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National, Provincial and Territorial Archivists’ Conference (NPTAC) Annual Report for 2014-2015

December 16, 2015

Good day,

On behalf of the National, Provincial and Territorial Archivists’ Conference (NPTAC), we are pleased to share with you an update on our work to create an annual statistical profile of Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial archives.

NPTAC is a long-standing consultative body comprised of the heads of the 13 provincial and territorial archives, and the Librarian and Archivist of Canada. Meeting twice-yearly within a federal-provincial-territorial framework, NPTAC facilitates broad discussion on matters of mutual interest, and undertakes small collaborative projects that support specific goals and objectives of the Canadian Archival System.

The practice of collecting and sharing annual operating statistics for Canadian archives dates back to the early 1980s, and NPTAC has long undertaken a compilation of operating statistics from federal, provincial and territorial archives. This statistical report is considered by NPTAC during its June annual meeting. The reports have differed in scope and depth over the years, but have remained an important discussion piece among members.

In 2014, NPTAC struck a Working Group on Statistics to renew the data collection process, and to recommend a new approach appropriate for Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial archives in the 21st century. A new model was developed and tested by the NPTAC Working Group on Statistics in 2014-2015, and, as a result of this process, adjustments to this model are now underway.  Full implementaton in 2015-2016 will include an annual update from NPTAC to the broader Canadian archival community.

In this spirit, please find below highlights from the 2014-2015 NPTAC Annual Report, for your information. Stay tuned for the 2015-2016 NPTAC Annual Report, which will be shared with the community in summer 2016.

If you have any questions about this work, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Working Group.

2014-2015 NPTAC Annual Report

Patterns of Achievement

Fiscal year 2014-2015 saw many notable accomplishments among NPTAC members. Jurisdictions made many important acquisitions of private archival material, and there is evidence of an ongoing focus among NPTAC members on government records. This fiscal year, NPTAC members emphasized information and records management by focusing on disposition, training, backlog reduction, and accessioning; as well as policy and systems work, and outreach with public servants.

Jurisdictions also made a significant effort to improve access to archival materials – by developing digital collections and virtual exhibitions – and by enhancing public access catalogues through the addition of digital objects and descriptions. Anniversaries and commemorative activities also drove access, with jurisdictions undertaking First World War commemorative initiatives, as well as marking the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, and 250th anniversary of the Samuel Holland map that defined the boundaries of current-day Prince Edward Island (PEI).

In 2014-2015, jurisdictions also focused on physical infrastructure, including the construction and/or renovation of storage facilities, the preparation of collections for moves between facilities, and the development of plans for anticipated storage requirements. There is a clear and ongoing need for increased physical storage capacity across Canada. There is also a need to develop digital storage infrastructure, as well as to develop capacity to manage both born-digital and converted materials. Many jurisdictions are moving forward by sharing information about their various approaches.

Fiscal year 2014-2015 saw a number of provinces at various stages of revising their jurisdictional archives legislation, namely Québec, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. Others celebrated institutional anniversaries (e.g., the 70th anniversary of the Saskatchewan Archives Board, the 50th anniversary of the PEI Archives Act, the 40th anniversary of the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives in Manitoba, and the 10th anniversary of the creation of Library and Archives Canada). We would like to commend the Archives of Manitoba for having been identified as a ‘Champion of Diversity’ by the provincial government for its active promotion of paid opportunities for persons with disabilities. And finally, we are pleased to underscore the significant contributions made to NPTAC by two past members – Jim Hamilton formerly of the Archives of Ontario, and Normand Charbonneau formerly of Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

Measuring our contributions

Fiscal year 2014-2015 was a pilot year for the NPTAC Annual Report. Notwithstanding this, we would like to highlight four statistical measures this reporting year, and to recommend that these areas be monitored moving forward.

First, the significant contribution by volunteers and students in some jurisdictions is worth highlighting. While these groups were not evenly employed across jurisdictions in 2014-2015, they seem to have made a significant contribution to the workforce where their support was used. Secondly, in 2014-2015, NPTAC members reported having undertaken a significant amount of digitization, while at the same time continuing to respond to a significant number of reference inquiries. Thirdly, all jurisdictions reported having contributed database records to an aggregator or union lists, regionally, nationally and thematically. And lastly, while social media was not used evenly by NPTAC members in 2014-2015, those jurisdictions that did use them reported a significant amount of activity spread over a range of different channels.

Evident Opportunities

Following from an analysis of the 2014-2015 NPTAC Annual Report, we see three noticeable opportunities for collaboration among jurisdictions. First, opportunities exist to increase dialogue on the use of social media, both for the purposes of sharing best practices and aligning existing strategies. Secondly, opportunities also exist to increase information sharing on engagement and collaboration with user and other communities (e.g., grant and contribution programs, Aboriginal communities, training and workshops, etc.). And thirdly, there are opportunities to increase the level of exchange between NPTAC members on private sector partnering, sponsorship and public programming.

Emerging Trends

Next, we would like to bring forward key trends from 2014-2015 that suggest longer-term impacts on archival operations. Backlog reduction and the management of legacy government records will most likely remain a priority in the coming years, as will the development of digital capacity in response to user demand for digitized content. Dialogue and initiatives related to open government appear to be increasing, as are planned reviews of policies, work processes and protocols to identify efficiencies and develop updated strategies.

Challenges on our Horizon

Finally, we would like to highlight a series of likely challenges for NPTAC members, based on the 2014-2015 NPTAC Annual Report. The design and implementation of models for revenue generation, including the licensing of digitized collection content, will likely preoccupy NPTAC members moving forward. Similarly, the need to manage increasing costs associated with required analogue and digital storage capacity will remain a key consideration. Jurisdictions will need to remain flexible and responsible in light of changes within government, including reorganizations, changes in reporting relationship, and whole of government efficiency-driven initiatives. And finally, NPTAC members will be challenged to ensure readiness to acquire and manage born digital records, and to migrate records to digital formats.

Sincerely,

NPTAC Statistics Working Group
Fred Farrell, Provincial Archives of New Brunswick
Leslie Latta, Provincial Archives of Alberta
Linda McIntyre, Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan
Greg Walsh, The Rooms (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Lois Yorke, Nova Scotia Archives
Hilary Morgan, Library and Archives Canada

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