News from the driveway

The long title of this post is: Great news from Macaire’s worldly driveway. Indeed Macaire Everett and her muse brother Camden make the news again this Spring 2021, by publishing an amazing book, filled with more than 120 full page photos of chalk drawings by Macaire.

The book The world from our driveway (on Amazon) depicts the journey of two siblings facing the imperative remote learning, imposed by the pandemic. With its behind the scene section, the book shows how what started as a home remedy against boredom, turned into a family and community effort for promoting resilience and bringing smiles and joy around the world.

Macaire had largely shared her work digitally on social media. One of our earlier posts last Summer linked to her busy Instagram. It is such a relief that Macaire’s work, though ephemeral by design, can be preserved on paper. Maybe the driveway itself will some day receive a heritage site designation from UNESCO. And we are only half kidding, because we heard that museums around the world are racing to document life during this pandemic.

The compositions are so inspired and engaging, that picking a favorite is mission impossible. With Mothers’ Day coming up, see Macaire’s touching birthday drawing to her mother. It will melt your heart. For us at the Collection, if we had to pick one, it would the one titled We are all in this together. Not only is it a propos because of the pandemic, it is also one for which Macaire digged into her own personal archives, and in which she staged herself with her muse. In this image more than in all the other ones, personal and universal appeals come together and come full circle.

The world from our driveway, back cover. By Macaire Everett. Source: Amazon.ca, 4 May 2021.

Discover the Wordbank

CDIC is better known for its interest in images from children, be it drawings, collages, paintings or mix media. Keep in mind that we also have a passion for photographs and digital expressions by children. They can be digital drawings, video and audio files. The more items we collect and preserve, the more useful our collection can be to scholars and authors who wish to access it in the future.

We recently found out about a fantastic research project on language acquisition in infants and toddlers. Initiated by cognitive scientist and developmental psychologist Michael C. Frank, the Wordbank is an impressive database of audio files from over 75 000 children and 30 languages. Frank and his research team from Stanford and Chicago universities, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published the latest of their findings in a book available at Random House and MIT Press: Variability and Consistancy in Early Language Acquisition, the Wordbank Projet. The Language and Cognition Lab at Standford University made the document available on GitHub. This is valuable material for all early childhood specialists interested in language acquisition.

Stanford Magazine published a nice review by Deni Ellis Béchard, in its March 2020 online edition, What Kids Are Saying These Days. It gives an account of how Michael C. Frank came to developing his research and provides highlights from the book.

Wordbank website header. Source: Wordbank: An open database of children’s vocabulary development (stanford.edu) , 22 December 2020.

Let’s make History

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, if we keep repeating the same mistake, but expect different results, we are insane. Up until recently, too little was done to preserve the expression of children. The result is that the contribution by children to the societal narrative has been erased and historians do not have access to enough if it to draw significant interpretations from it. This situation is particularly unfortunate for the past 150 years, since the emergence of public elementary education in western cultures.

Fortunately, change seems underway in the 21st century and a few historians demonstrate a growing interest in what kids have to say or show. It is about time because whatever was left on paper by children during the second half of the last century is about to vanish. We created our Collection largely to remedy the situation and to leave mistakes of the past behind, when it comes to preserving children’s drawings.

A superb article by Professor Karen Sánchez-Eppler (Amherst College), published by The Conversation, is an encouraging sign that children’s drawings may find their rightful place in history and help history reveal itself to future generations: How studying the old drawings and writings of kids can change our view of history.

We also take notice of the recent mostly European initiative by the International Research and Archives Network (IRAND) and their Historical Children’s Drawings display. This initiative is a contribution to the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme. Read the beautifully illustrated article by Dr Jutta Ströter-Bender, co-founder of IRAND, published on Research Outreach.

The Nelson Brothers’ Encyclopedia of Their Fictional World, 1890s. Amherst College. Source: TheConversation.com, 23 November 2020.

When it’s all up to you

As a parent, you may be an art enthusiast and your child’s biggest fan. You have set up a creative corner, you have a framing and display system in place in the kitchen or elsewhere in the home. Most of all, you involve your child in decision making, when comes the time to keep, re-use or dispose of drawings. Your disappointment comes when each time you ask, your child does not share your interest and suggests that everything can just go in the trash.

Drawing and what comes out of it might just not be your child’s number one interest and it is perfectly fine. Your artistic inclination does not have to converge with your parental guidance and judgement. It is probably time for you to decide whether collecting your child’s images is your own project, for the time being. As a parent, cherishing and keeping traces of your child’s cognitive progress, imaginative storytelling, and his or her interpretations of play and family moments, can be your own personal project. Your child might not be that interested at the moment, but what about when she or he will have grown up? You might want to know what the reaction will be years from now, when you open your precious archives. Joy and gratefulness will most likely be the response. And even then, if it is not and you are instead met a “but why”, you will know exactly why and will not regret a moment of it.

My dream, by Valerie, c1982. Source: CDIC-CIDE, 12 October 2020.

In Onfim’s footsteps

Nobody knows who this young boy named Onfim was, but we know when and where he lived: Medieval times, Russia. Thanks to Onfim himself, for drawing, thanks scientists’ curiosity and a great deal of luck. Onfim’s drawings were not meant to be preserved for centuries, yet they were by chance, due to where they ended up and preserved by natural elements. Find out the details of this amazing discovery in Justin E.H. Smith‘s article on on LitHub.com: Onfim Wuz Here. His article previously appeared in Cabinet Magazine. Let us all be inspired by Onfim’s images and make sure that in centuries from now, people will have access to today’s images from children, not by chance, but by design.

Gramota No.203, after Onfim. Source: LitHub.com, 19 July 2020.

Each one a bridge

During the current social distancing Spring, we hear often that there will be a before and an after the pandemic. Interesting, but there has always been a before and after, and most likely there will be for a long time to come. We just so happen to be in a situation to acquire an acute sense of it being so, because we all experience a common trigger of change. We mind the before and after more than ever before, because the present is changing so fast and in a threatening way.

Caring for the long term future is a way to nurture one’s own resilience and encourage others to do the same. That is why today we invite you to make it a personal or a family project to build your personal archives for the next generations. Each and everyone of us is a bridge. A bridge between the past and the future. It is a matter of assuming this responsibility to tell and show our story, each from our unique perspective. The good thing is, this can be a lot of fun too. Revisiting our past through our belongings, makes us see that the past too can change real fast when we wrap and share it.

We chose this well advised article by Mike Ashenfelder, first published by the Library of Congress, to get you started: Your Personal Archives Project: Where Do You Start?

Bridge, c1966. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

This was Spring 2020

What do the kids draw while schools are closed, during this global pandemic? Which telling images will remain as memories, to illustrate future tales to children and grand children?

Does anyone have children’s drawings of the time of the Spanish Flu, a century ago? We doubt it, but let’s do everything we can to prevent a similar catastrophe this time around. Stay safe and protect those vulnerable around you!

Tristesse, by Valerie, c1982. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

From an illustrated storybook to a storied illustration

When we carefully study its content, a child’s drawing can prove to be a window to the child’s world, and to our own as well. Should this drawing be old enough, it may give us a view to a nearly forgotten past. The drawing below, from our collection, was made by a boy, in the mid 1960s. Here, the hint to the past is actually spelled out in the words added to the drawing. It gives the title of a storybook which the drawing refers to. The book, written by Paulette Blonay and illustrated by Pierre Nardin, certainly made an impact on this child, and now resurfaces on our blog. The book itself is a rare find at antique sellers. Paulette Blonay’s Lili character and book series reached world wide fame and are easy to find, but little Tony not so.

Online searchability in the works

We are working towards making our collection searchable online. Tell us what interest you the most in children’s drawings and which criteria you would use in our search tool. Tell us whether you would select primarily country of origin, date, age, subject portrayed, theme or other criteria. If you use often a search tool that you prefer to others, please share your preference with us. We are currently considering Access to Memory (AtoM) open source software by Artefactual Systems.

Access to Memory (AtoM) logo.

Keep or toss? We are the answer!

We share this fun-to-read article by Mary Townsend, published in The Atlantic: Throw Your Children’s Art Away. We certainly feel for families facing the dilemma. However, we are an archives and we are all about conservation. No longer feel torn apart between keep or toss… we are the alternative, contribute to the collection.

Throw Your Children’s Art Away, theatlantic.com, 30 September 2019.