Rosemary Bergeron – Canadian Film History Pioneer

January 10, 2023
Rosemary Bergeron in her office at PDLC Gatineau.


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Rosemary Bergeron alongside Michelle Lillie. Photo courtesy Caroline Forcier-Halloway.

It is with a very sad and heavy heart to announce the passing of a much loved, and respected friend of the Canadian Film Archival community; Rosemary Bergeron, January 9th, 2023.

I was very fortunate to have worked with Rosemary while employed at Library & Archives Canada (LAC), or as it was known then, the National Film Television Sound Archives (NFTSA), at the time, located at Tunney’s Pasture in Ottawa.

Rosemary’s love for Canadian Film history was unsurpassed in her passion in working tirelessly to gather valuable data related to the people, places, and films that made up Canada’s cinematic past.

Rosemary, or ‘Rosie’, as many of us called her, was always battling the ‘paper mountain’ to “get more history out there before it is too late.”

Rosemary and I both shared a passion for early Canadian animation, and always thoughtful for those behind the scenes as well; “Peripheral to the animation theme, a lot of unsung heroes in Canadian film are the people who did artwork for titles, little graphics, credits, etc.”

Rosemary retired in January 2014 and was looking forward to spending time outside, “So nice to have a big yard to play in!”

Rosemary would continue to pass along information, mostly “…while looking for something else.”

In retirement, Rosemary was happy to share some of her research for posting to the new website. One of her favourite subjects was Canadian Newsreels. As Rosemary would tell me, “the newsreel cameramen need more attention.”

“I have been digging around on the newspaper sites and the genealogy sites and found some items for George H. Valiquette, who filmed for Fox, etc. and was with Bernier on the 1924 expedition, etc. I found his obituary in Le Droit in 1962. As it is, George’s career highlights were in the 1920s, but I still think he deserves to be remembered.”

“I’m hoping this will lead to a series on other newsreel photographers. There are several more undeservedly obscure guys out there, but the bios will probably be shorter due to lack of sources. The idea is to just get their names out there.”

Even in the great outdoors, Rosemary could not help herself;

“Know what you mean about outside — was outside all day yesterday, cutting the grass, weeding, starting to trim the cedar hedge, and watering. All the while thinking about Valiquette and his fellow newsreelers. I have some newsreel images I saved from screen grabs back in the day.”

Rosemary was also instrumental in maintaining the memory of the Canadian Army Film & Photo Unit ensuring the data was preserved in LAC’s online database;

“Forget to mention earlier — this spring I was wearing the CAFU baseball cap while doing groceries. The cashier said she liked my cap and we lamented about what is happening to Canadian history.

Rosemary was also passionate about her family, and thoroughly enjoyed sharing details in her emails;

“Just finished putting away all the Christmas decorations (I put them all up this year (2021), what the heck, in case I had to spend it by myself.) As it turned out I did not. Everyone in my family who is in the area were so fed up and all are vaccinated except the 3-year-old, so we went ahead and partied on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I did not want to miss out on spending Christmas with my sister’s dear little grandchildren, ages 3 and 5. They are young enough to be impressed by my artistic skills. The 5-year-old asked me to draw Superman. When I held it up for him to see he was amazed. The three year old told me I did a good job, which I am still chuckling over. Made a tortière for New Year’s (yum), using a new pastry recipe, and impressed myself.”

Rosemary sadly joins a long list of former LAC ‘Canadian Film History Pioneers’ who are still sorely missed today; Sam Kula, Bill O’Farrell Jr., Lily Koltun, Pierre Stevens, Dennis Waugh, Brian MacDonald.

When I asked Rosemary for a bio to attach to her article on newsreel cameraman George Valiquette, Rosemary wrote; “As for a bio, well what is there to say. Rosemary Bergeron is a retired archivist who specialized in Canadian film and broadcasting at Library and Archives Canada.”

Rosemary; we miss you so much, and be sure that your legacy in the Canadian Film Archival community is much more than a ‘retired archivist’. is powered by your spirit and devotion to your love for Canadian Film History and is reflected in every post. You will be missed.

From todays Ottawa Citizen, 14 JANUARY, 2023, (Classifieds Section B10);

Remembering Rosemary Bergeron by Richard Lochead

As Dale notes, Rosemary did not feel comfortable drawing attention to her accomplishments or seek the spotlight. She didn’t need to – her accomplishments spoke for themselves and were recognized by many not just in the LAC, but throughout Canada and beyond as demonstrated by her receiving the Association of Moving Image Archivists (the leading AV archives international association) Leab Award for “Unsung” Archivists.

Rosemary was committed to knowing all aspects of audio visual archives, not just the acquisition and description area where she worked. Always a quick study, her interest and willingness to learn more and to “do the work” quickly resulted in her becoming “the most favoured archivist ” for the AV Preservation staff area as well reference and textual archivists. This was not a easy feat since the structural setup of audio archives itself at the then National Archives of Canada often led more to adversarial than collaborative positions among its various sections as well between audiovisual division with the rest of the archives which it in many cases, it shared little in common. Rosemary’s reputation and authoritative knowledge enabled her to bridge the gaps among the various camps.

It was no surprise, therefore, that Rosemary was the AV representative everyone wanted (and often insisted) to be on their committees (Rosemary hated committees but often wrote key reports for them).

“Go ask Rosemary” was the advice given to anyone in the LAC or other archives and, in particular, to the broadcast research community when anyone had a question relating to audio visual collections. Her expertise and knowledge ensured that there would be a steady stream of requests.

Rosemary did original research on film and broadcast history, often finding and highlighting deserving areas that, as Dale notes, were unacknowledged. Her work was published in Archivaria and cited by film and broadcast scholars which expanded the recognition, importance and credibility of AV archives.

But Rosemary’s driving ambition was to ensure the LAC vast AV holdings were well described so researchers would have access to them. This was a never ending and time consuming task for the whole AV section since the its vast holdings, including film, broadcast and video and sound productions had to be described at an item level, like books.

Sam Kula once remarked that he measured his success as director not by conventional Treasury Board benchmarks but by viewing all the collections stored in our vaults. A good point, but unless these holdings are not described, they could be not used, appreciated and become part of our history.

For Rosemary this was the essential task of an AV archivist. So between all the articles written , committee meetings attended and reports written, research questions answered; Rosemary viewed completing item level descriptions (IDCs) as top priority All the item level descriptions of AV documents are entered into the Library and Archives Canada AV database (MISCAS) which also records the initials of the archivist who prepared them. As Steve Moore noted, Rosemary completed 19,564 IDCs (and helped on many others), far more than anyone else (Gretsky-like numbers Steve added). A legacy in itself.

As Dale notes, Rosemary was overly modest and downright reticent about her accomplishments and her submitted bio was always too short when required for a conference or publication. There was, however, one time when Rosemary was required to pull together and list her publications, reports, awards and citations. This was an application for a classification promotion via the Committee of Peers process.

The Committee members (which did not include an AV representative) were so impressed with her application that they took the unique and unusual step of approving a promotion of not one level but of two levels from HR-2 to HR4. To those who know Rosemary’s work, this was not a surprise just another overdue recognition of her contributions and her impact.

Rosemary’s sudden passing was a shock to all who knew and worked with her and many others who knew her work. Rosemary’s legacy will be remembered through her many articles and citations by others, but perhaps the most fitting legacy will be every time someone learns more about our AV heritage by reading her perfectly written detailed descriptions .

Richard Lochead

Tribute by Ernest J. Dick

Rosemary Bergeron from the National Archives of Canada was the first recipient of the Dan and Kathy Leab Award, presented during the 1996 annual AMIA conference in Atlanta in December. The purpose of the Leab award is to acknowledge the contribution of moving image archivists who seldom have an opportunity to be recognized outside their own institutions. The “unsung” moving image archivists who made notable contributions to a special project, to their institutions, or to the moving image archive world in general are to be recognized by this award.

Rosemary Bergeron joined the National Archives of Canada in 1984 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Carleton University. She took responsibility for CBC radio and television holdings at the National Archives and soon became an essential point of reference for anyone working with these collections. Rosemary was part of the team preparing the exhibition “Beyond the Printed Word… Newsreel and Broadcast Reporting in Canada 1897 – 1987,” and her encyclopedic memory for news events proved indispensable for this project.

In 1990 Rosemary completed a Masters degree in Canadian studies at Carleton University and her thesis on “The Presentation of News on CBC Television, 1953-1988” is a valuable reference for anyone archiving a television news collection. At the National Archives she also worked with countless oral history and home movie collections, particularly enjoying working with former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s family movies from the 1930s. She worked on dozens of committees at the National Archives including developing rules for archival description for sound and moving image material and developing selection criteria.

Her article in Archivaria #23 (Winter 1986-87), “The Selection of Television Productions for Archival Prese rvation,”has been cited by many working in this area, and her workshop (with Greg Eamon) at the Boston AMIA conference on selection criteria has been requested many times to be repeated.

As staff and budgets have been cut at the National Archives in recent years Rosemary has been assigned ever more collections and responsibilities. She has accepted such assignments willingly and invariably brought new energy and commitment to these areas. All the while Rosemary has maintained her knowledge and interest in Canadian broadcasting history and is well known and appreciated by anyone working in this area. On the personal level Rosemary has developed an interest in gardening and genealogy and is becoming a formidable expert in these areas as well.

Rosemary was thrilled with the recognition of her peers signaled by becoming the first recipient of the Leab award. She has pledged that the $1,000 she received with the Leab award will be banked to cover her AMIA membership for her lifetime and looks forward to a long involvement with AMIA.

1 Comment

  1. I just read your eulogy of Rosemary’s life and career, and I was delighted to see her dedication and her accomplishments highlighted. It was very touching. Too many people are remembered by the fifty words written about them by a funeral home or a grieving relative. It was very nice to see something written from the point of view of a colleague and friend, and you were the perfect person to have written it. Thank you, I really enjoyed it, and yes, we will all miss her.

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