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88 posts categorized "Canada"

10 July 2015

Canada in the UK: waiting and training in WW1

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26th battalion departure

Above: Canadian troops leave New Brunswick for Europe [BL: HS85/10 30438, from the Picturing Canada project]

We've not talked about Europeana 1914 - 1918 for a little while here on the Americas blog but their work continues and we're still digging around our First World War collections, so here's a little update. You'll remember that last year we launched the Library's contributions to Europeana, as well as an Entrance Hall Gallery exhibition and an in-depth learning resource and the online elements of this are still open for use. But the work, digging and research involved inevitably opened up new questions for those of us curating the material.

For me the research highlighted my personal proximity to sites associated with Canadian troops in the First World War. While I lived in South West London I learnt that my nearby green space, Bushy Park, hosted Canadian troops and medical facilities during the First World War. This is often forgotten in the face of the more dramatic presence of US Air Force base 'Camp Griffiss' in the park during the Second World War but Royal Parks commemorate Canada's place here with a totem pole installed in 1992.

Joker fund collector

Above: 'Joker, a patriotic fund collector', looking delighted by his job [BL: HS85/10 29607, from the Picturing Canada project]

Having now fled London's cramped trains and busy roads I find I've inadvertently moved to the epicentre of the Canadian presence in the UK during the First World War. After being originally posted to Salisbury Plain Canadian reserve troops, hospitals, engineers and other corps were moved to garrisons around Kent, particularly the Folkestone and Shorncliffe areas. From here the reserve regiments were sent to various training sites around Kent, including some small trench operations based on a common just down the road from where I live.

By now you can guess where this is going. Spurred by this knowledge, I've been digging through Europeana and our physical holdings to see if we hold anything about the Kent camps and, most especially, the training centre near where I live. There are various items about the Kent camps on Europeana including photographs and personal letters sent home to Canada from Shorncliffe. It also turns out there are films of some of the Shorncliffe based training, courtesy of Canada's NFB. Unfortunately, I've not been so lucky trying to find material about places a little closer to home but I'll keep digging at the weekends.

Canadian_Official_War_Photographs_(BL_l.r.233.b.57.v1_f059r)

Above: photographs of snipers in training from the Canadian War Records Office photographs. There's a small chance these are taken in Kent, near my home. Or, they were taken in France... [BL: L.R.233.b.57, from the Picturing Canada project]

The best hope is a collection of Canadian War Records Office photographs submitted to the Library in 1923. These photographs were sponsored by Lord Beaverbrook in an attempt to document, as well as promote, Canadian achievements during the war and these contain a number of photographs of reserve regiments training in and around Kent. I've not found anything astounding yet but here are a lot of them and the location data in the title isn't always helpful. However, digital copies are available from ourselves and Library and Archives Canada so there's plenty of scope for sitting with a drink and sifting through the mass.

One final note, if this has caught your interest the Eccles Centre is hosting a #BLScholars talk about, 'Cliveden, Canadians and the First World War', by Martin Thornton, on 27th July at 12:30. As for me, I'll let you know if I find anything!

[PJH]

01 July 2015

Happy Canada Day

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Quebec location [de Champlain]

Above: Chart of Quebec's location, with notes on geographical surrounds and neighbouring settlements. From, 'Les Voyages du Sieur de Champlain'  [BL Shelfmark: C.32.h.9]

Happy Canada Day all! Canada's anniversary celebrations come thick and fast at this time of year but there's one that (certainly outside of Canada) is often overlooked, the foundation of Quebec. Separated by over 250 years the celebrations of the foundation of the city of Quebec and the creation of the Dominion of Canada are separated by a mere two days, with Quebec being founded on the 3rd of July 1608.

As we've noted before, materials about the founding of Quebec and a large chunk of the rest of Canada's early history is documented in the Library's collections, as shown through our various blog posts (not to mention our previous Canada Day ones).

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Above: an image from our 'Picturing Canada' digitisation, released to celebrate Canada Day in 2013.

But, today's perhaps not about historical research as much as it is about enjoying the present. So bookmark this for later and enjoy the day.

[PJH]

29 May 2015

Conference: Visual Urbanisms

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3.8 Looking Up Yonge Street, Toronto, Ont, From and Aeroplane, Canadian Postcard Co, Toronto (hs85 10 35818) (1)

Above: a view of Toronto's historic landscape [BL: HS85/10/35818]

Team Americas were invited to take part in today's Visual Urbanisms conference in the Library's conference centre and there are few prizes for guessing what we talked about. Picturing Canada may have been completed a few years ago but we still like to show the work to new audiences and think more about what the collection tells us.

IMG_8165

Above: history lives on and is performed around us; Toronto streetscape [image by PJH]

With that in mind, the conference was an opportunity to think about the contemporary life of these photographs and how they influence our understanding of the modern city. Crucially, historic images can also directly impact how the urban infrastructure develops, inspiring acts of conservation and building works that speak to a past heritage preserved by the camera's lens.

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Above: rest assured, the kittens still made an appearance.

Picturing Canada aimed to open up the Library's Canadian photographs to a new audience by collaborating with Wikimedia UK to release high quality images on a  Public Domain license. The result has been a collection used in historical research, to illustrate Wikipedia articles, furnish urban infrastructure (including a bar in Calgary) and to get people thinking about their local history.

For more about the collection and today's talk you can read the slides by clicking here:

Download Canada by Postcard.

[PJH]

22 May 2015

01 May 2015

Off the Wall Fridays

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1280px-The_Globe_kittens_(HS85-10-13446-3)

Above: the Globe kittens, from our 2012 Picturing Canada work [BL: HS85/10/13446]

The end of the week will see something a little different on the Team Americas blog from now on. We've got a whole heap of digital content that rarely sees the light of day because we've not had a chance to do further research on it yet so as of now we're posting it for your enjoyment and interest. There won't be much interpretation from us but expect something quirky and often amusing to get you talking about the Library's Americas and Australasian collections.

With that in mind, today we bring you kittens with books - enjoy!

[PJH]

23 April 2015

Commemorating Conflict: Australia, New Zealand and Canada

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Fighting-australasia-cover

Above: the cover of 'Fighting Australasia' [BL: 9081.h.9]. From the BL-Europeana learning resource.

This week sees the beginning of two distinct commemoration events for nations who supported Britain in the First World War. While last year saw a number of events to mark and reflect upon 100 years since the start of the war, for Australia, New Zealand and Canada this year marks a century since two of their most famous battles. Indeed, that description falls somewhat short as the battles in question are understood to have an enduring effect on the national identities of these countries.

For Australia and New Zealand, Saturday's ANZAC Day marks 100 years since the Gallipoli landings. While ANZAC Day now serves as a more general commemoration for those who fell in both world wars and an opportunity to reflect on all soldiers lost in conflict, it was initially intended to commemorate Gallipoli specifically. Given the enduring political and social legacy of ANZAC involvement in those landings and the continued significance of ANZAC day in general this Saturday is therefore an important moment of reflection.

Appreciation-of-assistance-rendered-to-australian-medical-corps-by-indian-ambulance-men1

Above: 'Letter of appreciation for the assistance given to the Australian Medical Corps by Indian ambulance men at Gallipoli' [BL: IOR/L/MIL/7/18921]. From the BL-Europeana learning resource.

In Canada this week has also marked a century since the beginning of the Second Battle of Ypres. Perhaps less well known that Gallipoli, the battle saw Canadian forces play a significant role in stemming German attempts to break through a strategically vulnerable point on the Allied line. During over a month of action the Canadian forces showed mental strength and tactical prowess to form a central part of the effort to repulse the Central Powers, even defeating a German force at the Battle of Kitchener's Wood.

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Above: a map of the medical provisions at Ypres, one day before the battle began. Found in, 'The War Story of the Canadian Army Medical Corps' [BL: 9084.b.21], from the BL-Europeana learning site.

While Gallipoli is marked by tragedy and Ypres a sense of martial pride, there is a common thread in these battles that links Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Through sacrifice and success the soldiers from these dominions demonstrated an ability to 'hold their own' on the world stage. For all three nations these battles are viewed as crucial points, where a bridge between dependency and independence was irrevocably crossed. As a result, what is remembered this week is not just the fallen but what they are understood to have built.

Last year the Library took part in an international project to digitise the material history of the First World War. This material is now available online via the Europeana 1914-18 website and provides sources to analyse and research the enduring impact of this conflict. There is also a learning site, put together by the British Library Learning team that provides an introduction to many of the war's key events and consequences.

[PJH]

08 April 2015

The Man Who Ate His Boots

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Franklin overland camp

 Above: A winter camp during Franklin's famously hungry first expedition [BL: 10460.c.34]

When we first pitched Lines in the Ice as an exhibition idea one thing was clear from the start, this could only ever hope to be an introduction to the Library's polar and even Northwest Passage related collections. As a result all the individual stories that form the whole of the exhibition are notes in wider narratives which could be further expanded by looking deeper into the Library's collections. Even Franklin, who receives so much attention on the gallery floor and was one of the drivers for putting on the exhibition, has a larger story to tell through the Library's collections.

As the exhibition draws to a close (we've now got less than a fortnight to run) I'm thinking about Franklin again and all that the collections here can tell us about his role in the search for the Northwest Passage. As a result of his fate and the humorous sound bites about his overland expeditions Franklin is often popularly remembered as a failure. Lines in the Ice has sought to raise questions about this perspective and my recent work on our materials relating to Franklin has only affirmed my opinion that a man (and a team) of such determination and who achieved such monumental feats of endurance cannot be so easily dismissed.

Inuit boats (Franklin Second Journey)

Above: Franklin's team are approached by Inuit kayaks during his second overland voyage [BL: G.7398]

The appendices to Franklin's published accounts illustrate the fact. Not only did he and his team chart large tracts of the Arctic coast of North America while enduring some of the worst weather on record they also recorded the climate, geological observations and the flora and fauna of the areas they crossed. The result is a detailed record not just of the expedition but of the ecology and climate of northern Canada in the early nineteenth century. On top of this, other members of the expedition left behind records of the individuals and cultures they encountered on the journey, most notably in the form of Lieutenant Back's translation of voyageur songs, 'Canadian Airs'.

Sabine appendices (flower)  Sabine appendices (lichen)
Above: some of the illustrations from the zoological appendix to Franklin's first account, compiled by Joseph Sabine [BL: 569.f.16]

In the context of the first expedition all of this was achieved in the face of not only extremely bad weather but an ongoing feud between the North West and Hudson's Bay companies that all but deprived Franklin and his team of the required support. While the expedition was a disaster and this led to a high rate of death (and unsavory incidents) amongst the men the significance of factors originating outside of the expedition must be noted, as should the achievements the expedition managed to make. That men survived and produced an insightful record of the journey makes it less easy to dismiss Franklin's overland expeditions just as poorly-conceived follies. Instead, we should perhaps view them within the context of Franklin's life as a whole, one marked by distinguished service, postings around the world and an ability to survive the worst war and exploration could throw at him. At least until his later, fateful, journey.

Canadian Airs (Back)

Above: Frontispiece of 'Canadian Airs' produced from songs compiled and translated by Lieut. George Back during Franklin's first overland expedition [BL: G. 416]

With this in mind, why not pop on your boots and come to see Lines in the Ice before it closes on April 19th? You'll not only learn more about Franklin and the search for the Northwest Passage, you'll hopefully get a taste to find out more in our reading rooms too.

[PJH]

10 February 2015

Forgotten histories of the Passage: the whalers

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Scoresby frontispiece 2

Above: frontispiece from vol. 2 of Scoresby's, 'An Account of the Arctic Regions' [copy on display in Lines in the Ice, G.2602 & G.2603]. Image from Archive.org

By now daily life of Lines in the Ice is well into a rhythm of showing tours around the gallery and responding to the most frequently asked question, 'what is your favourite item?' In truth, the question is impossible to answer as I love everything on display and some of my absolute favourites didn't make the cut for narrative reasons (see this previous piece on Equiano). However, there is one piece that tells a story I always like to dwell on, that of William Scoresby.

Scoresby is often marginalised in the history of the search for the Northwest Passage but his long running disagreement with Sir John Barrow is a key part of the narrative. Even in the nineteenth century there were some (like Barrow) who still believed that open sea water could not freeze. Scoresby argued the opposite; he knew it could as he had seen it with his own eyes - as the captain of a whaling vessel.

Scoresby sea fauna

Above: sea life illustrations from Scoresby's 'An Account of the Arctic Regions' [copy on display in Lines in the Ice, G.2602 & G.2603]. Image from Archive.org

The days when whaling was an important form of British employment and commerce are, thankfully, long gone. Nonetheless, for hundreds of years whaling was an important part of people's diets, local economies and, indeed, the very working of England, Europe and America's cities. Before fossil fuels came along it was the fluids and fats of whales that lit London, not to mention underpinned its highest fashions. As a result whaling was big business and whaling parties were some of the first groups to make commercial use of the finds of Arctic explorers.

Those who ran the gauntlet, year in, year out, to the Arctic built up a body of experience about the sea ice that was far superior to the skills held by sailors from the Navy, such as Parry or Franklin. This meant whaling captains were often employed as ice-masters on expeditions searching for the Northwest Passage and some, such as Scoresby, even published their own research on the properties of snow and ice.

Scoresby snow and ice

Above: Scoresby's detailed drawings of snow and ice structures, from 'An Account of the Arctic Regions' [copy on display in Lines in the Ice, G.2602 & G.2603]. Image from Archive.org

Our forgetting of the importance of whalers in the history of Arctic exploration, as well as the knowledge, skill and artistry that went into publications such as William Scoresby's, 'An Account of the Arctic Regions' is what makes this item so intriguing to me. If people like Barrow had listened to those like Scoresby, who provided evidence and their own hard-won opinions to argue for the unfeasibility of the Northwest Passage, a very different history of Arctic exploration would be discussed today.

More importantly, by forgetting how involved whalers were in this process we are also at risk of ignoring the fact that where explorers went, traders, trappers and whalers inevitably followed and did huge amounts of damage to the areas they worked in. In many ways they reshaped the ecology of a significant part of the world and they also instigated massive changes within indigenous societies. Therefore, while we may no longer need the work that was once done by these commercial crews their role in creating the world we know today, as well as in charting and using the Northwest Passage, should not be forgotten.

[PJH]