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“Why Grow Here” Fan Letter

Hi Kathryn,

We met so briefly at the Barbours’ 50th commemoration, which was a shame as I had lots of questions to ask about Edmonton’s gardening history. Well, now having read the book, you have certainly answered the big question [Why grow here?] and settled numerous other issues. I wanted to write you a fan letter, to say what a engrossing read it was, and what a big contribution to Alberta’s cultural history it is. More than that, too, it deserves to be read widely in Canada, not because it is about other parts of the country but for what a terrific model it would be for future cultural history elsewhere.

GreaterToronto, if I may mention my home city, has had a large number of public and private “show” gardens as well as more modest ones and a vast expanse of market gardens and orchards since the early 1800s. As an example, Etobicoke was mostly farm land with a few villages dotted here and there, until 1945. The market gardens were owned and run by Chinese and Ukrainians, the orchards (especially for apples) by old-time Ontarians. When we were first married, 1973, there was still a 20-acre market garden at the corner of Islington and Eglinton Avenues—now a major intersection—growing vegetables. With the wind in the right direction, you could smell the crops when ripe. All gone now.

So with all that background it is sad to say there is nothing like your wonderful study for Toronto, nothing even remotely like it. If one were interested, it would be necessary to construct the history (as you have done), from a vast array of sources. Some of these sources are pretty slim. Toronto has a botanic garden in a fine Victorian glasshouse in Allan Gardens, for example; there is a three page article on its history and that is all. The area around it is now called the “Garden District” but that is just real estate fakery, because there is no history of the area from the “garden” point of view, so no one knows why it is called that.

All the essays were resonant to me, someone who is not by nature a gardener. I especially liked the chapter about Rose City. My uncle was a rose grower and breeder at Mills Roses in Bedford Park (now a north Toronto neighbourhood but then a village named after the famous garden suburb near London) just north of Toronto in the teens and ’20s of the last century. They moved to “faraway” Richmond Hill in the ’30s and continued until the 1970s. Both of those extensive properties and their miles of glasshouses are all gone, buried under expensive houses.

If I may say so, the most memorable part of your study is the essay on Edmonton’s Chinese market gardeners, which gives character to those whom history usually renders anonymous. In my youth in Toronto, the local greengrocer’s was called “the Chinaman’s” (everyone ignored the name on the shopfront: “Wong’s”). This was despite the fact that the son of “the Chinaman” was my classmate, Kennedy Ho. So your history of Bark Ging Wong’s family and enterprise was especially moving in delineating the struggles and triumphs of what must have been a terribly hard life.

What else to say? It’s a beautiful (great book design too!) and important work. So many great things in it—I hope you sell a lot of copies.

Reg Berry

June 24, 2016

Musings from Tanya, UAP Intern – #4

University of Alberta Press Celebrates Open Access!

Our Fall 2016 catalogue announced the completion of a major project at the University of Alberta Press. Since acquiring CCI Press in 2014, we’ve been busy digitizing CCI’s backlist. The digitization project resulted in the release of over 70 Open Access titles, which are available to download from our website.


In the spirit of Open Access, I thought it would be fitting to include a discussion of why it’s important to consider Open Access in publishing. But first, what is Open Access? It typically refers to scholarly research that is available for free online without too many restrictions on use (like with licensing or copyright).

Some of the benefits of Open Access are:

  • It makes research more accessible
    • Libraries have to pay large subscription fees in order to gain access to specific databases. Depending on the library, they may not have the funding to gain access more recent journals.
  • It enhances the research community
    • Making research available helps other scholars to build upon previous work.
  • It prevents duplication
    • By granting everyone access to the research, it is less likely that the research will be duplicated, opening the door to other possibilities.
  • It allows scholars to maximize their research impact
    • Research impact is becoming increasingly important in the scholarly world. Oftentimes, they must justify their research. One way of doing is by measuring the amount of times they are cited in other work. By using Open Access, research is more available, which means that the chances of being cited are far greater than if users needed to pay to retrieve the research.

With regard to the CCI titles, making them Open Access breathes new life into old research. It is our hope that everyone will take advantage of these Open Access titles. Enjoy!

Roger Epp in St. Petersburg, Russia

By Machno’s Wagon: A Meditation on Public Museums by Roger Epp

St. Petersburg is a city founded on Russian imperial ambition and filled with the museums to prove it: the Hermitage, with its throne rooms and art treasures; Peterhof, the summer palace on the Baltic, with its fountains and gardens; St. Isaac’s Cathedral, with its malachite columns and pure-gold dome. Built for tsars with all the money and labour that could be squeezed out of a peasant society, they were each meant to make an architectural impression of unchallengeable, magisterial authority.

When guides present them now, they do so with a hint of nostalgia. This is, after all, the time for making countries great again.

There have always been reasons to go to St. Petersburg. In September 1798 my direct ancestor David Epp was one of two delegates sent to the capital by the first German-speaking Mennonite colonists who had moved, by invitation, to conquered lands in the “new Russia.” His purpose was to negotiate the terms for further settlement in the south. I do not know where he lived or how he, a modest man, responded to the opulence around him. For two years he negotiated with imperial authorities – and got an audience with Paul I – before returning to his community on the Dnieper River with a much-cherished Charter and an unshakeable faith, passed down through generations, in the protective power of tsars.

My own reason for being in St. Petersburg in September 2016 was more mundane: an academic conference, whose organizers had built the city’s best-known attractions into the program. On my last day, on my own, I crossed the Neva in search of the State Museum of Russian Political History, which warranted only a single line in the guidebook.

Public history in public museums is always fraught, as visitors to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, say, can attest. There is nothing simple about Russian history in particular, certainly not now. But here was a small museum whose main exhibit threaded its way bravely between what it called the “utopia and reality” of the Soviet era, including collectivization, hunger, mass executions and the gulags. While the Russian text was not always translated into English, the meaning of objects – family photographs, letters home, a pair of thin winter boots – was unmistakable and powerful.

The real emotional sucker-punch, however, was waiting in a corner of the lobby: a tachanka, a wagon with heavy springs and a machine-gun mount that was captured from forces commanded by Nestor Machno, the anarchist scourge of the Mennonite villages in the south during the civil war. Machno is a complex figure, the subject of conflicting historical assessments. The panel’s description was matter-of-fact. But the name was enough to evoke all of the stories still told in the families of those, like my wife’s, who came to Canada as refugees in the 1920s: summary executions, rapes, terror-filled nights spent hiding in the fields. And so by Machno’s wagon, to paraphrase a book title, I sat down and wept.

Of course, I think, as I descend deep into the Metro to return across the river, surprised at myself, I am not the first person to experience so viscerally how the artifacts and trophies of nation-building can also be the artifacts of displacement and suffering. All those who remember in their bones what it means to have lived at the periphery of the nation-building project – or simply in its way – will have learned to approach public museums warily, expecting a narrative other than their own; and, even so, they can be caught completely off-guard by an object or photograph that brings a painful history home.

My point is not to argue for trigger warnings (as if it could be possible to anticipate where to put all of them) or anodyne exhibits (as if risk-free and truthful can be remotely the same). On the contrary, it is to affirm museums, the right kind, not showcases for wealth and power, but places that make possible the kind of honest, unexpected encounter I had in St. Petersburg – for which I remain thankful.

Featured Reviews of “Climber’s Paradise”

“As PearlAnn Reichwein shows, Wheeler’s ACC wasclimber's cover color_lowres_6x9_RGB instrumental in creating and promoting the Rockies as a ‘‘climber’s paradise.’’ In doing so, it worked both with and against the federal government’s Parks branch over the course of the twentieth century, pushing for conservation and preferred access as well as negotiating the changing landscape of outdoor recreation. Inspired by the British Alpine Club, the ACC can be thought of as an ethnic institution, one that sought to encourage an appreciation for the mountains and the promotion of mountain recreation as well as scientific exploration. It also acted as a political lobby group…”

Tina Loo and Meg Stanley, The Canadian Historical Review

“Canada’s national parks have a complex history in which sport-oriented nature tourism is a key element. PearlAnn Reichwein. Climber’s Paradise provides a detailed account of the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) and its entwined relationship with Canada’s mountain parks. This history focuses on western Canada and a western Canadian sport heritage. It is a valuable addition to social, environmental, and sport historiographies…”

Elizabeth L. Jewett, University of Toronto Quarterly

“Wilderness. Symbol of nationhood. Playground. Sanctuary. Revenue source. Over the last century Canada’s mountain parks have been imagined and reimagined through a spectrum of meanings and contending desires. PearlAnn Reichwein’s history of the Alpine Club of Canada explores these incarnations and tells the fascinating stories of the people who cared fiercely for the mountains and struggled over their use and value. Just as importantly, Reichwein traces out the less visible tracks of class, race, and gender that weave through the grand narratives of adventure and conquest. This is vital reading for anyone who cares about our vanishing wild heritage.”

Thomas Wharton, award-winning author of Icefields

“This is a remarkable story. It’s about how a small group of urban, middle-class, Anglo Canadians, working through the Alpine Club of Canada, sought to assert their narratives of alpinism, the environment, nation, and interpersonal relations on Canada’s western Canadian mountain parks, and the conditions they faced, the institutions they created, the political victories they achieved, and the struggles and setbacks they encountered. Professor Reichwein tells it brilliantly, bringing both a climbers’ love of the mountains and a social historian’s critical distance and research to her subject. Her analysis is illuminated with mini-biographies of the key players, grounded in their speeches and personal correspondence resourcefully dug out of archival collections, and an extensive collection of photographs. It’s an important contribution to the history of Canadian sport and recreation and a telling case study of volunteering, but anyone who has ever holidayed or even contemplated a hike in a mountain national park would enjoy and benefit from this book.”

Bruce Kidd, University of Toronto historian and Olympian

Climber’s Paradise is both an informative and entertaining read. It makes a good companion book for specialists wishing to learn further details about national park history, the history of mountaineering, the making of Canadian nationhood, and other topics. Due to the accessible nature of the text, it also provides an enjoyable gateway into Canada’s past for nonspecialists.”

Jessica M. DeWitt, Canadian Journal of History

Read more reviews on our website.

Winter Solstice 2016

On December 14, we celebrated Winter Solstice with UAlberta North. It was both humbling and inspiring to hear all the achievements Director Roger Epp, listed in his talk—and to realize that many of them are our authors and collaborators.

As neighbours and partners of UAlberta North, we have experienced the benefit of their work through the wonderful conversations we have had about research in the north and in the new friends we have made among scholars of the north. Roger Epp’s work as liaison and acquisitions editor for northern research and topics has been invaluable.

A few years ago, the University of Alberta Press launched a northern imprint. Polynya Press is moving at full speed, with three books already in the imprint and more on the way. A quick glance at the editors and contributors to these publications—Idioms of Sámi Health and Healing (Barbara Miller), Care, Cooperation and Activism in Canada’s Northern Social Economy (Frances Abele and Chris Southcott), and Imagining the Supernatural North (Eleanor Barraclough, Danielle Marie Cudmore, and Stefan Donecker) shows how UAlberta Press’ reach and influence extends throughout the circumpolar north how our author base to includes authors from around the world who write on northern subjects from other perspectives and other institutions.

What stands out about these titles is the correspondence with the northern themes that UAlberta has been pursuing. This correspondence confirms that Polynya Press is charting the future of northern studies alongside UAblerta North.

The University of Alberta Press and its northern imprint, like UAlberta North, is flourishing and set for even greater things. It is wonderful to be able to celebrate these achievements alongside those of our colleagues.

Some of the highlights of Roger’s talk at Winter Solstice included:

Peter Midgley with files from Roger Epp.


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Farm Workers in Western Canada: Edmonton Launch

The Edmonton launch for Farm Workers in Western Canada: Injustices and Activism gave key individuals an opportunity to acknowledge many years of striving to ensure that Charter rights are enforced for Alberta farm workers.

There were many key attendees from government, the activist community, labour policy organizations, media, and publishing. It was a particular pleasure to welcome:

  • Christina Gray, Minister of Labour and Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal. December marks the one-year anniversary of the Alberta’s government’s work on Bill 6: The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act.
  • David Swann, Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party, MLA, and long-time supporter of this human rights issue.
  • Darlene Dunlop and Eric Musekamp, advocates and activists who have spearheaded this conversation for over a decade, at great personal cost.
  • Bob Barnetson, professor of labour relations at Athabasca University and co-editor, with Shirley McDonald, of the book.
  • Zane Hamm, an Edmonton contributor to Farm Workers in Western Canada.

It was an honour to be in the room with these strenuous advocates for workers’ rights in Alberta—to hear their stories and learn why they were inspired to do this work.

We know that the information and stories in Farm Workers in Western Canada will reach an important audience, from farm workers to employers to policy makers. In the book, key issues are covered in depth, with accuracy, and for posterity. The launch at The Common, organized by Dr. Swann and his staff, was a great start to letting people know where they can go for this information.


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Canadian Content in a Digital World

The Association of Canadian Publishers, the national collective voice of English-language Canadian-owned book publishers, submitted a statement to Canadian Heritage’s consultations on Canadian Content in a Digital World last month.

Around the world, books are central to culture. Cultural goods in their own right, books also inspire a range of other media and art forms—film, television, music, dance, and stage plays to name only a few. With the advent of digital technology that supports the discovery and distribution of books in a variety of formats, opportunities to reach readers at home and abroad are greater than ever before. Canadian book publishers have seized the opportunity digital technology presents, building on a strong tradition of independent book publishing that has developed over the past fifty years. As we look to the next fifty, independent publishers remain committed to fostering Canadian talent, serving Canadian readers, and bringing our written culture, heritage, and perspectives to an international audience.

The Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) represents 115 English-language book publishers from all ten provinces and Nunavut. Our members are independent businesses, owned and operated by Canadians. Along with our francophone counterparts, we publish 80% of the new books written by Canadian authors each year, contribute to local economies, and are a vital part of Canada’s cultural industries. We are known internationally for our creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovative approach to business, and for the high quality books we publish. We are fully engaged in the digital marketplace, and through our sister organization, eBOUND Canada, ACP members’ ebooks generate sales in 112 territories around the world.

All cultural industries have experienced transformative change over the past decade, and we applaud Minister Mélanie Joly for her leadership in reviewing Canadian Heritage’s cultural policy toolkit to ensure it is equipped to meet the challenges and opportunities the digital world presents. We note that Heritage programs and policies have been instrumental to the development of a vibrant domestic publishing industry, owned and controlled by Canadians who are committed to serving Canadian readers and to bringing Canadian content to as wide an audience as possible. The programs and policies that support our sector are a vital component of the Canadian publishing ecosystem, and we value the opportunity to explore their relevance in today’s digital environment as part of this review.

Read the entire document on their website.