Sunday, April 23, 2006


In order for readers to understand the administrative background of the Louis Mortimer Bloomfield archives, held secret by Library and Archives Canada (LAC, the Canadian National Archives), here are copies of the documents pertaining to the management of this collection. I include a few basics comment on my attempt to access the archives.

First of all, readers should know that the Louis Mortimer Bloomfield collection was transferred to Public Archives Canada (PAC) in 1978-1979 by Bloomfield himself, under the Cultural Property Program. This program entitled him to special tax deductions if he irrevocably alienated his archives to a designed cultural institution. There was no specific contract between Bloomfield and PAC except letters exchanged between the parties and Bloomfield received two tax certificates. In one letter (that I will post later on this site), Bloomfield stated that there wasn't any other condition to the transfer except that the documents been opened to the public only 20 years after his death. Bloomfield died on July, 19, 1984.

Following his death and according to this condition, PAC thus determined that the restriction on Bloomfield's paper should be of 20 years starting on July, 19, 1984. This is the 1986 restriction form that PAC which was available in 1996 in the database of the Canadian National Archives.

According to this restriction the Bloomfield collection should have been opened in July 2004.

In 2002, National Archives of Canada (NAC), PAC’s latest appellation, put a new version of this restriction form online on its website:

Even if the wording of this form didn't make reference to July, 19, 1984, still, just two years before 2004, the National Archives were confirming that the collection should be open in 2004. (Note: As I learned later, according to internal procedures, documents restricted until a specific year should have been opened on January 1st of that year.)

In August 2004, after the 20 years period stated in the first restriction file, I contacted Library and Archives Canada (LAC), successor to NAC, in order to access the Bloomfield collection. My request was put on hold for a month, and then on September 3, I received a short answer saying only that the collection was “still restricted”. Since the wording of the last restriction form could mean that the National Archives may restrict the documents for the whole year 2004, I decided not to contest this answer and to wait a few more months until January 2005. At this moment, I contacted again LAC and asked access to the documents. The answer I received was astonishing: the collection was now restricted for ten more years. When did that restriction occured? On September 8, 2004, right after I asked access to the collection.

Here is the new access restriction form that was prepared at this date:

Note that in this form, the "Authority for restriction" is referring to a letter dated August 31, 2004, that is a correspondance that was received after my August request.
Naturally, I inquired about the reasons of this decision and asked the Librarian and Archivist of Canada to reverse it. In order to debate the matter, I eventually file a Freedom of Information request to obtain copy of the original agreement between Louis M. Bloomfield and the Public Archives. This request was handled by a section of LAC called Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP). On April 18, 2005, ATIP send me a few pages including copy of the letters from Bloomfield.

At first, I was quite please to see in those letters that Bloomfield asked that his archives been released 20 years after his death. On this ground, for a very short moment, I believed that I may convince LAC to respect Mr Bloomfield's will. But, I quickly lost this optimism. Doing a routinely check of the Bloomfield collection statute on LAC's website, I had the surprise to find that a new restriction form as just been released 2 days after ATIP answered me.

As you can see, the new form was describing an access restriction ending only 25 years after the death of Mrs. Justine Stern (Bloomfield) Cartier, Bloomfield's widow. That is a restriction 120% longer than the original one asked by the donator.

As I learned later, by obtaining, through FOI, 385 pages of documents pertaining to the treatment of my demand, this new 25 years restriction was a direct result of my first Freedom of Information request.

According to the archivists I did consult on the matter, such a behavior is highly irregular from any archives institution. But nevertheless, that is the course of actions Library and Archives Canada elected to take with regards to the Louis Mortimer Bloomfield archives.


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