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(Charlottetown, March 18, 2008) - It took more than 30 years, but the student publicly thanked the teacher at the Confederation Centre of the Arts' 2008 Extraordinary Symons Lecture held in Toronto February 28. Ian E. Wilson, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, paid special homage to the lecture's namesake, Professor Tom Symons in his address. Wilson worked on a committee wrestling with the challenges of an influential 1975 report, To Know Ourselves, by Professor Symons on the state of Canadian studies.
"Certainly Tom's report with its confident assertion of the vital role of archives has sustained me through my career," Wilson stated. "I thank you, Tom, for that! And thank you for allowing me to use your key phrase today, To Know Ourselves, as the best summary I have found in explaining the social role of libraries and archives."
Wilson went on to debate the pros and cons of universal access to information with digital archives and the world wide web. He described Libraries and Archives Canada as containing the "collective imagination of an entire nation" with more than 20 million books, maps, and documents, and more than 24 million photographs, and a collection of music, film and video that went on and on.
Making these archives accessible and searchable in the digital age is the challenge for today and the future.
When presented with the first Symons Medal, a specially commissioned cast piece of art, Wilson quipped that he forgot to mention that the Library and Archives of Canada also houses the nation's largest collection of medals.
Professor Symons, along with the Honourable Carolyn Bertram, and lecture co-chair George Kitching also presented medals to previous Symons Lecture speakers Mark Starowicz, and the Honourable John Crosbie who attended the Toronto lecture. Medals will be delivered to past speakers the Honourable Jean Charest, Chief Justice Roy McMurtry and the Honourable Peter Lougheed as well.
The Symons Lecture on the State of Confederation is traditionally held each fall in Charlottetown to mark the anniversary of the meetings of the Fathers of Confederation in 1864. The lecture honours Professor Thomas H.B. Symons, a supporter and board member of the Confederation Centre for many years. Professor Symons is widely recognized for his work in the field of Canadian Studies.
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