Friday, July 6, 2007

Archival PR, comparing national archives websites

At the SRA, the powers that be decided to make a DVD film promoting all that is good and great about SRA and, by implication, archives generally. The ten minute film includes interviews with archival staff (sadly filmed by before AA started working there), big Religious figures, views of the facility, various old and well cared for materials and an explict plea for Religious people to hand over their material to SRA. This strikes me as an entirely good idea, a good step in the right direction. I am certainly not the first to notice the public's lack of awareness and the consequent need for Archives PR.

In a April 2005 article in the Globe and Mail, author Guy Vanderhaeghe wrote an article called, "'We are what we keep: Canada's archives are in crisis." As he put it: "Yet the archives of this country, which are the underpinnings of this consciousness, are in a perilous position. Canadians have an acquaintance with libraries, museums, art galleries, concert halls, and theatres, either as willing visitors, or because we were once press-ganged into school tours of them as children. But archives remain largely invisible to the public, and the essential work they do passes largely unnoticed. "

Exactly right. More work needs to be done in bringing the work of archives to the public's attention. I think a case could even be made that, in terms of national archives, Canada is lagging far behind Britain and America in terms of Internet presence. This only serves to reinforce notions that archives are archiac places to store paper; it astonishes that a proper and sophisticated Web presence is still thought option. Let us consider the national archives of Canada has a disspiriting cookie-cutter appearance, in a weird effort to make it look like every other federal government website, and it offers little in the way of services or information. Compare the Canadian site to vastly superior American or British national archive websites.

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