Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions

The Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions (CIHM), a non-profit organization, was established in 1978 at the urging of the Canadian research community. Its mission was to preserve and disseminate, on microfiche, early printed monographs that contained information about Canada, were written by Canadian authors, or had a Canadian imprint.

To accomplish this mission, CIHM’s tasks were threefold: find printed materials significant to Canada's history, persuade holding institutions to lend the materials for microfilming, make preservation-quality microfiche reproductions and alert the Canadian library community and public about the availability of these microfiche copies. Thirty-five years later, CIHM’s collections are widely available to researchers in Canada and throughout the world.

Origins

CIHM was established through a wonderful convergence of idea and opportunity. In 1969 the Canadian academic community released as series of letters and briefs asking for renewed assistance from the Canada Council. The Council responded by convening a group of librarians and scholars to advise on the problems facing university libraries and how best to alleviate them.

In its report published by the Canada Council in 1978, the Consultative Group on University Research Libraries recommended that "the Canada Council endow an appropriate organization... for the creation of a Canadian microform collection." This recommendation was based on an idea brought forward by two of the committee members, Hans Möller and Basil Stuart-Stubbs who, along with Ramsay Cook of York University, suggested a project to reproduce early Canadiana on high-quality microfiche. Since Canada did not have a national collection consolidated in one spot, and since the National Library was too new to have amassed significant collections of early Canadiana, they felt it would be an enormous asset to build a national collection on microfiche that would be available to all libraries.

At that time, the Canada Council was preparing to move some of its programs to the organization that would become known as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Acting on the recommendation of the Consultative Group, it established a microfilming program which became the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions.

The Consultative Group’s Report expressed concerns about the unevenness of Canadiana collections across the country, the lack of collections to support research, particularly 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century printed collections, and the threat of deterioration to existing collections. CIHM was established to provide a solution to some of these problems and its objectives were: 1) to make printed Canadiana already in the country more easily available to all Canadians; 2) to make Canadiana not now in Canada available to Canadian libraries; 3) to make rare and scarce Canadiana widely available; 4) to bring together fragmented collections of Canadiana now available; 5) to ensure the preservation of Canadiana in Canada and elsewhere.