Electronic records a new world for archivists

Online access to digitally recorded material is releasing archivists and librarians around the world from their dusty chambers of stored papers.

The B.C. Archives, for example, is putting online all records of births, deaths and marriages that occurred in the province. Archivists no longer have to physically remove material from stacks to hand to a client standing at a counter.

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“It allows people who don’t have the money to make a research trip to the Island to do what they need to do from anywhere,” says Ember Lundgren, preservation manager at Royal B.C. Museum and Archives.

But Lundgren says this new ease of access has to be approached with caution.

Some material held at the archives, such as books, television shows or music, is under copyright and can’t be made available without permission. Even digital recordings of First Nations songs, prayers or symbols can’t be made available without following cultural protocols.

“It’s all quite new,” said Lundgren. “So there is no set ‘this is what we should do’ yet.

“Right now, we are at a stage of ‘This is what we think we can do,’ but there are so many other issues.”

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