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Bibliothèque de l'Université Laval

Nordicity and Ethnology Collection, Collections Spéciales

Collection Profile

There is much more to the north than the location of Santa Claus's workshop! The Library of Université Laval may not be able to shed much light on this enigma, but it is a great place to find answers about the North and its people.

The French word nordicité was coined, in the early '60s, by L.-E. Hamelin, a professor of geography at Université Laval and the founder the Centre d'études nordiques. The term refers to high-latitude regions and takes the North as an object of study in its entirety, encompassing geological, geographical, botanical, biological, and human aspects. This interdisciplinary view also applies to the library's Nordicity and Ethnology Collection.

Long before the current rise in interest in the North because of climatic change, the library started to collect texts relating to Europeans' experience in the polar regions. These documents constitute the historical nucleus of the Nordicity Collection. Most of the books are accounts and journals by explorers, notably Sir John Franklin and, ironically, those who participated in the search for the missing ships of Franklin's expedition, and by later Arctic and Antarctic explorers such as Amundsen, Nansen, Fiala, Sverdrup, Mikkelsen, Stefansson, and Shackleton, as well as more exotic explorers such as Léonie d'Aunet and Luigi, duc des Abruzzes. These books date from the mid-17th century to the early 20th century. The collection also includes memoirs of Arctic missionaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well as compilations of narratives and books on polar exploration, generally from the 18th and 19th centuries, in English, French, and German. The oldest book is Relation du Groenland (1647) by Isaac de La Peyrère. Several others date from the 18th century, including Considérations Géographiques et Physiques sur les Nouvelles Découvertes au Nord de la Grande Mer: Appellée Vulgairement la Mer du Sud: avec des Cartes qui y sont Relatives (1753). Among the more remarkable but recent volumes is a deluxe limited edition of Robert Peary's The North Pole (1910) signed by Peary, and Seven Log-books Concerning the Arctic Voyages of Captain William Scoresby, Senior, of Whitby, England (1917).

The Film Library possesses an impressive array of ethnographic archives focusing on Inuit culture, the core of this collection being the complete filmography of Arthur Lamothe. This important and quasi-exclusive holding constitutes a vivid testimony dedicated to the vanishing traditions and customs of northern aboriginal nations and shows performances of some ancient ceremonies and rituals now abandoned. The Geospatial and Statistical Center also holds important documents. Besides many maps of the Northwest Territories and the Nunavik, a few maps drawn in the early 20th century are of special interest. These document explorations led by J.-E. Bernier between 1904 and 1911, and are of special political significance because they support Canada's territorial claims to the Arctic Archipelago. The Nordicity Collection includes even more unusual holdings such as 1,451 artifacts and archaeological pieces—mainly tools and clothes—found in diverse regions of northern Quebec.

Collection Profile and Overview: Jacinthe Guay, James Lambert, Rémi Larochelle, Louise Ranger, Gisèle Wagner
Illustrations: Guy Couture and Arthur Lamothe for “Touladi”

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