Private archives acquisition orientation 2019-2024


This Acquisition Orientation is a high-level statement of Library and Archives Canada's intentions in specific acquisition areas in private archives, translating its Evaluation and Acquisition Policy Framework into concrete action. The Acquisition Orientation will focus and guide acquisition activity in private archives from 2019 to 2024.


Library and Archives Canada (LAC) preserves the documentary heritage of Canada "for the benefit of present and future generations." LAC has actively acquired archival material, in a wide array of formats and media, for over 140 years. The LAC collection is a national asset of incomparable significance.

The acquisition of private archives created by individuals and organisations enables LAC to preserve a more complete and representative portrait of Canadian society in all its diversity. LAC acquires archival material both by approaching potential creators (proactive acquisition) and by responding to offers (responsive acquisition) from individuals and organisations. In some cases, LAC may already have existing donor relationships with individuals and organisations who offer material for acquisition.

Since 1995, private archives acquisition activity has been guided by a series of orientation documents, generally covering a three to five year period. This acquisition orientation will guide acquisitions activity until 2024, and replaces the previous acquisition orientation, which covered the years 2016 to 2019.

Acting upon the priorities identified below will help ensure the LAC collection continues to reflect the rich mosaic of Canadian history and society.

Policy framework

The Evaluation and Acquisition Policy Framework of 2016 sets the institutional context for LAC collection development, identifying five guiding principles:

  • National significance. LAC assesses private archives for acquisition against the criteria of national significance; new acquisitions must meet this standard as a prerequisite for acquisition.
  • Collaboration. LAC collaborates with other heritage institutions to ensure that the most appropriate institution preserves archival material, adhering to the guiding principles of the National, Provincial, and Territorial Archivists Conference (NPTAC) Approach to Collaborative Acquisition on "best-fit" repositories for private-sector archives.
  • Complementarity. Private archives acquisition at LAC forms part of a larger picture that also includes government records, published heritage, and websites, all of which contribute to documenting Canadian society.
  • Representativeness. LAC endeavours to build a collection that is representative of Canadian society, while understanding that its collection is a cumulative product of past acquisitions, and recognizing that acquisition policies inevitably reflect and reveal the preoccupations of the institution and era when created.
  • Expertise-based evaluation. LAC relies on the expertise of archivists for the research, identification, and evaluation of priorities for future acquisition.

Orientations for 2019-2024

The Acquisition Orientation is based upon specific strategies researched and written by archivists for 25 subject or thematic acquisition areas, which represent and reflect the diversity and complexity of Canadian society. Through collective analysis and discussion, archivists have identified gaps in current collections, emerging communities of archival interest, and key trends or developments in Canadian society that will guide LAC acquisitions activity from 2019 to 2024.

At the broadest, overall level, LAC will acquire both born-digital and analogue private archival material, and will increasingly consider the impact of digital and online culture and the social media environment in its acquisition decisions. It will also be proactive in seeking out materials created by or documenting:

  • First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation, in accordance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action;
  • Multicultural communities;
  • Francophone culture;
  • Women;
  • Sexual diversity and gender expression;
  • Regional diversity: Atlantic, Western, and Northern Canada.

Though not strictly an acquisition area, archivists are increasingly identifying outreach as an essential activity. Outreach involves working with communities and creators to advise and assist them in preserving their own records when desirable, and to raise awareness of digital recordkeeping best practices and the potential for donating their archives to LAC or other heritage institutions.

Acquisition areas  

LAC groups private archives acquisition into the 25 thematic or subject-based areas below. Priorities identified within each area represent new or renewed acquisitions activity, but they are not exclusive: LAC will continue to evaluate all accruals to existing fonds and new offers from more established, traditional creators.

1. Architecture

This area will prioritise landscape architecture; interior decoration and design; urban planning; industrial design; professional associations; and buildings, structures, objects and achievements representing important structural or functional innovations.

2. Arctic

This area will prioritise industry, transportation, scientific research, flora, fauna and climate, especially post-1945, including peoples, individuals and companies originating in Arctic and Northern regions, and Canadian activities in the Antarctic.

3. Art

This area will prioritise Pre-Confederation artists; post-1945 art, depictions of modern Canada, vernacular and post-1945 portraiture; illustrators; graphic novelists; art historians, administrators, galleries, and organisations.

4. Audio-visual

This area will prioritise individuals and companies creating film, video, television and sound media in the private sector; the identification and repatriation of early Canadian feature films; independent, animated and short films; and the continuation of acquisition agreements with Telefilm Canada and the Canada Media Fund for productions they have funded. 

5. Cartography

This area will prioritise collaboration with private sector agencies to acquire geospatial data, Geographical Imaging System (GIS) data, and cartographic images, while continuing to acquire historical maps, plans, charts, atlases and globes that present new geographic knowledge of Canada and fill voids in the early cartographic collection.

6. Environment

This area will prioritise individuals, national organisations and companies engaging in the debate and public concern about the environment, environmental research, and natural resource exploitation.

7. First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation

Reaching out to Indigenous creators will be essential in identifying priorities in this area. Creators could include Indigenous political leaders; national organisations; writers, intellectuals, artists, lobbyists, and activists; and Non-status, off reserve, and Métis individuals and organisations. Indigenous creators of archival material containing traditional elements, oral history, identity, ideas, culture and languages will have priority over content created by non-Indigenous people.

8. Governance

This area will prioritise Governors General and senior staff from the Office of the Secretary of the Governor General; senior public servants, including diplomats posted outside the United States, United Kingdom and France, especially since 1950; and Justices of the Supreme Court and leading federally appointed judges.

9. Industry and commerce

This area will prioritise individuals and companies that represent newer sectors of the economy including telecommunications, high technology, tourism, and commercial services.

10. Intellectual life and scholarship

This area will prioritise leading public intellectuals, print journalists, scholars outside of academia, national organisations in the humanities and social sciences (and select academics in these fields), and collaborative multi-disciplinary research projects.

11. Labour

This area will prioritise union leaders, activists and researchers, unions predating 1920, non-unionised workers, organisations assisting undocumented or visiting workers, and workers with disabilities.

12. Literature

This area will prioritise individuals and organisations that create, edit, publish, translate, financially support, criticise, promote and foster Canadian creative writing. These priorities include children's and teen literature, illustrated works, underrepresented voices, and the professional development of authors. Special attention will be devoted to tracing the evolution of new literary forms (e.g. digital/hybrid literature, slam poetry).

13. Medicine and health

This area will prioritise women fulfilling roles beyond nursing; manufacturers of medical, surgical and pharmaceutical products; instruction and research; and veterinary medicine.

14. Military

This area will prioritise post-1945 conflicts and peacekeeping missions; non-traditional aspects of the military such as disaster assistance and military diplomacy; and groups that promote and commemorate the Canadian military.

15. Multicultural

This area will prioritise ethnic, cultural and religious groups in Canada that are underrepresented in the LAC collection in order to strengthen its diversity and representativeness. Special focus will be on engaging and building partnerships with the more established groups that have immigrated to Canada since 1960, such as Arab, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Iranian, Pakistani, Somalian, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese communities.

16. Music

This area will prioritise composers, songwriters, and performers – including conductors – in contemporary classical and popular music, complemented by the next generation of popular musicians in rap, hip-hop, house music, indie rock, and other forms of expression on the popular music scene. Attention will also be given to individuals and institutions that support these primary creators, such as impresarios, record companies, instrument manufacturers, music publishers, artists' managers, and a range of music organisations and associations.

17. Non-LAC Act institutions

This area will prioritise the negotiation of transfer agreements with select federal government institutions that do not currently have agreements with LAC, and the reappraisal of current holdings of small institutions like tribunals.

18. Performing arts

This area will prioritise individuals (e.g. playwrights, artists, professionals) and organisations active in or having influenced dance and theatre, as well as disciplines that are emerging or underrepresented in the collection, such as the circus, multidisciplinary performance, comedy, youth theatre, storytelling, mime and the media arts. Special focus will also be given to performers in cinema, radio and television.

19. Philately

Philately is the study of the design, production and usage of stamps and is closely associated with postal history. This area will prioritize notable philatelic researchers, national philatelic study organizations, postal history documentation, collections of rare stamps, stamp artists and stamp printers.

20. Photography

This area will prioritize Canadian photographers, particularly those from marginalized communities that are underrepresented in the LAC collection; prominent documentary photographers; post-1970s photojournalism; new technologies, science, architecture and the built environment; prominent individuals and organisations; political, historical and cultural events.

21. Political

This area will prioritise prime ministers, leaders of federal political parties, significant parliamentarians, federal political parties, and political activists.

22. Pre-Confederation

This area's pre-1867 focus and broad thematic sweep mean that acquisition priorities are not defined narrowly, but are rather dependent on availability: the key challenge is identifying and locating early records. Archivists in this area will monitor auction sales and specialist dealers to identify important documents on the market; develop networks of private collectors and international dealers; and work with foreign archives and libraries to identify and adopt new acquisition strategies.

23. Science and technology

This area will prioritise information technology, transportation, aeronautical engineering, women in STEM, Nobel Prize laureates, agricultural science, nuclear physics and particle physics, and alternative fuels and renewable energy.

24. Social justice

This area will prioritise newer causes including health, victims of crime, the wrongly convicted, animal rights, children, reproduction, euthanasia, sexual diversity and gender expression, the contemporary women's movement, and popular, short-cycle grassroots activism. The LGBTQ2+ community and activism will be a particular focus of acquisition activity.

25. Sports and leisure

This area will prioritise national sports bodies and organisations; influential female athletes, organisers and promoters of sports; and Paralympic sports.


LAC will continue to comprehensively document Canadian history and society by acquiring documentary heritage in the areas described in this orientation; of foremost importance is the ability of an item or collection to tell a story about Canada.

At the same time, LAC understands that twenty-first century technology shapes the way Canadians create, use and store information through born-digital archives, social media and the Internet. LAC will continue to address the specific challenges of acquiring digital documentary heritage by developing and improving tools and procedures.

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