Leading in the Digital World: Opportunities for Canada’s Memory Institutions

Memory institutions (libraries, archives, museums and galleries) are confronted with many challenges, from technological change, resource challenges, and shifting public expectations. Cultural documents are frequently “born digital”, while older materials need to be digitized for better public access. Furthermore, memory institutions of all types face the difficult task of preserving digital files in formats that will remain accessible over the long- term. As one of the most wired populations in the world, Canadians expect their heritage to be accessible and discoverable online. Today, past content and digital information is not always accessible. New ways of acquiring, preserving, and accessing materials are straining the resources of memory institutions but they are also creating new opportunities to present holdings, collaborate amongst one another, and engage the public.

Understanding the challenges faced by memory institutions, Library and Archives Canada requested the Council conduct this in-depth assessment to better understand and navigate this period of change. Canada is falling behind as the vast amounts of digital information created are at risk of being lost because many traditional tools are no longer adequate. This is a matter that will not fade away with time, but only become more prominent if not addressed.

Leading in the Digital World: Opportunities for Canada’s Memory Institutions explores the challenges and opportunities that exist for libraries, archives, museums, and galleries as they adapt to the digital age. This report will help those involved in this area reshape their policies and identify strategic opportunities. Finally, the report brings together a wide range of successful practices taking place around the world and that could be considered for the Canadian context.

Key Findings

Overall the Panel acknowledged the digital reality for today’s memory institutions, noting that the most successful will centre their strategic and business planning around digital technologies, services, and opportunities. Anything less will be insufficient in the face of evolving social networking and media, information mobility, the sheer abundance and consumption of new digital material, and, not least, growing public expectations.

  • To keep pace with the fundamental and unavoidable digital change now reshaping society, Canada’s memory institutions must exercise their capacity to be leaders.
  • Many of the challenges that memory institutions face as they attempt to adapt to the digital age are rooted in technical issues associated with managing digital content, the sheer volume of digital information, and the struggle to remain relevant.
  • The digital world has the potential to change the relationship between memory institutions & people. The integration of a participatory culture into the daily operations of memory institutions can lead to a sustainable, authentic relationship with the public.
  • Collaboration is essential for adaptation. It allows memory institutions to access resources vital for delivering enhanced services that users now expect in the digital age.


How might memory institutions embrace the opportunities and challenges posed by the changing ways in which Canadians are communicating and working in the digital age?

Report and Related Products:

Expert Panel

The Expert Panel on Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution is chaired by Dr. Doug Owram, FRSC, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal at the University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus. For a complete list of panel members visit the Expert Panel on Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution page.

For further information, please contact:

Tijs Creutzberg, Director of Assessments, at 613-567-5000 ext. 232 or tijs.creutzberg@scienceadvice.ca

For media inquiries, please contact:

Samantha Rae Ayoub, Communications and Publishing Director, at 613-567-5000 ext. 256 or samantha.rae@scienceadvice.ca

Mailing List Signup

Receive our newsletter, notifications of new assessments topics, news releases, and more!
Preference English  Français
Additional Information