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Banner: Engine of Immortality: Canadian Newspapers from 1752 until Today
Halifax Gazette News Arts Classifieds Historic Milestones Foreign Intelligence Acknowledgements Comments  


Front page of an original of newspaper, THE HALIFAX GAZETTE, No. 1, March 23, 1752 (pages 1 and 2)   Back page of an original of newspaper, THE HALIFAX GAZETTE, No. 1, March 23, 1752 (pages 1 and 2)

Roch Carrier

When I open my newspaper in the morning, I am looking for what happened overnight, for opinion and comment on recent events, for photographs, for sports scores and comics. On weekdays, I gulp down the morning paper, trying to consume as much as possible in what little time I allot to this daily exercise. By contrast, the consumption of a weekend paper is to brunch what the weekday paper is to coffee and a muffin on the run. Yet in neither circumstance do I pause to consider what happens to yesterday's newspaper. Beyond my conscientious recycling, I had until recently no reason to reflect on the press of yesterday, in spite of the fact that I used newspapers extensively for my research. Who saves the newspapers of Canada's past? where and how are they being preserved? and are they available to Canadians?

Before becoming National Librarian, I knew a great deal about Canada's published past, including its proud newspaper heritage. I knew that the National Library of Canada, together with libraries and archives across the country, was working to ensure long-term access to Canada's press. Some provinces are well advanced; others are making progress; all are concerned lest this vital piece of our published past disappears.

The National Library of Canada's collection of Canadian newspapers is the most extensive in the country. It includes newspapers in original newsprint, bound volumes, microfilm and microfiche. Many people consult the collection on a regular basis; on-site, the microfilm reading room is often full and, the number of reels that travel around the country on interlibrary loan each year is remarkable.

Sadly, the original newsprint copies are in such terrible condition that they cannot be handled by the genealogist, the student or the local historian. The facility in which they have been stored is so inadequate that it is hastening the destruction of the very papers it tries to shelter.

My efforts to address this situation will succeed one day. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, Madame Sheila Copps, has come to me with an exciting project that would offer Canadians an unparalleled opportunity to interact with the collection. But until there is action on this project, the newspapers in storage will continue to deteriorate.

When we celebrate the 250th anniversary of the first newspaper published in Canada, The Halifax Gazette, we can only marvel at the tenacity and accomplishment of one determined individual, and all those who have succeeded him.

When we unfold our daily paper, perhaps we can also imagine a wonderful place where Canadians could come and see and read about themselves and their country in 250 years of newspaper publishing in Canada.

This is my wish and my goal.

Photograph of Roch Carrier, National Librarian

March 2002