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June 7, 2007


Lisa Ornstein, director of the University of Maine at Fort Kent's Acadian Archives, has received a Clio Prize from the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) for her exceptional individual contribution to regional history. Ornstein received the award during the President's Gala at the CHA annual conference, held on Tuesday, May 29 at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

Ornstein's nomination received letters of support from a number of individuals familiar with her work at the Archives, including UMFK assistant professor of education and environmental studies, Bruno Hicks; Mark Richard (State University of New York at Plattsburgh); Jacques-Paul Couturier (Université de Moncton, Edmundston campus); Ronald Labelle (Centre d'études acadiennes, Université de Moncton); Matthew Hatvany (Laval University); Barry Rodrigue (University of Maine, Lewiston-Auburn); and Béatrice Craig (University of Ottawa), as well as from Deb Wade of the National Park Service and from author and cultural activist, Rhea Cote Robbins.

The following citation was read at the CHA President's Gala, in awarding Ornstein her Clio Prize:

"The director of a small archive wears many hats, but Lisa Ornstein wears more than most. Over the course of her nearly two decades at the Acadian Archives in Fort Kent, she has been administrator, archivist, and educator, but also ethnomusicologist, musician, curator, collector, programmer, grant-writer, and fundraiser. From three empty rooms on the campus of the University of Maine, the Acadian Archives has burgeoned under her direction into a major repository for the francophone Acadian culture that permeates Maine's upper Saint John River Valley. In the best-practice tradition of the modern archives, the Acadian Archives adheres to its core mandate to collect, catalogue, and preserve, while extending the institution into the wider community with an impressive array of creative outreach activities. In an archival culture that is chronically under-funded (if not under-valued), the activities at the Acadian Archives are inevitably an extension of the multiple talents of its director since 1991, Lisa Ornstein.

"A concert-level violinist with a passion for French-Canadian fiddle music, she completed a master's degree in ethnomusicology at Laval University, working and performing for fourteen years in Quebec before bringing her energy, charisma, and many talents to the fledgling Acadian Archives at Fort Kent. That she moves so easily between academia and the local community is a testament to personal as well as professional qualities. 'There are very few people,' writes one of her references, 'who can, in a given day, instruct children in Acadian music, collect oral history among the elders, and then sit down in public meetings with government and university officials.' It is just such diverse activities that ensure the Acadian Archives is both valuable and perceived as valuable by that magic circle of funders, users, and potential donors whose support is required to secure any archive's future.

"To add one further hat to the many Lisa Ornstein wears, she is a bridge-builder, who connects academia with the culture it studies. Her bridge, of course, is the collection and programming at the Acadian Archives at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. Having, as one admirer asserts, 'conjured an Archive center out of not much more than air,' she has fashioned a strong and durable span over which intellectual commerce passes both ways, and it stands as an outstanding legacy for the archival administrator with the fiddle in her hands."

Clio Prizes are awarded annually by the CHA to meritorious publications or for exceptional contributions by individuals or organizations to regional history. Founded in 1922, the CHA is a bilingual organization dedicated to scholarship in all fields of history. It serves professional historians, but membership is open to anyone with an interest in history.