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Historian Alan Wilson to Discuss Sir Sandford Fleming and Historical Imagination

Alan Wilson’s TV documentary about Sir Sandford Fleming will be showcased at Trent University’s Wenjack Theatre on March 12 at 7:30 p.m. Mr. Wilson, the driving force behind the project, will comment on how historians make a difference in such projects and will show slides illustrating behind-the-scenes aspects of writing, developing and filming a biography of a celebrated Canadian.

This documentary was premiered as an episode in the History Television series, "The Canadians," on September 25, 2002. The film, produced by Whitman and Matthew Trecartin of Tri-Media Production Services in Halifax, includes comments by Mr. Wilson, Elwood Jones and Jean Cole.

Alan Wilson is the founding chair of Trent's History Department, and professor and founding chair of Trent's Canadian Studies Program. He is a winner of the Symons Award for Excellence in Teaching. Since retiring to his native Nova Scotia in 1989 he has been associated with St. Mary's University's Institute in Atlantic Studies; has chaired the Helen Creighton Folklore Foundation and the South Shore Regional Library Board; is past president of the Library Boards Association of Nova Scotia; and is an adviser to the Nova Scotia Ministry of Education. He consults and writes scripts for CBC drama and documentary programs.

Mr. Wilson possesses an extraordinary knowledge of Sir Sandford Fleming, who had a remarkable Canadian career as a surveyor and railway promoter. These careers began in Peterborough where, at the age of 18, he emigrated from Kirkaldy, Scotland. He first stayed with his cousin, Dr. John Hutchison, in what is now Hutchison House Museum. After 35 years of employment with several surveyors and railway companies, including the Intercolonial and the Canadian Pacific, he had another 35-year career as Chancellor of Queen’s University. During those years he was the great promoter of international standard time. The film captures Fleming’s family and personal connections, many directly from Peterborough.

In addition to the event on March 12, the History Department and the Canadian Studies Program are sponsoring a joint colloquium which features Alan Wilson in conversation about "History and Imagination: Documentaries, Biography, Fiction." This should be of wide interest and is open to the public. This event will take place in the Junior Common Room at Traill College on Thursday, March 13, from 1 to 3 p.m. Tea will be served following the presentation.

A reception will also be held at the Trent Valley Archives, 567 Carnegie Avenue, at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, March 12. For further details, contact Pat Marchen at TVA, 745-4404.

Alan Wilson’s visit has been made possible by the generous sponsorship of Trent University’s Otonabee College, the History Department and the Canadian Studies Program, along with the support of the Trent Valley Archives and the Peterborough Historical Society.

Posted March 10, 2003

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