Jamaica’s first lady tours McMaster Library’s Miss Lou Archives

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Jamaica’s first lady, the Most Honourable Juliet Holness (left), was recently at McMaster to view the archives of Louise Bennett Coverley, or “Miss Lou,” one of Jamaica’s most iconic and beloved performers.

Jamaica’s first lady, the Most Honourable Juliet Holness (left), was recently at McMaster to view the archives of Louise Bennett Coverley, or “Miss Lou,” one of Jamaica’s most iconic and beloved performers.

Jamaica’s first lady, the Most Honourable Juliet Holness, was recently at McMaster to view the archives of Louise Bennett Coverley, or “Miss Lou,” one of Jamaica’s most iconic and beloved performers.

Mrs. Holness, the member for St. Andrew East Rural in Jamaica’s House of Representatives and the wife of Jamaican Prime Minster, Andrew Holness, was in Canada to attend events marking the 55th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence.

The first lady toured the Miss Lou Archives, accompanied by a delegation that included Her Excellency Janice Miller, the High Commissioner of Jamaica to Canada, Judge Pamela Appelt, Citizenship Judge (retired), Court of Canadian Citizenship, and Howard Shearer, Chief Executive Canada at Hitachi Canada and former member of McMaster’s Board of Governors.

While on campus, Holness attended a luncheon at the University Club at which McMaster President, Patrick Deane, greeted the delegation and delivered remarks. Vivian Lewis, McMaster University Librarian, Peter Mascher, McMaster’s Associate Vice-President, International, Kayonne Christy, McMaster student, Wade Wyckoff, Associate University Librarian, Myron Groover, Archives and Rare Books Librarian, and Paul Grossman, Director of Development, McMaster University were also in attendance.

Lewis says she was honoured to welcome the first lady to McMaster, “I wish to extend my sincere thanks to Mrs. Holness for her visit, and for her interest in touring the Miss Lou Archives as Jamaica celebrates 55 years of independence,” she says.

Lewis also acknowledged Judge Appelt, who along with Fabian Coverley, donated the Miss Lou Archives to McMaster in 2010 and has played a key role in fostering an ongoing partnership between McMaster University Library and the National Library of Jamaica to promote and support Miss Lou scholarship.

“We deeply value the relationships Judge Appelt ­has helped us to build– both within the Jamaican-Canadian community and within Jamaica,” says Lewis. “These partnerships have allowed us to work across oceans to support the needs of scholars interested in the life and work of Miss Lou.”

The Miss Lou archives – part of the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections – contains nine metres of textual, graphical and audiovisual materials that reflect the life and career of Miss Lou, a writer, performer and promoter of Jamaican culture.

The collection, which is heavily used by scholars around the world, contains correspondence, legal and financial documents, writing, published and printed materials, personal and professional documents, awards, and photographs from Miss Lou’s life in Canada. Materials from her early career in Jamaica are held by the National Library of Jamaica in Kingston.

The Miss Lou Archives opened in 2011, followed by a second accrual of material donated by Neil Armstrong in in 2015.

The archives complement McMaster’s strong collections of West Indies literature and history, which include the archives of award-winning author Austin Clark.

Some portions of the Miss Lou Archives are available online in McMaster Library’s Digital Archive.