Today I was looking through the Toronto Star and I came upon this article by Martin Knelman: Audio-Visual Heritage of the Nation at Risk.
In the article he discusses the loss of archival footage in the fire at the CTV office in Ottawa last week and laments Canada's lack of progress in both acquiring proper storage and archiving our audio-visual material. According to Knelman there are not enough facilities in place to preserve this particular aspect of the Canadian Culture. He proposes that there will not be a proper solution for this, or for the National Portrait collection of Canada which is in the same boat, until proper facilities can be constructed. He even suggests that the problem could be solved if there were a central agency, like the U.S. Library of Congress where broadcasters could deposit their materials. Otherwise important archival footage is being lost all the time due to cutbacks and mishaps like last weeks fires.
There are a lot of ties with what is covered in the Public History Class. We have been discussing why people feel the need to preserve what is relevant to their community, and it is interesting that, compared with Knelman's Australian and French examples, Canada has not felt the same need to preserve the Canadian broadcasting heritage. What does this mean for the status of Canadian broadcasting as part of the national identity? Do we care less about our own broadcasting tradition, or is it just coincidence? With our need for an emphasis on Canadian content, and the competition with American and sometimes British broadcasting, perhaps a case can be made that our lack of preservation is due to a lack of national interest, though coincidence is probably a much more likely answer.
A curated facility for national audio-visual material seems like an excellent idea. I think Knelman makes some excellent points, and that is something that I hope to see in the future, and even more something that I would like to be involved with.