CBC digitizing historic recordings and moving them to central archive in Toronto in bid to save money
By Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun March 13, 2012
A group of concerned city residents says Vancouver is on the brink of losing an irreplaceable library of at least 55,000 historic musical recordings, including some cylindrical technology invented by Thomas Edison at the dawn of recorded music. Photograph by: Hector Casanova , KRT
Call it yet another case of self-inflicted cultural dementia.
A group of concerned city residents says Vancouver is on the brink of losing an irreplaceable library of at least 55,000 historic musical recordings, including some cylindrical technology invented by Thomas Edison at the dawn of recorded music.
The CBC collection of vinyl 78s, 45s, LPs and CDs is being dismantled to save costs in the face of severe budget restraints and in preparation for the possibility of even more draconian cuts by the Conservative government in Ottawa, they say.
CBC management did not respond to my email query about the concerns expressed by Colin Miles, Sandra Bru-neau and eight others in a detailed Feb. 28 letter.
The letter says that parts of the Vancouver collection are being digitized and will be assimilated into CBC's new virtual music library. Archival material from CBC programs will be pre-served and unique elements are being moved from Vancouver to Toronto.
Nobody disputes that CBC's plan to put its music online for broad public access is a splendid idea.
However, the letter says existing CD and LP collections - there are 55,000 vinyl recordings in Vancouver, the largest collection outside Toronto - are to be eliminated, as are similar collections in all the regional libraries of the CBC English service.
The letter warns that there appear to be no plans - or available budget - to hire extra staff to tend a central collection in Toronto that will be suddenly swollen by the acquisition of materials from dismantled regional libraries.
Furthermore, the letter says, it's possible the Vancouver collection - it includes, for example, 10,000 pieces of rare Latin American music - will leave Canada entirely.
"Archivists in the United States are expressing a great deal of interest in obtaining the CBC collection," the letter says. "It would be heartbreaking to see our Canadian collections disappear and/or be divided."
James Moore is British Columbia's senior minister in the federal cabinet. He represents the Greater Vancouver region to boot and he's the minister for Canadian heritage.
When I contacted Moore for comment on these concerns about what the dismantling of the Vancouver library means for the rich musical heritage both of the city, the province and Western Canada and what plans Ottawa might have to prevent this collection going to some foreign buyer, he declined to comment.
I know that there's a long history of B.C. politicians zooming off to Ottawa and suddenly forgetting that Canada extends beyond Toronto's western suburbs, but frankly - forgive the impertinence - not even deigning to talk about it seems an abdication of political responsibility to the folks who elected Moore to represent their interests.
Maybe the Canadian heritage minister has a compelling argument for the dismantling of regional music libraries. Maybe looting the regions of their cultural resources for the benefit of Central Canada and then selling off the remnants to Americans who recognize the value of such collections has merit. So let him tell us why this is a grand idea and how it fits with the Canadian heritage part of his job description.
And, please, can we forgo the entirely predictable frenzy of CBC bashing that erupts among the enemies of public broadcasting who clone themselves across the blogosphere. This is not about "pinko" CBC programming; it's about whether Vancouver deserves to keep a unique music library assembled here over 60 years, whether Toronto has an entitlement to all these regional collections and whether stripping the regions of cultural resources to solve budget problems imposed by successive federal governments is sound national policy.