We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future. - George Bernard Shaw

18 July 2011

Summer Reading...

I've read some really great books so far this summer (maybe that's why I haven't been posting, like, at all). It's hard to stay on top of all of the books I want to read when I keep finding new ones or friends make recommendations that I simply can't ignore. Here is a list of some of the books I've read this summer that I can't seem to get out of my head.*

* The Hunger Games trilogy is by far my favourite. It rivals, for me, the Harry Potter series in its excitement, addictive nature, ability to deal with complex themes, and its excellent story.

I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. It's about the four girls now in their adult lives. My mom and I have always enjoyed Ann Brashares writing and story-telling ability. I hope one day my daughters will read this series.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2...

I saw the movie on the weekend and it was well worth getting to bed at 3am as a result. It was amazing, a really great way to end the movie franchise. I thought it provided closure for the books, too; up until now, I hadn't fully believed that J.K. Rowling was not actually going to write anymore Harry Potter books (and the rumours surrounding her pottermore.com announcement didn't help that). A glimmer of hope remained in my silly, imaginative, wanting-more mind. I suppose that's the sign of a great writer and an even better story.

28 March 2011

David Thompson and the Fur Trade: Then and Now...

Canada's fur trade history is rich with stories of exploration, survival, greed, adventure, and even death. David Thompson was born in 1770 in Westminster, England to Welsh immigrants. In 1784, he began a 7 year apprenticeship with the Hudson's Bay Company. He stayed with the HBC for 13 years and learned a lot about surveying and astronomical observation. In 1797, Thompson left the HBC for a position with its fur trade rivals, the North West Company.

Thompson was responsible for expanding trade networks for the North West Company and he surveyed and mapped a large portion of what is now western Canada, including the Rocky Mountains and the Columbia River. He also completed a 67500 km survey from Grand Portage to the heads of the Assiniboine and Mississippi Rivers.

Map of the North-West Territory of the Province of Canada, 1814 by David Thompson
In 1804, Thompson retired from the fur trade and undertook a project to plot the North West Company's forts on a map of western Canada. The map is 213 cm high by 328 cm long and its replica hangs in the Archives of Ontario Reading Room.

More recently, an archaeologist believes he discovered one of Thompson's first trading posts at Sipiwesk Lake near the Nelson River. The discovery includes the remnants of chimneys from the post and storehouse and was found using Thompson's coordinates in his journals. He apparently spent at year at Sipiwesk in 1792.

If you are interested in learning more about Thompson, check out this online exhibit created by the Archives of Ontario. The Trade, a novel by Fred Stenson, is set in the early 19th century and follows a series of historical people as they work for the HBC. It's a looong book but it's definitely worth reading if you want to learn more about the life of a fur trader.

07 March 2011

Documenting a shady past...

I've been following this story in the news since February. The Hungarian government is in the process of creating legislation that will allow for the destruction of archival records relating to its Communist history. Along with other documents, anyone who was spied upon by the Hungarian secret police would have the right to dispose of the records in which they are named. The Hungarian government sees the act as a way to remove Hungary's association with Communism, stating that these are 'immoral documents of an immoral regime'.

If the piece of legislation becomes law, the Hungarian archives could possibly lose 12 miles of archival documents that cover a period from 1948-1990. I don't think that the Hungarian government is directly trying to cover up its less than perfect past. I get the impression, rather, that they are trying to separate themselves from Communism and the grip it had on the war-torn country. By giving its citizens the right to destroy records containing their personal information, they are allowing the people to take control of their past. If Hungary really wanted to destroy its records and break from its Communist past, they could easily and secretly dispose of the documents in question.

That being said, however, I hope that the Hungarian government rethinks this legislation. The archival records document a period in Hungary's history that was turbulent but not dissimilar to many European countries behind the Iron Curtain. I think the Hungarian Archives needs to be the guardian of this information so the tumultuous period can be remembered and considered and so that Hungarians, and other Communist-turned-democratic countries, can truly understand how far they have come.

If you're interested in learning more about this, check out this website created by Canadian, Christopher Adam.