The $400,000 a year the provincial government has pledged for archiving official records is a relatively small amount, but it promises good value.
The government has been warehousing records, but hasn’t archived them for 10 years. There’s a difference. Merely storing the records does little good — they need to be evaluated, indexed, sorted and made easily accessible.
The lack of archiving brought a blistering report from information and privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham last July, who noted that for more than 10 years, the government has been shipping valuable historical documents to a warehouse instead of properly preserving them in the B.C. Archives.
The government had shifted the archives to the Royal B.C. Museum, but provided the museum with only enough money to store the records, not properly archive them. The funding promised this week is a significant step toward remedying that error.
Archives are the collective institutional memory of the government and all its operations. They are a record of the government’s successes and failures, an essential tool to help repeat successes and avoid repeating failures. We can’t learn from experience if we don’t know what that experience is.
Archives are also vital to a broad spectrum of non-governmental research, not just in understanding the past, but in managing the present and preparing for the future.