Monday, November 10, 2008

Library & Archives Canada and Ancestry - what kind of partnership?

Library & Archives Canada today announced a "collaborative partnership" with This announcement sounds much the same as previous announcements, although I believe the word 'collaborative' is new.

What does this partnership entail? What benefits are LAC and Canadian taxpayers and genealogists receiving from this relationship? And at what cost in money, time and autonomy?

LAC has, of course, already a relationship with Ancestry (The Generations Network). Canadian records have been digitized and indexed by Ancestry recently. Some, like the World War I attestation papers which Ancestry just released on its site, had been digitized and indexed long ago and are already available free at LAC's website. Others, like the 1891 Canadian census records, remain available only at Ancestry, for a price.

Canada has a long history now of free web access to records, and of strong volunteer participation from groups and individuals with particular experience and knowledge in digitizing and indexing Canadian materials. Are we losing this?

The news release does say that "All of the digitized records will eventually be available free of charge to users of the LAC website". That's good but how long really is eventually? And will other groups be assisted then to index those records.

And, who, or what, is deciding which Canadian records are worth digitizing?

I have asked several times to see the details of agreements between LAC and Ancestry, but so far have been denied that information. In principle, I am not against LAC having any commercial relationships, however, Canadian genealogical volunteer organizations have been apparently passed over, at least for now, in favour of this company. Why?

What policies and decisions have guided this partnership?

I have been told today by Doug Rimmer of LAC, that the Canadian open access historic censuses will all be digitized within 3 years and made available with a nominal index, both at Ancestry and at LAC's website. These are not the only records being made available to Ancestry, however.

And it will be up to LAC's own priorities when indexes and images are made available at LAC, "depending on all of the other material that is being digitized and put online. "

"This agreement meets LAC's goals of free access, non-exclusivity and value to the taxpayer. It is a non-cash agreement in which we are both sharing digital resources but neither of us is paying the other for work that is done. LAC will retain full ownership of its original records (in microfilm and any other format). This agreement will not prevent LAC from continuing to work with other genealogical partners. "

This sounds like a good deal for Ancestry. I don't necessarily think it is a good deal for Canadian researchers. But then, I still don't have the details...

Library and Archives Canada Partners with
Partnership allows unprecedented online access to Canadian historical records:

No comments: