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Preserving Canadian naturist history
Federation of Canadian Naturists joins the Nudist Research Library Consortium
For almost four decades—ever since it was founded back in 1986—the Federation of Canadian Naturists has been accumulating all manner of documents, magazines, photos, videos, and other material detailing the development of naturism in Canada. It’s all been sitting in a trailer in Ontario, preserved, but not very accessible to researchers studying the history of naturism and nudism.
That may soon change, however, now that the FCN Research Library (FCNRL) is joining the Nudist Research Library Consortium, a collaborative effort that ties together a number of similar repositories around North America.
Randy Low, who currently oversees the Canadian collection, says that joining up with other organizations will allow the FCN “to take advantage of their expertise and advice…on how to best preserve and protect our archives.” And in return, the FCN will be “adding to the overall collection of naturist material” available to researchers around the world.
The Nudist Research Library Consortium is a cooperative agreement between four independent research libraries in the U.S.: the American Nudist Research Library (ANRL) in Florida, the Naturist Education Foundation Research Library (NEFRL) in Wisconsin, the AANR-NW Regional Library & Archive in Washington state, and the Western Nudist Research Library (WNRL) in California.
Once its membership is finalized, FCNRL will become the fifth on the list—and the first outside the U.S.
Each of the libraries in the consortium is dedicated to the mission of preserving and archiving the history of social nudism and the naturist movement for researchers and future generations—that includes the movement’s organizations, clubs, publications, and more.
A hurdle they all face in common, though, is figuring out ways to make the materials entrusted to them available to researchers and writers around the globe. It’s a challenge that the FCNRL knows all too well.
“Since the early days of the FCN, it’s maintained a trailer dedicated to housing its documents,” Randy Low explained in a recent interview with Planet Nude. Back when Glen Echo Family Nudist Park was still around, the trailer was there, along with FCN headquarters. But when the park closed, the trailer was moved to Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park, just north of Toronto, where it has been since.
Several individuals over the years took on the responsibility of maintaining the collection. “First, it was [FCN founder] Doug Beckett who looked after things at Glen Echo, and then in 1993, Keith Scott took over for several years,” Low said. “When I joined the FCN board in 2016, I started helping organize the collection.” Since 2019, he’s been the lead-person taking care of the materials.
He says moving into the role of library caretaker came naturally, no pun intended. “I’ve been a lifelong naturist, but I really started practicing it over the past ten years,” he said. History was always an interest, so once he joined the board of FCN, he immediately volunteered to help out with the archives.
As Low sees it, getting FCNRL hooked up with the Nudist Research Library Consortium was a no-brainer. “When I heard about the consortium, I researched its mandate and goals and determined it was an organization we should be associated with.”
The Nudist Research Library Consortium
Planet Nude also spoke with Paul LeValley, one of the founders of the consortium. He’s a retired educator from Florida who has a long history of involvement with the movement.
In the early ’90s, he founded the AANR Youth Camps. For more than 20 years, he coordinated the Professors and Researchers Special Interest Group of The Naturist Society. He conducted the College Greek Athletic Meet, the world’s only authentic nude re-enactment of the ancient Greek pentathlon, for many years. And he’s the author of hundreds of articles on nude art and culture.
He’s also president of ANRL, one of the library consortium’s member organizations. He talked with us about the consortium’s main purposes and goals.
“We aim to pool our scanned resources so that visitors to any one library in the network will have access to gaps in that local collection by being able to turn to the holdings of the other libraries,” he said. By doing so, the hope is that decades’ worth of material from a wide range of collections can be made “available to serious researchers without long travel.”
The consortium came about, LeValley recounted, when Dave Foote of the ANRL visited the WNRL outside Los Angeles and talked with Carl Hild, a researcher based there who had been to all the major nudist libraries in the U.S. They started discussing the gaps in the collections at the different libraries and how cooperation might help plug the holes for researchers.
“The four libraries began trading missing magazines, collaborating on prioritizing the scanning of unique pieces and avoiding duplication,” LeValley explained. “They’re learning from each other’s experience.”
Working together on the digitization effort and the sharing of best practices have been the main focus of the consortium so far.
“The addition of the FCN Library boosts the consortium from being just a U.S. coalition to a truly international one,” LeValley said. “We are also getting nibbles of interest from the British Naturism Library.”
As for FCNRL, joining the consortium is just one of many improvements that Low has in mind. “The first step will be to purchase appropriate scanning equipment to begin digitizing the materials we have,” he said. Paper deteriorates, and many of the documents in the library are even older than FCN itself, so digitizing them is key to ensuring they’re still around for a long time to come.
“Another long-term initiative will be the expansion or replacement of the present facility,” Low explained. Then, perhaps the FCN Research Library can ditch its wheels and transition to a more permanent home.
Preserving and cataloging the story of the naturist movement—both in Canada and around the world—isn’t just about saving a bunch of old papers that matter only to academics. Understanding the past is a necessity if you plan to shape the future.
There are decades’ worth of lessons locked away in the publications and organizational archives in these libraries. There’s a lot of valuable experience there that today’s naturists and nudists may need in the years ahead. 🪐
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