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 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)

At the musical evening held as part of the Library’s 125th anniversary celebrations John Hall, the Organist and Director of Music at  Christ Church and the choir of the church sang the following song as a tribute to the work of Frances Smith, Deseronto’s current librarian, and her team. We’re hoping to get a video made of a repeat performance to share here, but in the meantime, here at least are the words (with apologies to W. S. Gilbert) to give a taste of the event (and for re-use and adaptation, should you feel so inclined!).

I am the very model of a modern-day librarian
I’ve books for every baby and each septuagenarian
I’ve online databases and I’ll get you what you need to know
And if you need the washrooms then I’ll tell you where you have to go.

I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters bibliographical,
I understand MARC records and all issues biographical.
About our library catalogue I’m full of interesting facts,
We’ve books on everything from kangaroos to paying income tax.

We’ve books on everything from kangaroos to paying income tax.
We’ve books on everything from kangaroos to paying income tax.
We’ve books on everything from kangaroos to paying income tax.

I’m very good at knowing how to help each Des’rontonian
On matters scientific, Galilean  or Newtonian,
In short in matters notional and utilitarian,
I am the very model of a modern-day librarian.

In short in matters notional and utilitarian
She is the very model of a modern-day librarian

Our staff are very friendly and our hours egalitarian
We’ll help you all from pastry chef to parl-i-a-mentarian
We’ll help you with your homework and we’ll show you how to find a book
If you want to build a house or simply just learn how to cook.

I answer every question asked, I’m very inspirational
For finding work, for college or just simply recreational
We’ve DVDs, computers and a heap of fascinating texts
We’ll even help you out if you forgot to bring your reading specs.

We’ll even help you out if you forgot to bring your reading specs.
We’ll even help you out if you forgot to bring your reading specs.
We’ll even help you out if you forgot to bring your reading specs.

Our job centre’s fantastic and our archives are historical
Our books are always sorted in an order categorical
In short in matters notional and utilitarian,
I am the very model of a modern-day librarian.

In short in matters notional and utilitarian
She is the very model of a modern-day librarian

Thanks to everyone who attended this and all the other events which marked this anniversary. This is a difficult time for libraries and it was wonderful to see so much support for the service.

A week of celebratory activities to mark Public Library Week in Ontario and the end of Deseronto Public Library’s 125th year started in fine style yesterday evening with a fundraising celebratory dinner. The room was beautifully decorated with quilts and memorabilia from times past, including this wonderful quilt which was made in 1967 to mark Canada’s centennial celebrations:

125th Anniversary display

One of the quilt squares, sewn by Doris Root, shows the Deseronto Public Library building at 309 Main Street:

Doris Root's quilt square depicting the Public Library

The Library will have some of these items on display all this week, so do take a chance to drop by and see them if you are in the area. Other events at the Library this week include a free music concert on Thursday October 20th at 7pm and a free afternoon tea event on Saturday October 22nd between 2pm and 5pm.

Did you miss the chance to explore Deseronto’s Doors Open sites on May 28, 2011? Or perhaps you weren’t able to visit all of them?

Fear not! We’ve made all the Deseronto site brochures available here for you to look at. Just click on the images below to get a large version that you can print off or read online.

Deseronto Cemetery [site 22]
Camp Rathbun [site 23]
St. Mark’s Hall [site 24]
Grace United Church [site 25]
Public Works Garage: former aircraft hangar [site 26]
Naylor’s Theatre [site 27]
Deseronto Post Office [site 28]
Deseronto Town Hall [site 29]
Rathbun Memorial Park [site 30]
McGlade Funeral Home [site 31]
Foresters’ Island [site 32]
Former industrial sites [site 33]
Church of the Redeemer [site 34]
St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church [site 35]
Founding of Deseronto [site 36]

Last year’s family heritage competition, run by the Archives Board in conjunction with the staff and students of Deseronto Public School was such a great success that it didn’t seem possible that 2011’s competition could be as good.


But it was! Thanks to all the children who entered – it was very difficult to judge, but Board members Reverend Betts and Sharon Sharpe chose four winners from the entries we received. Congratulations to Gabe Cook, Stevi Menard, Jakob Howald and Britney Wotherspoon.

The prizes were presented in the new Community Hall of the Deseronto Recreation Centre by Deputy Mayor, Clarence Zieman and Archives Board Chair, Paul Robertson, following on from a great show by magician Nigel Harrison, who escaped from a straight jacket immediately beforehand. Another tough act to follow!

Magician Nigel Harrison

All the entries received this year will be on display in Deseronto Public Library for the next week or two: please drop by and see the excellent standard of work by the children.

At a meeting of the Council of the Town of Deseronto of February 8th, 2011, the following proclamation was made:

WHEREAS, the Heritage Canada Foundation has long promoted the recognition of the third Monday in February each year as Heritage Day as an opportunity to celebrate Canada’s rich heritage of collections, architecture, parks, and historic places; and

WHEREAS, Heritage Day is a time to reflect on the achievements of past generations and to accept responsibility for protecting our heritage; and

WHEREAS, our citizens should be encouraged to celebrate Deseronto’s uniqueness and to rejoice in their heritage and environment; and

WHEREAS, for many years the Town of Deseronto Archives has collected, preserved, and interpreted the town’s heritage documentary and photographic resources for the benefit of the town’s residents. The Archives sponsors an annual Heritage Day prize to encourage students to learn about and celebrate that heritage through special research projects; and

THEREFORE, I, Norm Clark, Mayor of the Town of Deseronto, do hereby proclaim 21 February 2011 as Heritage Day in the Town of Deseronto, and call upon all citizens to celebrate the richness of our past and the promise of our future.

As part of Heritage Day, the Archives Board will be presenting prizes to members of Deseronto Public School who have entered the annual Heritage Day competition. Prizes will be awarded on Heritage Day at 3pm in the Deseronto Community Recreation Centre at 51 Mechanic Street.

2011 Heritage Day competition entries

Thanks very much to the Archives Board members who have helped to promote this competition and the Heritage Day proclamation in Deseronto.

It’s ‘Follow an Archive’ day today, where everyone is being encouraged to discover more about history and archives through the online updating service, Twitter. Twitter is a great way of finding out what’s happening in all sorts of areas of interest: ranging from breaking news via long-established media organisations to information about local events and activities.

In Ontario, there are now quite a few archives who are talking (tweeting) about their activities and their wonderful collections on Twitter. You can receive updates from the Archives of Ontario, Dundas Museum and Archives, the Cobourg and District Historical Society, Port Hope Archives, Appleby College Archives and Elgin County Archives (and, of course, Deseronto Archives!).  The organizers of this event have compiled a directory of tweeting archives all around the world.

On Twitter, the #followanarchive tag will be used to share information about what archives are doing on Twitter to bring their treasures to a whole new audience.

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