Letters to the editor, March 14, 2013

These are the letters and comments from the print edition

Archival notes
It was great to hear about Rosalind Whelan's Vintage Halifax Facebook page ("Halifax in the past lane," Voice of the People, March 7). It is admirable that Rosalind has curated a space where people can use historical photographs to share memories, reconnect, and debate about the world around us. This speaks volumes to the power of archival material to serve as a vehicle for change.

But Vintage Halifax is not an archive in the truest sense. It is a website diligently managed by an individual person and owned by Facebook, a profit-minded, publicly traded corporation. Facebook is not accountable to the residents of HRM, and yet it now holds digital copies of several thousand photographs of great interest to the public at large, complete with commentary and annotations that add further historical value to the images.

On the contrary, local publicly funded institutions like the Nova Scotia Archives, the Dalhousie University Archives and HRM Archives (among others) have vast image collections that are managed and preserved on behalf of the public. These archives will also exist after Facebook is replaced by the next internet fad, which all signs suggest is coming soon to a device near you. This is an important distinction considering these institutions collectively hold most of the original images found on Vintage Halifax, as well as millions of other photographs waiting to be catalogued, digitized and fed to the internet.

Our documentary heritage is fragile, poorly funded and in need of strong advocates now more than ever, so Rosalind should be lauded for curating these historical images. But what will happen to these images in the future? Local archives may struggle to keep up with the times, but they continue to make their treasures widely available and strive to safeguard them for perpetuity. This is a daunting task, but it is what archives are all about.

Coast readers interested in Vintage Halifax should check out some of the work being done at Halifax's archives.—Creighton Barrett, Halifax

Rounding off
In his blog post "And round and roundabout we go" (Reality Bites, March 1), Tim Bousquet asks if his viewpoint sounds cynical. "Cynical" isn't really the word. Cynical implies a measure of clarity and intelligence. "Silly" is more like it.

Mr. Bousquet's rant is so full of contradictions I don't know where to start. He doesn't like the old-fashioned "complain into the mic" approach to public consultation---but we should go back to it? He found the process unpalatable---but it was fully effective and convinced most everyone, even him, that the course of action being taken is sane and sensible? Public officials should go back to "ignoring the public"? Really? That's pretty dark.

We live in a time of democratic crisis where the public feels utterly disengaged by civic process and smothered by so-called professionals doing their jobs from on high. Tim Merry and his crew are revolutionizing, or more like restoring, democracy.

A process like the roundabout one was immensely effective in delivering public education on the facts and realities of the issue without just info-dumping. The convention centre consultations made a significant impact on the final designs of the centre. Would Mr. Bousquet feel better if the crew wore suits and ties and played muzak during the breaks rather than hiring local talent?

World Cafe and its cadre of methods represent a profound shift in the way we interact as a society. They emphasize process at least as much as result, listening as much as speaking. If we're going to take steps toward an interested public, we need to examine the actual experience and process of being a society, not just stand on the sidelines and bitch. —Noel McLellan, Halifax

Anything has to be better than those two clusterfuck intersections, especially the one next to the Citadel.—posted by SwampDonkey at thecoast.ca

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