Archives for posts with tag: Lost

In Canada, Windsor Ontario has been one of the cities hardest hit by the economic downturn, and despite earnest efforts by creative and forward thinking residents, times are still tough.

The city has been  making news this week because the hard pressed Catholic School Board is pretty much gutting its school libraries.

Here’s Windsor-Essex District Catholic School Board director of education Paul Picard’s brainstorm:

His “lightning moment,” he said, came when he was sipping a tea at a Starbucks and observed a student next to him working a laptop, an iPod and her cellphone as she completed an assignment. “She said, ‘This is how I learn,’” said Picard, who concluded the board must move to where its students are. The new library — the board calls it a learning commons area — won’t be hush-hush quiet, he said. “It’s a much more boisterous hub, much like you would see at a student centre at the university,” with wireless connections and a teacher (a library technician isn’t a teacher, so can’t fulfil that role, he said) helping them with research and digital literacy. “That’s their world, that’s where we have to meet them,” Picard said.

Meanwhile, elementary school libraries will become “flex rooms” with computers, he suggested, while the board tries to put 1,000 books in each classroom to foster literacy. Responding to studies that link school libraries to improved student literacy, he said you can find studies that validate anything, and there is “extensive” research that backs putting more books in classrooms.[source]

That sounds nice. More education policy should be based on this “Hey, it works for Starbucks” method. Perhaps, the school board could also charge for books and play corporate tie-in music over the PA.

But seriously, Picard’s vision looks like an effort to glamourize something more dire. A recent Globe and Mail editorial points this out:

At two high schools overseen by the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, a grand total of three books was checked out last month. That depressing fact is cited by Paul Picard, the board’s director of education, as one reason for a radical change now under way, changing libraries from book-centred and quiet places to noisy digital hubs…

The main reason, though, is that the board faces a loss of 800 to 1,000 students in September, and a budget shortfall of about $10-million. Cutting most of its “learning commons specialists” (technologists, not teacher-librarians) will save $2½-million a year. In their stead, visiting literacy specialists will provide much more useful advice, Mr. Picard says.[source]

Hard times, indeed. In response, Windsor area high-school students have protested and the Catholic School Board is trying(poorly) to calm things down. The furor may die down, but this could be a budding trend. This is worrisome.

This policy is a little ham-fisted with regard to Ontario education policy which has long supported libraries. The Ontario School Library Association has publicly pointed to research that argues against Picard’s outlook. But the Catholic School Board in Windsor has already shown itself unready to consult widely on such a dramatic move in policy. It’s also shameful that the school board chose to try to coat these cuts in a thin veneer of coffee-house-learning-commons-ism.

Librarians and library techs are already laid off. Elementary schools libraries have been closed and the books distributed to classrooms. Hopefully, it can be turned around. Though right now, it looks like another strike for a town struggling against a “Worst Town in Canada” rap.

G.S. Irish, Photographer - Reflection in a Gazing Ball

From @PhotosOfThePast comes a link to an amazing collection of early photography and pre/proto-photography pictures and tech (like a set of neat pics of a camera obscura kit). Totally worth the time spent browsing. Thanks to Beverly(and her husband) for putting this together.

Muldoon and Miller - Wrestlers - Carte-de-visite

Happily, every Nancy Drew title is an innuendo.

A librarian is in the news. Not because of budget cuts, literacy or eBooks, but for something much more fun – some good ol’fashioned mystery:

A former Brown University museum librarian who once examined a Tiffany-silver sword now at the center of an ownership duel between the Ivy league school and a Virginia collector says in an affidavit “there is no doubt” university drawings match photos of the sword located last year in a Virginia museum.
The affidavit by John H. Stanley is among supporting documents in Brown’s filing. Brown has asked a judge to reject a motion by the lawyer for Donald R. and Toni M. Tharpe, of Williamsburg, Va., to dismiss the university’s lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Brown wants what it says is its long-missing sword returned. A Sept. 7 trial is scheduled.
At issue is a sword presented in 1863 to Col. Rush C. Hawkins, of a New York Civil War regiment. It was later part of the Annmary Brown Memorial at Brown in memory of Hawkins’ wife, who was a granddaughter of a founder of the university.[read full article]

This story also requires: an abandoned library building, some people who seem creepily yet appear innocent (at first), and a shaky flashlight chase down a dark secret tunnel. The heart races, no?

The good people at The Register have declared the Bayeux Tapestry one heck of an effective archival medium:

In the town of Bayeux in northern France you can see the world’s oldest information archive based on a long ribbon of material, a very early example of what was to become tape media…

From the endurance point of view the Tapestry has lasted almost 1000 years – an amazing record. The vegetable dyes used to colour the threads have kept their colour for nearly one hundred decades, and the woven cloth fabric has kept its structural integrity for the same time period despite several instances of mistreatment. Who says ribbons of “TAPEstry” are unreliable?[read full article]

I’ve never thought of the tapestry this way.  Mostly, I know it from the opening to Robinhood Prince of Thieves.

Art as a mnemonic recall tool has been used the world over.  Anyone familiar with indigenous peoples’ land claim disputes in Canada knows how wampum belts can be used as legal/historical documents.

In a world where so much cultural production is high-tech and/or disposable,  history will always provide examples of lower-tech approaches that have an enduring quality.

There are some risks. The Bayeux tapestry requires a mix of other records to survive for us to understand it.  A series of floods and fires could have wiped its story off the historical map. Still, it gets points for lasting.

Will today’s digital repositories achieve this sort of longevity? Even in the last 50 years,  some digital records has slipped from our grasp because of fast moving technological developments.

The Bayeux Tapestry is a good reminder to keep things simple. It’s also a reminder that archiving information, though a fallible process at the mercy providence, is important in information saturated times such as these.

It’s not about preserving a single item, like the tapestry. It’s important to work to capture the information that makes any single item make sense. This is the ongoing challenge and the wonderful mission of archives.

I had a minor injury last week, and I’m just back to work today. While I catch up on my data-fixin’, I thought I’d pass this fun news on.

From the Toronto Star:

The skeleton of a giant rabbit about six times the size of a modern bunny has been found on an island off the coast of Spain.

The fossils of Nuralagus rex were found on the island of Minorca, according to details released Monday in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Dubbed the Minorcan King of the Rabbits, the bunny lived approximately 3 million to 5 million years ago and weighed about 26 pounds.

It’s so large that when lead author Dr. Josep Quintana from the Institut Català de Paleontologia found the first bone, at age 19, he thought it belonged to the giant Minorcan turtle.

But it isn’t just its massive size that separates it from Peter Cottontail.

While modern rabbits have long, springy spines, N. rex had a short stiff spine that would have made hopping difficult.[full article]

I love a) the idea of a giant clumsy pre-historic rabbit and b) the photoshop job that came with the article.


"Life Mag is a bunch of SUCKAS, 4 reals. LOL"

From the Toronto Star:

A cache of “rare, unseen” photographs from Eva Braun’s private photo album that flashed across the Life magazine website are pictures publicly available since 1947 and the legendary photo magazine has been duped, the U.S. National Archives says.

“We’ve had them here since 1947,” Edward McCarter, head of still photography at the archives, told the Star on Thursday. “Anyone could see them for free.”[full article]

With all the fiscal woe and licensing news, it’s nice to see a library/archivist type makes waves for something this awesome.

Incidentally, it’s also not the first time people have fallen for a hoax like this.

Unfortunately no Triumph of the Will 3D

Now we can feel uncomfortable about the capacity for man’s inhumanity to man… in 3D.

From the Gurardian:

James Cameron and his team of minions may have produced the high watermark for 3D technology in the 21st century, but it seems the Nazis got there first. The Australian film-maker Philippe Mora says he has discovered two 30-minute 3D films shot by propagandists for the Third Reich in 1936, a full 16 years before the format first became briefly popular in the US.

The first of the films, titled So Real You Can Touch It, features shots of sizzling stereoscopic bratwursts on a barbecue while the second, named Six Girls Roll Into Weekend, features actors Mora believes were probably stars from Germany’s top wartime studio, Universum Film.[full article]

Film nerds/buffs can read the Variety article, which has a taste of the technical information.

Mora is working on a film, “How the Third Reich was Recorded.” As a one time history scholar, I’m a sucker for unsettling docs about Nazis. Not to be glib, but to me they’re creepier than zombie movies. Imagine the two combined.

My thanks goes out to whoever preserved these films and others like it. The best hedge against repeating terrible episodes of history is to record it and make it available, so people can bear witness to it. Oh, the power of libraries and archieves! </soapbox>

Sometimes you learn something in a random place and when you least expect it. Even better is when it’s off-beat and funny.

For example: this Dinosaur Comic sent to me by an English Professor-type friend (after he used it in a lecture on Chaucer).

Dinosaur Comics

And,  just like the better parts of Jurassic Park: the Lost World, dinosaurs have served to teach us something important… about ourselves.

And that’s a paleo-linguistic… thump… thump… thump… Reference Bomb! Bam!

Read more:
Wiki entry on the Great Vowel Shift.
History of the English language.
NPR Report on a Vowel Shift happening RIGHT NOW!
Freebie: some Jurassic Park dinosaur biological inaccuracies.


What is a reference bomb? Find out here!

Email me your Reference Bomb experience!

room! in the ceiling!

The good Jessamyn West at has compiled a list of the random, secretish places in libraries she’s been shown:

It’s great when the evolution of a building space is cracked open. Particularly when it’s something a little esoteric seeming, like a library.

A long time ago, I wrote an article about exploring the abandoned(ish) passageways beneath Wilfrid Laurier University. I went under the library building, just a little.

More dedicated urban explorers, though, reveal some more amazing stuff: c.f. Cool Pics of an Abandoned Russian Library

Catcher in the Rye

NPR, the other day, had an interview with Kenneth Slawenski author of J.D. Salinger: A Life.


One revelation that is elaborated on throughout Slawenski’s erratic biography [Stirling says: Ouch.] is just how crucial Salinger’s World War II experiences were to his later Zen Buddhism, as well as to his writing. Salinger served in an Army Counter Intelligence Corps. On D-Day, he landed on Utah Beach, then went on to fight in the Battle of the Bulge; toward the end of the war, he helped liberate a sub-camp of Dachau. According to Slawenski, manuscript pages of The Catcher in the Rye were on Salinger’s person throughout the fighting.[full article with audio!]

Crazy. One stray bullet and no Holden Caulfield! Generations of angst-ridden teens would’ve lost out. After all, there’s no Edward the Sulking Vampire without dear Mr. Caulfield.

Salinger fans would do well to check out Slawenski site: Dead Caulfields.