Ian E. Wilson served as National Archivist of Canada, 1999 to 2004, and then as head of the newly amalgamated Library and Archives Canada. He retired in 2009, accepting the invitation of the University of Waterloo and OpenText Corporation to help establish the campus for digital media in Stratford. After initiating the Canadian Archives Summit in January, 2014 he became a special adviser to the Director-General of the National archives of the United Arab Emirates, based in Abu Dhabi. He retired again in December 2020 returning home to Ottawa. He continues to assist the archival endeavour nationally and internationally while pursuing his research on his influential predecessor, Sir Arthur Doughty, Dominion Archivist 1904-35.
Ian Wilson was born in Montréal, Québec in 1943. After graduating from Westmount High School, he attended the Collège Militaire Royale du Canada in St-Jean, Québec. He transferred to Queen's University in 1963 to complete his undergraduate degree. He began work on the circulation desk of the Douglas Library at Queen's in 1966 before beginning his archival 'apprenticeship' and graduate studies with Dr. John H. Archer, O.C. Wilson's MA thesis was an analytical study of early Canadian cultural policy as exemplified through the history of the national archives of Canada. He has subsequently served as University Archivist of Queen’s University (1970-76), Provincial Archivist of Saskatchewan (1976-86) and Provincial Archivist of Ontario (1986-99), with responsibility for the Ontario public library system for four years. In 1999 he was appointed as the 7th National Archivist of Canada. With the then National Librarian, Roch Carrier, he helped plan and lead the amalgamation of the two institutions to form Library and Archives Canada. Wilson was appointed the first head of the new innovative institution, focused on developing the country’s documentary heritage in all media and on providing suitable access to citizens, exploring the extensive use of web-based services.
On the international scene, Wilson was elected President of the Conseil international de la table ronde des archives (CITRA) in 2000, as a vice-president of the International Council on Archives (ICA) and chairing the CITRA meetings in Iceland (2001), Marseilles (2002) and Cape Town (2003). In 2008 he was elected President of the ICA, representing the international archival community in conferences from Seoul, to Tamarasset to Riga, Trondheim, Oslo, Paris, Austen, and Tokyo.
Wilson’s career spans many areas, including archival and information management, university teaching and government service. He has worked diligently to make archives accessible and interesting to a wide range of audiences. While helping to safeguard the integrity of archival records and library services, he has encouraged public involvement and outreach. He has published on history, archives, heritage and information management and has lectured nationally and internationally. Both the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo appointed him as an adjunct professor. He holds three honorary doctorates, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada. The Government of France named him a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He is a fellow of the International Council on Archives, the Association of Canadian Archivists and the Society of American Archivists.