Inventive project showcases excerpts from fictitious works in the real locations where they occur.
By Kristin Eliason
There are two bookmarks in the Annex, but they are not of the paper variety.
One, on St. George Street, can be found just north of Bloor Street on the west side. The other can be found at the northwest corner of College and Manning Streets.
These bookmarks are green and white, ceramic, poster-sized plaques; and rather than mark a page, they mark the exact geographical location where an imaginary literary scene takes place.
The charity that installs these plaques, Project Bookmark Canada, began as a non-profit organization in 2007 before becoming a nationally-registered charity in 2008. It displays excerpts from fictitious works in the real locations where they occur.
The idea behind the project is that while “you can’t quite put yourself in the character’s shoes,” says Miranda Hill, founder and executive director of the project, “you put yourself in their footprints.”
Hill, a writer herself, won the Journey Prize in 2011. She will be publishing her first book of fiction, Sleeping Funny, this fall. Still, she also identifies herself equally as an avid reader, and it was this affinity for the written word that led her to the idea for Project Bookmark Canada.
While living in Toronto, she says she would stumble across scenes from books she just happened to be reading at the time.
Rather than having to bring the book in order to enjoy the experience of being in the presence of literary imagination, she thought to herself, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could encounter the scene right there in the place?”
In 2009, Project Bookmark Canada provided the public with its first opportunity to do just that. The first bookmark, a scene from In The Skin Of A Lion by Michael Ondaatje, was installed at the Bloor Viaduct on April 23. In 2010, five more were installed in Owen Sound, Kingston, Toronto and Ottawa. In 2011, four were added in Mississauga, Midland, Hamilton and Port Colborne. Now, it is the charity’s goal to build a nationwide network.
Its next bookmark will be its first out-of-province. It will honor Al Pitman, a local poet, when his poem The Sea Breeze Lounge is installed in Woody Point, Newfoundland on Aug. 23.
But, in order for Project Bookmark Canada to continue to flourish and grow, it relies on donations, grants and participation from the public.
There are many different ways to get involved. Annual memberships are available at varying costs, donations are welcome, and groups can get together to adopt a bookmark for their community, essentially funding it themselves.
And for those book lovers not able to invest money, they can still invest their time. Hill encourages readers to contact her via the website to suggest specific passages from books, in order to build their database.
“I get suggestions,” she says, “I’d love to get more.
“I think of Project Bookmark Canada as a project owned by Canadians for Canadians, the more people feel that they’re participating … the more potential it has for it to endure not just for the next 5 years, but for the next 50.”
Hill believes that Project Bookmark Canada is building a Canadian cultural icon. And if its growth over the past three years is any indication of how it will do in the future, it is well on its way to achieving its goal.
For more information on Project Bookmark Canada, please visit their website at www.projectbookmarkcanada.ca