events


It was a full house at Deseronto Public Library this afternoon, as author Frances Itani launched her new novel, Tell, to an appreciative audience of more than fifty people.

Frances Itani talking to a full house at Deseronto Public Library

Tell is a follow-on story to Deafening, the author’s first novel, which was published in 2003. Like Deafening, Tell is based in Deseronto, and it follows the story of four of the characters from the first book. It is set in the period immediately following the end of the First World War. Frances made excellent use of the archives here in Deseronto in her research for the book and we were delighted to host her first stop on the promotional tour.

Frances Itani signing copies of 'Tell'

And we are pleased to report that every copy of Tell was snapped up by the audience!

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Tell by Frances ItaniThe Deseronto Public Library and Deseronto Archives are delighted to announce that they will be hosting the launch of Frances Itani’s new novel, Tell on Thursday, August 28th at 1pm in the Deseronto Public Library.

Tell follows on from the author’s first novel, Deafening, which was partly set in Deseronto. It picks up on four of the minor characters from Deafening and follows their stories in Deseronto after the First World War.

After a reading from the novel, books will be available for signing by the author. Refreshments will be served.

More than 80 people gathered in Belleville’s Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre on Saturday for a day exploring historical aspects of European and First Nations attitudes to “the land that supports our feet”. The Warden of Hastings County (and Reeve of Tyendinaga Township), Rick Phillips; the Chief of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, R. Donald Maracle; and the Mayor of Deseronto, Norman Clark, all gave official welcomes to the group.

Nathan Brinklow introducing the Opening AddressThe traditional Six Nations Opening was performed by Nathan Brinklow, who provided an English translation of his words so that everyone could understand. As Nathan explained in his introduction, the Opening is all about the relationships between the land, waters and living things, so it was a particularly appropriate way of starting a day of proceedings focused on human interactions with land.

The keynote address was given by Marlene Brant Castellano, who gave a moving account of the way that her formal education in the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Shannonville, and Belleville had failed to include the history of the Six Nations or traditional teachings. She told us that when she came to the stories and teachings later in life, it was like learning a new language, but also that “it was a language that was already written in my heart”. Marlene’s talk centred on the three beads of the Two-Row Wampum belt, representing Peace, Friendship, and Respect.

The archival component of the day was made up of a series of readings from documents which were written in the first fifty years of settlement in the Bay of Quinte region. They focused on what life was like for the Mohawks who came to this area at that time, and on how the attitudes of the Government toward the native population changed in that period.

Alfredo Barahona led the group in the Blanket Exercise. This is an interactive telling of the story of the interactions between Europeans and the aboriginal population of Canada, using blankets to represent the land available to native peoples and readings which relate laws and impacts of policies on their communities.

At the start of the exercise, everyone was free to move around the blankets and talk to each other.

Beginning of the Blanket Exercise

By the end, only isolated groups are left, with the size of their blankets constantly being trimmed back by the Europeans.

End of the Blanket Exercise

Marlene Brant Castellano, Mike Bossio and Keith SeroMark Brinklow and Ed FileAfter lunch, a panel session examined some different perspectives on land issues. Mike Bossio talked about how native and non-native communities worked together to resist the expansion of the Richmond landfill site. Keith Sero discussed the process of forming new forms of governance for First Nations, such as the management boards for wildlife and water in Nunavut.  Mark Brinklow described his work with teenagers at risk of offending, explaining how reconnecting them to activities on the land can give them a renewed sense of self-confidence and identity. Ed File is a retired professor of social science who has taken an active role in social justice movements involving First Nations in Canada.

The final activity of the day was a chance for people to join discussion groups with as much geographical diversity as possible. People were asked to reflect on what they had learned from the day and on what they thought they might be able to do next to move the conversation forward.

Discussion groupd

Lynn Brant rounded off a fascinating day with a deeply moving song and the Closing Ceremony.

Thanks to everyone who came and to all those involved in organizing, presenting and catering for the event. Special thanks are due to Paul Robertson, chair of the Deseronto Archives Board, who originally conceived the idea for the symposium, and who performed the role of Master of Ceremonies on the day, and to Marlene Brant Castellano, who took on a hugely active role in galvanising support for the event and in putting together the programme, as well as giving the keynote address and chairing the panel session. Edgar Tumak, Sharon and Nick White and Niamh Hill all worked incredibly hard on the day: sincere thanks to you all!

Symposium poster

Symposium poster


Registration is now open for a one-day symposium exploring common ground between First Nations and Settlers in Eastern Ontario. This event will include representatives of First Nations and Settler communities presenting information on historical perceptions of land and the importance of working together to come to shared understandings about its significance to us all.

The event has been organized by the Board of Deseronto Archives and the Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County, with the support of the Hastings County Historical Society, the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and the Town of Deseronto.

There is no charge for the symposium but registration is essential – visit the booking page for more details.

Location: Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre, Belleville
Date: Saturday October 26th, 2013: 9am-4pm

Read the media release [PDF] here.

Regular readers of this blog will probably be aware by now that here at Deseronto Archives we have fairly advanced views about opening up our collections and making as much of them as possible available online, both through this blog and through our Flickr account.

Tay Bridge, Dundee

At the moment I am in Dundee, Scotland, at day one of a conference with the theme ‘Democratising or Privileging: the Future of Access to Archives‘. The programme is absolutely packed with talks about providing online access to archives and the role of digitization in making materials available to as wide an audience as possible.

Some of the most intriguing perspectives have come from users of archives. Dr Alan MacDonald spoke of his frustration about lack of published policies on what materials will be chosen for digitization and the lack of clarity over charging for access to online archives. (In the UK it is much more common for archives to charge genealogists for searching and reading records than it is in Canada.) He called for consistency in access to materials and for as much as possible to be open and free for all uses. A website designed for family historians, for example, may not be useful for other researchers if the only access to it is by name indexes.

Chris Paton is a professional genealogist and his pleas to archivists included a request for free wi-fi in archives, permission to take digital photos, longer opening hours and simpler user registration and photocopying policies. He also thought it was important for archives to make use of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. Both Chris and Alan emphasized that although digitization is useful for accessibility, detailed online [item-level*] cataloguing is even more so, especially in a time of financial constraints for researchers (and everyone else!), although they both recognized that this is much harder to get funding for than ‘sexy’ digital imaging projects.

There is a strong Canadian contingent at this conference and Sara Allain from the University of Toronto Scarborough gave an interesting analysis of what she termed the ‘Digitization Rhetoric’ currently being advanced at Library and Archives Canada as the solution to the problem of access to materials there. Jenny Seeman of Memorial University of Newfoundland also looked at digitization, wondering about whether selectively digitizing a collection unfairly privileges one narrative about its contents over others, using the case of the Dr. Cluny MacPherson collection as her example.

Professor Wendy Duff of the University of Toronto talked about social media use in archives and ways of using elements of gaming theory to encourage public engagement with archival material online. I particularly liked the mental picture of online archives as rhizomes, providing multiple entry points to the material and different paths through it, which would vary from user to user. She also described archivists as walking finding aids, a point also echoed by Alan MacDonald, who agreed that the knowledge of archivists is priceless, and that it is hard to replicate that in online resources.

All in all, a fascinating day and plenty to think about!

Day 2

Many of the themes in the first day of the conference continued to be mentioned during the second. The difficulty of balancing public demand for materials with the cost of digitizing them came through loud and clear from representatives of the National Records of Scotland. Historian Professor Allan MacInnes gave an intriguing analysis of archival managers in relation to Calvanistic theology. According to Allan, administrators of archives fall into categories of the Church Invisible, the Church Visible and Reprobates. I can’t remember the precise details of the first two (they weren’t very complimentary!), but found myself warming towards his Reprobates: archivists “who believe that research and scholarship are more important than policy and procedure”. The issue of trust between archive managers and users was a strong theme of Allan’s keynote, along with a call for more collaboration between them.

More Canadians appeared in later sessions: Michael Moir of York University examined the ethical issues of access to confidential and sensitive information in personal papers. I liked Michael’s point that use of archival materials can be seen as a return on the investment of the institution in giving them shelf space: the cost of archival storage at York had been estimated at $80 a year for a box. Dr Jean Dryden reported on her research into archivists’ approaches to dealing with copyright restrictions. There’s a lot of caution in the community about putting things online and accidentally infringing copyright, so it was reassuring to hear from Jean that there have been no instances in North America of archives being sued for putting images online: any disputes have been settled amicably. I was interested to hear from Jean about the Smithsonian Archives of American Art’s approach, where entire collections are being digitized on the basis that “access trumps everything”.

François Cartier gave a thorough overview of recent developments at Library and Archives Canada, with a strong call for archivists to be part of the policy-making processes at their institutions. He quoted Carl Sagan: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” and Christopher Hitchens: “that which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence” as important principles to remember in response to claims made in the name of the modernization agenda at LAC.

Dr Cathryn Spence of the University of Guelph talked about her research on wills of women in the late sixteenth century. She had to pay for printouts of  these (digitized) records in Scotland (and actually ended up asking her parents to get some of them for her as a Christmas present!). Other parts of her research were undertaken in a relatively poorly-funded archives service: Edinburgh City Archives.  Cathryn was full of praise for the staff of this small repository, with whom she built up an excellent and trusting working relationship in a way that is very difficult in the larger, impersonal surroundings of the National Records of Scotland. This echoed Allan MacInnes’s observations made earlier in the day. The worrying part about the situation in the City Archives is the reliance of researchers on the knowledge of one archivist. One thing I’m hoping to achieve by writing blog posts here is to avoid having everything I’ve learnt about Deseronto’s archives leaving the Archives when I do! (Not that I’m planning to, just yet…)

Dr Vivienne Dunstan gave us a valuable insight into the problems faced by researchers who are wheelchair users. She described herself as “a big fan of online catalogues”, the more detailed the better (continuing another of the previous day’s themes). It was pleasing to hear that Vivienne found many archive services were willing to be flexible in giving her access to materials above what might have been usually offered. This was something else Allan MacInnes had called for: flexibility over standard procedures, where that is appropriate.

All in all, the conference was extremely interesting. Calls for archival policies based on evidence, on collaboration and on user needs were the main themes of the two days. And judging from the users who spoke, detailed catalogues; online resources which are explorable in a range of ways; mutual respect between staff and users; and adaptable procedures were top of their list of requirements. Thanks to colleagues at the University of Dundee’s Centre for Archive and Information Studies for organizing a fascinating event!

There’s further coverage of the conference over at British GENES and Viv’s Academic Blog.

*Postscript: Chris didn’t actually say ‘item-level’ – he was talking about cataloguing in general. My apologies!

Well done to the winners of this year’s Archives Competition at Deseronto Public School:

First Prize: Hannah Rooney
Second Prize: Jarrett Moss
Third Prize: Cassidy Jackson
Honourable Mention: Ziah Silver-Lanuza

The Archives Board would like to thank Principal Heather Seres and her staff for their support of this annual competition. The standard of the entries is always very high and it is extremely difficult to choose winners!

This year the theme was ‘My Deseronto’ and the students described aspects of the town that are important to them. The Library featured fairly frequently, as did local restaurants, the parks and the children’s friends and family.

2012 Archives Competition winners

The prizewinners with Archives Board Chair, Paul Robertson with fellow Board members, Councillor Edgar Tumak and Archivist Amanda Hill. (I should probably mention that the school were having a Pyjama Day, too…)

Waterfront Festival, July

Here are some facts and figures relating to the work of Deseronto Archives over the course of 2011.

New accessions received: 28

Email queries answered: 47

Telephone queries answered: 12

Visits to the archives by researchers: 73

Images uploaded to www.flickr.com/deserontoarchives: 109

Events organized/attended:

Doors Open, Napanee/Deseronto/Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory May 28th
Archives Association of Ontario conference, Thunder Bay June 17nd
Inter-agency Service Fair, Deseronto June 22nd
Waterfront Festival, Deseronto July 2nd
Deseronto Public Library 125th anniversary events October

Blog posts written : 17

Visitors to the blog in 2011:13,058 (8,097 in 2010)

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