PHSC taking on a new life

By Jesse Robitaille

The Postal History Society of Canada (PHSC) hosted its annual general meeting during the society’s inaugural four-day symposium this July.

The key takeaway, according to PHSC President Stéphane Cloutier, was the recent surge in membership leading up to the July 20-23 symposium in Hamilton.

“We’ve recently had a big surge in members, and that started before the symposium, but the symposium helped a lot,” said Cloutier, who has served as president of the society for eight years and secretary-treasurer for another five years before that.

“From Jan. 1 to the date of the symposium we had 26 new members join, bringing our total to 416,” he added. “We’ve not passed the 400 mark for years and years, ever since I can remember being secretary-treasurer.”

And with no signs of slowing down, the society’s membership has continued to grow since this summer’s symposium.

“We’re currently sitting at 428 members, so since the symposium we’ve added 12. That’s good news.”

SYMPOSIUM A ‘GREAT BOOST’

According to Cloutier, the inaugural symposium attracted collectors from across Canada, the U.S. and at least one from across the pond in England. In addition to an extensive bourse and competitive exhibition, there were nine presentations by prominent postal historians, all of whom are PHSC members, at various locations across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

“It was great to have David Hobden, who’s a specialist in very early postal history in Canada – specifically military postal history – giving a presentation at Fort York,” said Cloutier. “Being right there, where all this action happened, was great. The Warplane Heritage Museum was another venue where we had talks from two prominent airmail specialists.”

“The symposium was a great boost to the society for sure. It puts us out in the light more than before,” he added. “It was a really good turnout, and we’re very much looking forward to next year.”

Organizers have already begun planning the 2018 PHSC Symposium, which is slated for the same dates and location, July 20-23 at the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel. The event will be similar in nature but with different presentations at different venues across the GTA.

UPDATED WEBSITE COMING SOON

Cloutier said the society’s website is also undergoing an extensive update, which should be complete in the new year.

“We’re still on the ‘old’ website, which is our current one, but Rob Leigh, our webmaster, has been working for the good portion of the last year on a new website,” he said.

“The focus of the new website will be to recreate everything that’s currently there but also to add more postmark databases, which we’re working on at the moment. The databases will be a lot more illustrative than before, and a lot easier to use.”

The goal is to compile a database of every type of postmark ever used in British North America, Cloutier said.

“We’re getting there; I would say we probably have about half of everything. The challenge there is to get members to share their information with the PHSC.”

The payoff, he added, will be having this gamut of information available to collectors at the click of a button.

“If you collect squared circles, you could go on the PHSC website and have all the information on the squared circles up to date, and that’s the key,” said Cloutier, adding these kinds of databases were “traditionally published in print.”

But with the constant progression of a research-intensive hobby such as philately, there will always new research, new additions and new updates.

“You can’t publish a new edition every time somebody gives you new information, but an online database allows us to update this information as soon as we get it. In terms of the immediacy of the information, it’ll be available anywhere in the world on the world wide web.”

While the society is currently compiling several databases – squared circles; two- and four-ring numerals; and machine cancels to name a few –  there are already several databases available to its membership.

It’s a “very slow process,” according to Cloutier, but the PHSC is also compiling a database of all the post offices in Canada.

“At the current time, we have a complete Ontario and a complete Newfoundland and Labrador listing. We’re working on Prince Edward Island, and the other provinces will follow.”

Aside from what’s being compiled, the PHSC website already includes a section for members’ publications and another section for members’ complete exhibits. Additionally, every PHSC Journal – from the first issue to the current issue – is available and searchable online.

“Once members start to use the website, they’re quite impressed,” said Cloutier, who added e-membership is only $15 a year. “This gives you access to the whole website, including four Journals a year. It’s a big bang for your buck.”

NEW JOURNAL EDITOR

Cloutier also welcomed Charles Verge as the new full-time editor of the Journal, the society’s award-winning quarterly publication.

A Fellow of both The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC) and Royal Philatelic Society of London (RPSL), Verge is an international and national judge of more than two decades and a past president of both The RPSC and the American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors (AAPE). From 2006-11, he also served as treasurer, executive committee member and Canadian delegate for the Federación Inter-Americana de Filatelia (FIAF). He received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal for his philatelic achievements in 2002.

“I’m so happy as a president to have Charles at the helm of the editorship of the Journal,” said Cloutier. “He’s the right person for the job and he’s enthusiastic about it.”

David Hobden, who served as chair of the recent PHSC Symposium, has also been named as the society’s new full-time secretary-treasurer.

At last summer’s World Stamp Show in New York City, Hobden received a Large Gold for his exhibit entitled “In Defense of the Border – Canadian Military Mails, 1867-1885.” He’s slated to lead a presentation about Canadian military mail at a meeting of the Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada (PSSC) on Sept. 20.

For more information about the PHSC, visit postalhistorycanada.net.

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