Montreal Gazette - CBC planning to go off the record; Decades-old archive could be lost forever as broadcaster reveals plans to convert to digital format


For the past 32 years, archivist John MacMillan has cared for the CBC's Vancouver music library. Until now, producers and DJs have been able to visit the library's 100,000-item collection to choose tracks to play on the CBC broadcasts that air from coast to coast. In January, MacMillan was informed that he would have to dismantle the entire archive by March 31.

"Much of the material will be lost," says MacMillan. "We just won't be able to cull it properly because of time pressure." The CBC is currently transitioning to a new, more streamlined digital library system, which will be available to show producers across the country. Every regional bureau will be asked to evaluate and liquidate its music archives, with the exception of Montreal and Toronto, which will absorb some material.

Recordings scored with high "programming value" will be digitized and made available online. MacMillan estimates that 14,000 recordings from the Vancouver collection will be digitized. Everything else will be given away or discarded, while other items will be sold wholesale to private archivists.

"This metadata is inseparable from the meaning of the music," says Jonathan Sterne, a communications professor at McGill University.