Archival photographs in perspective: Indian residential school images of health

My latest article, “Archival photographs in perspective: Indian residential school images of health” is now out in the British Journal of Canadian Studies (volume 30, issue 2).  This article is part of a special issue edited by Evan J. Habkirk and Janice Forsyth focusing on health and the body at Canadian residential schools. Many thanks to Evan and Janice for all their work on this issue and for all of their assistance getting this article published. 

My article examines the use of archival photographs to supplement the historical narrative with an emphasis on using photographs of sport and recreation as a lens for examining student life, health and power dynamics within the residential school system.  This article draws on the idea of archival silence and critically evaluates present day usage of residential school images.  The article is based on my work with the Rev. Father William Maurice fonds held at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.  Within this fonds I examined photographs from the Spanish Indian Residential School series which is comprised of photographs of the residential schools located in Spanish, Ontario.  This series is a mixture of photographs taken by staff/administrators and photographs taken by students at the School.  The contrast of student and staff generated photographs provides an insight in the power dynamics present in archival photographs and the context behind residential schools images.

If you would like to read a copy of the article but are hitting a paywall please contact me.

Reflecting on Camping and the Parks System

Group of women carrying a canoe overhead

Unidentified group of women carrying a canoe, Winnipeg, 1940s. Library and Archives Canada. MIKAN 4328425

I’ve went camping twice this summer and stayed at three Provincial Parks in Ontario as part of that experience.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the complicated nature behind the parks system, the dispossession of Indigenous people from parks and the lack of acknowledgement of the traditional usage of the land by Parks.  None of the parks I visited this year had signage about the history of the park or about the park’s relationship to the local Indigenous communities.

Last year I visited Pukaskwa Nation Park.  It is the only Park I’ve visited to date that is actively working with the local First Nation community to reinterpret the site and to include a discussion of the community’s history on the land. Pukaskwa’s staff included an Indigenous Cultural Interpreter – who was from Pic River First Nation, the local First Nation community that was impacted by the creation of Pukaskwa.  The were also in the process of creating an Anishinaabe Camp for cultural programming and the “Bimose Kinoomagewanan” trail signage was created by local elders and youth from Pic River.

Pukaskwa serves as one example of parks addressing their problematic past.  I would be interested in knowing of any other examples out there.  As visitors what can settlers do to encourage more critical interpretation? As a first step speaking with the folks staffing the visitors centre and interpreters to ask them about what they know about the park’s history can help.  If they don’t mention the traditional Indigenous territory of the land ask why. Ask them why there is no discussion of the land prior to the park being established and if there is any plans to change that.  Talk with the people you are camping with – have those important conversations about land and history – even if it makes you or them uncomfortable.

For additional context I would suggest reading Anne Janhunen’s The Holiday Spirit Will Prevail’: Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Erasure in Ontario’s ‘Cottage Country‘ presentation and Robert Jago’s “Canada’s National Parks are Colonial Crime Scenes.”

Nine Years of Blogging

"Ask More Questions" sign on a white wall between two clocks.

“Ask More Questions” Photo by Jonathan Simcoe on Unsplash

I know I’ve written about my personal blogging anniversaries before, but I still think it’s worth nothing that September 2017 marks nine years since I started this blog as part of a course requirement for a digital history class I took as part of my MA in Public History.  I know some folks have argued that the blog is a dying or irrelevant medium at this point however I still believe of its value within the archival and public history field as a form of scholarship and engagement.  Of course, I’ll also admit I love a timely tweet storm and have a soft spot for cat pictures on Instagram.

I have – gulp – written over 600 posts at this point.  I’ve also noticed in the past couple of years that this blog has evolved to have a more solid connection to my work in the archives field. I still talk public history and still come at archives from a public historian perspective — but there’s way more archives content then there was nine years ago.

Rather than recounting some of my favourite or most viewed posts I decided that instead this year I would highlight some of my favourite blogs.  These blogs are ones that I follow consistently and that inspire me to write my own blog posts.

  • Unwritten Histories by Andrea Eidinger.  This one’s a bit of an easy mark – Andrea’s blog is a must read for anyone interested in Canadian history and I love her sarcasm.
  • Things I’m Fonds Of by Emily Lonie.  There’s a pun in the title – thus it has to be great! Seriously, though this is a wonderful blog that consistently highlights innovate archival practices and collaborative projects.
  • History@Work, a multi-authored blog on the National Council for Public History website.  History@Work covers a great mix of public history topics and has a lot of great discussion based posts around current interpretation of historical events.
  • Nursing Clio, another great multi-authored blog.  If you’re interested at all in gender or medicine this is the history blog for you.  This peer-reviewed blog offers timely historically grounded posts on present-day issues.  Their tag line is “the personal is historical” and many of their posts connect to person or community narratives of history.
  • Claire Kreuger’s blog pulls directly from her thesis work.  I’m in love with her alphabet series.  Some of her hard hitting posts tackle reconciliation, settler narratives, and how to be an ally.
  • Uncatalogued Museum by Linda Norris.  This is a blog I’ve been following for years and that I keep coming back to for it’s insightful takes on museum exhibits and content design.
  • Allana Mayer’s tumblr account for her takes on archives, tech and labour.  Allana has also posted a number of great summary posts which compile resources on specific topics – her “Resources on Archives and Indigenous issues” post from 2016 is still a great source for information. I’d also suggest following Allana on Twitter.

What are your favourite archives and public history blogs? 

Beyond 150 Twitter Conference Update

beyond 150 logoRemember that thing that Andrea Eidinger and I are organizing in partnership with Canada’s History Society, Active History, and the Wilson Institute?  The schedule for the Beyond 150: Telling Our Stories Twitter Conference is now live.  #Beyond150CA is the first-ever Canadian History Twitter Conference and it is happening on Twitter August 24-25, 2017.

The conference  is designed to encourage collaboration, public engagement, and spark discussion about Canada’s history in a way that is accessible to everyone. It also aims to uplift diverse perspectives, unrepresented histories, and support the work of early-career and emerging scholars.  There were a ton of great submissions to the CFP and I’m really excited about the range of presentations that will be part of this conference.

And if you’re not presenting you can still participate! Use the hashtag #Beyond150CA to follow the conversation.  Additionally each 30 minute presentation slot includes 15 minutes for questions and discussions – so get on twitter, ask those burning questions, and engage with the presenters.

Not sure what a Twitter Conference is? Check out the conference FAQ page.

Webinar: Editing Wikipedia Part Two

The recording of the final webinar of the “Wikipedia as Outreach and Activism for Canadian History” series I hosted with Jessica Knapp from Canada’s History Society is now available. I was the main presenter in this webinar  which focused on “Diving Into Wikipedia Editing Basics” and included an introduction and technical walk through of basic editing skills.  It included how to make basic edits to fix content, how to add citations and references, and how to use the article wizard to create your first article.

It was wonderful to work with Jessica on this webinar series and I love that it gave me an excuse to work on some of the Wikipedia projects that have been languishing on my to-do list.

Listening: You’ve Got This

Black headphones on table.

Photo by Alphacolor 13 on Unsplash

I’ve recently started listening to You’ve Got This a weekly academic and higher education focused podcast.  The podcast is produced and created by Dr. Katie Linder. The podcast covers a whole range of topics including productivity, writing, grading, teaching strategies, and lots of other good material. Despite not being a faculty member the issues tackled in the podcast are still relevant to the some of work I’m engaged in such as grant writing, public speaking, and project management. Many of the episodes focus on skill building, developing work strategies, and career management.  Linder brings a varied perspective to these topics while often providing concrete examples of things that have worked (or not) in her career.

Each episode is relatively short with many being between ten or fifteen minutes. I find the episodes are the prefect length to listen to while going between stores, doing short household tasks, or when I’m tried/know my attention span is going to last for a longer podcast. I also really enjoy that this is a solo female podcast that flows really well – I’m always on the lookout for really well put together podcasts.

As a bonus Linder’s show notes are really well done and include any resources she mentions in the show.  On the accessibility side of things each podcast also comes with a downloadable full transcript.

Teaching: Select Topics in Community-Based Public History

This fall I’ll be teaching HIST 3296: Select Topics in Community-Based Public History at AlgomaU. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity and excited to be able to share my love of public history with students.

From the course calendar: The course will introduce students to the theory and practice of community-based public history, with reference to local and regional examples. Students will explore the history and relevance of community-based efforts to make the past visible and comprehensible to the public. The social functions of museums, libraries, archives, and monuments, as well as web-based sites of historical commemoration, will be critically assessed. Contrasts between history, heritage, social memory, and tools such as oral history will be examined.

I’m still working on the planning of the course but in the meantime I’m using this as a reason to enjoy some public history focused books that I have been on my to-read list for ages.  So far my reading has looked at Parks Canada, commemoration in Canada, participatory heritage, museum writing, and exhibit design.  If nothing else this reading has filled my head with a lot of great ideas and also reminded me about the diversity of public history.  So much of my work is archives focused theses days. I do engage in a lot of educational programming, community outreach, and the occasional exhibit design – however it is all through an archival lens.  It’s been nice to take a step back from that really focused form of public history and to look at broader social trends, work that is going on in my local community, and interesting projects occurring across Canada. Onwards!

Webinar: Editing Wikipedia Part One

The recording of the third Wikpedia focused webinar in the series I’m hosting with Jessica Knapp from Canada’s History Society is now available. I was the main presenter in this webinar and my presentation focused on the basics of editing Wikipedia.  During my talk I tried to answer some of the following questions: Why should we contribute to Canadian History on Wikipedia? What are the basic principals of editing Wikipeda? How can I contribute to Wikipedia? And how do I get started?  I also talked about Wikipedia as a form of outreach and about the community building that can occur through editing Wikipedia.

Next week’s webinar will build upon the basics discussed in this webinar and include a step-by-step walk through of some of the editing basics.  So if you’re interested in learning how to edit an existing article, add a citation to an article, or how to use the new article wizard this is the webinar for you.  Join us at 2:00 pm ET on Wednesday August 3rd..

Sesqui and the Horizon Film

Last week Sesqui and the film Horizon were in Sault Ste. Marie.  If you haven’t heard of Sesqui (short for Sesquisentinial) it is is a 360° cinematic experience marking Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.  It’s traveling across Ontario using a giant canvas dome to show the film Horizon. The 20 minute film features landscapes from across Canada and includes artists from across Canada, the film is projected on the interior of the dome providing an immersive film experience.

The film has no words and was visually quite stunning.  Given that this was billed as a part of the 150th commemoration events I (perhaps naively) expected there to be some historical content in the film.  There was almost none. The film was much more focused on highlight the physical, geographical, and cultural diversity of the landscape of Canada.  There were many segments of people singing, canoeing, skating, skateboarding, and engaged in other outdoor activities.  This was paired with wildlife footage and landscape images.

IMAX technology originally premiered in 1967 when the National Film Board launched the In the Labyrinth film at Expo ’67.  The Sesqui project connects back to that original leap in film technology by attempting to create a new kind of immersive film experience.

Sesqui has also created a learning hub which includes additional information on select topics including : Arts, Canadian Geography, education, English, Indigenous Studies, Language Arts, Physical Education, and Social Studies.  For example, Horizon includes footage of a traditional Haida dance and the work of Haida carver Christian White.  The supplemental video material connects these brief segments to large social and cultural traditions and provide historical context to the brief clips that were seen in the Horizon film.  The educational material isn’t perfect but it is a good starting point to have larger conversations about the material that was included (and the material that wasn’t) in the film.

Multiple trailers and previews of the content can be found on Youtube and I’ve included one of the trailers below.  They also mentioned at the screening that there is an associated app, Meridian VR and that eventually all of the video footage will be available to download via that app.

Introduction to Wikipedia as Outreach and Activism

The recording of the second Wikpedia focused webinar in the series I’m hosting with Jessica Knapp from Canada’s History Society is now available. In this webinar Amy Marshall Furness, the Rosamond Ivey Special Collections Archivist and Head, Library & Archives at the E.P. Taylor Research Library & Archives, Art Gallery of Ontario discussed using Wikipedia as a form of activism and outreach.

Amy’s presentation focused on her experience engaging with the Art + Feminism Wikipedia community and her work organizing edit-a-thons at the AGO. This was an excellent webinar and provided a lot of good advice for folks interested in using Wikipedia as a form of community activism, organizing, and outreach.

Next week’s webinar will focus on the basics of Wikipedia editing and how to bring the skill sets of public historians and GLAM professionals into Wikipedia. Join us at 2:00 pm ET on July 26th.