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5 posts from June 2010

28 June 2010

Building the Collections: Donations and Acquisitions


Cover of Michaud, F. and Léonidas,  J. R. Rêver d’Haïti en Couleurs (Montreal, 2009)

[P.J.H writes] Today (Friday) has been a chance to sit down and take a deep breath from a busy week of giving papers, listening to seminars and organising events due in the far future. ‘Sitting down and taking a breath’ in Library terms means doing all important collection management; in particular acquiring monographs and processing donated items.

For me acquisitions are a largely Web 2.0 affair as most of our vendors operate impressive collection management systems or send lists of material in PDF form. This is all very neat and, as my orders are processed at Boston Spa, saves me getting swamped in the paper records and piles of material that can arrive at once.

That said, I do get envious of our Latin American Curator, Aquiles, who has huge packs of books deposited on his desk every couple of weeks. Therefore, one of my little joys is processing donations, of which the Library receives a generous flow from Canada and the Caribbean. When these materials arrive it’s a chance to have contact with some very interesting work and interact physically with material being added to the collection.

I can’t show you the things processed today as they are not in the collection yet but a few months ago the above, Rêver d’Haïti en Couleurs (Motreal: 2009), was donated to the Library’s Caribbean collections. Rêver d’Haïti en Couleurs documents the wonderful artistic heritage of Haiti in sumptuous detail and I would recommend having a look. If you would like to it’s at shelfmark LD.31.b.2210.

[P. J. H.]

18 June 2010

Entente Cordiale: Joseph Hodges Choate

President Sarkozy is passing through St Pancras International today, in order to celebrate his predecessor Charles de Gaulle's historic war broadcast

But here's a picture and verse to celebrate another form of Entente Cordiale (perhaps recent events in the Gulf of Mexico are a reminder that the 'special relationship' is subject to downs as well as ups): 


It's from The Struwwekpeter Alphabet(illustrated by F. Carruthers Gould and versified by Harold Begbie [12315.k.15).  The humour doesn't travel down the ages well (it dates from 1900), although the images perhaps do:


In 1899, President McKinley appointed Choates as ambassador to the UK. In the words of the American National Biography he

was instrumental in working out the remaining differences between the two states and cementing Anglo-American friendship in the years before World War I. During his years at the Court of St. James's, Choate arranged for the United States and Great Britain to settle the Alaska-Canada boundary dispute by arbitration; won Britain's consent to abrogate the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, allowing the United States to proceed with the Panama Canal unilaterally; and secured Britain's implied assent to the Open Door policy in China.

More about this in Bradford Perkins, The Great Rapprochement: England and the United States, 1895-1914 (1968).


08 June 2010

Deficits and the Star Chamber: why look to Canada?

Since Stephen Harper’s visit to No 10, the UK coalition government has signalled an intention to mimic the cuts implemented in Canada during the 1990s. Many view Canada’s programme of cuts as having been successful, especially on the bottom line, but there are other reasons to look at Canada’s deficit reduction scheme.

In particular, it is easy to consider in detail. The Canadian government collates and produces significant amounts of statistical data from across the administration and the main responsible body, Statistics Canada, is world renowned for the quality of statistical data it produces. Therefore, the Canadian case study can provide a comprehensive overview of what measures were taken and the effects during the fifteen years after they were implemented.

Government bodies are not unique in their access to this material and it is readily available to the public on the web and here at the British Library. Those interested in looking in detail at how the Canadian measures were implemented will find a significant amount in our collections. For example, Paul Martin’s Economic Update, 2001 (Shelmark: YA.2001.b.2680) can be contrasted with items such as the Department of Finance’s Economic and Fiscal Update, 1995 (Shelfmark: CSE.81/3970) (Martin was Minister of Finance, 1993 – 2002).

When looking at statistics and legislation from a specific period, the Weekly Checklist of Canadian Government Publications (Shelfmark: OPF.9.x.321) provides a good place to start. From here Canadian government publications can be found using either the Integrated Catalogue or the Canadian government’s substantial online resources. In this context, the Department of Finance Canada and Statistics Canada websites are very useful.

[J. J. & P. J. H.]

Oil Spills and Tag Clouds


Google Books does some interesting things, and the cloud of 'common terms' is often one of them, as this rather saddening image attests.  I happened to be looking up some resources on oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico.  Environmental effects of offshore oil production: the buccaneer gas and oil field study (New York: Plenum Press, 1981) looked promising. Google Books has just a snippet view; it's held by the Library's Document Supply service at v14 5378.132000 if you want the whole thing.

Elsewhere, an electronic resource looks useful: French, Christopher D. Map showing geology, oil and gas fields, and geologic provinces of the Gulf of Mexico region (Denver, Co.: U.S. Geological Survey, 2005), and this may offer helpful lessons: Long-term assessment of the oil spill at Bahía Las Minas, Panama : synthesis report ( 1993, New Orleans, La.: U.S. Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region). 

The wider political and economic context is investigated by Juan Carlos Boué, A question of rigs, of rules, or of rigging the rules?: upstream profits and taxes in US Gulf offshore oil and gas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)



03 June 2010

The Arctic perspective (or Future of the Polar Regions, part 2)

Arctic Perspective Initiative on the Land 
The Arctic Perspective Initiative team with Igloolik members, August 2009 (Courtesy of The Arts Catalyst, © Matthew Biederman)

You may remember a previous post suggesting that the future of the Polar regions could see these areas becoming less ‘out there’ and more part of the fabric of our increasingly globalised world. On the 20th May I was at a panel discussion entitled ‘Contemporary Nomadism: Autonomy and Technology in the North’ (hosted at Canada House and run by the Arts Catalyst), and I was fortunate to witness another stage in this inexorable drawing of spaces together through technology.

The discussants were from The Arctic Perspective Initiative and the main event was a live Skype video call from two project members who were currently out on the land in Nunavut. Being ‘on the land’ implicitly means an absence of mains power, server access, wireless broadband and the other necessities required for internet access but yet the two panellists, one of whom was Zacharias Kunuk, the director of Atanarjuat, joined the room for a lengthy discussion. This was made possible by the project’s emphasis on facilitating the use of open and free media, communication and sensing technologies to increase connectivity between the Arctic and the rest of the globe. The discussion covered many contemporary cultural, environmental and geopolitical challenges facing the Arctic and you felt that the web-link facilitating the discussion and the possibilities it provided could intensify these debates in coming years.

As with maps, tall ships and radio previously, these interactions of people and technology increasingly draw the Arctic and those who live there into the global everyday, with myriad potential effects. An exhibition documenting the work of The Arctic Perspective Initiative is on at Canada House until the end of September and provides a forum to illustrate their work and an opportunity to think through some of the outcomes. Also, our Arctic collections are always here.

[P. J. H.]

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