Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Index!

A few weeks ago I talked to a fur trade historian about having her read my manuscript for a cover quote, and she asked me whether or not I had begun my index yet.
I told her I hadn't.
She told me sternly that the index is very important -- that it is the guide to the book and it has to be right to work.
Well, she ought to know, and even though I do not have the designed book, I started work on the index.
I know now what she meant.
I went through my edited copy of the manuscript and indexed it, and came out with an index some thirty typewritten pages long.
Moreover, it took me three or four full writing days to complete this massive job!
Then I started to organize the index.

For example: I have 97 persons to index, to which I have to add the members of the Anderson-Seton family (3 brothers and sisters, five children, seven grandparents and uncles in the Anderson family, and three Seton ancestors), all of which are bundled in separate sections.
I have 19 lakes to index; 42 rivers; 41 fur trade posts; 20 places known to the fur traders (ie. Boat Encampment); three or four express routes and 6 brigade trails; 2 fur trade companies; 30 subjects (ie. Smell of furs) or incidences of importance (ie. Yakima War) in the fur trade; and one Japanese junk shipwrecked on the Pacific Northwest coast.
I have 27 Native tribes to deal with, with subjects separately indexed under headings such as Native fisheries, paths, bridges, or villages.
I have bundled a number of Fraser and Columbia River features (ie. The Dalles) in separate sections, and the eleven ships mentioned in this book have their own little grouping!
It's like putting together a massive crossword puzzle when you have only the words and no clues or numbered squares to help you put the puzzle together!

Then I have to decide what I am going to index re: Anderson himself -- his three Bibles; descriptions by various persons;his interests in firearms, mapmaking, and writing.
How do I indicate these?
I haven't even mentioned the American territories and British colonies and the new towns after 1850 (USA) and 1858 (BC); the Customs House scandal; Anderson's childhood in India and London; his years as a Saanich farmer and his second careers as Indian Reserve Commissioner and Fisheries Inspector!
I also have to indicate the images we are including in the book, and in some cases the captions hold important information not contained elsewhere.
For example: under the image of a fish weir at Fraser's Lake I tell the story of how the Natives killed fish with flintlock guns!
And under Angus McDonald's portrait I tell how, when McDonald visited Anderson in Saanich, he frightened all the Natives by playing his bagpipes!

So far I think I have done well in this chore, and I am glad I started it early, before I received the "created" book in PDF format.
It will still be a big job to transfer all the information from manuscript index to that in the book, as every page number will be different.
I suspect it will still take a few weeks' time.

Since the book has been sent to "design" in Vancouver, I have learned a few interesting things.
I found a description of the first Fort Nisqually I didn't have before; and I received a copy of an original portrait of A.C. Anderson from a descendant of Walter Birnie Anderson (his son).
I also got to go into the depths of the archives again accompanied by other family members, to take a photograph of the 1867 map of British Columbia as it is stored, with descendants viewing it.
Whether the photograph will go into the book depends on whether or not there was enough light available, as flashes and extra light are not allowed!

Let me tell you how this map is stored!
Firstly, the map was in pieces when the archives received it (from Lands & Works, probably).
They conserved it and mounted it on an acid-free backing (linen?) and encapsulated it between two sheets of mylar.
Mylar is a type of plastic that does not break down over time, as other plastics do.
The conserved map is hung on a rolling rack to prevent damage by handling, as would happen if it was stored in a box or drawer.
It is stored in a dark room in the highest part of the archives: for two reasons; to prevent damage by light, and water damage from a possible tsumani (the archives is almost underground, so its not very much above sea-level, unfortunately).
It is covered with a sheet of heavy black plastic which prevents fading when the lights are turned on.
"This is very critical," curator Derek Swallow tells me, "since many of the First Nations territorial boundaries and some of the written inscriptions were done in coloured, light-sensitive, fugitive ink.
"In other words, light will fade the colours."

The fluorescent lights in the room are low UV yield to prevent fading when the map is shown, and the tubes are covered in secondary UV filters -- UV being the primary source of colour fading.
"The map," Derek writes, "is of huge significance to the province and people of BC so we have put a great deal of resources into preserving it and storing it in conditions that will guarantee its longevity."

Do I sound as if all this low-UV lighting was arranged to protect A.C. Anderson's map?
Probably not, as the room is filled with art objects and paintings, including the painting of Tsilaxitsa I have spoken of before (see posting: Monday Dec. 27, 2010: Chief Nkwala and his extended family.)
When you stand with your back to Anderson's map you look almost directly at Tsilaxitsa's portrait.
It's a nice image: the two men led almost parallel lives, and after their deaths they are 'looking at each other.'
What a romantic notion!

Enough said! I am back to work on my index!
Thank you, everyone, for following my blog; I appreciate your interest in my story and I enjoy hearing yours.

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