Sunday, November 13, 2011

Adventures in French Canada: Book Shops and Libraries

A Photo-Essay of French Canada

I thought I'd share a few more images from the trip I mentioned in the previous post--some of the variety found in French Canada. The first is from Montreal, the next ones from Quebec City, and the last two photos are from the public library in Rimouski, on the Gaspe peninsula.

Muse'e de la Gaspesie Centre d'archives

A Curious Place in the Wilderness

This summer I had the opportunity to do some research in a part of the world that is not commonly known to most Americans--the Gaspe Peninsula. Though it is quite far away, roughly a good day's drive northeast from Quebec City, it is a place that is rich with French Canadian, Native-First Peoples, and other cultures. Very few people, whom I encountered, spoke English, and I met no Americans. But the place of Gaspe in history is rich in many ways, including being the location of Marconi's first maritime transmitting station (at Pointe-a-la-Renommee).

The people were very friendly, and the cuisine was a fine blend of wilderness, seafood, and continental fare, all with a suitable touch of French cooking magic. The museums and the Centre d'archives were quite interesting and held many unique materials pertaining to the area. There was even a great book store selling cookbooks with cuisine gaspesienne. The land, the sea, the mountains, the fields--all of the natural space of Gaspe is a wonderful experience. I don't recall when I first came across this land on some maps, but I know that a few years ago, I discovered an old book at some shop or thrift store entitled "Away To Gaspe," by Gordon Brinley and illustrated by his partner, Putnam Brinley.

Traveling north to the great Peninsula in the depths of the Great Depression, the Brinleys went from the White Mountains up into Quebec, and stopped at some of the places that I eventually saw. In their book, they write about such places as St. Edouard-des-Mechins, Cap Chat, Petite Madeleine, Perce, and Bonaventure Island. Perce is one of the most intriguing and amazing places in North America, far away from any large city, even though there is a growing crowd during the summer. And Forillon Park, which is a few hours drive north of Perce, is one of the most incredible geological sights (and sites) I've ever seen--something like a Yosemite in the sea! Its perilous cliffs shoot up hundreds of feet, almost bending backward like an arching cupcake, but far more beautiful and stunning when seen from across the north bay at sundown or sunrise.

If anyone is adventurous and interested in exploring the far north, this is surely a place to visit. And I think you will be most surprised and delighted to find both a bounty of natural beauty and a rich culture in a state of wilderness.

Books on the D&H Canal

Hidden in the Woods

One of the interesting things about American history, especially topographical American history and American transportation history, is that many of the remnants of these histories are buried in unseen places, by roadsides, under brush, in the woods. The D&H canal, originally designed and built to transport new types of coal from the hinterlands of 19th century Pennsylvania to New York City, via the Hudson River, was a vital link between various worlds of the young United States. From 1828-1898 the 108-miles of waterway operated and served a large and growing population. Once it closed, the canal fell into disrepair, and was forgotten by many. It was 68-years later that the D&H Canal Historical Society was formed and steps were taken to help preserve and bring the canal back to life (to some extent).

There is a fine museum that now accompanies the canal, in High Falls, NY. It is a wonderful little museum, which I encourage all to visit and support. In it there are various maps, artifacts related to the canal, photographs, and tools, among other objects and items. There are also several books and even a book shop.

The last two photos below are part of the canal itself: a stone "post" where ropes ran along, the barge itself being pulled by donkeys or other means. The final photo is a remaining portion of the canal, which now terminates in the center of High Falls itself.

A Trip to the Folger

Manifold Greatness

In September of this year, I had the opportunity to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. Our library, the Burke at UTS and Columbia University, was a recipient of a grant and a traveling exhibit about the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible now celebrated on its 400th anniversary. The exhibit was called "Manifold Greatness." I decided to drive to DC, and while I was there I participated in lectures, discussions, and workshops dealing with the King James Bible, the traveling exhibit, and how to deal with the receipt, assembly, and packaging of the exhibit. It was a good time, and I met a number of interesting and engaging folks on this trip. Above all, the staff of the Folger are really helpful, knowledgeable, and pleasant to work with. So if you are ever in the DC area and have some interest in Shakespeare, check out what this library has on display or in its gift shop.

John Burroughs' Reading Nook!

Just in case you're lost in nature, and you needed to find a place to read..., well no more worries! This was taken by my mother at a local nature center.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Library Hymn Sing at a Glance

Shhhhhh! This is a Library, We're Singing!

Going through a few thousand photos of the last year--yes, the digital camera has created far too many photos in this world!--I began to set aside some images related to books, libraries, and reading for the blog. And I realized that I hadn't had a chance to share an image of the Burke Library hymn sing, from April 2011. The hymn sing was an idea I devised as a compliment to a rare books exhibit I'd put up in February dedicated to famed 19th century hymn writers and composers Lowell Mason and Thomas Hastings--both of whom had connections with Union Theological Seminary. I'm not sure when the last time there was music, let alone singing, in the library and reading room, but it was surely a success, with requests for more concerts at the Burke. I organized another concert, which happened on Nov. 1st, and included a harpist-singer-composer, interpretive reader, and saxophonist. As we move forward with music at the Burke, we hope to also have a second hymn sing for Advent in December. The hymn sing was conducted by Yale music professor, Patrick Evans.