Library News

Gentleman, soldier, spy: The Napoleonic era maps of Robert Clifford

Submitted by libbalche on
Filed under Library News:  Maps, Data, GIS
A large scale map of the Austrian Netherlands produced during the Napoleonic era hangs in the McMaster Museum of Art, the centrepiece of a special exhibit showcasing McMaster University Library's Clifford Map collection.

A large scale map of the Austrian Netherlands produced during the Napoleonic era hangs in the McMaster Museum of Art, the centrepiece of a special exhibit showcasing McMaster University Library's Clifford Map collection.

In 1803, under cover of darkness, English nobleman and sometime spy Robert Clifford set sail in secret from the French port of Calais.

Having narrowly escaped the authorities in Napoleonic France, which was now at war with England, Clifford was returning home, bringing with him a precious cargo.

Concealed in a crate, Clifford had packed more than 200 lbs of some of the most advanced maps available at the time – maps that would become an invaluable weapon of war and eventually aid in the defeat of Napoleon.

Now, twenty-three maps believed to have been among those spirited out of France by Robert Clifford are on display at the McMaster Museum of Art. The maps are part of McMaster University Library’s Clifford Map Collectionand are being publicly displayed for the first time.

“The collection includes different types of cartography that would have played a key role in devising military strategy during the Napoleonic wars," says Gord Beck, a maps specialist at McMaster University Library and exhibit curator.

Contained in the exhibit are a number of maps used throughout the Napoleonic wars including a set of colourful, hand-drawn maps of fortified cities which, although produced well before the Napoleonic era, were nonetheless widely used by military planners to prepare for siege warfare which was still quite common at the time.

Also included in the exhibit is an expansive, floor to ceiling map of the Austrian Netherlands which was among the first large-scale, scientifically-based maps produced using “trigonometrical surveying”, a technique pioneered by French mapmakers in the 1800s that showed the topography of a region with unprecedented accuracy.

Beck says it’s one of several such maps contained in the Clifford Map collection, which also includes the massive 36 ft. by 39 ft. Carte de France. Too large to display, it was the first map to capture, in detail, the entirety of a country.

“Warfare changed drastically under Napoleon,” explains Beck. “His armies fought in the open, moving over vast terrain very quickly. These newer maps really helped with that style of warfare because they showed the exact size and shape of the country over a large area, so military strategists could see things like which roads could carry heavy artillery guns and so forth.”

Beck says just as interesting as the maps themselves is the story of Robert Clifford and how he obtained them – it’s a story, he says, that could have been pulled from the pages of a spy novel.

Clifford was born in England, the third son of an aristocratic family, but as a Catholic, was not allowed to be educated in his faith or hold positions in either government or the armed forces. So he was sent by his family to be educated in the Bishopric of Liège (modern day Belgium). There he developed a deep knowledge of the French language and culture, as well as a keen interest in the military, eventually joining Dillon’s Regiment – an Irish brigade that served under King Louis XIV of France – where he was trained in the most advanced techniques in military science and cartography.

After the outbreak of the French Revolution, he returned to England where Beck says Clifford became an “indispensable advisor” to top military and government officials including former Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe who asked him to aid in the creation of defences for the south of England in preparation for a possible attack by Napoleon with whom England was now at war.

Then, in 1801, during a break in hostilities, Clifford travelled to Paris, posing as an English gentleman ostensibly there to copy and translate arcane texts – but all the while quietly seeking out and acquiring scores of maps and manuscripts of strategic military value and smuggling them back to England, narrowly avoiding capture and the guillotine.

“These maps were very important for Britain,” says Beck. “France was the leader in cartography at the time and their maps were very accurate – certainly the Carte de Francewould have provided all the latest information on roads and topography which the British wouldn’t have had otherwise because they were lagging behind in terms of mapmaking.”

The Clifford Maps Collection was first acquired by McMaster in 1968 when former University Librarian William Ready purchased a portion of the private library of the Sixth Marquess of Cholmondeley, which included about 60 maps marked with Clifford’s ownership label.

Beck says it’s difficult to determine definitively how the maps ended up in Lord Cholmondeley’s library or if these are indeed the maps that Clifford smuggled out of France. Nonetheless, he says maps like those contained in the Clifford Map collection played an critical role in the outcome of the Napoleonic wars.

“The maps would have provided all the necessary information for the British to do very careful logistical planning for any kind of offensive they were going to take part in,” says Beck. “The British would have benefitted from having that up to date and very necessary information.”

The Clifford Map Collection is part of the Library’s Lloyd Reeds Map Collection.  The Clifford Maps will on display at the McMaster Museum of Art until September 1.

Sneak peek of new Library website: Tell us what you think!

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Filed under Library News:  Alerts
Screencapture of the redesigned website

McMaster University Library has been working behind the scenes on a redesigned library website, which will soon be live for everyone to use. Before we launch, we are inviting McMaster students, faculty and staff to explore and provide feedback on the beta version of the new site. 

This website is undergoing active development (which means we're working on it every day), so users will encounter bugs, as well as unfinished content. If you see something that doesn’t work, or shouldn’t be there, please tell us about it!

Explore the redesigned library website

Leave us feedback about the redesigned website

Note: The redesigned website will only be accessible to users on campus. Off-campus users will need VPN access to view the site.

New Bertrand Russell Archives and Research Centre to be a "hub of intellectual activity”

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Filed under Library News:  Archives & Research Collections
From left: Vivian Lewis, McMaster University Librarian; Mohamed Attalla, AVP and Chief Facilities Officer, Patrick Deane, McMaster President, Nick Griffin, Director, Bertrand Russell Research Centre; Ken Blackwell, Honourary Russell Archivist.

From left: Vivian Lewis, McMaster University Librarian; Mohamed Attalla, AVP and Chief Facilities Officer, Patrick Deane, McMaster President, Nick Griffin, Director, Bertrand Russell Research Centre; Ken Blackwell, Honourary Russell Archivist.

The new home of McMaster's Bertrand Russell Archives and Bertrand Russell Research Centre has officially opened its doors.

McMaster faculty, staff and students, as well as scholars from around the world, recently gathered to celebrate the opening of the Bertrand Russell Archives and Research Centre, a state-of-the-art facility designed to house McMaster’s vast Russell Archives and to support activities related to Russell scholarship.

A pacifist, philosopher and Nobel laureate, Russell is widely considered one of the greatest intellectuals of the 20thcentury.

The facility, located across from the University's Sterling Street entrance, was retrofitted in recognition of the 50thanniversary of McMaster’s acquisition of the Bertrand Russell Archives, the University's largest and most heavily used research collection.

“This remarkable new facility signifies the critical importance of the Bertrand Russell Archives, which are among the University’s most significant cultural assets,” says McMaster University Librarian Vivian Lewis, who gave introductory remarks at the opening ceremony. “This space will serve as a hub of intellectual activity for the many researchers who come to McMaster each year to gain scholarly insights from this world-class collection.”

During the event, Lewis also welcomed more than 70 Russell scholars who were on campus to attend the annual meetings of the Bertrand Russell Society, and the Society for Study of the History of Analytic Philosophy, both held at McMaster this year in recognition of the 50th anniversary.

The ceremony included remarks by Nick Griffin, Canada Research Chair in Philosophy and the director of the Bertrand Russel Research Centre, as well as by long-time Russell Archivsit, Ken Blackwell. McMaster President Patrick Deane spoke about the leadership of then University Librarian Will Ready and McMaster President Harry Thode in bringing the Russell Archives to McMaster in 1968, which was considered a coup at the time.

“It was a pivotal moment in our institution’s history and it is evidence of the ambitious spirit which has animated this institution throughout its existence,” said Deane. “It was almost inconceivable to many people at the time that Russell’s papers would end up here in Hamilton, Ontario, and it testifies to the remarkable foresight of Will Ready and Harry Thode who had the highest ambition for our university as a centre for scholarship.”

Learn more about how the Bertrand Russell Archives came to McMaster from Honorary Russell Archivist, Ken Blackwell

Once a private residence owned by Hamilton’s prominent Stinson Family, the new Bertrand Russell Archives and Research Centre was fully renovated and converted in just nine months. The design and construction was led by McMaster University Library in partnership with McMaster’s Facilities Services and mcCallumSather Architects.

The 4300 sq. ft. facility includes a sophisticated climate-control system and compact shelving to ensure the collection is properly stored and preserved; a reading room; and a display room that features items from the collection including Russell’s personal writing desk and armchair. The facility also houses McMaster’s Bertrand Russell Research Centre, complete with offices and a conference room.

The Russell Archives, previously housed in Mills Memorial Library, is the largest collection of Russell materials available anywhere. It contains 250,000 original documents written by Russell, 3400 books from his personal library, 3900 volumes of his published works and other scholarly materials, as well as many photos and artifacts including his 1950 Nobel Medal in Literature.

Read more: Celebrating 50 years – The Bertrand Russell Archives

The Bertrand Russell Archives and Research Centre is located at 88 Forsyth Ave. N. and is open Monday to Thursday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m..

Honorary Archivist Ken Blackwell: How I met Bertrand Russell and other stories

Submitted by libbalche on
Filed under Library News:  Archives & Research Collections
Ken Blackwell (pictured) has spent the last five decades studying the archives of pacifist, philosopher and Nobel laureate, Bertrand Russell. Now, he offers personal insights on what it was like to meet Russell and to work with the papers of one of greatest intellectuals of the 20th century.

Ken Blackwell (pictured) has spent the last five decades studying the archives of pacifist, philosopher and Nobel laureate, Bertrand Russell. Now, he offers personal insights on what it was like to meet Russell and to work with the papers of one of greatest intellectuals of the 20th century.

In 1968, Ken Blackwell arrived at McMaster. Before then, he had been working in London, England, employed by the literary agent of renowned pacifist, philosopher and Nobel laureate, Bertrand Russell, meticulously cataloguing Russell’s vast archives.

When the news broke that McMaster had purchased Russell's much sought-after papers, Blackwell was soon approached by the University’s chief librarian William Ready who offered him the position of Archivist (later Russell Archivist) at McMaster. It’s a position he held for 29 years until “retiring” in 1996. Since then he has been a very active Honorary Russell Archivist.

Blackwell recently talked about his experiences working with McMaster’s Bertrand Russell Archives in an interview published in the latest issue of Hamilton Arts & Letters Magazine.* He was interviewed by McMaster media relations manager Wade Hemsworth, the author of three non-fiction books, who spent 25 years as a reporter and editor at The Hamilton Spectator.

The following are selections from that interview, Kenneth Blackwell: The original Russell Archivist, and have been republished with the permission of Hamilton Arts & Letters Magazine:

Wade: You’ve been known to spend your vacation pursuing material for the archives. You spent your working life, and now 21 years of your retirement entirely concerned with the work of one other person. Why?

Ken: Well, at the ground level, the works suits me, my abilities, my

Philosopher, pacifist and public intellectual, Bertrand Russell.

interests. But Russell made a mark on me back when I was 20 years old. It was the time of the Cuban missile crisis, and a few months after the crisis had passed, a book by him appeared. It was for sale in my local drug store and I bought it and I still have it. I was absolutely fascinated how this 90-year-old man could write a book, and such a good book. From him—from this interest—I switched my majors in college from Commerce to Economics, and that led within a couple of months to Philosophy, because I wanted to know what Russell knew.

Well, that was a big order because I soon found out that he had written a tremendous range of books from atomic theory to marriage and morals, happiness, history, philosophy, books on British history. He had written travel books for goodness sakes! He’d gone to the Soviet Union in 1920, interviewed Lenin. It was endless. I guess it is endless, because we’re still finding new materials.

Wade: You had two very different personal introductions to Bertrand Russell, and they were both on the same day, as I recall.

Ken: I was returning from Ireland to London and I went through Russell’s town in North Wales, Penrhyndeudraeth, and I stayed there a couple of days. It took that long to get up the courage to phone his home and ask to meet him. I talked to his secretary and he said, well come at noon today and you can meet Lord Russell. And so I went there and I shook Russell’s hand and talked to him very briefly for a moment. Then I left and I had the feeling that others have had, that, as a stranger, you shouldn’t intervene in some famous old person’s life and disturb him.

But as I was walking away from his home down the lane, the secretary came running after me and he said, ‘Are you the Kenneth Blackwell we wrote to in Victoria, British Columbia?’ And I was. Russell decided to sell his archives and so he had written around to people who might know where other papers of his were. My name had been given to him by Russell’s bibliographer. And so that letter had arrived at home in Victoria, but I did not know of it.

I was invited back to tea that day, and that lasted about two and a half hours. It went by in a couple of seconds, it seemed to me. I was able to show Russell my own bibliographical work.

We talked about many things. We talked about President de Gaulle’s visit to Russia that summer. This was July 1966. I asked Russell, what do you think is the purpose of that visit? Russell said, ‘Well, I don’t know, what do you think?’ And I had to pick myself up from that one because, well, I didn’t think, I just asked.

Anyway, very soon after that, while I was still in Penrhyndeudraeth, I was offered a job sorting his papers in his basement. And so I had my first Russell job. It lasted three weeks, until the papers were carted off to London. My second Russell job was working on the catalog of the Russell papers in London. That’s this 340-page book that was published just at the time that William Ready, the new McMaster University Librarian, got interested in the Russell papers. The purpose of this catalog was to sell the papers, but at the same time, it’s got a lot of scholarly importance to it, and Russell even wrote a preface for it.

tems from the Russell Archives including his glasses, his Nobel medal, and buttons of the iconic peace sign – the symbol created for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in which Russell was a central figure

Wade: Ken, how would you say that your view of Bertrand Russell has changed during the time that you’ve been working with his archive?

Ken: Well, my initial view changed quite quickly. I was used to that very dry, very rational persona with which he wrote his books. Remember he was a Cambridge graduate from 1893. He spoke in a peculiar way. His accent was his own. Every syllable was individually enunciated. You never had any doubt of what he said. In meeting him and having tea with him from time to time, I realized that he was a much warmer, much more emotional person than I thought. But at the same time, I’m just reading the papers in the basement and it was extraordinary what psychical—what emotional difficulties he had had in his life. Remember, I hadn’t gone through much. I was 23.

Russell had written about various crises in his life and had put them in his autobiography, but it hadn’t been published yet, and so I was able to read his autobiography before it was published. That changed my view of him a lot. Well, first of all there’s the discovery of one affair after another, until this last marriage when he settled down with Edith. He didn’t believe that marital ties should be bonds, in the sense that they shouldn’t be chains. People should be free to express their love in whatever way was natural. Well, for him, it was natural to express his love to many different women, sometimes concurrently. The big outcome of that, for us, is that he would write letters to these women. In one case, 1900 letters, in another 802, and we have them now.

Wade: This is a broad question, but why do you think it’s still important to study Bertrand Russell?

Kenneth:  Well, he’s a master of the English language first of all. Even if you disagree with his opinions, you can still study how well he expressed them. He went through these personal difficulties and wrote about them. You can see things that have come up in your own life coming up in Russell’s life and how he dealt with them. His philosophical work is now part of the history of philosophy, but as recently as two years ago, the last volume of our Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell on philosophy was published and people have only begun to study that volume. In politics, he’s very valuable because he sees through the posturing and the lies and gets to the heart of the matter.

One thing that has impressed me hugely, as I’ve come to know Russell’s life, is what I would call the self-sacrifice of his last 10 or 15 years. Here is a man who thought that he would retire and live a life of quote ‘elegant leisure’, reading all the great books that he should have read when he was younger. Instead, current events tied him to his desk to write articles about nuclear disarmament, about the Vietnam War, and other political matters. At times, he will say in reply to somebody requesting another article on nuclear disarmament, ‘I can’t think of anything new to say on this topic. Don’t ask me for a while.’

Wade: It’s been nearly 50 years since Bertrand Russell died. During his life as a public intellectual, he was immersed in intellectual pursuits and was also a figure in popular culture. It was a time then, when popular culture still embraced great thinkers. Do you feel that thinking has gone out of fashion since then?

Ken: I think ‘thinking’ has merged with other things. There are obviously people who are being interviewed in the media who are deep thinkers, but they’re also media academics, and you know they’re getting a lot of money for what they have to say. Someone who just thinks and writes without regard to public opinion, that’s pretty rare now, especially at the highest level. There’s always this element of celebrity with it now.

Now, one of the great celebrities of our time is Paul McCartney. He went to see Russell in 1965. He talked about it on some television programs, and his biographers mention it. McCartney says that he spoke about Russell to John Lennon and John Lennon was encouraged to come out against the Vietnam War because of what he had learned about Russell. You may have seen that in the Russell archives, there’s a lovely card from John Lennon with a drawing of him and Yoko.

Russell had a special place in English celebrity-dom. He became known to the wide public through talking on the BBC, and at that time—this is, say, 1945—there was only the BBC in Britain, there were no private stations, and Russell gained a tremendous reputation with the public of being a high-level thinker. His History of Western Philosophy was published then and they couldn’t print enough copies to satisfy the demand. Paper was short in those days right after the war, and his writings became an object of desire.

He went on to get the Order of Merit and the Nobel Prize all within a very few years, and so he had a tremendous reputation among the public. Then along came nuclear weaponry held by both the American side and the Russian side, and Russell could see nothing but disaster for mankind if there were another World War. That’s what he used his celebrity to campaign against. Anything he said would be recorded, and that went on until nearly the end of his life.

Wade: What constitutes a good day as Bertrand Russell’s archivist?

Ken: The discovery of new documents. Secondly, further identifying ones that we already have, as maybe the signature’s been hard to read for these 50 years and now it’s become clear who wrote it. I don’t deal much with researchers anymore, but still they come and ask me things and helping them is satisfying. I retired with some large unfinished projects, like the Russell Archives research catalogue BRACERS. If I can make headway in either one of them on a day, that makes it a good day too. That’s without the discovery of new things. And they’re pretty frequent.

Read the full interview with Ken Blackwell

*The latest issue of Hamilton Arts & Letter Magazine was edited by McMaster University Library archivist, Rick Stapleton to commemorate the 50th anniversary of McMaster’s acquisition of the Bertrand Russell Archives.

The envelope, please…

Submitted by libbalche on
Filed under Library News:  Lyons New Media Centre
WHY NOT! Productions recently took top honours at the annual McMaster 24 Hour Film Challenge gala event held recently in L.R. Wilson Hall.

WHY NOT! Productions recently took top honours at the annual McMaster 24 Hour Film Challenge gala event held recently in L.R. Wilson Hall.

A prop, a line of dialogue, a location and 24 hours.

Add a little video production know-how and a lot of creativity, and you get the eight films that recently competed for top honours in the annual McMaster 24 Hour Film Challenge (M24).

Hosted by McMaster University Library’s Lyons New Media Centre (LNMC), the competition challenged teams to create a five-minute short film that incorporated three elements – a randomly assigned prop (a box), a line of dialogue (“Let’s face it, this isn’t the worst thing you’ve caught me doing,” from Ironman), and a location (the community) – all within 24 hours.

“It’s very challenging to create a short film from scratch,” says Rhonda Moore, the manager of LNMC, who co-organized the competition along with Library Assistant Alessandro Erasmi.

“Teams get their elements at the kick-off event, then very quickly they have to come up with an idea, write the script, and decide how to shoot and edit the film,” she continues. “That takes a lot of planning and organization and I think this competition helps develop those skills.”

Created by teams of McMaster students and alumni, as well as teams of Hamilton high school students, the shortlisted films were screened and voted on by members of the audience at a gala event held recently in McMaster’s L.R. Wilson Hall.

Moore says that while high school students have participated in the competition in the past, this year LNMC received a Community-Campus Catalyst grant from McMaster’s Office of Community Engagement to reach out to the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board to formally invite high school teams to take part.

LNMC also worked in partnership with staff at the Hamilton Public Library (HPL), which hosted the official kick-off event at HPL’s Central Branch in downtown Hamilton.

“What the BEEP!” by WHY NOT! Productions took top honours at the gala event. “The Box” by Neo Cinema and “The Bagel Adventure” by Lemon Key, placed second and third respectively.

Moore says she was impressed by the calibre of films screened at the year’s gala, and says it proves that while M24 might be challenging, it is doable.

“Students are capable of doing more than they think they can,” she says. “These days you can create video with your phone – so we tell students, take yourself out of your comfort zone, learn some skills, and have fun with it."

The M24 gala was sponsored by the Office of the President,  McMaster’s Alumni Association, McMaster University Library, and Media Production Services.

Technical support for both the kick-off event and the gala was provided through Campus Classroom Technologies by Library Computing and Classroom Technology Manager, Chris McAllister and Audio Visual Technician, Carlie Soares.

Watch all eight M24 films



Newly digitized Bertrand Russell prison letters reveal private thoughts of a public intellectual

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Filed under Library News:  Archives & Research Collections
A new digitization project is making more than 100 letters written in Brixton Prison by renowned philosopher and pacifist, Bertrand Russell available online for the first time, providing scholars from around the world with access to these rarely seen materials.

A new digitization project is making more than 100 letters written in Brixton Prison by renowned philosopher and pacifist, Bertrand Russell available online for the first time, providing scholars from around the world with access to these rarely seen materials.

One hundred years ago this month, Bertrand Russell – a philosopher, mathematician and pacifist, who would become one of the best-known public intellectuals of the 20thcentury – entered the stony gates of London’s Brixton Prison.

A fierce opponent of the Great War still raging in France and Belgium, Russell had received a six-month sentence for violating Britain’s Defence of the Realm Act, convicted for a comment he wrote in the newspaper of the No-Conscription Fellowship – an anti-war organization that provided support for conscientious objectors, and in which Russell was a central figure.

From the confines of his cell at Brixton, Russell – already a renowned philosopher and author with connections to some of the most famous and infamous figures of the day – focussed his intellect and emotions on writing, producing philosophical works, and penning scores of letters to those in his inner circle.

Now, for the first time, Russell’s prison letters – part of McMaster’s Bertrand Russell Archives– are being made available online through a new digitization projectdeveloped by the Bertrand Russell Research Centre. Complete with detailed annotations and fully searchable text, the project is providing scholars from around the world with access to these rarely seen materials.

 Visit the Brixton Prison Letters website to learn more

“The letters reveal the private thoughts of one of the 20thcentury’s most public figures and provide an interesting window on Russell’s inner life,” says Andrew Bone, Senior Research Associate at McMaster’s Bertrand Russell Research Centre who is leading the digitization project, along with Nick Griffin, Canada Research Chair in Philosophy and director of the Bertrand Russell Research Centre, Kenneth Blackwell, the Russell Archivist Emeritus, and Sheila Turcon, a former McMaster archivist, and Russell scholar.

The collection contains 104 letters, a number of which are written on prison stationery and initialed by Brixton’s governor – the only correspondence Russell was officially allowed. But the majority of the letters were written in secret and smuggled out of Brixton by Russell’s friends, concealed between the uncut pages of books.

“Russell’s ingenuity makes our enterprise a lot more interesting because otherwise we would have been left with just the weekly form letter in which Russell tried to transact as much business as possible,” explains Bone. “But the unofficial ones – the hidden ones – are often much more interesting.”

Though deeply involved in Britain’s peace movement in the years before his imprisonment, the letters contain comparatively little about Russell’s anti-war activities. But they provide unique insight into his personal relationships, particularly those with his then lover Lady Constance Malleson (known as ‘Colette’) and his former lover, aristocrat and socialite Lady Ottoline Morrell.

Morrell, along with Russell, was a member of the famed Bloomsbury Group which included some of Britain’s most famous artists, thinkers and writers. Her home, Garsington Manor, served as a refuge for many of these figures including pacifists and literary celebrities such as D.H. Lawrence, and T.S. Eliot, many of whom are referenced in the letters.

“Ottoline was like the star around which orbited many interesting people in English intellectual and cultural life,” explains Bone. “She wrote about her guests and Russell inquired back. So it was as if he was vicariously involved with the Bloomsbury Group’s activities from his prison cell.”

At first, Russell viewed his relatively comfortable and privileged confinement as a “first-division” inmate as a respite, an opportunity to focus on his philosophical writing and to distance himself from the No-Conscription Fellowship with whose infighting he had become disenchanted. But as the weeks and months wore on, Bone says, the letters reveal he grew increasingly listless and felt isolated, particularly from Colette.

“His letters to Colette are highly romantic,” says Bone, adding that some of them were even written in French to disguise their contents. “His affair with Colette was incredibly intense and Russell is exceedingly jealous of what she may or may not be doing – he’s tortured by this and he emotes that extremely graphically in many of these letters.”

The collection also contains letters to others who were close to Russell, notably his brother, Frank, the second Earl Russell; and his unofficial secretary, Gladys Rinder – a member of the No-Conscription Fellowship who was entrusted with distributing both Russell’s illicit correspondence, as well as the messages to pacifists, philosophers and other intellectuals contained in his authorized letters. As well, the collection includes his routine correspondence with editors, publishers and the prison authorities.

All the letters written by Russell during his time at Brixton will be made available online over the next few months and released on the days on which they were written.

Follow #@MacResCollson Twitter for links to each letter as they become available

“Hopefully, putting these letters online will generate interest in the collection, and in the Bertrand Russell Archives as well. I just hope they’ll be read, absorbed and enjoyed by Russell scholars and by those who are new to Russell as well,” he says.

There are about 40,000 letters by Russell in McMaster’s Bertrand Russell Archives. Bone says the Bertrand Russell Research Centre hopes the Brixton Letters Project will become the foundation for other digital editions of letters within the archives.

2018 marks the 50thAnniversary of McMaster’s acquisition of the Bertrand Russell Archives, the university’s largest research collection. The Library will celebrate the opening the Bertrand Russell Archives and Research Centre, the new home of the Russell Archives, located at 88 Forsyth Street N. this June.

Read more about the 50thanniversary of McMaster’s Bertrand Russell Archives

Vivian Lewis reappointed McMaster’s chief librarian

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Filed under Library News:  Mills
Vivian Lewis, McMaster University Librarian, has been reappointed for a five-year term, effective July 1, 2018.

Vivian Lewis, McMaster University Librarian, has been reappointed for a five-year term, effective July 1, 2018.

Vivian Lewis has been reappointed for a five-year term as McMaster University Librarian, effective July 1, 2018.


“Over the past five years, Vivian has directed the development of a range of innovative initiatives that have served to both support McMaster’s research community and enhance the student experience,” says David Farrar, McMaster Provost and Vice-President (Academic). “As a result of Vivian’s strong leadership, the Library has achieved a number of important successes, which I am confident she will continue to build upon in the coming years.”


Since Lewis’ appointment in 2013, the Library has made significant contributions in support of the University’s broader research mission, taking a leadership role in key campus-wide projects including McMaster Experts – an online platform designed to allow individual researchers to present their expertise in a more visible and accessible format. Under Lewis’ direction, the Library has also become a campus leader in supporting Open Access, developing a number of initiatives including the creation of an interactive online tool designed to help McMaster researchers meet their Tri-Agency obligations.


In addition, the Library has led the development of innovative resources and spaces aimed at enhancing student learning, most recently the Thode Makerspace which was co-created in partnership with the Faculty of Engineering, and has since become a hub for interdisciplinary learning and collaboration. The Library’s Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship has also grown to become a critical space for creating new technology-rich forms of research, while providing unique hands-on learning opportunities for students.


Lewis has been instrumental in strengthening McMaster’s research collections, helping to secure important archival gifts to the Library’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections, including the recently acquired Stuart McLean Archive and the archives of renowned public intellectual Henry Giroux. She also successfully championed the construction of a new space, opening in June, that will house McMaster’s renowned Bertrand Russell Archives, the University’s largest research collection.


“I am proud of what the Library has accomplished over the past five years,” says Lewis. “It has been immensely rewarding to work with the dedicated staff within the Library, as well as with our many campus partners to develop and enhance the initiatives, resources and spaces that are playing a critical role in supporting McMaster’s research and academic missions.”


Lewis is a recognized leader in her field. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), both headquartered in Washington, D.C. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries from 2014 to 2018.


Lewis first came to McMaster in 1991 as a government information specialist. She assumed the role of Associate University Librarian in 2003.


She holds an undergraduate degree from Western University, a master's in Canadian History from York University, and a master's in Library and Information Science from the University of Toronto. She is a graduate of the Harvard Institute for Academic Librarians, the Frye Leadership Institute and the ARL Research Library Leadership Fellows programme. She is a former President of the Ontario College and University Library Association and a former Chair of the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL). Lewis is also a past-president of the Hamilton Association for the Advancement of Art, Literature and Science, one of Canada’s oldest cultural organizations.

11 ways the Library can help students survive the exam crunch

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Filed under Library News:  Mills
Deskcise all-in-one desk bikes are just one of the many resources and stress-busters available at Mills, Innis and Thode libraries to help students prepare for the exam period.

Deskcise all-in-one desk bikes are just one of the many resources and stress-busters available at Mills, Innis and Thode libraries to help students get exam-ready.

McMaster Library has countless resources to help students at any time of year, but during the exam period when stress levels soar and students are studying feverishly, Mills, Innis and Thode Libraries have lots of services and stress-busters that can help make this hectic time a bit easier.

1.  Pedal your way to productivity

Flexispot Deskcise all-in-one desk bikes are now available in Mills, Thode and Innis Libraries. The units – part stationary bike, part desk – allow you to study and get moving all at the same time, and are said to increase both focus and productivity. These adjustable units include an attached desk space and a ride computer to track the time, distance and calories burned during each session.

2.  How do like them apples?

Need a healthy snack to keep you going? The Library is offering free apples and granola bars to students. They can be found in the Learning Commons at the help desk, and at Thode and Innis Libraries, as well as at the Ron Joyce Centre.  Apples and granola bars are available on a first come, first served basis – help yourself and enjoy!

3.  Trouble focusing? There’s an app for that!

Relax, learn to manage your stress, and improve your ability to focus with Muse brain-sensing headbands. Using seven sensors to detect and measure brain activity and Bluetooth to send this information to the free Muse app, the headbands provide a one-of-a-kind interactive meditating experience. Muse provides feedback on your meditation by translating your brain signals into the sights and sounds of wind, which are stormy when the mind is active and settled when the mind is calm. The app reports on your session and progress, adjusts your goals, and challenges you to remain calm for increasing lengths of time. Visit the Library Services Desk in Mills, Thode or Innis Libraries to borrow the headbands for up to a week.

4.  Add a cute dog

Liam the Library dog is a certified therapy dog who loves attention from students! Visit with Liam at the following times:

  • Thursday, April 12 – DeGroote School of Business (DSB) Lobby 1:30-2:30 p.m.
  • Friday, April 13 – DSB Lobby 1:30-2:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 19 – Innis at 11:00 a.m., Mills at 1:00 p.m., and Thode at 3:00 p.m.

5.  Forgot your headphones?

You’re all set up for an intense study session at the library, and realize that you forgot your headphones! You can still enjoy your favourite study playlist by borrowing headphones for four hours at a time from the Service Desk in Mills, Innis or Thode Libraries with your library card.

6.  Spark your curiosity and creativity at Lyons New Media Centre 

Get creative in the Lyons New Media Centre. Colouring sheets and pencil crayons, knitting, and origami available, as well as the VR glasses, and robots for students to sign out and play with. Some items can only be used within LNMC, some can be signed out for up to 24 hours. Click here for more information.

7.  Innis Library De-Stress Zone 

Take a break in the Innis Library De-Stress Zone, which includes range of activities to help you decompress including colouring materials, puzzles, word finds, Sudoku, and crosswords.  There are games to sign out, just ask at the desk.  Try out the exercise/desk bike or sign out the energy light therapy lamp. Students who complete the Innis Library word search, can submit it to our ballot box for the chance to win a prize pack that includesLibrary swag, the Stats Canada 150 humour book, treats, fidget spinner, and head massager.

8.  Unwind at Mills Library

Mills Library has board games and puzzles available for students – just visit the service desk to sign them out.

9.  Food or drink, anyone?

Vending machines with snacks and beverages are now available and being stocked regularly in Mills, Innis and Thode libraries.

10.  Past Exams

The Library has a range of past exams from Humanities, Social Sciences, Business, Commerce Engineering and Science courses that can help you be more prepared. Find exams here.

11.  Ssshh!!

Quiet study can be found in the following spaces:

  • The Connections Centre in Mills, 1stfloor
  • 6th floor of Mills Library
  • Area on 4thth floor of Mills Library
  • All areas on 3rd and 4th floors of Mills Library
  • Silent late night study in Innis Library, Mon-Thurs, 11:00 p.m. – 1:45 a.m.
  • Lower level of Thode Library, as well as a small silent study room also in the lower level


Thode library is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the end of the exam period.

Inns Library is open Monday to Thursday: 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 11p.m., Saturday: 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Sunday: 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Mills Library is open Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday: 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

The Mills Learning Commons is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the end of the exam period.



Celebrating the archives of iconic Canadian story-teller Stuart McLean

Submitted by libbalche on
Filed under Library News:  Archives & Research Collections
Family, friends, and more than 100 members of the McMaster community paid tribute last night to the extraordinary life and work of the late Stuart McLean – one of Canada’s most beloved story-tellers – at a special event to celebrate the gift of McLean’s personal and literary archive to McMaster.

Family, friends, and more than 100 members of the McMaster community paid tribute last night to the extraordinary life and work of the late Stuart McLean – one of Canada’s most beloved story-tellers – at a special event to celebrate the gift of McLean’s personal and literary archive to McMaster.

Family, friends, and more than 100 members of the McMaster community paid tribute last night to the extraordinary life and work of the late Stuart McLean – one of Canada’s most beloved story-tellers – at a special event to celebrate the gift of McLean’s personal and literary archive to McMaster.

The celebration, which took place in L.R. Wilson Hall, included live musical performances and poignant remarks from some of those who knew McLean best. It also showcased materials from his extensive archives, produced and gathered throughout his life and career as an award-winning author, journalist and humourist, and host of the popular CBC radio program, the Vinyl Cafe.

“This archive is a living memory. Each document, correspondence, or journal is like a still frame in my Dad’s movie,” said Robbie McLean, Stuart’s son who spoke on behalf of his family. “To know that exploring his life can continue to be engaged in by friends, family, fans, or students gives me what my dad would call, ‘Big Feelings.’”

McMaster president, Patrick Deane gave welcoming remarks at the event which included performances by John Sheard, musical director of the Vinyl Cafe, who played two selections, including Movie Night in Vinylland– a medley of 33 different movie themes arranged by Sheard for a live Vinyl Cafe concert on the history of cinema.

McMaster Students Union president Chukky Ibe gave a reading of an essay written by McLean called Summer Jobs.

Meg Masters, McLean’s friend and “long-suffering” story editor, also gave remarks, recalling his generosity and sense of humour, as well as his immense talent. “I think all of us who worked with Stuart would agree that we learned so much from him about the fine art of story-telling and the sometimes underappreciated demands of humour,” she said.

“Stuart was a wonderful person to work with and he was an extraordinarily gifted writer. I’m so grateful for the work that the McMaster Archives is doing in preserving the evidence of the unique talent Stuart brought to Canadian fiction.”

Watch video of the event– starts at 18:00 (story continues below)

The archive – donated by McLean shortly before his death in 2017 – offers insight into many facets of his life and work, and provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Vinyl Cafe. 

Housed in McMaster University Library’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections, the McLean archive includes dozens of notepads used to scribble down story ideas; personal correspondence with notable figures such as Margaret Atwood, Farley Mowat, Timothy Findley, Ken Dryden, and cartoonist Lynne Johnston; and hundreds of original manuscripts, such as his iconic story, Dave Cooks the Turkey, complete with hand-written editor’s notes.

“The material and artifacts produced and gathered during Stuart’s extraordinary career have a permanent, protected scholarly home here at McMaster,” says Vivian Lewis, McMaster University Librarian. “They will be the foundation for an untold number of explorations into the Canadian character and culture and we at McMaster are proud of that honour.”

McLean’s archives join those of many other renowned Canadian authors and icons in McMaster University Library’s collection including Farley Mowat, Pierre Berton, Austin Clarke, Bruce Cockburn, and Margaret Laurence.

“McMaster has built a critical mass of archival materials and scholarly output in our Canadian collection, which is particularly strong in literature, popular culture and media,” says David Farrar, McMaster Provost and Vice-President, Academic. “We are immensely proud to place Stuart’s intellectual, creative and cultural legacy in that kind of company as a key piece of the McMaster archives.”

Over his prolific and varied career, McLean worked on and contributed to some of the biggest shows in radio. He was an award-winning documentary producer on CBC’s Sunday Morningand was a regular columnist and guest host on CBC’sMorningsidewith Peter Gzowski. In 1994, he created the Vinyl Cafe, which quickly became a Canadian institution.

McLean garnered many accolades throughout his career. He was an officer of the Order of Canada, and a three-time winner of the prestigious Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. He also received honourary doctorates from a number of Canadian universities, including from McMaster in 2014.


Shining a light on Hamilton’s aspiring authors

Submitted by libbalche on
Filed under Library News:  Events
Novice writers from the McMaster and Hamilton communities, who have been working with McMaster’s Writer-in-Residence Gary Barwin, gathered for an event hosted by McMaster University Library to give readings of their work.

Novice writers from the McMaster and Hamilton communities, who have been working with McMaster’s Writer-in-Residence Gary Barwin, gathered for a special event hosted by McMaster University Library to give readings of their work.

Award-winning author and humourist Gary Barwin’s favourite piece of writing advice comes from the ever-quotable, Elmore Leonard who wrote, “Leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.”

For the past several months, Barwin, a finalist for the 2016 Giller Prize, has been offering advice of his own as the Mabel Pugh Taylor Writer-in-Residence, working one-on-one with aspiring authors from the McMaster and Hamilton communities to help them hone their craft and guide them through the writing process.

Recently, a number of these writers gathered on campus to share their work with family, friends, faculty and community members at a special event, hosted by McMaster University Library, in partnership with McMaster’s Department of English and Cultural Studies and the Hamilton Public Library(HPL).

Twelve writers gave readings of their work – some reading publicly for the first time. Works included excerpts of novels and short stories, poetry, and even literary translations.

“We are pleased to support the Writer-in-Residence program and to shine a light on these aspiring writers,” says Vivian Lewis, McMaster University Librarian. “This event is a wonderful opportunity to support writers who are at the beginning of their careers, to provide them with a platform to share their work, and to help them form connections with the local writing community on campus and across Hamilton.”

During his residency, Barwin – a writer, composer, multidisciplinary artist and author of 21 books of fiction and poetry – split his time between campus and the Central Branch of the HPL, holding more than 200 consultations with apprentice authors to share his experiences and provide mentorship and feedback.

Ben Robinson, a recent graduate of McMaster’s English and Cultural Studies Program worked with Barwin during his residency.

“The experience has been amazing,” says Robinson who gave a reading of his poetry at the event. In the audience to support him were three generations of his family – all of them McMaster alumni.

“It’s amazing to have the time and attention of a writer like Gary, he continues. “I can’t imagine what you would have to pay for that, but to have a program like this available – for a young writer, it’s the best program you could imagine.”

“It’s been a really great experience,” agrees Jeff Druery who read an excerpt of his novel at the event. “Gary gives really precise feedback. He’s very encouraging, but he’s also able to say this is the part that didn’t quite work for me or didn’t quite resonate, and here are some things to consider or options to make it better.”

Now in its nineteenth year, the Writer-in Residence program is made possible through a generous contribution by the Taylor family and is co-sponsored by McMaster’s Department of English and Cultural Studies and the Hamilton Public Library,(HPL)

A number of acclaimed Canadian authors have served as McMaster’s Writers-in-Residence including Lawrence Hill, author of the Book of Negros, and André Alexis, a winner of CBC’s Canada Reads competition for his book Fifteen Dogs, which he was working on during his residency.



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