Homecoming of sorts

Oct. 15, 2021

To celebrate the recently transformed Queen Elizabeth II Library’s reference area, President Vianne Timmons participated in a special unveiling. Dr. Pam Hall’s (PhD’13) art and knowledge project, Towards an Encyclopedia of Local Knowledge (ELK), is now hanging and features prominently in the space.

Not nestled on a bookshelf, this encyclopedia consists of large panels hanging on the wall and depicts images and descriptions of local knowledge that include a wide variety of topics including hunting, fishing, boats and berries.

Passed down through generations

The ELK is the culmination of Dr. Hall’s artistic preoccupation that has spanned more than 25 years.

Through art, community collaboration and place-based research, Dr. Hall’s creative and scholarly work seeks to broaden our concept of knowledge and who holds that knowledge by engaging with local knowledge — the kind of knowledge that is passed down through generations of families and in communities.

The first two ELK chapters are by Dr. Hall and a host of community collaborators listed on her website.

The third chapter is by Dr. Hall and Mi’kmaw artist Jerry Evans and community collaborators in the Miawpukek/Conne River area.

The library’s reference section is a fitting environment for the ELK for both artist and viewer, says Louise McGillis, associate dean of libraries and project lead responsible for bringing the art installation to Memorial.

“It is not in the big fancy white cube of the art gallery or the museum.”— Dr. Pam Hall

“Dr. Hall’s art allowed us to integrate the concept of reference material in a new and powerful way,” said Ms. McGillis.

“Moving beyond the print book on the shelf, the panels provide our users with an opportunity to interact with knowledge while studying in the reference area or having a coffee in the Jumping Bean Café. The library is most often the place where research begins, but in this instance the library becomes home to the research output, and one that is new and innovative.”

Sense of community

The reference area is just one example of the recently revitalized area that once held high stacks of reference materials but now also includes tables and chairs located in an open area to reflect and encourage collaboration, interaction and a sense of community.

“Part of the sweetness is the fact that this work is in conversation with everything else at the library,” said Dr. Hall.

“It is not in the big fancy white cube of the art gallery or the museum. This is the everyday domestic space that every student passes through and where they expect to find things that will be fruitfully explored.”

For Dr. Hall, having her art in the Queen Elizabeth II Library and at Memorial University is a homecoming of sorts, she says.

“I really like that there is a place for this work to live and that it is living in the institution that helped support and sustain its creation.”

There are a variety of ways to experience the ELK. Visit the display on the main level of the QEII Library, the website, view the box sets located in the Centre for Newfoundland Studies and the Ferriss Hodgett Library, Grenfell Campus, or borrow Towards an Encyclopedia of Local Knowledge: Excerpts from Chapters I and II that is available from the Queen Elizabeth II and Ferriss Hodgett Campus libraries.