THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Americas studies blog

4 posts from October 2011

28 October 2011

Team Americas in Space

International Space Station
The International Space Station, May 2011

 Last night the Quebec Government Office in London hosted the event, 'An Evening in Space with Canadian astronaut, Julie Payette', at the Science Museum's Imax cinema, and Carole and I were invited along. The evening started with a screening of the rather awe-inspiring 'Space Station 3D'. Photographs and videos of space have been part of our visual heritage for a long time and have perhaps lost some of their early impact but the 3D effect and immersive screen reinvigorates the wonder of seeing the Earth from space.

The film is worth seeing, and Julie Payette's short lecture that followed was a treat for anyone who has even fleetingly wanted to be an astronaut. The emphasis of the talk was on how being in space opens up questions about how we relate to land on Earth and our own cultural differences. This was driven home by a great piece of 'it's Earth, but not as we know it' where photographs of parts of the world were shown in a different orientation from that which we would normally see and without any borders or human mapping. The effect of this re-imagining of familiar places was thought provoking and gave an insight into how being an astronaut must drastically change your world view.

One other thing that was mentioned which you may want to know: apparently, you can't see the Great Wall of China from space but you can see the Pyramids and the wake of ferries in the English Channel. It seems the contrast between light and dark is the main way of perceiving things from such an altitude, with the Wall not providing much contrast to its environment while the Pyramids and the bow wakes of ships do.

Finally, the evening drove home to me just how much of a presence Canada has in space, whether it be in the form of astronauts such as Julie Payette or equipment such as the 'Canadarm', a robotic arm used to manipulate loads from the Space Shuttles. You can find out more about Canada's activities in space via the Canadian Space Agency website and more about the International Space Station via the NASA site, or even through the British Library's own resources. I've just been bowled over by the amount of results returned by typing 'International Space Station' into Primo, with everything from books on building the station, to journal articles on experiments run there being available.

[PJH]

06 October 2011

Oslo, 2011?

And in the blue corner... we have Haruki Murakami, whose early novels were translated and published in the US, and has also taught at several American universities.  He can make writing about a triathlon interesting (and even profound), something that the other Nobel Prize in Literature contenders have not, as far as I am aware, attempted.

We have also recently acquired two of his early novels in English translation, Pinball, 1973 and Hear the Wind Sing, which were published as part of the Kodansha English Library.

Pinball

[MJS]

Robert Zimmerman goes to Oslo?

Tarantula

If the bookies know anything, then the news from Oslo this year may be that Robert Zimmerman, also known as Bob Dylan, will receive the Nobel Prize in Literature (the other candidates are Haruki Murakami, Tomas Tranströmer and the front runner, Adunis ).  If the DJ, painter, songwriter and performer does receive the honour, we suspect it won't be for the novel shown above (here in bootleg form at YA.1997.b.4195), nor for the more crafted volume of memoirs, but for the poetry/lyrics that Christopher Ricks has famously compared to Keats (cf. his Visions of Sin).

There's a good bit in the memoirs about Zimmerman's early move to New York, where he became Dylan, and the hours he spent in the New York Public Library, reading and rereading microfilmed copies of Civil War and other nineteenth-century American newspapers.  The language, the stories, and the breadth of life contained in these records of Americana surely animates many of the songs in the Dylan songbook.  If you are a registered British Library reader you can read many of these newspapers outside of the Library, thanks to the internet and the Remote e-Resources we are able to offer at present.

Dylan also makes several appearances in our Beats Bibliography.

[MJS] 

03 October 2011

HIGHRISE at the British Library

Highrisephoto2 
HIGHRISE logo, courtesy of the NFB 

Two weeks ago, the Library was pleased to welcome Kat Cizek as part of the Eccles Centre sponsored Summer Scholars programme. Kat has made a number of documentaries in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada, including previous work Filmmaker-in-Residence (documenting life at St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto).

The subject of Kat's Summer Scholars lecture was the project HIGHRISE, an online documentary charting life in these structures which are, to quote Kat, 'the most ubiquitous built form in the world'. The project does not limit its view to Canada or even the Americas but instead looks at life in these buildings and neighbourhoods across the world, illustrating their diversity and questioning the way the structures are often stereotyped. During the talk Kat discussed the development of the project, the NFB's unique structure and way of working, the technologies involved (including a camera which provided viewers with a 360 degree view of a scene) and gave a guided tour of the work itself.

I would like to say thank you to Kat for the presentation and the audience, who were a wonderful mix of curators, film makers, geographers, social scientists, and more, for coming along and making the afternoon such an engaging one. It's worth noting that it was also rather fitting having a presentation on an NFB project at the British Library, given that we have collected so much material about and from the instituion over the years.

As the NFB is a Canadian government institution the British Library acquires much of its official material, including annual reports which can be found at BL Shelfmark C. S. E. 74. There are also NFB publications such as, Canada: A Year of the Land (Shelfmark: Cup.1256.ff.2), Contemporary Canadian Photography (Shelfmark: L42/3846) and many others. It is also worth mentioning that we have an extensive collection of the secondary literatures about the NFB and the wider Canadian media, so the collection is well worth a look - as is HIGHRISE and the work of the NFB more generally.

[PJH]