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Preservation Activities

Preservation Policy

December, 2001

Table of Contents
1. Purpose
2. Context
3. Authorities
4. Definitions
5. Roles and responsibilities
6. Policy Statements
7. Policy Requirements
7.1 Preservation Planning and Strategy
7.2 Acquisition, Selection and Disposal
7.3 Preservation Management of Collections
7.4 Accommodation, Security and Environment
7.5 Disaster and Emergency Preparedness
7.6 Copying
7.7 Conservation Treatment
7.8 Access
7.9 Preservation Research and Training
7.10 Stakeholders, Partnerships and Professional Connections
7.11 Preservation in the Federal Records Centres
7.12 Public Awareness of Preservation
8. Monitoring
9. Other Departmental Policies
10. Date of Effect
11. Communication of the Policy

Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
Appendix D


1. Purpose
The purpose of this policy is to state the principles that guide the preservation activities of the National Archives of Canada (NA) in fulfilling all aspects of its mandate. It gives direction to staff for carrying out their responsibilities regarding the preservation function and communicates to those outside the institution the principles which guide preservation in the NA.

2. Context
The fundamental purpose of the preservation activity, its nature and scope, and its relationship with other archival functions has evolved significantly since the previous Conservation Policy came into effect in 1987. Archival records themselves now include increasing numbers of technology-dependent records with special preservation challenges. The concept of both current and long-term accessibility as purposes for preservation, and the need to keep users informed of the effects that preservation actions may have on the meaning which archival records communicate, are ideas which need to be reflected. Further, certain legislative and other changes (e.g. management of government information) have altered the authorities for the policy. Consequently, this revised Preservation Policy has been developed in consultation with NA staff and the archival and preservation community.

3. Authorities
The authorities governing this policy are the National Archives of Canada Act, passed on December 19, 1986, which came into effect on June 11, 1987, the Copyright Act and the Access to Information Act. Article 4.(1) of the National Archives of Canada Act states:

« The objects and functions of the National Archives of Canada are to conserve private and public records of national significance and facilitate access thereto, to be the permanent repository of records of government institutions and of ministerial records, to facilitate the management of records of government institutions and of ministerial records, and to encourage archival activities and the archival community. »

Further relevant citations to specific articles in these Acts are provided in Appendix A.2

4. Definitions
The terms used in this document are specific to this policy and are defined in Appendix B.

5. Roles and Responsibilities

5.1 The National Archivist of Canada approves the preservation policy on the advice of the Senior Management Committee.

5.2 The Director General, Preservation Branch, leads in the development and implementation of the preservation policy and reports to the National Archivist and/or the Senior Management Committee as appropriate.

5.3 The Assistant National Archivist, the Directors General of the other NA branches, the Director of the Portrait Gallery of Canada and the Director of the Strategic Management Office implement the policy as appropriate to their areas of responsibility and provide advice to the Director General, Preservation Branch, and through Senior Management Committee, to the National Archivist concerning the impact of the preservation policy on their areas of responsibility.

5.4 The staff and managers of all branches of the NA assist in implementing the preservation policy as appropriate to their roles and responsibilities.

6. Policy Statements

6.1 Preservation is a fundamental responsibility through which the National Archives of Canada ensures the continuing availability and authenticity of the archival records that it holds in trust for present and future generations. The NA recognizes that preservation is a pervasive function that is integral to all archives activities from acquisition through to access; every staff member plays a part. The preservation function is also implicit in NA's responsibilities to facilitate the management of records of government institutions and ministerial records and to support the archival community.

6.2 The NA seeks to be a centre of excellence for archival preservation nationally and internationally including in the development of expertise, the implementation and dissemination of standards and techniques, and the promotion of the value of archival preservation in Canada and of Canadian expertise in the world.

6.3 All types of records, whether human-readable or technology-dependent, are to be valued based on their qualities and worth as archival records, rather than the nature or challenges of their media.

6.4 Further, all preservation actions (except donor or client copying) must seek to preserve the maximum number and quality of the attributes and their interrelationships for which the archival record was acquired. The physical impact of all preservation actions or changes, including copying, must be evident to users, and any impact on meaning must be conveyed to users.

6.5 A record, whether an archival record or a copy, always comprises both information and medium; these are interdependent in creating or affecting historical meaning through the perception of the user. The interdependence between medium and information is to be recognized equally for both archival records and copies in order to assist decisions regarding preservation and copying (e.g. in determining essential attributes of the archival or copy record or in selecting copying media for the long term).

6.6 Human-readable records are sufficiently distinct from technology-dependent records that separate principles or paradigms apply to the management of their preservation and the determination of their priorities (see Appendix D).