Hugh Alexander Taylor was born in England in 1920. He studied History at Oxford and took his Archives Diploma at the University of Liverpool. His early archival career in England included positions with the Leeds Public Libraries, Liverpool Public Libraries, the County of Northumberland, and the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
He emigrated to Canada with his wife and daughters in 1965, taking the position of founding Provincial Archivist of the Provincial Archives of Alberta. He left Alberta in 1968 to become Provincial Archivist of New Brunswick. He joined the Public Archives of Canada in 1971 as Director of the Historical Branch, which he renamed the Archives Branch shortly after his arrival.
During his career at the Public Archives of Canada, Taylor undertook numerous initiatives that shaped that institution as well as the archival profession. Within the PAC, he recreated its organizational structure to highlight the strength of its media-based total archives. He was also a strong supporter of the newly formed Association of Canadian Archivists as well as its new scholarly journal, Archivaria.
But it was Taylor’s essays and ideas exploring the nature of archives that were possibly the most influential aspect of his career. As Terry Cook noted in Archivaria 60, Taylor “was intent on constructing archives anew, imagining them as places where archivists connect their records with social issues, with new media and recording technologies, with the historical traditions of archives, with the earth’s ecological systems, and with the broader search for spiritual meaning.”
He left the Public Archives of Canada to become the Provincial Archivist of Nova Scotia, retiring in 1982 to Parksville, BC. He remained active in the archival community as a consultant and as a teacher at month-long Archives Course at the National Archives of Canada as well as the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at UBC. Among his numerous professional contributions, he was active in the Society of American Archivists as well as the Association of Canadian Archivists, receiving the Kaye Lamb Award for best writing in Archivaria as well as honourary membership in the ACA in 1990. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1990. In 1992, the Association of Canadian Archivists published The Archival Imagination: Essays in Honour of Hugh A. Taylor, a festschrift written by archivists whom he had inspired. A collection of his most influential essays, Imagining Archives: Essays and Reflections by Hugh A. Taylor, appeared in 2002.
He died in Victoria, BC in 2005.