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By Ryan Taylor

The National Library of Canada and the National Archives of Canada are joining together to make one institution.

Although the formalities will not take place until later this year, staff at the institutions were told recently to begin using their new name, Library and Archives of Canada.

In addition the Canadian Genealogy Centre has launched its website. The site opened on 29 March, so not all its buttons are functioning yet, but it demonstrates that the new Library and Archives will have an emphasis on genealogy.

The site is meant to provide a window for electronic access to genealogical materials. In developing the site, its sponsors look for the input of the genealogical community about what they want to see and use. An invitation to comment on the site and its future is made right on the home page.

The Centre means to play an active role in the community also. The purpose of the Centre is also to be "a place where national genealogical content is generated through the coordination of individual and group initiatives." Its work is part of the government's Canadian Internet Cultural Content Strategy.

Last fall, the Centre held an online survey for interested genealogists, and a conference of eighty representatives of interested groups across Canada. There is a place on the site for discussion among genealogists, which will open shortly. There will also be links to places which sell genealogical books and supplies. Only the Friends of the National Library and the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society are represented there now.

This site is in its infancy as yet-there aren't many links or bits of information on it. But it will grow, and I recommend bookmarking the site and returning to it every few weeks to see what's new. I am sure we will all be using this site a great deal in the future, to communicate with one another and see what the various institutions and societies are doing. I hope we all contribute to it, too!

The combining of venerable institutions seems to be in the air. The British government has combined two offices much used by genealogists also. The Public Record Office at Kew and the Historical Manuscripts Commission, which was useful for finding archival collections throughout Britain, have melded together as of 2 April and been named The National Archives.

Sarah Tyacke, chief executive says, "Building on the achievements of the Public Record Office and the HMC, the National Archives will be better able to safeguard the nation's memory for present and future generations to enjoy. We want to reach out to people who have not previously used our services and to make the National Archives available to everyone-onsite or online."

The HMC offices, previously in central London, will move to Kew later this year. No doubt this will make the Kew facility even more intimidating than before, but there are orientation tours available, and the atmosphere there has become much friendlier lately. There are computers for e-mail and internet use as well as a café and bookshop. You might want to settle in for several days.

Explore the websites for all of these new institutions, to get an idea what services they provide that will help you with your research, then think about paying them a visit. The Canadian Genealogy Centre will remain principally in cyberspace, but the Library and Archives of Canada and the National Archives in Britain are both stately modern buildings, inviting you to come in and stay a while.

Posted April 19, 2003
Column copyright © 2003 Ryan Taylor

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