Block review reaches 25 million pages!

Library and Archives Canada’s Block Review project has just reached another important milestone—25 million pages opened. Since 2010, the project’s goal is to make previously-restricted archival Canadian government records available to the public. The Block Review Team takes a sample from each group of records and assesses the risks involved in sharing them. Since the project started, many Canadian historical records have been opened including those relating to Canada’s 1967 Centennial celebrations, along with early trade and foreign affairs records.

Of particular interest is the recent release of the first group of records from the Department of the Environment dating from 1969 to 1972. These records originate from the department’s Environmental Management Service and the Lands Directorate as well as registry material from the Policy Planning and Research Service. Over 300,000 pages are now open, with a focus on water pollution in the Great Lakes in the late 1960s, solid waste issues confronting municipal governments, and Canada’s relationship with NATO on environmental issues. These records would be of particular interest to researchers studying Canada’s early environmental knowledge and advocacy.

Opening the vaults: 10 million pages and counting!

In 2010, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) initiated a new risk-based process called “block review” to open more federal government records under the auspices of Canada’s Access to Information Act and Privacy Act. This initiative has been very successful and LAC is proud to announce that we have opened more than 10 million pages of Canadian government records, which are now available to the public.

What is a block review?

It is the systematic review of blocks or series of government records currently held in LAC’s permanent holdings. It incorporates a risk-based approach that looks at both the age of the record and the subject. Block review is completed by using various sampling strategies to determine whether the records can be opened for public access under both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The process involves identifying and examining representative parts of the archival record and, based on the findings, the records are either opened or not.

What records were targeted for the block review process?

LAC holds a myriad of Canadian federal government records documenting all aspects of Canadian public life. The block review process has opened material on many of these subjects. Of particular interest are:

  • records documenting Canada’s military history
  • records providing evidence of the relationship between the federal government and Canada’s Aboriginal population
  • archival material detailing our significant diplomatic and trade relationships with foreign governments and international organizations
  • regional documents created across all of Canada as the federal government administered its numerous functions and activities
  • archival material documenting how we celebrated our centenary in 1967—of timely interest as Canadians prepare for this country’s 150th anniversary
Black-and-white photograph of six men standing on the seashore, with a ship visible in the background.

An example of a collection that is now more widely available through the block review process. The photograph relates to the Canadian delegation for the International Commission for Control and Supervision in Vietnam in 1955 (MIKAN 3192391).

More records will open up as LAC continues to contribute to Canada’s Open Government initiative. We will be posting updates on the progress of the initiative, so watch for highlights of the collections being opened up to Canadians.

Discover the Access Codes for Archival Records at Library and Archives Canada – Part III

Earlier blogs (Part I and Part II) on restricted records explained the various codes that govern access to Canadian federal government records at Library and Archives Canada. In Part I, we learned that access code “32” beside a reference to a particular archival container means that the material is restricted under the provisions of Canada’s Access to Information Act and Privacy Act. However, that doesn’t mean that all of the container’s contents are restricted.

Each year, many files in archival containers are requested by researchers, and in many cases those files are open. But in order for an entire archival container to have access code “90,” meaning that it is open for research, all the files in that particular container must be open. Even if one file or just part of one file is restricted, the code against the container remains 32 – closed. However, researchers wishing to access a container marked code “32” have the right to submit a request for the material they need.

It is quite possible that the file or files to be consulted have already been reviewed and are accessible. The only way to know is to order the ones you wish to see. Library and Archives Canada’s Access to Information and Privacy staff will examine the request, and if the particular file or files requested have been previously reviewed and opened, you will receive them in an “interim” archival container.

For more assistance, you may ask Library and Archives Canada’s consultation staff or Access to Information and Privacy team.

Discover the Access Codes for Archival Records at Library and Archives Canada – Part II

In our post “Discover the Access Codes for Archival Records“, we reviewed four of the most common access codes 90, 32, 10, and 18. However, there are other access codes that you may encounter while undertaking your research. They include access codes 96 and 99.

Restrictions vary (Code 96)

Access code 96 indicates that within a group of records there exists more than one type of access condition. For example, since the Department of Transportation fonds (RG12) contains records that are open (code 90) and others that are restricted (code 32), the fonds-level access condition are indicated by “restrictions vary” (code 96).

A sample record description in the Archives Search database displaying access code 96: RESTRICTIONS VARY.

Access code 96 can be applied to more than just fonds-level descriptions. It can also be linked to series, sub-series and accessions. However, it does not apply to individual volumes and files.

Remember

Access code 96 usually means that there are more specific descriptions available for the records you are researching. In some cases, these records can be accessed by simply clicking on the “lower level descriptions” link in the “Fonds consists of” section of a record description.

A sample record description in the Archives Search database displaying the FONDS CONSISTS OF ROW.

In other cases it will be necessary to consult a printed finding aid. To learn more, read our post Discover Finding Aids.

To be determined / closed pending processing (Code 99)

Access code 99 means that the access conditions for a group of records have yet to be determined. Usually this is because the records are being processed. In the following example, while the photographic material is open, the access conditions for the textual records have yet to be determined:

A sample record description in the Archives Search database displaying access code 99.

Open, no copying (Code 95)

Access code 95 indicates that the records are open and can be consulted, however, at the request of the donor, the records cannot be copied or reproduced.

A sample record description in the Archives Search database displaying access code 95.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

Discover the Access Codes for Archival Records at Library and Archives Canada

Have you ever ordered an archival record only to find out that it is restricted? Archival records may be subject to access restrictions. To find out if a record is open or restricted, you must identify its access code. When you are in the Archives Search database, you can find these codes in the “Conditions of access” section of records descriptions (see image below):

A black-and-white three-column table of a record description in the Library and Archives Canada Archives Search database. On the left is the title “Conditions of Access,” in the middle is the volume number(s), and on the right is the access code “90: Open”.

A sample record description in the Library and Archives Canada Archives Search database. Note the conditions of access in the right column.

The most common access codes are 90, 32, 18 and 10.

Open Records (code 90)

Any records that are unrestricted and directly available for consultation are marked as “90: Open.”

Government Records (code 32)

Some government records must be reviewed according to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act beforebeing made available. Records restricted under these laws are identified as “32: Restricted by law.” For an example, please consult the Operational records of Prairie Northern Region record description.

To request restricted government records, follow the instructions on our Access to Information and Privacy page.

Private Records (codes 18 and 10)

Records that are “18: Restricted” can be accessed through an application procedure established by the donor. These restrictions affect what you can consult, as well as what you can copy.

Records that are “10: Closed” cannot be consulted. In some cases, restrictions on closed records are set to be reviewed after a date specified by the donor.

To find out what files are restricted in a private fonds, consult the PDF document linked under “Conditions of Access” in the fonds description. For an example of this type of document, please see the Lester B. Pearson fonds description.

The next post, Discover the Access Codes for Archival Records at Library and Archives Canada – Part II, will review other access codes that apply to archival holdings. Until then, let us know if you have any questions or comments. We would love to hear from you!