It smells like dinosaur

From Godzilla to Barney, and all the Jurassic Park sequels in between, it is safe to say that almost every kid has drawn a dinosaur or two at some point.

The bones of real dinosaurs are preserved and displayed all over the world. They help us understand and admire their bygone animal supremacy.

Did you know that we also care for their feces? Yes, dinosaur poop has its own museum! Well, actually a museum for feces that have mineralized, and turned into coprolites.

The Poozeum was first launched as an online resource in 2014, by its founder George Frandsen. Ten years later, it recently opened its physical gallery and storefront in Williams, Arizona, not far from the Grand Canyon. Poozeum holds the largest of such collections, with about 8,000 coprolites. It holds a Guinness World Record for it, and also for holding the largest coprolite (67,5 cm x 15,7 cm) ever found, which George Frandsen says likely comes from a T.rex.

Next time you draw a dinosaur, don’t you forget its coprolite. Who knows, maybe one day we will find out that the whole planet is but one humongous spinning orbiting coprolite, or a derivative thereof.

Founder George Frandsen strikes the pose at the Poozeum. Source: Poozeum, 2024.

Connecting generations

About one hundred people of different generations came to appreciate inspiring art, made by the student of the University of Guelph Child Care and Learning Centre (CCLC). The art for Exploring Connection was on display all week and part of the school day for students. A ceremony was held on Thursday.

Eight rooms were filled with hundreds of images made in various media, each reflecting a specific theme. They were created by the children over the recent months. It is always great to see artworks where they were made. Several of the images are displayed on our dedicated web page and will available all summer. We were given the opportunity to present some of our collection items to visiting families.

It is full of admiration for the CCLC educators who so wonderfully accompanied their students and documented the process, under the guidance of Pedagogical Leader Kimberley Barton, that I presented their director, Valerie Trew, with a certificate of appreciation. Both partners of this exhibition project are grateful for the sponsorships and kind support from LINAMAR and GUELPHTODAY.com.

The CCLC was the perfect place and team to hold our first ever exhibition partnership. It is a place where children, their care givers, educators and researchers can learn from each other. Several families have expressed the intention to contribute to the collection. More to come about new items soon.

Valerie Trew (left) and Kimberley Barton receive CDIC certificate from Léo Beaulieu, 13 June 2024. Photo: Kim’s mom.

International Archives Week 2024

This year again, we add our voice to those of many dedicated people and institutions that care for archives around the world. This year’s theme is #CyberArchives.

The International Council on Archives has put together an impressive global agenda for the occasion, filled with a wide variety of events. One of them is our Exploring Connection project, coming to fruition on June 13th during a special ceremony, at the University of Guelph Child Care and Learning Centre.

This to say that the past still has a long and bright future ahead.

A take on family estrangement

Building a collection such as CDIC’s often means bumping into difficult questions and hurdles. Children’s drawings have nearly all vanished for centuries, even millennia. There are basically two reasons for that. One is that there is little value attached to them, and by extension children, because of the temporary nature of childhood. Either they grow too fast, or we just cannot wait for them to grow up. The other reason is that even if great value is given to learning and art made by children, it is generally a personal value shared and enjoyed in private among family members, not with the community. It is for the family scrapbook only.

In our efforts to expand the conversation about preservation, we wonder what triggers some individuals and some parents to hang on to those fragile objects. We also ask ourselves, is there a best time for families to contribute items to the collection? It is hard to say. The best time is probably when both the parent and the child agree to let the original image leave home. That is in the case of a young child. If the child has become an adult and has childhood art, likely preserved by a parent, this person may have lost interest in the image, or may want to honor the parent who kept it safe.

When a family keeps child art pieces for a long time, it looks like a positive sign for their preservation. It likely means that the initial impulse sprung from a strong bond between the child and the parent. It could however turn out to be the opposite, and the longer a family keeps the art, the more endangered it becomes. This is because like any other relationships, family bonds can fluctuate over time.

Adult children sometime grow apart from their parents or their siblings. When this happens, physical objects that they shared in the past come to take different meanings. The value and meaning of any art from childhood change, and may become dispensable. Family estrangement, when it happens, can put conservation of children’s art at risk.

The decision to preserve or not children’s art is and will remain in the hands of individuals and parents. Our participatory approach to collection development aims to add a collective or community layer to the equation. Our hope is that this will stimulate dialogue between generations, and cultural awareness.

Family estrangement has been under the scrutiny of a small number of scholars over the past ten years. They inform us that several factors can bring family members to stop interacting with one another. Family members can keep their distances for various periods of time, from a few months, to years, or for life. They can sometime grow apart gradually, without even explicitly knowing why. A pioneer on the subject is Dr. Kylie Agllias, adjunct lecturer at the University of NewCastle, in Australia. Her book Family estrangement: A matter of perspective (Routledge, 2016) is a go to reference. Gerontologist Dr.Karl Pillemer of Cornell University also authored the book Fault lines: Fractured families and how to mend them (Penguin, 2022). His book has a significant portion on resilience and reconciliation. In 2015, the British organization Stand Alone conducted a groundbreaking survey. Over eight hundred people responded. Their findings were published in the report by psychologist Dr. Lucy Blake, of the Centre for Family Research at University of Cambridge: Hidden voices: Family estrangement in adulthood, and available online. It is most revealing of some aspects of modern life.

Family members. By Léo, c1969s. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

April fool for real

Will an April 1st come when pranks and their fools will go unnoticed? Maybe we have already reached this point.

In recent years, we have seen the proliferation of fake news, as well as reciprocal foreign interference through social media. Add to this the several armed conflicts across the globe, of which many say the first victim is truth itself.

We thought we would make things real this year, by sharing our April Fools image with you. The pencil drawing was made in Quebec, during World War II. It is a long standing French tradition to stick a small fish on the back of an unsuspecting victim on April 1st. Interestingly, it was not preserved by the young girl who made it, nor by her mother, but rather by her older sister. It is now part of Lisette Tremblay’s fonds in our collection.

April Fool. By Bérangère Tremlay, c1944. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

Research interviews for Canadians

Calling all Canadian residents. Take part in an interview that will help uncover new knowledge about children’s art conservation. A research team at McMaster University Research Shop is looking for parents and grand parents who will give an hour of their time before April 1st, 2024. Scan the QR code below or use this link to request an interview. 

The interview will be conducted individually on Zoom, and will be about art and children’s art. Participants will receive a $25 gift card for their participation. Please note that interview spots are limited. Participants will be selected to interview such that various backgrounds and perspectives are represented. People not selected for a live interview will have the opportunity to fill out a questionnaire if they wish to share their input.

For further information, contact project lead Syed Mahamad (mahamads@mcmaster.ca, 905-525-9140 ext. 26804).

If you have a virtual or wall bulletin board, by all means post and share this PDF poster and spread the word for us.

Research Shop at McMaster University is a co-curricular program that works with public, non-profit, and community organizations in Hamilton. It supports students with research opportunities in the community.

We would like to thank the Office of Community Engagement at McMaster University for facilitating this partnership.

Anthropomorphism

It is a vast and complex subject, as old as storytelling itself in current and past civilizations. This ability we have to project human features and qualities to non-human animals, plants and things is so omnipresent, we just have to glance at gamer avatars, or our sport team mascots to measure its far reaching impact. It can be found in basically any art form.

A short blog post cannot dive into the intricate complexity and ramifications of anthropomorphism. This post is meant to highlight the fact that some researchers with various backgrounds are increasingly questioning how the, let’s call them traditional storytellers, are making use of anthropomorphism. So, parents, writers, illustrators, playwrights, and even clerics, pay attention because a diverse group of literary critiques, cognitive scientists, social theorists and ecologists want to talk about anthropomorphism as a double edged sword.

On one hand, there are the well-known benefits, as mentioned by Nigerian researcher Helen Adhuze, in an article titled The face and phases of anthropomorphism in children literature, “Anthropomorphized characters boost empathy in children.  This relational attitude is facilitated through the human imagination operational at the various stages of human development. Essentially,  anthropomorphism  is  a  human attitude  developed  as  a  child  and  maintained through adulthood.  It is a specific human attitude, not a childish mistake.” (Adhuze, Journal of Language, Literature and Culture, Vol. 1, no. 1, 2022)

Growing up, we become experts “anthropomorphers.” Parents and educators know too well how anthropomorphic characters can be efficient attention grabbers, and motivation boosters for children engagement. For example, take this school activity developed by Creative Exchange, a collaboration project of the England Arts Council and Durham University (United Kingdom). The activity shows “How to use anthropomorphism to release children’s creativity,” to develop their imagination and collaborative skills. The vast majority of contents in elementary school libraries include anthropomorphic images.

Not everyone agrees that anthropomorphism has only benefits, and some give it a thumb down, pointing to what may loom in its shadow. We find much of these warnings in an exhibition catalogue, of Animals Are Us: Anthropomorphism in Children’s Literature; Celebrating  the Peter Solomon Collection. The exhibition was presented in 2021 at the Houghton Library, in Cambridge. The catalogue by Thomas Hyry and several others, offers a great reading experience, and includes awesome illustrations. Four contributors penned the chapter “The Pitfalls and Potential of Anthropomorphism in children Literature.” It shows clearly how the practice more than often perpetuates stereotypes and demonstrates blatant lack of representation and diversity. We cannot help, it seems, but project both our virtues and flaws into whatever we want to make more human. The authors raise important red flags, and see greater awareness as an important step for better storytelling.

They close with a glimpse of optimism, saying that as fields such as childhood studies, psychology, and literacy education developed their understanding of the child reader, children’s literature also evolved to position children as more purposeful, thoughtful, and agentive”(Animals Are Us exhibition catalogue, p.23)

In 2014, psychologists Patricia Ganea, Caitlin Canfield, and Kadria Simons-Ghafari investigated and concluded that anthropomorphism will actually inhibit children’s ability to learn actual facts about the animal world. It is, they argued, as if the fantastic nature of anthropomorphic characters “may not only lead to less learning but also influence children’s conceptual knowledge of animals.” In their article Do cavies talk? The effect of anthropomorphic picture books on children’s knowledge about animals (Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 5, 2014), they explain that there is a range of anthropomorphism that goes between a completely fantastic and a partially realistic characterization. They saw that when selecting books for their students, teachers tend to favor less realistic images, and rarely choose books where animal characters are shown in their natural environment. This, they say, may bring children to a lack of understanding of biological aspects of animals. In other words, children should be told when they are exposed to anthropomorphized creatures, told that it is not factual information, even when this might seems obvious to adults.

If you think educators, psychologists and literary critics are the only ones interested in the subject, think twice. Scholars in computer sciences, as well as religious studies are also showing interest in how children go about anthropomorphism. See what some of them have to say in this amazing book When Children Draw Gods A Multicultural and Interdisciplinary Approach to Children’s Representations of Supernatural Agents, published by Springer in 2023, as part of a book series New Approach to the Scientific Study of Religion. The chapter by Gregory Dessart and Pierre-Yves Brandt, Humanness and Non-Humanness in Children’s Drawings of God: A Case Study from French-Speaking Switzerland is of particular interest. It presents a case study with a focus on de-anthropomorphization as a progressive process. According to them, children undertaking religious education could be less inclined to portrait God with human traits.

As I reflect about the scientific articles cited above, isn’t it interesting that ecologically minded educator and religion educator might each hope that children be less impacted by anthropomorphism each for a different motive, the first for giving access to biological facts, and the other for less human-like representations of the divine? The socio-emotional power of anthropomorphism is immense. Is it too strong or misleading? It is an important question.

You want more anthropomorphic images? See this quickly read, well-illustrated article by Meagan Jones, on the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies’ website: Degrees of Humanity: Anthropomorphism and its development in children’s book illustration (2013).

portrait, landscape, religion, crayons, paper, 1960s
Great (detail) as in God is Great. By Leo, c1969. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

The sound of drawing

The visual depiction of sound and music has kept musicians and artists busy for a very long time. The evolution of music notation is one of many examples of this lasting connection between the two forms of expression. One could argue that music notation probably has more do to with writing than drawing. The graphic display of soundwaves seems a more direct way to show sound. However I have never seen or heard of a musician using an image of soundwaves as partition.

In illustrations, say of someone shouting or playing trumpet, we are used to see lines coming out of a mouth or an instrument. The illustrator will sometime accompany the lines with onomatopoeia, to specify what the viewer should hear. Another example is that of making voices visible in comic strips with the three basic balloons of thought, talk and scream, and their many variations in emotional tone.

With the advent of cinema, video, and audio recording, image and sound eventually came together in a such way that we tend to forget their independence. Cinema and video is about moving images, and artists have always shown interest in exploring their relation to sound and music.

One of them is Danny Clay, who takes music notation to new playful heights by inviting students to invent and draw their own music notation icons for composing. This is a sound to image to music process.

Other artists committed to explore sound and images, is the duo Heike Liss and Fred Frith who improvise the sound and the image that emerge as one, during a live performance. This may appear a simultaneous act of creation, but the sound leads the drawing in this artistic performance. It is a sound to image process.

The simultaneous production of sound and images  has become quite sophisticated with the aid of digital programs and devices. One prolific artist in this field is Benjamin Heim, who works both individually or with numerous collaborators on large scale projects. This is a simultaneous music-image process where the music determines the movement and duration of the image.

In this relation between audio and visual expression, the preoccupation with visually depicting sound seems the main concern. Only with moving images, do creators preoccupy themselves with what images sound like. But what about still images? Are they condemned to remain silent? The only sounds that are connected to still images are the ones made while the image is created. The only movements connected to fixed images are the past movements of its making, and the movements of the eyes of the viewer.

Luckily, artists never stop searching, and some are exploring sound as it emerges from images, movement, or movement making images. Anna Ridler is one of them. She uses traditional visual media with contemporary digital and audio devices, to created images out of movement and sound.

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that there are now ways to draw on screen with movement and sounds without even touching the screen. Google partnered with CreateAbility Inc. to create Sound Canva. Go ahead and try it out. Tutorials are available too.

Below, André Franquin’s Gaston signs office documents with a deafening jackhammer.

Gaston. Ink on paper, by Léo Beaulieu, c1974. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

Website update

We wish everyone a fantastic 2024, and we take this opportunity to thank the nearly 14,000 people who visited our website this past year. The site received over 400,000 hits, which is a 30 per cent increase from the previous year. Users obviously appreciate that we made the collection accessible and searchable online.

These past few months, our e-newsletter list also grew to over a 1,000 subscribers worldwide. We keep the distribution to only a few issues per year, so your inbox is safe with us.

PUZZLES

There are simple and elaborate ways to make your own puzzles, from your own images or drawings.

The easiest way is just to cut up the image in random pieces of whatever shape or size you want. It is probably better to make the pieces the same size, but you can decide otherwise. However, this method will likely result in the pieces not nesting into each other, and the mosaic will not hold well.

Weather you use this technique or another, it is a good idea to use a reproduction of your original. By doing so, you have a model to guide you. This is particularly useful if you gift the puzzle, and the recipient has never seen the original.

If you have a printer and are patient enough to cut traditional puzzle shapes from a blank model, there are a couple of great tools we found online. Have a look at this puzzle tool on Telegnom.org. There are also several templates on Twinkl, but unlike the previous one, you will need to create an account.

There are also retail options for blank puzzle pieces, and they vary greatly in price and quality. CreateJigsawPuzzle has a good selection, including wooden and acrylic pieces, beside the regular cardboard.

Pikkii sells blank puzzles with a traditional style painting frame printed along the edges.

If you buy blank puzzles to draw or paint on, take a photo of your drawing after it is done, so you have a guide when you put it back together.

Images that fill the page, and show a variety of colors and contrasts, make great puzzles.

landscape, pencil, paper, 2020s
Landscape. Sri, 2021. Source: CDIC-CIDE.
error: Content is protected !!