Discharging our Debt: The Evolution of the Total Archives Concept in English Canada

  • Laura Millar


In this article, the author examines the history of the “total archives” concept in Canadian archives. The author argues that the essence of “total archives” came from an acceptance of public responsibility for the preservation of a wide range of archival materials, in all media and from all sources, in order to preserve society's documentary heritage. The author then considers the evolution of the total archives concept into the vision of an archival system and discusses how that system is being affected by archival, social, economic, and technological realities. The author suggests that the acquisition of “non-institutional” archival records, that is, those records created by organizations or individuals other than a repository's sponsoring agency, is in decline and argues that the ultimate goal of archival management is being obscured in the search for new strategies to administer records and archives systems in an increasingly administratively and technologically complex environment.


Dans cet article, l’auteure examine l’histoire du concept d’« archivestotales » au sein des services d’archives canadiens. L’auteure défend l’idée que le concept tire son fondement de l’acceptation d’une responsabilité publique pour la préservation d’un panoplie de documents archivistiques, sur tous les supports et de toute provenance, dans le but de conserver le patrimoine documentaire d’une société. Par la suite, on considère son évolution dans la perspective d’un réseau archivistique et comment ce dernier est affecté par plusieurs réalités d’ordre archivistique, social, économique et technologique. L’auteure suggère que l’acquisition d’archives « non-institutionnelles », c’est-à-dire celles créées par d’autres personnes ou d’autres organismes que par l’agence à laquelle le service d’archives est rattaché, est en déclin et que l’objectif de la gestion archivistique est embrouillé par cette quête de nouvelles stratégies de gestion des documents et des réseaux archivistiques dans un environnement deplus en plus complexe sur les plans administratif et technologique.

Author Biography

Laura Millar
Laura Millar received her BA in history from the University of British Columbia in 1981 and her MAS degree from UBC in 1984; she completed her Ph.D. in archival studies at University College London in 1996. For over fifteen years, she has been an editorial and archival consultant based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her present work focuses on the development of distance education materials in records and archives management for developing countries, for the International Records Management Trust and the International Council on Archives. She also teaches courses on instructional design and curriculum development for distance education, particularly in the developing world.
How to Cite
Millar, Laura. 1998. “Discharging Our Debt: The Evolution of the Total Archives Concept in English Canada”. Archivaria 46 (February), 103-46. https://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/12677.