Editing Modernism in Canada


Archive for April, 2013

April 26, 2013

Marc Fortin and The Downfall of Temlaham

EMiC co-applicant Marc André Fortin, Assistant Professor of Canadian Literature at Université de Sherbrooke, is currently researching and editing a scholarly edition of Marius Barbeau’s 1928 novel The Downfall of Temlaham. Barbeau’s novel was originally published in 1928, with a second edition published by Hurtig Press in 1973. Because both of these editions are out of print and difficult to find, Marc’s project will help to fill a gap in a very important moment for Canadian modernism in the literary and visual arts, cultural production in Canada, and in the historical understand of colonial and indigenous contact and its present-day effects with regard to land rights and indigenous self-representation.

Marc has been working on this edition of The Downfall of Temlaham since joining EMiC as a doctoral fellow in 2009. Initially, he intended to produce a text that incorporates the rich ethnographic sources Barbeau collected during his many field trips to the Skeena River, the traditional and present home of the Gitxsan. The Marius Barbeau Fonds at the archives of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Québec offers access to more than 30 meters of ethnographic notes, 2,000 artifacts, original Gitxsan stories, translations of those stories, over 1,000 books and articles, and sound recordings of songs and legends that Barbeau collected over his lifetime, many of which are directly related to The Downfall of Temlaham and those who are represented in it.

However, Marc has since changed his approach: this work has led him into a number of different areas that have changed and shaped his opinions on modernism, indigenous studies, editing, ethnography, and the digital humanities, among others. In particular, Marc has come to realize that this is a far more complicated and complex project than he originally thought, as the stories are owned not by the Canadian Museum of Civilization, but by the Gitxsan community — even if Canadian copyright law does not necessarily acknowledge such ownership. With that in mind, Marc needs to think critically about the ethics of publishing the text in the format he originally desired.

Marc sees this project as a wide-ranging learning experience that has led him to branch out in a number of different directions. Since beginning his research into The Downfall of Temlaham, he has been able to explore many different facets of the editing process, modernist literature, indigenous/settler relations, copyright law, land rights claims, indigenous politics, database structures, institutional ownership of Canadian history, museum and archival holdings, and a number of other related areas of studies. The challenges Marc has faced in his work have led him to reconsiderations and refocused interpretations of scholarly editing, working with indigenous communities, governmental institutions, and the collaborative environment of large-scale digital humanities projects.

As the need to create an ethical, collaborative, and shared dialogue between educational institutions and indigenous communities is still ongoing, Marc feels that his project could both benefit from and help produce such a dialogue. Nevertheless, there is still much work to be done, and with the Gitxsan faced with neo-colonial intrusions into their land by the government and business, there is an obvious barrier to getting their approval to publish a text that could be said to have helped produce a certain stereotype of the Indigene in Canada.

April 22, 2013

James Neufeld and the Davies Diaries Project

James Neufeld, Professor Emeritus in the Department of English at Trent University and EMiC co-applicant, is editor in chief of the digital edition of the diaries of Robertson Davies — the Davies Diaries. Davies, a prominent Canadian novelist and man of letters, was a prolific writer. Dating from 1935 to 1995, the entries — which Davies divided into categories such as Personal Diaries, Theatre Diaries, Travel Diaries, Massey College Diaries, and day books — contain approximately three million words.

The Davies Diaries project has been included in the manuscript digitization project being jointly undertaken by EMiC and Library and Archives Canada (LAC). This means that the final edition will include digitized images of every page of the diaries, linked to the LAC catalogue. Although Neufeld and the team are still in the initial phases of the project, they have already completed considerable preparatory work. In particular, they have developed the TEI and XSLT for the project, and have generated sample pages in HTML. Currently, them team is transcribing and coding all diary files that have not yet been transcribed, and also proofreading and coding computer files of transcriptions that have already been done by Davies’s daughter and literary executor. Once these two tasks are completed, all the diaries will have been transcribed, proofed and coded, ready for editing for online presentation.

Neufeld and the team have faced several issues in their work so far. A particular challenge has been annotating Davies’s numerous and sometimes cryptic historical, cultural, and biographical allusions. Another challenge the team faces centres on how to present the diaries as chronologically continuous while also preserving Davies’s division into separate volumes and separate categories. On the technical side, Neufeld’s team are developing a timeline and an interface for the edition, both of which will be done in conjunction with work on the Digital Page currently in progress at the Modernist Commons. The team is continuing to explore the possibilities and requirements of TEI and XSLT, which will be used in the final online presentation of the diaries.

For Neufeld, while the breadth of Davies’s interests and of his circle of acquaintance provides a challenge to anyone who presumes to annotate this material, it also stands testament to the broad social and historical value of these documents. Davies himself touched on this idea when he said, “my diaries are the stuff of which social history is made, and I cannot imagine that Canada has an embarrassment of such material.”

Neufeld hopes to interest Canadian cultural institutions — such as the Shaw Festival and the Stratford Shakespearean Festival — in participating in the online presentation of the diaries through links from their archival websites to relevant passages in the diaries. This seems a logical step as the Davies Diaries project has recently received from the Davies estate Davies’s collection of his theatre programs, reaching back to 1938.

Neufeld sees the possibilities for hyperlink material — textual, graphic, audio and video — in the final edition as both endless and endlessly exciting. A considerable body of this material is included in the Davies fond at LAC, and will be incorporated into the digital edition. For now, Neufeld and the team are focussed on the next steps of the project, one of which is the preparation of applications for major funding.

April 10, 2013

Kate Hennessy and the Inuvialuit Living History Project

EMiC co-applicant Kate Hennessy, an Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology, is the producer and designer of the collaboratively developed Inuvialuit Living History Project. As a digital exhibit and living archive, the project re-presents Inuvialuit ethnographic objects from an Inuvialuit perspective, while also engaging issues relating to ownership, repatriation, and digital cultural heritage.

The Inuvialuit Living History Project features artifacts collected by Hudson Bay Company trader Roderick MacFarlane in the 1860s on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution. The MacFarlane Collection — which, at over 5 000 items, is perhaps the most significant collection of Inuvialuit ethnographic artifacts — was split primarily between the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, the McCord Museum in Montreal, and National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh. Thus, the MacFarlane Collection has never been exhibited in its entirety. Further, because of geographic distance and the limited digitization of the collection, for Inuvialuit peoples the collection remained largely inaccessible.

In 2009, Kate travelled with a delegation of Inuvialuit elders and youth, and a team of filmmakers, archaeologists, and educators to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. After viewing the MacFarlane Collection and making a documentary called A Case of Access (produced by the Inuvialuit Communications Society), the team decided to create a digital exhibit and archive — Inuvialuit Pitqusiit Inuuniarutiat: Inuvialuit Living History.

Launched in May 2012, the project website presents objects in the MacFarlane Collection and multimedia documentation of the Inuvialuit delegation’s first experience with the objects in 2009 (including A Case of Access). The website has been designed to allow for archiving user contributions, ongoing research, and community projects, and to change as priorities and interests change. Right now, the team is working to add more content from the Smithsonian collections. In particular, they are working to add a representative sample of the natural history collection, and to connect it to the ethnographic collection already on the Inuvialuit Living History site. The team is developing follow-up projects — including a sewing project that is based on clothing patterns traced during their research at the Smithsonian — that will facilitate community engagement with the project.

The Inuvialuit Living History Project is produced in collaboration with the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre and the Smithsonian’s Arctic Studies Center (see the list of team members). Consequently, maintaining relationships has been a central focus for Kate and the team. In addition to working with the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre and the Arctic Studies Center, the team is also committed to developing and maintaining relationships with Inuvialuit communities through consultation and outreach. As with many digital projects, funding and preservation are the project’s major challenges. However, the strong relationships that the team has made with the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre, Parks Canada, and Inuvialuit communities make the team optimistic that they will be able to overcome those challenges, and to make the Inuvialuit Living History Project a dynamic and representative living archive of Inuvialuit cultural heritage.

April 8, 2013

Margaret Steffler and P.K. Page’s Mexican Journal

Margaret Steffler, an Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature at Trent University and EMiC co-applicant, is editor of P.K. Page’s Mexican Journal. During the early 1960s, Page’s husband served as Canada’s ambassador to Mexico, and during that time, Page recorded her experiences and reflections in her journal. Unpublished during her lifetime, the Mexican Journal features Page’s entries from March 1960 to January 1964.

Right now, Margaret is in the final stages of the preparation of the Mexican Journal for Porcupine’s Quill Press. She is currently working on the index for the edition, which will be published in the fall of 2013. So far, Porcupine’s Quill Press has published two volumes in a series of volumes of Page’s work — the Mexican Journal will be the third. These print volumes will serve as a complement to the upcoming digital edition of The Collected Works of P.K. Page.

The largest challenge Margaret faced in editing the Mexican Journal was deciding what to include and what to cut from the manuscript for the print publication. In the end, Margaret had to cut a great deal of material from the edition. Another major challenge in this project was cutting down the explanatory notes for the print edition. Margaret and her team were only able to include a fraction of the research and notes they prepared in the process of creating this edition. All of this cut material will, however, be available in the future digital edition.

In addition, the Porcupine’s Quill Press print edition will include illustrations. Once again, as with the entries and notes, Margaret was forced to select a representative sample of illustrations, and this involved cutting material. Nonetheless, she found the process of bringing together the journal and the illustrations to be very exciting and rewarding.

The next step for Page’s Mexican Journal will be to move towards digital publication. Thankfully, all of the work Margaret and her team have done for the print edition will be used for the digital edition. In the process of preparing the print edition, Margaret has been well aware of the next stage of the digital edition, so she and her team have worked carefully to ensure that they have all of the material they need to start on the digital edition as soon as the print edition is published.

For more information about Page’s Mexican Journal, visit Porcupine’s Quill Press.