The French connection: Halifax library display celebrates Acadian and francophone roots
Project also lit a spark for group working on creating a francophone cultural centre for Halifax.
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A permanent bilingual display dedicated to Nova Scotia’s Acadian and francophone roots was unveiled at the Halifax Central Library on Thursday.
‘L’acadie et la francophonie: Notre histoire/Our Story’ is described by the library as a digital presentation of images and information intended to tell the story of one of the province’s founding cultures.
“The content was community-driven. Yes we wanted to emphasize some of the key points in history, but also to make the point that this is a vibrant living culture today,” said Heather MacKenzie, manager for diversity services for Halifax Public Libraries.
“We wanted the Acadian and francophone community to come in and see that their culture is valued and celebrated in a public forum, in a place that’s a real community hub, a destination. And we also wanted to create awareness in the broader community about that culture and perhaps it will be a springboard for them to want to learn more.”
MacKenzie said library staff worked closely with the local Acadian and francophone community whose members determined the content and images. The display was designed in a way that its content can be updated and refreshed.
The digital display was created to include vibrant images and basic informative text in both French and English.
It is permanently located on the fourth floor beside the library’s local history collection and is the latest celebrating founding cultures. African Nova Scotian and First Nations installations are also onsite.
Library project lit a spark
Victor Tétrault was a member of the local Acadian community who worked with Halifax Central Library staff to create the new bilingual display.
He said momentum from that project has fuelled their fire for another major project, the creation of a francophone cultural centre in Halifax.
“For the longest time our Acadian and francophone community has been silent. Invisible. Quiet. It’s nice to be seen not heard, but at the same time we felt that we had a lot to contribute to the community,” he said.
“We need a francophone centre in order to raise our profile in the city because we have a wonderful culture and we want to share it.”
For at least 25 years, the community has discussed the possibility of a francophone cultural centre. Tétrault said it became more focussed last May following a meeting of the francophone community’s chamber of commerce.
“It went from 0 to 150 miles an hour like that. This week we met with the mayor and his staff in charge of real estate for the city,” he said.
“We looked at different properties. We’re still looking. We’re talking. It’s moving. It’s taken on a life.”
In addition to serving as a gathering place that’s outside of a school, Tétrault said they’d like it to be a spot where people can enjoy a French bookstore and purchase French language greeting cards.
It could also serve as a venue for all three levels of government to eventually offer French language services.
“Many leave Halifax on the weekends to go back to their (Acadian) villages and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s nothing that keeps them centered here so we’re going to build that,” he said.
“The library here? That’s the first step that dovetailed right into what we’re doing and it seemed to be like a spark. It sparked something in us. As we were working on this we said you know what? It’s doable. We know that the anglophones are our friends and partners so that’s amazing.”