Editing Modernism in Canada


May 3, 2011

Internet Lost and Found

“Write a blog post,” a fellow EMiC-er said to me an embarrassingly long time ago. Convinced that I had nothing of interest to write about, I mumbled something incoherent, and whoever was asking me about the blog interpreted my mutterings as “Yes, great, I’ll get right on that.” After months of avoiding the topic and agonizing about what this Blog Post would say, I came to the (probably unsurprising) realization that I did, in fact, have something to write about.

Thus far, my EMIC experience has been volunteer-based, and most of that time has been spent using my overly developed Google skills to try and find out if one or another author is still in copyright. I have been searching out the whereabouts of contributors to Le Nigog, in the hopes that we will be able to find everyone and put out a digital edition of the journal. While this may sound like a spectacularly insensitive way to spend my time (Oh, he’s dead? Died 60 years ago? That’s GREAT!), it has actually been a bit of a Moment for me about this kind of research.

There is something sad and poetic about searching for information about someone when all you have is a poem they wrote decades ago, and I think it speaks to the overall importance of this kind of project. The words “lost” and “forgotten” get tossed around about literary figures quite often, but this was my first direct experience with what those words could mean. As a child of an increasingly digital age, I went into this work with the expectation that writing such short biographies would be the matter of a few hours of computer work, but I was surprised at how difficult it is to find information on many of these people. Birth and death records are far from completely digitized, and in many cases the few scraps of information we can find about contributors only adds to the sense of incompleteness. In one case, all we have are dates and this fact: “spent most of their life in the Amazonian rainforest.” With fragments of information as enticing as that, it is a consistently frustrating experience to hit dead end after dead end searching for the rest of the story, and even more rewarding when another piece of information appears. I spent hours searching for two contributors, only to find them mentioned in a French article about chemistry research in Montreal, of all things.

While I can hold in my hands the products of their creative and critical work, the people who contributed to Le Nigog would actually be lost in an academic sense without the attention of a project like EMiC. This kind of work only speaks to the importance of bringing together these scraps of information into a digital humanities project, which draws together these scattered facts into a more coherent story about Le Nigog and the history that surrounds its production.

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