada has been hit hard by the recent public service cuts.  Parks staff have been told that 638 positions will be eliminated in the upcoming year.  The impact on individual historic sites will vary, but a number of parks will be greatly impacted.  
    • For example, it was announced that the Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia will be letting go of ten staff members and reducing the hours of at least 110 employees.  As a result of this staffing cut and funding reductions the parks hours and services will be reduced. 
  • The National Archival Development Program (NADP) has been cut. The NADP was a grant program that funded archives projects across Canada.  Many archival programs, archival staff, and community resources will be eliminated with this decision.
  • The Canadian Council of Archives office has been closed. More information on this decision is to be announced in the near future.  On April 30, 2012 Lara Wilson, Chair of CCA announced that "with the exception of the minor capacity needed to administer Young Canada Works (YCW) and the National Archival Appraisal Board (NAAB), the current CCA staff will no longer be in place and our office will be closing."  Currently it seems as though this level of national support will no longer be available to archives.
I wouldn't change my decision to delve into the world of public history.  However, these recent trends provide mountains for new and experienced professionals to overcome.  Employment opportunities, professional support, and funding avenues seem to be on the decline on multiple fronts.  

These cuts will also have a significant impact on the heritage field's ability to communicate Canada's past to the general public.  Staffing and budget cuts result in less acquisitions, reduced level of care, and less community outreach and programming.  I think the general public, educators, and the government need a reminder of the value of history and heritage.

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