I have been back from a conference about archives in Vilnius, Lithuania a few days ago. Here is a little report of what was happening there!
I was invited by the Institute of Lithuania Literature and Folklore to present my paper in a conference it organized in Vilnius from Oct. 17-Oct. 19. The conference was dedicated to the Centenary of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland with the title: History, Memory and Archives: Sensitive Issues. The paper I presented was from a research I did when I was studying in Folklore Department of Memorial University, and it was published last year in Material Cultural Review.
During the conference, there were two plenary sessions and nine parallel paper sessions. I presented my paper “A Case Study of How Archives Interpret the Transnational Identity of Early 20th Century Chinese Immigrants through Their Headstones in St. John’s, Canada” in session 2: Remembering, Documenting and Archiving of Sensitive Materials: Case Studies. I was quite surprised that there were another 2 papers in this sessions with similar topics surrounding funeral and death. To prepare this presentation, I added a little bit more materials from Them Day archives such as the cemetery inscriptions collected from Red Bay and Happy Valley! Coincidentally, our new magazine issue (which is coming soon when I am typing now!) is about Spanish Flu in Labrador in 1918, and Aimee also looked at cemetery sources to make sure we have a list of the decreased with accurate information.
And of course, there were many non-depressing stories in that conference. For example, I went the session 3: Archives and Information Society: New Possibilities in the Digital Era, which focuses on how to use archival resources in the digital era and what we should be careful of in collecting and making digital archives, etc. There was a scholar from Estonian Literary Museum who introduced a project he was involved in, “Estonian Place-Lore and Digital Solutions”. They made audio recordings of traditional knowledge and stories for certain places from their archival collections, and these audios can be played when people were driving through those places. They made a CD for the route from Tallinn to Tartu, so drivers can have a knowledge of where and what they are passing by (if you are not drying too fast!). There were many more interesting researches and projects presented during that conference. I did learn a lot from an international community of archivists and folklorists, and I hope I will have more opportunities to go to conferences like this in the future to have more connections with other people working in an archival environment!
Apart from the conference, I did some travels from Helsinki down to all those three Baltic States. I have to say they were much warmer than Canada, while locating in more northern latitudes than most Canadian cities! The three Baltic countries are very small and beautiful. Just image a few hours of driving you are in another country already. It is completely contrary to Canada as well as my home country China where you drive for miles and miles and never leave the same province! Anyways, I hope everyone can come to see these less known countries. They are definitely worth a visit.