Sunday, February 5, 2012

Location, Location, Location! - Day 3 Trent

"What’s going on? Do you know what that woman is doing in the atrium with all that stuff?”

The questions weren’t intended for my ears, but it’s hard not to overhear conversations in stairwells. I smiled to myself as I passed the students sizing up my installation. Once I hit the landing and turned to respond their faces dropped — the lovely young woman who had spoken earlier quickly apologized and added, “We didn’t mean to be rude, we are just wondering...” I cut her off and assured her:      

“Wondering is exactly what I want people to do!!”

It’s conversations like this that make me glad I abandoned an impulse, in the planning stages of this project, to conduct the exploration through film. (See I Blame CBC) Be it storefront, library, tradeshow floor or University corridor, I love how this sort of situational work allows me to reach people in meaningful ways. The awkward moments are worth it. 

It’s a treat to be in a University setting surrounded by so much potential. I think the productivity of the place is rubbing off.  By end of day on Friday I added three new categories and the total number of letters in the collection had topped out at over 3400.

The letters (scans) to and from Frances Stewart courtesy of the Trent University Archives, now reside in From the Loghouse to the Rectory & Back; 1823-1830.  

Another new donation, a large collection of pen pal letters exchanged between teenage girls in the 80s, is reminiscent of those found in Best Friends Forever but slightly more reserved: Far and Away is where to find them.

The third new category is a virtual one created for a letter from a Canadian WWII war correspondent writing to his girlfriend from Berlin just after the city has fallen. As one of the first into the city to cover the news he finds himself in Fuhrer’s office and takes some of the stationary as a souvenir. Written on Adolf Hitler’s letterhead, it offers a vivid depiction of postwar Germany. While it is filed under History, I think it could easily fit into Love for it’s tenderness or State of the Art(s) for it’s musings on writing and letters. (See video here)

So there you are my lady. A long letter on Adolf Hitler’s stationary. You can show it to our children and let them see that I loved you dearly. Let them also see, too, that their old man was idiot enough to have chosen newspapers as a profession. Sometimes I wish I were a postman. 
 Keep writing darling. I look forward to getting back to a mountain of letters.
                                                                                                I love you.
The virtual category I’ve created for this letter and others that may fit the bill is entitled Six Degrees of Separation. I’d known the Hitler letter might find it’s way to me some weeks ago and thought of the name for the new category then. Last week I was delighted to find that a course strategy for the class I spoke to last Friday is to examine narratives to determine which ones make people “feel connected to each other and which narratives divide us.” 

There you have it, location really is everything!


  1. Wendy, I love reading your blog. It gives me little shivers and sometimes lumps in my throat and sometimes guffaws (like yesterday's "she's a great rabbit"!). Thanks.

    1. Thanks Cardemom - Come up and see me - I'll write you a note!