Friday, August 14, 2009

Archived posts: IFLA 2008, day 4

Wednesday Plenary Session: James Bartleman
(Some of you probably know that he is very active in aboriginal youth literacy initiatives and created in 2004 a book program, collecting books to stock school libraries in aboriginal communities in Northern Ontario and Nunavut.)

Bartleman (the former Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario) is aboriginal: he is a member of the Mnjikaning First Nation. His mum is Native, and she married his (white) father at the age of 14 (his father was 18). His parents lived on a reserve, and then moved to Port Carling, where they lived for some time behind the city dump. Bartleman observed that this was great, because the wealthy American families vacationing in Muskoka left many lovely items in the dump, and the dump became, in fact, his first library (he read a lot of discarded comic books)! He spoke at length about racism, reminding the audience that Aboriginal and Inuit people in Canada only got the vote in 1960, and that he and his mum were often teased with racial epithets. He said, “everyone was poor” at the time, but that “racism was different.” He said he has never forgotten how it felt to be discriminated against, even after the community that ostracized his family named a park after him. He explained that in the end, he realized these people weren’t going anywhere, and neither was he, and that he had to move on. He could not keep resenting them. He told the audience that he learned to read very early, and this set him apart from other children in the community. He described reading as an act of self-discovery, an act that “takes you from a world of harsh limits to one of expanded possibilities.”

On Wednesday, I also visited the Centre d'interprétation de Place-Royale to see an NFB film being presented in 3-D. The film, entitled Facing Champlain: A Work in 3 dimensions, follows actress Pascale Montpetit, who plays young artist Mélissa Hébert. Hébert is commissioned to create a new portrait of Samuel de Champlain, and is plagued by a creative block. She takes an imaginative journey into Champlain’s time, evoking New France, the first explorers, the harsh winters, Champlain’s revelations about the Native people, and more. Through Hébert’s eyes, Champain’s drawings and maps come alive (and become 3-dimensional!). The film also discusses the controversy about the official portrait of Champlain (his head actually belongs to Michel Particelli, from a 1654 portait by Balthazar Montcornet, engraver at the Bibliothèque nationale de France - this potrait served as the basis for future images of Champlain).

I also went to the Musée des civilisations, where I saw two exhibits: Le musée du quai Branly. Regards sur la diversité culturelle (focusing on two exhibits on loan from the Branly museum: artefact repair work in Africa and art by Berber women) and Or des Amériques (focusing on the importance of gold in the Americas throughout history). After that, I explored the excavations going on under the Dufferin Terrace boardwalk. In Fall 2007, Parks Canada archeologists discovered the remains of Champlain's living quarters (in fact, his last home, in which he died in 1635), built inside Fort Saint-Louis in 1626, on this site. This strategic location later became the home of most of the governors under the French and English Regimes.

Lastly, on Wednesday afternoon, I went on an IFLA-organised tour of Ile d’Orléans, where we visited the Manoir Mauvide-Genest (Jean Mauvide was a French surgeon and politician who settled on Ile d'Orléans in 1720) and a local orchard and ciderie, Domaine Steinbach (4000 apple trees, managed as an organic farm producing cider, cider vinegar, mustards, jellies, preserves, and confit).

Wednesday evening marked the launch of the IFLA professional report I co-wrote with Barbara Clubb, entitled “Public Libraries, Archives and Museums: Trends in Collaboration and Cooperation.” Barb and I both gave speeches. I spoke at length about the unique value of collaborative projects between libraries, museums and archives to enrich community life and provide unique opportunities to democratize information and offer access to valuable cultural heritage. I underlined how our three types of institutions often unconsciously present barriers to immigrant and indigenous populations, the disabled and the disadvantaged, and how we must do everything we can do – within our institutions’ role – to make the momentous step through the door easier, more likely, more enjoyable, or merely less intimidating and more exciting for users and non-users. I also talked about some of my favourite projects from the report: Jane, the dinosaur who teaches scientific literacy, the partnership in the UK between the Mobile Library Service and the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and the World Digital Library (committed to significantly expand non-English and non-Western content on the Internet). My final quote from David Carr, Associate Professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was about how libraries and museums are “incendiary cultural institutions [that]…feed flames that illuminate the human capacity to imagine the possible.” I challenged delegates attending the launch to read about these incendiary collaborative projects and “maybe to be just a little bit more incendiary ourselves.”

At the publication launch
L to R: John Lake (Chair, IFLA Public Libraries Section), Torny Kjekstad, me, Claudia Lux (IFLA President), Barbara Clubb, Marianne Scott, Ian Wilson (Librarian and Archivist of Canada).

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