On 13 March 2020, Philip Smith, Chair of the LMMI, posted an announcement: “It remains our hope that we will be able to proceed with the 14th biennial L.M. Montgomery Institute International Conference, L.M. Montgomery and Vision, in Prince Edward Island this June. Like you, we are acutely aware of developments with COVID-19 across the world … At this point there are no recommendations from our public health officials that would suggest the June conference on PEI must be cancelled, but as we know, the situation is fluid. While we hope to be able to proceed as usual, we also are developing contingency plans for the conference.”
A mere month later, on 9 April, the situation had changed so radically that another announcement had to be made: “Following my 13 March message, I write now to confirm that the L.M. Montgomery Institute’s Biennial Conference, L. M. Montgomery and Vision, is cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Dr. Smith went on to mention a number of the alternatives to an in-person conference that had been and were being considered, acknowledging that “nothing will replace the energy, joy, and fun of gathering in person. Especially at this difficult time for our world we recognize how Montgomery has been, in times of peril and distress, a source of deep consolation and of happy distraction.” From these alternatives, one emerged: “there is a way to ensure that the scholarship and the ideas being readied for conference presentation can still be shared with the Montgomery community in due course, and that is through the many mechanisms within the Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies. Options include peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed articles, shorter notes, video, visual arts, and creative writing. Some people will be ready to make submissions in June, and for others submission in later weeks and later months will be a better fit.”
Over the next two months, between April and June, the Forum came into being. We wanted to honour the thought, research, and preparation that those planning on participating in the conference had already put into the abstracts that they had submitted. The preliminary program promised a vibrant conference on a range of topics connected to Montgomery and Vision. The Forum was launched over the five days that the in-person conference would have taken place. Instead of our usual Welcome and Opening Remarks, always a time for greetings and hugs, we included “Eight Welcome Letters,” in print and video; a Welcome video from the co-organizers; and the inaugural MaudCast, hosted by Brenton Dickieson. The in-person conference was to begin, as it traditionally has, with workshops. On the Forum is posted Laura Robinson’s blog outlining the workshop that Arnold Smith was to lead on “Fashion, Fabric, and Handiwork from the Times and Writings of Montgomery: What Was in Her Wardrobe and Work Basket” and Jean Mitchell’s discussion of Jessica Brown’s planned workshop on “Ecologically Entangled: Ecophilosophy and Montgomery’s Vision of Nature.” And while we could only imagine how much we would have enjoyed these workshops, we were able to join in and celebrate the launch of the Gaelic translation of Anne of Green Gables, Anna Ruadh, through a virtual cèilidh hosted by Bradan Press.
On the final Sunday, a time for farewells and more hugs (remember those?), the LMMI’s biennial conference traditionally ends with a bus tour of Montgomery sites on PEI. This year we took the next best thing: a virtual tour compiled by Carolyn Collins and Bernadeta Milewski, with assistance from Heidi Haering and Alyssa Gillespie.
And on the days between the opening and finale? Forum Mondays is dedicated to featuring the content that has been and will be posted over the next few months. Why the theme “L.M. Montgomery and Vision”? Visit us again next Monday to see.
Dog Monday was the Ingleside dog, so called because he had come into the family on a Monday when Walter had been reading Robinson Crusoe. He really belonged to Jem but was much attached to Walter also. – Rilla of Ingleside, Chapter 2
Banner image of PEI waves. Anne Victoria Photography, 2018.