BCHF News Convergence of cultural institutions and what it means for BC history

Convergence of cultural institutions and what it means for BC history

Wondering what the new MOU signed by GLAM sector organizations in BC means for you? Shannon Bettles, BCHF Second Vice President, discusses how the emerging themes of digitization, collaboration and convergence might affect your practice.


If you are a member of the Archives Association of BC (AABC), BC Museums Association (BCMA) or the BC Library Association (BCLA) you will likely be aware of the March 27, 2017, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between these organizations, which formalizes their “intention to explore, identify, share, and consider new ways to work together” (BCLA, 2017).

The initiative seeks to research, develop, promote, leverage, innovate and celebrate the commonalities between memory institutions such as galleries, libraries, archives and museums – also known as the GLAM sector. While the BC MOU is one of the first of its kind in Canada, the GLAM movement has seen institutions in Australia, New Zealand and Europe develop networks of practice in their jurisdictions that are beneficial to the cultural-heritage sector since the early 2000s (Davis and Howard, 2013).

Digitization, collaboration and convergence are key themes in GLAM theory and practice, as galleries, libraries, archives and museums seek to share resources and collaborate in what can be an uncertain world for the industry in the wake of the information society.

As a member of the BC Historical Federation (BCHF), you might be wondering what this means for the future of historical research in the province – you sit on executive boards of historical societies that manage museums or archives; you regularly access libraries, archives and museums collections in-person and online; you volunteer or work at a museum, archives or library; and/or you write or publish on historical topics. How will such collaboration and convergence affect your practice?

Digitization

One thing GLAM institutions have in common is that they are “collecting” institutions. Although each institution does something different with their collections of art, records, publications or objects, the GLAM sector can also digitize and make available their holdings for research and access. As such, the introduction and use of digital technologies has led to the blurring of traditional institutional boundaries.

The result: the BC historical community may begin to see collaborations and expansion of existing digital technologies across a consortium of institutions. Within sectors, this is happening already. Will we soon see this happening cross-sector as well (ie. libraries and museums, archives and museums)?

Here’s what’s currently happening:

  • Universities are launching institutional repositories (IR) and some are consortiums such as ARCA.
  • The AABC’s Memory BC database links the collections housed across BC’s archives.
  • In 2014, the BC Government announced the the creation of a Provincial Digital Library initiative.

Collaboration

If you look closely enough, you will see examples of GLAM sector collaborations already happening. The BC historical community will be noticing this more and more as the MOU draws attention and emphasis to new partnerships. Will you be able to go to your local library to access the archives? Will libraries feature museum exhibits?

Here are some examples you may have noticed in the news:

  • Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has created a new public service point in Vancouver in collaboration with the Vancouver Public Library.
  • A new museum and library complex – the Riverfront Centre – is being constructed in Trail, BC. This seems like a similar complex to the Anvil Centre in New Westminster where you will find the Museum and the Archives under one roof.

Convergence

The information society features new methods of communication, presenting information and entertainment. As libraries, archives, galleries and museums redefine their services and information delivery, it is possible that institutions will move beyond collaboration into the realm of convergence. How will collecting institutions deliver their services in the future? Is it possible that notions of libraries, galleries, museums and archives will blur to become hybrid or new entities?

The Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre is a repository of knowledge for the Stó:lō community. The institution contains a library and archives, features exhibitions, and offers educational programs as well as other important community services.

The approach of a resource centre model is a holistic one – information, culture and knowledge collecting and access services are provided under one roof by one organization. In examining such models, will we find that public access to, and participation in, cultural-heritage resources is improved?

References

  • BC Library Association. (2017). BCLA signs historic MOU formalizing cooperation amongst the province’s GLAM sector. Retrieved from https://bclaconnect.ca/highlight/mou/.
  • Davis, W. and Katherine Howard. (2014). Cultural policy and Australia’s national cultural heritage: issues and challenges in the GLAM landscape. The Australian Library Journal (62)1, pp.15-26.

Shannon Bettles serves as the Second Vice President, Recognition Committee Chair and Webmaster for the BC Historical Federation. She is also the manager and curator of the ‎Agassiz Harrison Museum.