UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The acquisition of literary papers in Canada Maclean, Anne M.


During the past thirty years Canadian literature has developed at a remarkable rate, with the result that many Canadian writers now enjoy national and international recognition. The personal papers of these writers have undergone a corresponding increase in their research and monetary value. Literary papers have therefore become highly attractive to archival repositories and libraries, many of which compete to acquire these papers through sales or donations. Open-market competition may be advantageous to authors because it allows them to sell their papers to the highest bidder, but it is harmful to archivists because it creates animosity within the archival community, inflates prices and causes collections to be split. This clash of interests between authors and archivists, and among archivists themselves, must be resolved if literary papers are to be preserved and administered properly. A questionnaire was sent to 29 Canadian repositories to determine the ways in which archivists deal with the complex issues associated with acquiring literary papers: acquisition policies; acquisition budgets; the suitability of certain types of institutions to acquire literary papers; copyright/literary rights; tax credits; monetary appraisal; and automation. Results from this survey indicate that an increasing number of archival institutions now recognize the need for developing systematic collections policies in order to reduce competition and encourage cooperation among archivists. However, the majority of institutions in Canada still do not have any formal written policies for acquiring literary papers and have no plans to develop such policies in the near future. It will be some time, therefore, before a complete cooperative network among archivists in Canada becomes a reality. Diverse types of institutions acquire literary papers; university archives and special collections, provincial archives, the National Archives and National Library of Canada, and smaller thematic archives are all involved in this type of acquisition. The survey sought respondents' opinions on this question: can or should the acquisition of literary papers be limited to certain types of institutions? Judging from the responses, the answer is a qualified no. Universities are a logical repository for authors' papers because literary research is largely an academic activity, but it is not possible to prevent other types of institutions from acquiring in this area through laws or regulations. Donor preferences play a critical role; ultimately it is the author or his executors who have the last word on where the author's papers are deposited. The author-archivist relationship lies at the heart of this issue. The onus is on the archivist to educate authors on the nature and function of archives and the legal implications of acquisition. Archivists can also educate themselves regarding authors' economic concerns and the literary activities which produce their records; such understanding will help to resolve the conflicts between authors and archivists and improve acquisition negotiations. Finally, archivists need to develop more systematic written acquisitions policies for literary papers in order to reduce competition and ensure the continued preservation of this important cultural resource.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.