Reading: Make Roanoke Queer Again

Person holding book.

Used under CC0 license.

The latest issue of The Public Historian featured a number of great articles including “Make Roanoke Queer Again: Community History and Urban Change in a Southern City” by Gregory Rosethal. This article explores the specifics of interpreting queer history in Roanoke, Virgina but also focuses more broadly on queer community history projects, resistance through grassroots history, and interpreting urban history through a queer lens.

Rosethal argues that “queer public history projects can utilize cities as living laboratories for the exploration of the queer past” (p. 43). When discussing the history of urban environments and marginalized communities looking at places of past activism, past conflict, past meeting/social connection venues can be hugely powerful.  Similarly community experiences of erasure of flourishing can frequently be tied to physical spaces.  Rosethal uses the examples of the Make Roanoke Queer Again bar crawl and the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project of examples of community history rooted in collecting, preserving, and sharing queer histories.

I loved this article’s emphasis on the idea of queer history being connected to physical spaces, geographic places, and as a lived history.  In many communities queer history has gone undocumented and at times is seen as non-existent or as irrelevant. Grassroots activism and community based history initiatives are one of the many ways to document queer pasts and realities – and I think that acknowledging the diversity of queer* experiences and histories is something that is hugely important when creating local history narratives.  Rosethal’s article is well worth the read if you’re at all interested in community based public history or queer history interpretation projects.

Who Was Brian Vallée?

Last year I wrote a few posts for Canada’s History education section on their website. However because of website revamps some of that content was delayed in getting posted.  My second piece “Who was Brian Vallée?” is now available on their site.

This piece talks about Brian Vallée as an award winning author, journalist, film producer and Vallée’s work to raise awareness about domestic violence.  It also discusses different forms outreach to building awareness about the Brian Vallée’s life and his fonds held at Algoma University.  Brian Vallée’s lack of digital presence was one of the reason I initially became involved in editing Wikipedia – so it was nice to revisit and think about different forms of community and digital outreach.

Rapport Active History Interviews

Used under CC0.4 license.

My Active History colleague Daniel Ross and I were recently e-interviewed by Risa Gluskin for Rapport the Ontario History & Social Sciences Teachers’ Association blog.  Our interviews are part of Rapport‘s Doing History series which profiles “people working in the area of history but not necessarily as history teachers.”

The interview with Daniel looks at some of the some of the ideas behind active history and public history.  If you are unsure of what active history or public history is Daniel does a great job of breaking down these ideas and showcasing ways in which people can be involved in both active and public history.  The interview also includes a segment exploring Daniel’s interest in urban history.  My interview discusses my public history roots, how I entered the archival profession and my reconciliation work through the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.

Many thanks to Risa and OHSSTA for showcasing Active History and our work.

Stereotypes and Misconceptions of Librarians and Archivists

Erin Leach recently shared some powerful words about being a cataloger in instruction spaces and stereotypes that are often used to describe those involved in cataloging. I’m not a library cataloger, far from it, however Erin’s words struck a cord with me.  Her anecdote of interacting with others and their responses to her cataloguing status stayed with me, “What I imagine the librarians in public-facing roles who tell me what an anomaly I am are actually saying is, it’s okay that you’re a cataloging because you’re not that kind of cataloger.”

I remember expressing an interest in library school as an undergraduate to a much older male who worked in a education context. His response “You’re too pretty to be a librarian.”  Fast forward a number of years to having a colleague remark “I had no idea that librarians could have personalities” or “Librarians just shelve books and tell people to be quiet, that can’t be stressful” or “It never occurred to me that archivists can do instruction.”  There are a whole lot of misconceptions about library and archival staff. Sometimes these misconceptions are tied to perceived personality traits and sometimes they are tied to confusion around roles and skill sets.

In the media librarians and archivists get painted with a wide, dull brush a lot.  Media and other unrepresentative portrayals often fall back on gendered expectations and are related to the gendered nature of the profession. I’m not going to do a deep dive into the visual stereotype discussion as so many people have already done so and done so well.  Jessica Olin and Michelle Millet’s 2015 look at gender and leadership roles in the library profession indicated that the profession is comprised of approximately 80% women and 20% men. Despite women gaining leadership roles and closing the gendered leadership divide there are still a whole lot of challenges associated with being a woman in the library field and perhaps mores so if you are in an authority role.

I don’t have a solution to the prevalence of these stereotypes.  My thoughts are mostly around more outward facing advocacy and speaking up when we see comments being made to colleagues.  Projects like Librarian Wardrobe aim to highlight the aesthetic diversity of clothing choice within the librarian profession.  And initiatives such as Archival Awareness Week and ArchivesAware! seek to share ideas about increasing public awareness of the archival profession.  However I think these are just a few of many examples of outreach, awareness building, and crushing stereotypes – and that what types of conversations and outreach you’re able to engage in is going to vary greatly depending on your position, privilege, and workplace.  And we need to do more to support those who speak out on this issue.

Women, Wikipedia, and Intentional Editing

ArtFem_EmilyCarr_Mar42016_9

Art+Feminism Buttons, Emily Carr University of Art and Design Library, March 2016. Photo by Hillarywebb. CC-BY-SA 4.0

I’ve written previously about my use of Wikipedia as an outreach tool for the GLAM sector and the possibilities of connecting archives to users through Wikipedia.  I’ve also been thinking a lot about using Wikipedia as a form of awareness raising about Indigenous history, marginalized communities, and women. Many people have written about the systemic under representation of women and minorities on Wikipedia. Given that today is International Women’s Day I wanted to talk a bit about women, Wikipedia, and my personal approach to editing.

There are a handful of really great initiatives that encourage focused editing to increase female representation on Wikipedia.  For example, the WikiProject Women in Red initiative aims to turn red links (names/topics without Wiki pages) into blue links. The Women In Red initiative focuses on women’s biographies and works by women and hosts theme months where they focus on specific subsets such as women in science, Indigenous women, women in academia etc.  The project has some resources for new editors and an ongoing work list if you’re interested in contributing.

My other favourite women’s oriented Wikipedia project is the Art+Feminism initiative. Art+Feminism aims to encourage more women to be engaged in editing and to increase and improve content relating to feminism and the arts.  Art+Feminism has a ton of great resources (including a really well done video series) that can be used to introduce new editors to the basics of Wikipedia.  The project page also has a lot of advice on hosting an edit-a-thon and for community based organizers.  I used a lot of these resources when thinking about organizing the first edit-a-thon on campus in 2016.

Personally, I’ve being trying to be more thoughtful about what pages I create and contribute to.  Wikipedia can be a huge rabbit whole and for someone who has a desire to ‘fix all the things’ I can sometimes unintentionally spend hours editing. But my time is finite and I want my edits to be meaningful.  I’ve actively being trying to contribute to and create pages that relate to Indigenous communities and more specifically to Indigenous women.

Specifically, I’ve been working on cleaning up the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women page which still needs a substantial amount of work (Read: please contribute!).  Similarly, I’ve also being contributing to the Walking With Our Sisters page, and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation page. In terms of biography pages I’ve recently tried to focused my edits on the Indigenous women who have inspired me and who’s academic work has been essential to me rethinking my approaches to scholarship and relationship building.  These women matter. They are doing hugely important work that deserves to be acknowledge. Some of the pages I’ve worked on so far have included Christi BelcourtShirley Fletcher Horn, Gail Guthrie Valaskakis, Madeline Dion Stout, Eve Tuck and others.  I’ve also started to think about how I can contribute to pages related to queer*, trans, non-binary, and 2spirt folks as these are communities which are also vastly underrepresented on Wikipedia.

4Rs Framework: Seeding Reconciliation On Uneven Ground

Table of Contents from Seeding Reconciliation on Uneven Ground

Table of Contents from Seeding Reconciliation on Uneven Ground, publication by 4Rs Youth Movement.

The 4Rs Youth Movement is a youth-led organization dedicated to facilitating conversations and changing relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth. 4Rs is committed to the values of respect, reciprocity, reconciliation and relevance and brings those values into all of the dialogues and programming it runs. I’ve had the opportunity to work with 4Rs on a couple of events in recent years and to participate in some of their facilitated programming. They are a fantastic group of change makers and a source of inspiration for anyone involved in cross-cultural or reconciliation work.

4Rs recently released their dialogue framework, Seeding Reconciliation On Uneven Ground: The 4Rs Approach to to Cross-Cultural Dialogue. This is a must read for anyone engaged in facilitation, cross-cultural dialogues, or youth engagement.  Seriously, go read it.  The framework shares what 4Rs has learned through their youth-led community drive dialogues and cross-cultural conversations.  It provides examples of how 4Rs has fostered safe spaces to encourage cross-cultural conversations with an emphasis on mix-methods and experience based learning processes.

The section of Seeding Reconciliation which reflects on the term reconciliation is particularly powerful and relevant for anyone who has been part of an organization which is interested in engaging in conversations of reconciliation, Indigenization, or decolonization.  The framework highlights different perspectives on reconciliation that have been shared by Indigenous activists, scholars, and thinkers.  These perspectives highlight the ongoing relationship building inherent in reconciliation work and the need to understand that reconciliation is about way more than just residential schools.

The actual step-by-step guide for cross-cultural dialogue is represented using through the use of a garden analogy, connecting conversations back to land.  The guide is broken into five steps:

  1. Getting There: Pathways to new relationships
  2. Preparing The Ground: Restoring balance to the landscape of reconciliation
  3. Planting The Seeds: Growing leadership, relationships and truth
  4. Connecting Our Roots: Going deeper into dialogue
  5. Harvesting: Taking it home

Each step focuses on youth led conversations and the fact that building strong relationships takes time and effort.  Creating safe spaces and facilitating conversations requires a lot of groundwork to be laid before important dialogues can take place.  As Seeding Reconciliation notes “We are not thinking about an end product that can be easily packaged or replicated; our Framework is not an assembly line…This Framework emphasizes that cross-cultural dialogue cannot be rushed” (p. 34).  Approaches to reconciliation and cross-cultural conversations are not a one size fits all situation. This is a deeply thoughtful and inspiring document that I would encourage people to engage with, especially those in the heritage field who are beginning to have conversations about reconciliation.  The frame uses easy to understand language but has the potential to provoke challenging questions ideas about reconciliation that are applicable in many contexts across Canada.

The Bushplane Revisited: A Parent’s Perspective

Plane that visitors can climb into.

Example of one of the planes that visitors can climb into.

I’ve written a few times in the past about visiting the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre (locally known as the Bushplane Museum) for non-heritage events, namely for musical performances and a community craft show.  In both cases the admission to the Bushplane was either free or the proceeds when to the performing artist.  Those events were an example of a heritage space renting out their space to generate revenue.

A couple of weekends ago my family and I visited the Bushplane Museum during their regular operating hours as part of their “Family Fun Day.”  In addition to their regular attractions the day included half price admission and a range of additional activities such as a magic show, crafts, community tables, and special guests from the popular kids show Paw Patrol.  Basically it was a day designed to bring more people through the door.  Given the fact that at numerous points throughout the day there was lineup to get in, I think they were definitely successful in that regard.

This visit also marked the first time I visited the Bushplane with a child. My daughter wasn’t terribly interested in all the extra things that were going on as part of the day, but she loved the planes and some of the interactive exhibit pieces in the museum.  The Bushplane has a number of planes that are accessible to visitors and my daughter loved climbing in and out of them, sitting in them, and asking lots of questions about how things worked.  One of the nice things about her enthusiasm around the planes was that it meant it gave me some time to read description labels, check out some of the digital interpretation, and generally just take in the museum.

I’m still adjusting to how your experiences at museum and heritage site visits change when you’re accompanied by a child.  I am also becoming increasing appreciative of museums that do a good job of integrating child appropriate exhibits or special child focused programming into their services.  Having dedicated space for children or children friendly interpretation can be a huge selling point when families are deciding where to visit.  Sometimes this can be hugely elaborate programming but other times simply having colouring station or a touch/feel artifact section can go a long way.

What are some of your favourite examples of family friendly museum programming?

Community Archives and Collaboration in the Classroom

keep-calm-and-collaborateEarlier this week Skylee-Storm Hogan and I were invited to speak as part of an ongoing faculty professional development series focusing on collaboration.  Our session focused on ways faculty can collaborate with archives, how archives can be brought into the classroom, and using archives across disciplines.

The workshop was relatively informal with Skylee-Storm and I briefly talking about our experience working with archives in classroom spaces, how to engage students with primary source research, and past successful collaborations.  The rest of the workshop was spent discussing potential collaboration opportunities, approaches to teaching site and national specific history, and creative engagement possibilities.

One of the things our conversation touched on a number of times was the idea of archives as interdisciplinary and that archival work can be skill building for students across programs.  This point is something I’ve talked about before, but I do really believe that the skills that students learn through engagement with archival material can be far reaching.  During our presentation Skylee-Storm hogan talked about the development of primary source research skills, community outreach techniques, curatorial skills, writing, and presentation skills that were developed through engagement with archival material.  These skills are not tied to a single discipline and are often connected to tangible projects as part of course work or employment.

During the session we also spent a considerable amount of time discussing community engaged research.  This involved thinking about how a grassroots community based archives can be used to teach research methods, foster community connections, and how to build classroom examples around the archive.

Overall the conversation was heartening and really reminded me of the uniqueness of the archives that I work in.  The Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre archive is deeply connected to a marginalized community.  The survivor community has played a fundamental role in the development of programming and holdings since the establishment of the SRSC archive. This Indigenous community led approach to research and collecting is something unique and is something worth talking about. In an era where more and more institutions are looking at ways to integrate Indigenous content and Indigenous voices into the classroom space the holdings of the SRSC are increasingly important when talking about preserving the legacy of residential schools, community based healing, and teaching history from an Indigenous perspective.

The session also reminded me of the ongoing need to educate and advocate for archives.  Even internally there is always more work that can be done to raise awareness about the extent of holdings and what services archives offer.  That outreach piece is something that often feels like treading water – you might be repeatedly having the same conversation with different people – but eventually it does result in progress and if all goes well increased awareness and use.

Teaching the Legacy of the Sixties Scoop and Addressing Ongoing Child Welfare Inequality in the Classroom

My latest post “Teaching the Legacy of the Sixties Scoop and Addressing Ongoing Child Welfare Inequality in the Classroom” can be found on Active History. This post look at the connection between colonialism, the residential school era and the sixties scoop.  It also discusses ways in which historians and educators can incorporate sixties scoop history into their classroom spaces.

Update from the SCCA Response to the Report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force (TRC-TF) – Feb. 2017

Erica Hernández-Read recently posted on Arcan-L an update of the work of the SCCA Response to the Report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force.  For those not on Arcan-L but curious as to how the archival community is responding to the TRC calls to action on a professional level I’ve re-posted the notice below.  We are currently working on a number of projects as a Task Force with the goal of having an actionable final report completed by September 2018.


 

Dear members of the Canadian archival community,

 As you may recall, the mandate of the SCCA Response to the Report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force (TRC-TF) is to conduct a review of archival policies and best practices existent across the country and to identify potential barriers to reconciliation efforts between the Canadian archival community and Indigenous record keepers. With such a review in hand, the Task Force will then work in collaboration with Indigenous  community partners  to create an actionable response to this research which will become the foundation for a reconciliation and decolonization framework for Canadian archives. The following is a summary of the TRC-TF Action Plan (v.5) submitted to the SCCA Steering Committee on January 30, 2017 which outlines the specific activities and timelines TRC-TF members will engage in and work towards as they fulfill this mandate.

Summary of Planned Activity:

 *  Beginning 23 January 2017, TRC-TF members will begin collaborations on their team-based assignments. The first activities to be undertaken include identifying and soliciting financial support from potential institutional partners and funding agencies. This funding, if received, will be applied towards travel costs for community outreach and for TRC-TF members to undertake a “History Matters” reconciliation dialogue workshop at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation which will assist them in grounding themselves within the legacy of the Indian Residential School system.

  *   Initial activities also include developing and disseminating an on-line survey to the Canadian archival community as a means through which to obtain perspectives / requirements / questions / concerns / hopes for reconciliation within a Canadian archival context, and to obtain samples of existent policies or protocols employed by Canadian archivists for the purposes of decolonizing institutional access to, and description of, archival holdings.

  *   Concurrently, TF team members will undertake the identification and development of appropriate communications protocols and a comprehensive outreach strategy in preparation for March-July 2017 outreach initiatives with Indigenous communities and organizations across Canada. Through these community outreach initiatives it is hoped that many Indigenous record-keepers will be inspired towards collaboration and will agree to engage with us as we collectively work towards the development of draft Protocol and Principles documentation.

  *   The next round of activities will include conducting a literature search spanning both national and international archival discourse around reconciliation, and any pertinent discourse identified within other professions (i.e. library science, museum studies, social work, etc.) so as to highlight what reconciliation activities have been undertaken; what has worked and what has failed; and to highlight decolonization strategies which might be successful if applied within a Canadian archival context.

  *   Following on the heels of this literature research will be direct one-on-one follow-up dialogue by TRC-TF team members with the authors and contributors to this discourse to really gain a sense of how their past work towards reconciliation is, or is not, being continued into the present. Indigenous cultural experts identified during community outreach activities who are willing and able to engage directly with TRC-TF team members in this way will also be consulted as part of this dialogue process.

  *   Data obtained through the survey, community outreach activities, literature search, and follow-up dialogue will be synthesized down to its essence to form the foundation of the Protocols and Principles documentation. Once drafted by the designated TRC-TF team in collaboration with our Indigenous partners, and vetted through by the entire TRC-TF, the draft Protocol and Principles documents will be released to the Canadian archival community and Indigenous communities to solicit feedback. This release is tentatively scheduled for the beginning of April 2018, with the conclusion of this iterative process by the end of May 2018.

  *   A final report, outlining research methodology and findings, a list of recommendations for action, and the final draft Protocol and Principles documents will be submitted to the SCCA Steering Committee by the end of September 2018. Once approved, all documentation will be publically disseminated to the broader Canadian archival community and Indigenous communities and organizations across Canada.

  *   Our Indigenous partners, communities and organizations who worked with us throughout this process will then be publically acknowledged for their contributions and thanked.

  *   It is anticipated that all work by the TRC-TF will be concluded by the October 2018 meeting of the SCCA Steering Committee.

If you have any input/questions/concerns you would like to share with the TRC-TF please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Regards,

Erica Hernández-Read, Chair
On behalf of Response to the Report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives