Interview with Ian Wilson, incoming ICA president
At this year’s Annual General Meeting, the ICA will swear in its new president for the 2008-2012 term. The Flying Reporters sat down with Ian Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, to discuss his views on new media, the next generation of archivists and the future of the ICA.
“The ICA is a very complex and diverse body.”
Its no secret that the ICA’s large, dispersed and heterogeneous membership make it a difficult organization to manage. Members are spread out to the four corners of the world, working in different local contexts and conducting business and research in many different languages, with great disparities in access to funding, resources, and political support. However, as Mr. Wilson points out, “the strength of the ICA lies in its network.” It is precisely this broad range of members and experiences, linked by conferences, publications, and now increasingly IT technologies, that make participation and membership in the ICA meaningful.
Mr. Wilson sees his role as president as centering on the administration, direction, and effective operation of this complex and diverse body. “I hope to help provide broad strategic direction and coherence for the ICA,” he said, “in order to move the organization forward and to promote archival values and views on the international scene.”
Mr. Wilson was quick to acknowledge the progress that has been made within the ICA over the last four years. “We have to recognize that the outgoing executives have put the ICA onto a firm administrative and financial footing... they have passed the ICA along to us in better condition than they found it.”
However, there is still much work to be done.
“Building the ICA profile on the international level”
One particular area Mr. Wilson would like to see the ICA develop is its partnerships with other international bodies, both professional and governmental, on archival issues. “We need to look strategically at how we can intervene with major organizations,” he said, in order to develop partnerships and promote archival standards, good recordkeeping and audit practices, and access to documents on a global scale. In order for these strategic interventions to succeed, Mr. Wilson acknowledged that ICA has to work very hard in order to build its profile as an international body. “If we can influence those areas,” insisted Mr. Wilson, “other issues follow.”
“We need renewal”
Mr. Wilson also expressed his hopes that, during his term as ICA president, the organization will do more to include newcomers to the profession. “Too often the ICA tends to be clubbish,” he cautioned. “We have to be very open to new members, to people coming in early or mid-career.” Citing the 2007 CITRA in Quebec where Canadian students in Archives and Records Management were invited to attend and interact with participants, Mr. Wilson pointed to the benefit that an inter-generational dialog can have for the profession. “We need the perspective, the enthusiasm,” he said of the next generation of archivists. “We’ve got a tech savvy generation coming along. This is having a fundamental impact on how we run our institutions.”
But he had some challenges for the next generation as well. He urged archivists joining the field to make the most of new media and technologies not just as tools for communication, but as potential objects for collection and preservation. He underlined the importance of looking at the profession holistically, considering issues of environmental responsibility and sustainability as well. And he encouraged newcomers to “take the archival message way out” by engaging with other disciplines and professions in the cultural and information spheres.
Finally, when asked about his vision for the future of the ICA, Mr. Wilson’s outlook was decidedly positive. “In ICA there’s room for initiative,” he said. “There’s room for good ideas. There’s room to create space. I hope I can create an environment for everyone to have a sense that they can get involved and can take a risk.”
Anne Bast and Louis-Philippe Römer