Thursday, 1 December 2011

Waiting for Digital

Crowds gather at the opening of the new Jewish Public Library at Mount Royal and Esplanade in 1952.  My grandfather had a women's clothing factory a half-block east of the easternmost building shown here.
 Photo from JPL Archives.

The Yiddish Book Center in Massachusetts will soon begin a project to digitize almost 1,500 recordings of readings, discussions, lectures and any kind of event held at Montreal's Jewish Public Library between 1950 and 1980. This follows a recent transfer of many of the Jewish Public Library's tape-recorded books onto CD, and the Yiddish Book Center's long term goal of putting the entire JPL's vast collection on a USB stick. 
"Now we have an unexpected opportunity to share the experiences of JPL’s large Yiddish audiences as they passed through a transitional moment in Jewish history. The Jewish Public Library began recording its public programs in the early 1950s; perhaps its staff foresaw that the Yiddish world was contracting, shifting from the status of a sweeping cultural force to that of a fascinating object of study. The big leather-bound log books of the programs, beautifully penned in Yiddish, English, and French scripts, list annual meetings, award banquets, concerts, and book-publication parties as well as names like Itzik Manger, Yankev Glatshteyn, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. There were multiday conferences on such topics as “Great Books of the Jewish People,” evenings honoring the anniversaries of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Night of the Murdered Poets, and, of course, political debates. Elie Wiesel came to speak, first in Yiddish, later in English. Marc Chagall appeared at the height of his career. There were Jewish humor nights, interviews, panel discussions. Flexible criteria for inclusion prevailed: in 1979, when Allen Ginsberg arrived, accompanied by a blaring harmonium, he invited his audience to chant “om” with him."

Here's the full article, written by Nancy Sherman from the Yiddish Book Center.

The same day from another angle. Photo from JPL Archives.


Friends reading, circa 1952. Photo from JPL Archives.

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