Teachers, researchers, historians, genealogists and Franco-Americans, among others, have a new online bibliographical website to connect them to references and resources about everything Franco-American.
Created through and collaboratively managed at the University of Maine Franco-American Centre, the newFranco American virtual Library contains lists and links to journal articles, published papers, dissertation, biographies, fiction and non-fiction, periodicals, artwork and audio and video materials about Franco-American life, culture and history.
The project is a unique endeavor, according to Franco-American Centre Director Yvon Labbé, because it is designed for use by members of all communities, in addition to Franco-Americans, and scholars, who are invited to add to the website anything they believe to be of relevance to Franco-American culture and history. It becomes a much more diversified, collective and open-ended resource, he says.
“What’s unique here isn’t just the content,” Labbé says, “it’s the process, as well. I find this whole thing very exciting, because Maine has not always been successful in mirroring Maine for Maine.”
A third of the state’s population is Franco-American, according to Labbé and senior faculty associate of the Centre Tony Brinkley, also an English professor.
Brinkley says the new website is a significant transition for the Franco-American Centre because it is taking 40 years worth of work at the Centre and putting it online, where it is universally accessible.
“As things go out and are accessible, it will have an impact on teachers and students in public schools,” Labbé adds — a much quicker dissemination process than revising and publishing printed material like textbooks.
A catalog of resources for Franco-American studies that’s linked to URSUS and to the Maine State library, the website categorizes annotates in a virtual collection of items by genre and theme, assigns each item geographic tags, and indicates in which library or public collection each item might be found.
“Up until now, there has been no way to find things written about Franco-Americans,” says Susan Pinette, director of Franco-American studies at UMaine. “This resource has been sorely needed by everyone — both academic and community-based researchers.”
The Library of Congress recently came up with a subject heading a few years ago, Pinette says, but even so, “if you type in ‘Franco American’ into most library catalogs, you get books written about French-U.S. diplomacy. There is no way to find Franco-American authors. Even with the Library of Congress designator, it is tough to find Franco-American fiction.”
Pinette, Labbé and Brinkley have worked for the past year with independent researcher and website architect Jacob Albert of Augusta to create the comprehensive online bibliography. The Québec-based Centre de la Francophonie des Amériques provided the funding. The Québec centre is dedicated to developing a promising future for the Maine French language in the context of cultural diversity by enhancing relationships among Francophones and Francophiles of Québec, Canada and the Americas, according to its mission statement.
Albert says the resource currently is populated by materials relative to Franco-American interests in Maine, New England and pushing west, but will grow nationally through public use and user submissions. “Once this becomes more public, we hope folks will get excited about it and help us add to it,” he says.
Its production also was made possible by the support of Chez Nous, a chapter of Royal Arcanum-ACA, formerly known as Association Canado-Américaine.