I started off very excited about an article I read on The Textile Blog this morning. The Written Word and Textiles is right up my alley, and somewhat distracted me from the shock of another news article about how Canada's Neo-Philistine government is gutting the Library and Archives of Canada.
As the Textile article makes abundantly clear, the ability to access information has only recently been available to those who are literate. And widespread literacy, which we take more or less for granted in the developed world, only became available to us as it benefited industry. Business and industry needed workers who could read, so pressured government to provide education for all.
The Canadian government is now working to limit access to its people's history. I have often heard it said, either in jest or all seriousness, that it is not in a (retrogressive, right-wing) government's interest to have an educated electorate. I fear this is all too true in our current situation.
Several years ago, I was working an a piece about Louis Riel, one of our early Canadian leaders. I was able to visit the National Archives in Ottawa, where I was issued a card that allowed me access to the collections for research purposes. In an afternoon, I was able to track down and read the original document whose words formed the foundation of my artwork. It was a thrilling experience, and I felt so honoured and proud to be a citizen of such a wonderful country that valued and cared for its heritage.
The source of my most recent work, based on the Codex Canadensis, can be viewed online through the Library and Archives Canada website, one of the many LAC services that has been hit with cuts. The original manuscript is, oddly enough, in American hands, in the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The circumstances that brought this about are completely understandable, and although I wish the book was in Canada as it is so important in our country's story, I am also relieved that it is safe where it is. The current Canadian government wouldn't give a rat's ass about it.