Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Whirlwind Account of The Manuscript Society Annual Meeting 2012 - Quebec City

It was my honor and privilege to join the Board of Trustees of the Manuscript Society this year. We're an international nonprofit organization founded in 1948 and devoted to the collection, preservation, use, and enjoyment of autographs and manuscripts. Our annual meeting is in a different city each year, and for 2012 we had the pleasure of exploring the treasures of Quebec City, Canada.

The Redpath Museum at McGill University
Neither my wife Stephanie nor I had ever been to Canada so we began our trip in nearby Montreal a couple of days before the official itinerary began. We visited the Redpath Museum at McGill University which consists of three floors of natural history and world culture artifacts - both areas are right up our alley. We also visited Montreal's McCord Museum of Canadian History - home to collections of costumes, paintings, art and aboriginal objects. It seemed like they must have known that we were coming because one of their main temporary exhibits was Mary Pickford and the Invention of the Movie Star. The exhibit featured some incredible manuscript items like a 1920 signed distribution contract for United Artists and a 1924 Motion Picture Relief Fund Certificate signed by Mary Pickford and Cecil B. Demille.

Pickford Inscribed Photo on her Wedding Day to Husband Douglas Fairbanks 1920
We took the train to nearby Quebec City and arrived at the historic Château Frontenac which was our home base for the annual meeting. My first full day there was spent with the other board members taking care of our regular business: budgets, membership, marketing, ethics issues, future annual meetings, honors, and scholarships. Since it was time for the well-respected Herbert Rubin to step aside to make room for new board members such as myself, he was unanimously elected as an honorary board member for life. At the end of the day, we enjoyed a cocktail reception with the other meeting participants in the Salon Rose Room. We learned that the room had hosted critical meetings between world leaders Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and William Lyon Mackenzie King during the Quebec Conferences of World War II in 1944.

Our Quebec City adventure begins outside the Château Frontenac
The next day we begin with a talk by our host David Mendel entitled Quebec: World Heritage City. For those of us with a basic "American" education, the talk certainly filled a number of holes in our knowledge of Canadian history and served to orient us for our visit. We took a walking tour of Upper Town and stopped at the Ursuline Convent to explore its museum and archives. It is the oldest educational institution for women in North America and still functions as a school.

Outgoing president Barton Smith and the Manuscript Society outside the Ursuline Convent
Metting with the librarian to view the treasures of the Ursuline Archives
1831 Manuscript with the Seal of King William IV
1671 Testament of Madame de la Peltrie who started the Ursuline order of Quebec 
We had lunch that day at Le Parlementaire Restaurant at the National Assembly, where we took a guided tour and visited their library and archives. The origins date to 1791 and serve the members of the National Assembly in their duties of governance.

The Manuscript Society checks out the Goods and mingles with the Archivists
Oldest Item in the National Assembly Library - 1472 Thomas Aquinas Book
Register of Oaths taken by Members of the Legislative Assembly
Later that evening our group visited the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity with a special viewing of communion silver given by King George III. We were also treated to a double-bill concert. First, the church organist demonstrated a rare English chamber organ made in London in 1790 that was recently moved to the Cathedral. Next, our esteemed ex-president Barton Smith performed several piano pieces - including compositions by J.S. Bach, Chopin, and Scott Joplin. Finally, he quizzed the audience with a mystery ballad by a manuscript dealer who died in 2000 and was once a famous chanteuse. The song was on the Hit Parade several times, the most famous version being by Nat King Cole. Can you guess the answer?

The next day was filled to the brim with activity - a walk to Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica, an exploration of the exhibitions and archives of the Seminary of Quebec, and a visit to the National Archives of Quebec.

Inside the Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica

Visiting with one of several Librarians at the National Archives of Quebec

Early Choir Book at the National Archives
The Autograph of one King Louis of France (or is it the "Hand" of the King?)

The Autograph of another King Louis of France
James Pattison Cockburn (1779 - 1847) Original Illustration of Early Canada in the Archives
For lunch that day we had just barely enough time to cover a business meeting and auction off about 60 lots of donated manuscript material to benefit the Manuscript Society. The annual auction is always one of the highlights of our annual meetings, and certainly the most boisterous. UACC President Michael Hecht and I had a bidding war over a Jack London signed check which he finally let me have (thanks, Michael). I returned the favor by quickly parting with a David Selznick letter that I had been eyeing. I also was lucky enough to provide winning bids on several other goodies - an autographed Jack Benny letter, an Al Capp signed contract, and several signed Hollywood photos including Mr. Television himself, Uncle Miltie.

Milton Berle Signed Photo
Pearl Bailey Signed Photo
Our final day in Quebec City consisted of a walking tour of Lower Town and a trip to the Island of Orleans where we walked across the majestic Montmorency Falls. Our farewell dinner at the Garrison Club was accompanied by a talk about the Napoleon/Josephine/Marie-Louise love triangle by member Peter Friedman.

Our Hotel as Seen from Lower Town 

Me and the Mrs. at Montmorency Falls
Next year: Santa Fe, NM and another adventure. We can't wait!

1 comment:

  1. A good job on reporting the Quebec meeting.
    The song I played was "Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup," written for the cabaret singer Hildegarde by her manager and friend Anna Sosenko.
    Sosenko later dealt in autographs from her Manhattan apartment.