Fans of Lucy Maud Montgomery now have hundreds of her short stories, poems and other writing at their fingertips, thanks to a new digital collection created at UPEI.
The collection is called KindredSpaces, a spin on the phrase "kindred spirits" made famous in Montgomery's classic Anne of Green Gables.
"We believe this is the most effective way to make that content more accessible to people, wherever they might be," explained Simon Lloyd, special collections librarian at UPEI's Robertson Library, home to the L.M. Montgomery collection.
"The L.M. Montgomery community is exceptionally widespread and diverse and found in countries all over the world."
'The next best thing'
Now with one click, fans and scholars have instant access to more than 400 short stories, poems, and other articles and interviews published by or with Montgomery, in a wide range of Canadian, American, British and Australian periodicals. Most are from the late 1800s and early 1900s when the famous Island author was trying to launch her writing career.
Each listing contains the front cover, table of contents, pages containing the poems or stories, as well as the back cover, to recreate as much of the experience as possible.
"It is really the next best thing to having the magazine open in front of you," said Lloyd.
Creating the digital collection makes it more accessible, but also protects it.
"From a preservation point of view, it would be difficult for us as a library or for any library to make the original paper copies readily available to every researcher that would want to see them because in a lot of cases they are becoming quite fragile," explained Lloyd.
Poetry as well as prose
For fans, the collection is a rare glimpse into Montgomery's poetry, which is less known than her novels and short stories.
Lloyd gives the example of a poem called Pair of Slippers from 1900, published in Good Housekeeping in the U.S.
"She's sending that out from the little house in Cavendish in the hopes that some magazine will pick it up and indeed they do so it's a really interesting part of her story and her career, and the fact that she was already starting to get a sense that maybe she could make a living by her pen," he observed.
There are about 150 poems by Montgomery featured in KindredSpaces, a number of which would never have been seen before. Another called I Wish You was also published in Good Housekeeping in 1936, when Montgomery had become a household name.
"These were by and large not little pieces of filler but this was important feature content for a lot of these periodicals and it shows the profile that L.M. Montgomery enjoyed at this time," said Lloyd.
More material to come
The material currently in KindredSpaces is from the Ryrie-Campbell Collection, collected and donated to the L.M. Montgomery Institute by Donna Jane Campbell, who also made a substantial donation to pay for the creation of the online collection, which took more than a year and two employees doing the digitization.
It also includes rare early and international editions of Montgomery novels and reference materials, mostly as a searchable catalogue with only a few selected titles digitized because most of the texts are already available online.
Another section, to be launched this winter, will feature special items, artifacts and printed memorabilia, collected by or relating to Montgomery, things like postcards.
The plan, said Lloyd, is to continue to add content from other L.M. Montgomery collections housed at UPEI, including artifacts donated by her heirs and a collection of letters that she wrote when she was young.
The new digital collection is attracting global attention. In September, kindredspaces.ca received 170 visits from users in 10 different countries, including Australia, the UK, India, Poland, Japan, New Zealand, China, and Denmark.
"I love being able to access the archives," said Toronto-based author Melanie J. Fishbane. Her book Maud, a young adult novel about the teen years of L.M. Montgomery, will be released in May 2017.
"When you're trying to write historical fiction you want to be put in the historical period, so being able to actually see the magazine and the advertisements, that is really helpful," added Fishbane.
"I love in particular they have the older editions, international editions, all the covers."
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