Monday, October 29, 2018

Champlain Society

John Warkentin
Went down to the annual meeting of the Champlain Society the other day, always a gathering of the tribe for Torontonians interested in published Canadiana.

The Society  discovered in recent decades that its century-old model -- members pay a hundred bucks a year, get a handsomely published book of carefully edited Canadian documents on a chosen subject, and thereby subsidize the dissemination of accessible documentary knowledge  -- just was not working anymore.  Library building among Canadians is not such a big thing anymore, 'tseems.  Proof: plunging membership, plunging revenue, looming collapse.

That was a decade ago. This AGM demonstrated that the Society has successfully been re-orienting itself away from dependency on membership dues and into other sources of revenue, along with other vehicles for disseminating historical knowledge.

One of those new vehicles is the Society's very active and ambitious podcast Witness to Yesterday.  Listeners in its founding year, 2017: 686. Listeners in 2018 (first nine months only): 6452.  Listeners in 2019: another ten-fold increase?

The Society's more than a hundred year backlist of published volumes is already available digitally, but the annual published volume in the red jacket continues to appear. This year's volume, published in conjunction with the Hudson's Bay Records Society, is Life and Death by the Frozen Sea, the 1714-17 York Factory journals of James Knight, edited by Arthur J. "Skip" Ray.

The Society also honoured some of the volunteers who keep the society running, including noted historical geographer John Warkentin, who has been serving the Champlain Society, for fifty years, and also literary scholar Germaine Warkentin, active for 20.

Society President Michel Beaulieu took me by surprise by making time to mention another recently launched partnership: cross-publication on the CS website of blog posts from (he said, not me) Canada's leading historical blogger, Christopher Moore, who occasionally takes note of Society achievements.  Thanks! -- it seems to be working.

If you were a member, you could have known this already.

Update, October 31:  Allan Williams comments:

Thanks for the tip in your “leading” blog on the Champlain Society podcasts – I listened to the one on Donald Creighton and the one with Peter Russell last night and will explore further when I have some more time.
Follow @CmedMoore