The Past Becomes the Future


Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada
November 6, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario

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Good morning, and welcome to Library and Archives Canada.

Let me begin by acknowledging that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation.

We acknowledge the Algonquin as the past, present and future caretakers of this land.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of today’s seminar, I’d like to talk to you briefly about the importance of the Documentary Heritage Communities Program to LAC and to me personally.

When I came here, a little over four years ago, I committed myself to making LAC an institution that listens to its partners.

And by listening – just a little – it was easy to understand how desperately the documentary community needed a program to enable local communities to grow, to retain their capacity, and to fully play their unique role across the country.

Therefore, with the help of my colleagues at LAC and the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage, I made the implementation of the DHCP my personal mission.

The bottom line is that LAC has been able to invest $1.5 million per year into the new program from its own budget, without any injection of additional funds, and has fully absorbed the associated management costs.

This is a big accomplishment, but I am not taking credit for it, just explaining the context, to make it clear that the implementation of the DHCP truly represents a joint desire to meet the real needs of our partners.

We live in an age of the immediate, where response time is expected to be instantaneous, and where attention spans are the length of a sound bite.

In this kind of world, it’s easy for us to lose sight of the past and to ignore the future.

Only the present seems to matter, and that present is in constant flux.

So how do we maintain a continuum of past, present and future?

With solid, robust and trustworthy memory institutions.

And that’s what the DHCP is all about.

Since its launch in 2015, the program has provided $6 million in funding to 130 documentary heritage organizations in support of 170 projects.

These organizations work to organize, preserve and share their heritage collections.

They include local community libraries, archives, historical and genealogical societies, as well as museums and other heritage groups.

Their collections include books, photographs, audio recordings and more.

As our discussions today will show, we have supported groups that vary in size, nature, objective and location.

And as a result of the work of the great partners present here today and of the more than 100 others, Canada’s continuing memory is better documented, preserved and made accessible.

When we launched the program in 2014, we had approval to provide the DHCP for five years. The program had a sunset clause.

After the first three years, we had to evaluate the DHCP and obtain approval for its continuation.

The program has been so successful that I can announce with pride and pleasure today that we now have received approval to continue the program beyond 2019, with no sunset clause.

* * *

While the program is clearly a success story, there is always room for improvement.

Which leads us to make a few changes to the DHCP for the fifth call for proposals, which was launched this past October 18th.

First, we have increased the maximum levels of funding for so-called small contributions, which come with less stringent rules.

Small contributions used to be those under $15,000. But now, that limit is $25,000, and contributions can be used over two fiscal years.

In order to allow more institutions to benefit from the DHCP, the maximum funding per project, per funding cycle, has been lowered from $100,000 to $50,000.

And organizations located in remote areas can receive up to 20 percent of additional support.

This will mean more opportunities for an expanded variety of projects.

You can think of today’s seminar as an episode of “Where are they now?,” since we have asked a number of previous grant recipients to talk about the challenges they faced, the opportunities provided by the DHCP, and their strategies for success.

By showcasing the variety of organizations and projects we have supported, from small contributions like the Cole Harbour Farm Museum to large ones like the Société historique de la Saskatchewan, we demonstrate the value of this program.

And we think it is useful for previous recipients to share their lessons learned and their best practices, from all stages of their projects.

Perhaps most importantly, we are pleased to provide an opportunity for past, present and future applicants to network.

By working together, we can make a profound difference both in the way our past is understood, and in how our future is informed.

Which benefits every one of us, our children and our grandchildren.

Thank you all for coming today.

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