Why A Liberal Arts Education Matters: The War on Canadian Science Libraries Edition

So the conservative-led Canadian government decided to digitize historical scientific records and discard the original paper copies. Except it appears they forgot the whole digitization part (boldface mine):

Back in 2012, when Canada’s Harper government announced that it would close down national archive sites around the country, they promised that anything that was discarded or sold would be digitized first. But only an insignificant fraction of the archives got scanned, and much of it was simply sent to landfill or burned.

Unsurprisingly, given the Canadian Conservatives’ war on the environment, the worst-faring archives were those that related to climate research. The legendary environmental research resources of the St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick are gone. The Freshwater Institute library in Winnipeg and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland: gone. Both collections were world-class.

An irreplaceable, 50-volume collection of logs from HMS Challenger’s 19th century expedition went to the landfill, taking with them the crucial observations of marine life, fish stocks and fisheries of the age.

The destruction of these publicly owned collections was undertaken in haste. No records were kept of what was thrown away, what was sold, and what was simply lost. Some of the books were burned.

The HMS Challenger‘s voyage from 1872-1876 laid the foundations for modern oceanography and marine biology. This would be like destroying the logs of the HMS Beagle.

The reason I raise the importance of a liberal arts education is that I can’t fathom what went through the minds of those who made the decision to destroy these documents. Forget their scientific value for a moment. How does one destroy part of one’s patrimony? How dead inside, how lacking in curiosity and wonder, how disdainful of history are the architects of this policy?

No doubt this destruction was enabled by a series of bureaucratic procedures. The process was probably banal.

This is shameful and never needed to happen.

This entry was posted in Conservatives, Fucking Morons, Libraries, The War on Science. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Why A Liberal Arts Education Matters: The War on Canadian Science Libraries Edition

  1. Robert L Bell says:

    Sigh. We usually think of the Canadians as being much, much better than this.

    Reflecting on all the super smart Canadians I have known who moved south to make their careers, could it be that we have brain-drained our northern neighbor to the point that they have no smart people left to make the decisions?

  2. Rich S. says:

    I think we have a new front-runner for the title of North American Taliban, and they are the Harper government in Canada. Move over Teabaggers, there are new assholes in town.

  3. eNeMeE says:

    “This is shameful and never needed to happen.”

    …which can be said about a lot (most?) of the things our Strong Stable Conservative Majority Government has done. The party that initially named themselves CRAP has lived up to their name.

  4. Porlock Junior says:

    Anybody remember that silly hysterical traditionalist Nicholson Baker? With all his complaints about libraries sending valuable originals to landfill? Hardly any serious people took much notice of all that.

    How comforting to see that somebody was listening and taking notes. In fact, the Arctic Tories seem to have improved on the American — I mean, U.S.A. — example. So far as I recall, no great amount of obviously valuable irreplaceable stuff failed to get scanned in our 90s orgy. Maybe.

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