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Audits and Evaluations

Summative Evaluation of the National Archival Development Program

4.2 Performance

The following section discusses the results and successes achieved to date under each NADP objective. This section combines aggregate performance data for projects over the life of the NADP, with more detailed information acquired from the review of 2008-09 and 2009-10 files. Since 2006-07, the NADP funded 399 projects. The following table provides a breakdown of funded projects by year.

4.2 Performance

The following section discusses the results and successes achieved to date under each NADP objective. This section combines aggregate performance data for projects over the life of the NADP, with more detailed information acquired from the review of 2008–09 and 2009–10 files. Since 2006-07, the NADP funded 399 projects. The following table provides a breakdown of funded projects by year.

Table 2: NADP number and value of funded projects
  2009-10 2008-09 2007-08 2006-07
Number of projects funded 86 102 118 93
NADP Contributions ($000) $1,026 $1,082 $1,121 $1,066
Total value of projects ($000)* not available $2,576 $3,272 $2,411
*includes matched funds and financial and in-kind contributions from partners
Source: Audit of the National Archival Development Program Report, 2010

Generally, the evaluation showed good short-term results achieved under all objectives, with the majority of projects meeting or exceeding their targets as described in their applications. At the program level, however, performance targets are not currently available, and this makes it difficult to determine the extent to which the NADP met its planned goals.  Similarly, baseline data is limited for all objectives, particularly for Objectives 3, 4, and 5, making it difficult to quantify improvements that may have occurred. In future, it would be useful to establish clearer performance targets at the program level. NADP results collected to date under each objective could serve as baseline data.

It should be noted that, particularly in the case of Objectives 4 and 5, the intended outcome is an increase in institutional or community capacity. This outcome often does not become apparent for several years, making it somewhat difficult to gauge successes of projects under these objectives at this early stage.  Nonetheless, initial results are promising for the most part.

4.2.1 Increasing access to Canada's archival heritage through the national catalogue—formerly known as the Canadian Archives Information Network (CAIN)—comprises the national catalogue, virtual exhibits, and other tools. The national catalogue is a centralized database of descriptions, and includes links to Provincial/Territorial council and institutional sites.

Objective 1 constituted 32% of total allocated NADP funding, or $338K annually over the last 4 years. The review of project files shows that 34 projects were funded under Objective 1 in 2008–09, with an additional 29 in 2009–10. Projects were distributed across most of the provinces and territories.

Available performance data suggests an increase in the amount of material in the national catalogue over the five fiscal years of the NADP. While the total number of archival institutions participating in the national catalogue has remained relatively constant—ranging from 438 to 442 institutions—the amount of material these organizations have contributed has increased by a total of 7% (CCA and LAC, 2010, p. 5).

The evaluation also noted improvements in user experiences with the national catalogue though it is unclear whether these improvements are specifically related to NADP activities. A user satisfaction survey administered by CCA asked users whether they “found the [] database of archival descriptions … clear and easy to use.” Results showed that the number of respondents who answered positively increased from 8.3% in 2006–07 to 22.2% in 2009–10 (CCA and LAC, 2010, p. 6). Despite the increase, this number remains surprisingly low, and it would be useful for LAC or CCA to gather additional information on why this might be the case, as well as to determine whether the increase is related to NADP activities.

While participation in the national catalogue has remained stable, participation in provincial/territorial network databases has increased significantly. Across Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec, participation rose from 186 institutions in 2006–07 to 222 in 2009–10 (CCA and LAC, 2010, p. 4). In many cases, materials must be uploaded to provincial databases before they can be added to the national catalogue, and key informants cited frequent delays in this process due to problems with technical infrastructure at both the provincial/territorial and national levels. A notable issue is that while most provincial/territorial network databases accept multi-level descriptions, the national catalogue only accepts fonds (highest level) descriptions. In response, LAC and CCA are exploring the possibility of implementing a database platform based on international standards (CCA and LAC, 2010). New open source multi-level archival description software was tested in a 2008–09 pilot project involving BC's provincial network, with promising results. If scalability testing reveals that the new software can handle the larger volumes of information in the national catalogue, it would provide a means of facilitating the transfer of material from the provincial/territorial levels to the national level, while allowing for multi-level descriptions. LAC funding for scalability testing is currently pending.

4.2.2 Increasing awareness and broadening use of Canada's archives

Seven percent of total NADP funding, or $76K annually for the last 4 years, was allocated to Objective 2 projects. Fifteen projects were funded under Objective 2 in 2008–09, with an additional 13 in 2009–10. Files show projects under this objective were distributed evenly across regions.

The evaluation found some success in increasing awareness related to archives. Activities related to increasing awareness and broadening use of Canada's archives included developing promotional materials and establishing partnerships with non-traditional user groups. With a few exceptions, recipients focused their efforts on promoting specific collections and exhibits as opposed to attempting to increase public awareness of archival functions, processes, and challenges (CCA, 2009, p. 12).

LAC conducted two omnibus surveys to measure the public's awareness of archives and archival activities. Results showed that the percentage of people who were aware of any archives open to the public increased from 16% in 2007–08 to 22% in 2010, while the percentage of people who could successfully identify at least one activity that could be done in an archive increased from 82% to 96% in the same time period (CCA and LAC, 2010, p. 7). The extent to which this increase is attributable to NADP activities is unclear. LAC might consider revising future surveys to include questions on how people learn about archives and archival activities.

At the project level, some of the specific awareness-building and promotional activities included designing websites, publishing columns in a magazine aimed at non-traditional users, and producing online exhibits.

Key informants noted that overall, despite some improvements over the past years, public awareness of archives and archival activities is still low, and that there is much work to be done in this area. One view was that in order to reach a wider, non-traditional audience, efforts should be made to establish linkages between archives and other mainstream topics of interest to Canadians. The community should strive to emphasize how archives and archival activities support, or how they could support work in, the areas of health, environment, or other topics at the forefront of the national agenda. Key informants suggested that LAC could adopt an important role in these types of activities, which might serve to increase general awareness more effectively than current approaches.

4.2.3 Increasing the representation of Aboriginal Peoples and under-represented ethnocultural groups in Canada's archives

The NADP allocated 9% of total NADP funding to Objective 3, totalling $101K per year for the last 4 years. Nine projects were funded in 2008–09 and seven funded in 2009–10. Projects under this objective were often found in the North, with the Yukon having the highest concentration of projects. The evaluation noted good results, with 71 fonds-level Aboriginal descriptions contributed to the national catalogue through funded projects since 2006 and an additional 249 series and subseries-level Aboriginal descriptions available through the provincial and territorial networks. In addition, references to Aboriginal People in the national catalogue increased by 6.3% in the same period (CCA and LAC, 2010, p. 11). A review of projects also shows that, in some cases, materials were also contributed to the databases of First Nations organizations.

The evaluation found limited evidence of new partnerships with Aboriginal and other ethnocultural communities. This would seem to be an important step in increasing the representation of these communities in archives in future. Key informants noted that CCA and Provincial and Territorial councils were in the best position to develop these partnerships, and could, in future, reach out to target communities more, assuming the communities are established enough or ready to have an archive in place.

Key informants noted some challenges associated with Objective 3, the foremost relating to a lack of capacity among target community archives to complete applications. While the application process was cited as a challenge for many organizations, it was particularly demanding for institutions representing Aboriginal and under-represented ethnocultural groups. These organizations were generally small and less likely to have a consistent volunteer base and resources required to successfully complete an application. In many cases, these institutions also struggled to meet the NADP's 50% funds matching requirement. LAC and CCA may want to consider introducing measures to increase the participation of these organizations in the NADP. For example, using grants in lieu of contributions to reduce application and reporting requirements for the smaller of these organizations is one possibility and is discussed further in Section 5.

4.2.4 Increasing the capacity of archival networks to undertake strategic and development activities

Objective 4 constituted 32%, or $350K, of annual program funding for the last 4 years, and comprised 16 projects in both 2008–09 and 2009–10. Projects under Objective 4 were highly successful, according to key informants. Conducted by Provincial/Territorial councils and associations, these projects aimed to build capacity through professional development and advisory services to member institutions. Several full-time archives advisors were employed to conduct site visits to member institutions to deliver advice and develop local capacity on a range of topics. In addition, workshops and training sessions were delivered to both archivist and related non-archivist organizations. Specific topics covered in these sessions related to basic archival theory and practice, digitization, preservation, special (AV) media, and policy and promotion. The file review revealed a number of innovative training delivery methods, including webinars, virtual exhibits, and online training.

As these activities' main purpose is to build competencies and increase capacity, it is difficult for this evaluation to comment on their success to date. Most of the results will not become apparent until the intermediate or long term. However, most key informants found these projects very helpful and well-delivered, and data shows that professional development activities were able to reach a large number of people. The 2010 performance measurement report shows, for example, that 3,500 people received training during 430 training days, and that 110 archival development tools were developed under this objective. These tools were used over 800 times (CCA and LAC, 2010, p. 13).

4.2.5 Increasing the capacity of archival institutions to preserve Canada's archival heritage

Twenty percent of annual NADP funding, or $219K annually for the last 4 years, supported projects under Objective 5. 28 projects were completed in 2008–09, and an additional 21 were completed in 2009–10. The evaluation showed significant success under Objective 5, which focused on a wide range of preservation activities, including conducting global assessments of collections to determine preservation needs; identifying items at risk; rehousing and conserving materials; providing recommendations; and digitization. Several projects also purchased new shelf space and environmental monitoring equipment to prepare for future preservation needs. In the short term, projects were able to reduce preservation risks and protect key items from deterioration, while in the longer term, it is hoped that new skills and capacities related to preservation will be developed. Performance data related to Objective 5 shows that since 2006–07, funded projects have achieved the following results:

  • 265 global assessments have been completed1
  • 96,000 photographic negatives and prints have been rehoused and over 9,700 have been conserved/reformatted
  • 600 audiovisual materials have been rehoused and 449 conserved/reformatted
  • 53 global preservation assessment recommendations have been addressed. Approximately half of these recommendations were for the long or medium term. (CAC and LAC, 2010. p. 18)

The key challenge related to Objective 5 related to new forms of media. Key informants noted that vast quantities of information digital formats pose new challenges. Specifically the high costs associated with preserving digital materials combined with the limited financial and human resources place significant strain on institutions. Furthermore, key informants stated that technical preservation expertise and procedures in this area are still underdeveloped. They believed that developing shared approaches to conservation and preservation to reduce cost and time demands will be instrumental in ensuring that institutions are able to preserve these materials successfully. Capacity building and advisory services related to preservation are therefore a priority, as information in new formats quickly proliferates. LAC has identified this challenge through its modernization initiative, and will need to adopt a leadership role in this area in future.

1 It is not possible to determine how many of these assessments were completed with the support of NADP funding

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