The origins of the Canadiana collections are found in three distinct organizations: the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions, the Canadian Initiative on Digital Libraries, and its successor, AlouetteCanada.
Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions (CIHM)
In 1969, the Canada Council for the Arts gathered a group of librarians and scholars to advise on the problems facing university libraries and how best to alleviate them. In 1978, this group published a report recommending that "the Canada Council endow an appropriate organization... for the creation of a Canadian microform collection." Acting on this recommendation, the Canada Council established a program which became the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions (CIHM). The Institute’s key objectives were to make printed Canadiana more easily available to all Canadians, to make rare and scarce Canadiana widely available, and to ensure the preservation of Canadiana in Canada and elsewhere.
Canadian Initiative on Digital Libraries (CIDL)
The Canadian Initiative on Digital Libraries (CIDL) was formed in 1997 to promote, coordinate, and develop Canadian digital collections and services. CIDL was directed by a Steering Committee elected from Canadian member libraries, with a secretariat provided by Library and Archives Canada as an in-kind contribution. With the backing of CIDL members, the University of Calgary Press and l'Université Laval Library jointly led the national digitization project Our Roots / Nos racines. This project continues to make available online the most complete collection possible of Canadian local histories published in English or French. In 2007, the CIDL Steering Committee passed a resolution to dissolve CIDL after a long and productive 10-year existence and to fully endorse AlouetteCanada as its successor.
AlouetteCanada: Open Digitization Initiative
The AlouetteCanada initiative was founded by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) in 2006. AlouetteCanada members and partners recognized that as Canadian society shifted increasingly to a digital environment, it would be vital to have a national vision and a comprehensive plan to present Canada’s cultural heritage online and to provide enduring access to that heritage.
Towards achieving that vision, AlouetteCanada created the open-source Metadata Toolkit (later the Digital Collection Builder, a CARL project), software designed to facilitate the use of metadata standards to ensure maximum use, interoperability and long-term accessibility of Canadian content.
Merger of CIHM and AlouetteCanada
In March 2008, the Boards of the CIHM and CARL concluded an agreement to merge CIHM and AlouetteCanada, creating a new body known as Canadiana.org.
The goal of the merged Canadiana.org was to create, disseminate, and preserve the knowledge base of Canadian memory organizations in digital form and to provide easy online access to this extraordinary wealth of documentary resources. For the next ten years, Canadiana.org facilitated access to Canadian digital heritage and worked to preserve this content for generations to come.
In June 2016, discussions began between CRKN and Canadiana.org of a possible merger with the goal of consolidating strengths and resources to better serve the digital research enterprise in Canada. A business proposal created by a working group of stakeholders from both organizations was presented and discussed at CRKN’s 2017 annual general meeting, where members voted to approach Canadiana with a formal offer to combine organizations.
In early 2018, the Canadiana membership held a special meeting in which this offer was discussed and accepted. The CRKN–Canadiana merger took place on April 1, 2018, and cemented a long working relationship between the two organizations, which had collaborated since 2006 on projects including the Héritage Project, funded by 46 CRKN members.
Today, the services of Canadiana are fully integrated into CRKN with the goal of furthering the digitization, access, and discoverability of Canada’s documentary heritage, and to ensure its long-term preservation for future generations.