Series Symposium in Toronto

Series Symposium in Toronto

What’s the best way to grapple with complex archival functions, such as the description of records of ever-changing bureaucracies? By discussing the issues with engaged archivists from across the country, of course! Such was the impetus for the Archives of Ontario and Library and Archives Canada to organize a day-long symposium examining the use of the series system of archival description: from the promise of implementation, to the challenges of putting it into practice, to the potential it holds for the future.

Held on April 25, 2017 at the City of Toronto Archives, with remote participation from across the country, the day started off with John Roberts, Provincial Archivist of Ontario, introducing participants to the origins of the so-called “series system” in Australia and its application in New Zealand. This set the stage for then exploring how the series system has been adopted in Canada. Emily Chicorli of the Archives of Ontario described why the AO chose to use the series system in the late 1990s, as well as the results of its implementation. Paul Henry, City of Ottawa Archivist, then explained how his institution has applied a series approach to the description of municipal records, with a strong emphasis on being involved in the early stages of Information Management. Sarah Cook and Leah Sander from Library and Archives Canada presented a history of the conversion of Record Groups to fonds at the National Archives (now LAC) in the 1990s, with a reflection on the challenges that LAC faces with the fonds system in the current context.

After lunch, a panel consisting of Adam Birrell (Senior Archivist at AO), Paul Henry (City of Ottawa Archivist) and Steve Billinton (Senior Policy Advisor with Information, Policy and Archives in Ontario) led a discussion that centred around the challenges that those using the series system in Canada have encountered. The day culminated in a stimulating presentation by Steve Billinton on the possibilities for the future of archival description in an age of digital records and Open Government initiatives.

All-together, it was a thought-provoking look at how changes in the recordkeeping universe and in archival descriptive standards are leading archivists in new directions, and continually requiring us to be creative and forward-thinking. It is a discussion we hope to continue!

For more information on the symposium, feel free to contact Leah Sander ( or Emily Chicorli ( )

Submitted on behalf of Leah Sander