For several years Andris Ķesteris, President of the Latvian National Federation in Canada (LNAK) and Member of the Board of the World Federation of Free Latvians (PBLA) has urged the Latvian Community in Canada to increase activities towards preserving its rich cultural heritage.
A year ago, on 15 August 2013, a number of enthusiasts met to discuss the possibilities and formed a working group. This year, on 15 August, their efforts were formalized. The Latvian National Federation in Canada (LNAK) approved, under its auspices, the formation of the “Canadian Latvian Archives and Museum” (KLAM).
As a professional archivist and specialist, Andris Ķesteris’ many years of experience at the Library and Archives Canada (LAC), is irreplaceable. He is currently Chair of the Archives, Library and Museum task force of PBLA, and continues to develop cooperative initiatives with several international organizations, including those in Latvia and Canada. He is a life member of the Baltic Heritage Network (BaltHerNet), and one of the founding Board Members of the Baltic Audiovisual Archival Council (BAAC).
Aija Kārkliņa, Skaidrīte Tērauds and Ženija Vītola are the LNAK Canadian task force and can be considered founders of KLAM. Since its inception a year ago, they have spent hundreds of hours organizing the material acquired so far.
The goal of KLAM is to collect and, as much as possible, house under one roof, documents and artefacts of Latvians in Canada from the end of the 19th Century to the present day.
The KLAM depository contains documents from various organizations, active and inactive, personal documents, such as immigration certificates, marriage and birth certificates, photographs, etc. Very interesting is the correspondence with relatives and friends in Latvia during the 50 years of Soviet occupation. These letters, often indirectly, tell a great deal about their life.
The KLAM museum holds items people brought with them as they left their homeland: their Latvian passport, school diploma, a suitcase and a pair of mitts. Recently, in Latvia, an exhibition called “A Latvian’s Suitcase” was opened to the public in the “Stūra māja” – KGB Building in Riga. We all carried such a suitcase going into exile. The exhibition was curated by LaPa ( Latvians Abroad – Museum and Research Centre).
KLAM is not just a local archive. It operates and is governed by international rules and archival principles. In Latvia, KLAM cooperates with the Latvian National Library (LNB), Latvians Abroad – Museum and Research Centre (Latvieši pasaulē – LaPa) and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (LOM).
The original LNAK Archive was founded in 1975. Mr. Jānis Mežaks was the principal archivist responsible for the collection. The fonds are very well organized and go up to 2004. Active work was interrupted as Mr. Mežaks returned to live in Latvia. The Archives of Ontario in Toronto are the official depository of the records of the Federation.
Many of us, having lived in Canada the greater part of our lives, are an integral part of Canada, as also we have remained a part of Latvia, where we were born. Therefore, it is important to continue the work started by Mr. Mežaks.
It is essential to continue to collect information about Latvians in Canada as evidence of the great contribution to their country of refuge, and as evidence to future generations, about the struggle to free their homeland that was occupied by foreign forces for much too long.
KLAM will be grateful for support and contributions, both archival and financial. Further information is available at the LNAK office, 4 Credit Union Drive, Toronto, ON, M4A 2N8; Tel. 416-755-2353; e-mail email@example.com.