SPECIAL EDITION – Dr. B Asks, “What are you reading?”

Treasures from the RMC archives and beyond!

Article by Dr. Erika Behrisch Elce

Well, I can’t help myself – I am too excited about what’s happening in my “Working with Archives” class to write about anything else. What are my ENE472/WS529 students reading? Treasures from the RMC archives and beyond!

Though the RMC Library is largely in storage this year, the onsite students are sifting through a small collection of the College’s manuscripts: there are the letters home from the World War I and World War II fronts, no less powerful for their familiarity; and maps, drawings, and notebooks from the Old 18. And then there are the unexpected gems: a Victorian spiritual diary; and a young girl’s journal of an 1833 family cruise around the Great Lakes, visiting American and Canadian forts long since dismantled. Students at a distance are taking advantage of their location, too: one student, up in Alert, is tackling photographs from the 1875-6 Nares Expedition to the North Pole; while another, working in the Fort Frontenac archives, has uncovered the diary of a nineteenth-century British officer surveying in Turkey. Other projects include field correspondence in the days leading up to Passchendaele; a great-grandfather’s letters home from France in 1917; a collection of banquet menus with English royalty as the star guests.

What excites me most about the rich variety of subjects the students have chosen for their projects? It is a testament, I think, to the richness of our collective archival record. At the same time, it also underscores the importance of individual vision. Different patterns of thought within a shared experience is truly a CAF ideal, and I can’t wait to see what comes from it. It’s truly a feast for the cultural imagination.

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