Better know a Canadian functionary: the Dominion Archivist of Canada, National Archivist of Canada and Librarian and Archivist of Canada

In 1872 the Canadian government set up a national archives system as a division of the Department of Agriculture. (Apparently, in the early days the Department of Agriculture had a lot of extra capacity: the Department of Agriculture’s original mandate covered everything from public health to trade regulation to the patent office.) It was made into the a separate entity, the Public Archives of Canada, in 1912, renamed the National Archives of Canada in 1987, and merged with the National Library to form Library and Archives Canada in 2004, which reports to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. Its head was named the Dominion Archivist from 1872 to 1987, the National Archivist from 1987 to 2004, and the Librarian and Archivist of Canada since 2004.

The Dominion/National Archivists of Canada/Librarian and Archivists of Canada have been:

Douglas Brymner, 1872–1902. A Scottish immigrant who served as mayor of Melbourne, Richmond Cty., Que., Brymner was on the editorial staff of the Montreal Herald before he was summoned to Ottawa, given an empty room and a budget of $4000 per year, and told to build an archives. His first acquisition was the British Army records for the Halifax garrison from 1759 to 1871. Over 30 years, Brymner amassed a huge quantity of colonial records, dating as far back as 1603. He died in office in 1902. His son, William Brymner CMG, was a noted painter and president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

Alphonse Audet (interim), 1902-04.

Sir Arthur George Doughty KBE CMG, 1904–35. A posh Englishman with a public-school and Oxford education, Sir Arthur came to Montreal at the age of 26. He worked in the revenue department of the government of Quebec , then became private secretary to the Minister of Public Works. In 1900, he was named joint librarian of the Legislative Assembly of Quebec before becoming Dominion Archivist four years later. In 1908, Sir Arthur oversaw the construction of a handsome stone archival headquarters on Sussex Drive in Ottawa. (The building later became the War Museum, and is now vacant.) Doughty was very close friends with Mackezie King; they shared a fascination with spirituality, and it’s believed that Doughty introduced King to the idea of communicating with the dead via table-rapping. Sir Arthur retired in 1935, dying the next year; there’s a statue of him behind the National Library, in Ottawa.

Dr. James Francis Kenney (interim), 1935-37.

Gustave Lanctôt OC, 1937–48. A lawyer, Rhodes scholar, Oxford graduate, WWI veteran, and earner of a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne, Dr. Lanctôt was a very active historian, writing several books and teaching at the University of Ottawa. He was one of the first inductees to the Order of Canada, and was a knight of the Légion d’Honneur.

William Kaye Lamb OC, 1948–68. Born in New Westminster, BC, he went to University of British Columbia before getting a Ph.D. from the LSE. Dr. Lamb was Provincial Archivist and Librarian of British Columbia, Superintendent of the BC Public Libraries Commission, and University Librarian of UBC before becoming Dominion Archivist. Dr. Lamb was also concurrently National Librarian from 1953 to 1968.

Wilfred I. Smith OC, 1968–84. A Nova Scotian with a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, Dr. Smith joined the Archives in 1950, was appointed acting Dominion Archivist in 1968, and given the job permanently in 1970.

Jean-Pierre Wallot OC, 1985–97. Dr. Wallot had a Ph.D. from the Université de Montréal and served in a number of senior positions in its history department before going to the Archives. Wallot was the first to change his title from Dominion Archivist to National Archivist.

Ian E. Wilson CM, 1999–2009. Wilson got a master’s in history from Queen’s and was Provincial Archivist of Saskatchewan. Wilson oversaw the merger of the National Archives with the National Library to form Library and Archives Canada in 2004.

Daniel J. Caron, 2009–13. Dr. Caron has a Ph.D. in Applied Human Sciences from the Université de Montréal, specializing in Aboriginal culture. He worked in a wide range of federal departments for over 20 years before joining the Archives in 2003. Dr. Caron resigned in disgrace in May 2013, after it was revealed he spent $5000 in taxpayer funds on private Spanish lessons.

Hervé Déry (interim), 2013-now. Déry has a master’s in economics from the Université de Montréal and has worked for the federal government since 1982. In March 2012 he became Assistant Deputy Minister and Corporate Secretary of the Policy and Collaboration Sector of Library and Archives Canada, and was appointed as the acting Librarian and Archivist of Canada in May 2013.


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