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.

Reading: Critical Archival Studies

The most recent issue of the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies is a special issue focusing on critical archival studies.  The issue is edited by Michelle Caswell, Ricardo Punzalan, and T-Kay Sangwand and it is completely open access.

The journal issue tackles the ways in which “records and archives serve as tools for both oppression and liberation.”  Many of the articles discuss archives in the context of social justice, community activism, and human rights. The introduction defines critical archival studies as:

those approaches that (1) explain what is unjust with the current state of archival research and practice, (2) posit practical goals for how such research and practice can and should change, and/or (3) provide the norms for such critique. In this way, critical archival studies, like critical theory, is emancipatory in nature, with the ultimate goal of transforming archival practice and society writ large. As an academic field and profession, critical archival studies broadens the field’s scope beyond an inward, practice-centered orientation and builds a critical stance regarding the role of archives in the production of knowledge and different types of narratives, as well as identity construction. (p.2)

The application of critical theory has the potential to change the shape of archival practice and highlight the politics and power relationships involved in archival collecting.  The articles in the issue are largely focused on the work of archivists engaged with marginalized communities. I’m still working my way through the issue but so far Anne J. Gilland’s article of “A Matter of Life or Death: A Critical Examination of the Role of Records and Archives in Supporting the Agency of the Forcibly Displaced” and Jamie Anne Lee’s “A Queer/ed Archival Methodology: Archival Bodies as Nomadic Subjects” have both been excellent reads.

Meyer May House

Side view of the Meyer May House

Side view of the Meyer May House. Image by Jaydec, CC BY-SA 3.0.

During a recent trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan I had the opportunity to visit the Meyer May House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  The house was commissioned in 1908 by Meyer S. May and was built between 1908-1909 by Wright.  It is considered an example of Wright’s Prairie School era work.  In 1985 Steelcase, a Michigan based furniture company, purchased the Meyer May house and worked to restore the house to how it looked when the May family moved in 1910.  The house is operated as a historic site by Steelcase and is open to the public for free tours.

My visit to the house was fantastic – it included watching a video about the restoration process and an hour long guided tour of the house itself.  The video of the restoration process can be found in clip format on the Meyer May website.  The video highlighted the archival research that went into finding documentation on the original exterior design, furniture, and interior decorations of the house.  It discussed how photographs were used to supplement blueprint and textual records about the house.  The video also showcased the work of conservators, artisans and experts that went into reconstructing things like paint colours, murals, carpets, and light fixtures that were designed by Wright.

The docent who led my group was extremely well informed about the architectural styles, Wright’s influences, and the house itself. The tour docents are all volunteers and I was blown away by their professionalism and expertise on the house.  It was interested to learn about how the family lived in the home, the impact the family’s personalities had on Wright’s design, and the restoration work that has gone into preserving this history.  I was also a bit surprised by how busy the site was. There was around 15 people in our tour group and there was at minimum three or four other tour groups running at the same time.

I would highly recommend this tour to anyone interested in built heritage or the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.  We scheduled an extra day in Grand Rapids just so we could take the tour and it was well worth the effort.

Shingwauk Historical Site Tours

Since 2010 part of my job has included providing historical site tours focusing on the history of the Shingwauk and Wawanosh Indian Residential Schools that were located on the site which now houses Algoma University.

In the past few years I have been giving between 80-100 tours to a range of audiences, including : K-12, post-secondary students, community groups, professional development groups, government employees, and others. These tours are often paired with an education presentation , a talk from a residential school survivor, or a hands-on educational activity. The tours aren’t meant to provide a complete historical narrative but rather serve as a starting point for discussing the history of residential schools in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and Canada more broadly.

A glimpse of what the average tour includes can be seen in the “Where You Live: Shingwauk Historical Tour” video recently created by Shaw TV Sault Ste. Marie.

Wikithon Roundtable Recording

As I mentioned earlier, I am very happy to be co-hosting the “Weikipedia As Outreach And Activism For Canadian History” with Jessica Knapp of Canada’s History Society. Last week we ran our first webinar which featured Jade Pichette, Skylee-Storm Hogan, and Ezra Winton discussing their experiences editing Wikipedia, hosting edit-a-thons, and sharing advice for those wanting to host or participate in future edit-a-thons. A recording of the webinar is available below.

Our next webinar is Wednesday July 19, 2017 at 2pm ET and will feature 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.  Amy will be discussing her involvement with the Art+Feminism editing community and how to use Wikipedia for outreach and activism in a GLAM setting.  Interested in joining us? You can register at: http://www.canadashistory.ca/Explore/Webinars/Wikipedia-as-Outreach-and-Activism-for-Canadian-History-Webinar-Series

 

Frederik Meijer Sculpture Park and Gardens

Leslie E. Tassell English Perennial and Bulb Garden

Leslie E. Tassell English Perennial and Bulb Garden

Recently while I was visiting Grand Rapids, Michigan and had an opportunity to spend time exploring the Frederik Meijer Sculpture Park and Gardens.  It was a wonderful few hours on a gorgeous summer day and I loved the mixture of art, nature, and cultivated gardens.  The Gardens opened in 1995, sits on 158 acres and aims to promote an understanding of gardens, sculpture, nature, and the arts.

Given that the site is 158 acres and that we had a limited time frame we were selective about which areas of the Gardens we explored.  We spent the bulk of our time exploring the Sculpture Park which is 30 acres of outdoor paths, formal gardens, and natural landscape all geared to showcase large outdoor sculptures.  There was a mixture of modern and traditional sculpture with some of my favourites being huge metal sculptures that were large enough to walk under. I also liked that they intentionally left some areas of the sculpture park ‘wild’ or more natural, it provided a great contrast to the sculptures.

One of my favourite sculptures from the Sculpture Park

In addition to the sculpture park during our visit there was also an indoor exhibition, Ai Weiwei at Meiher Gardens: Natural State.  As part of this show Ai Weiwei’s work was in a formal gallery space but also located in conservatories and public spaces. Ai Weiwei is known as an activist and artist and much of his work on display was politically motivated or providing critical commentary on social events.

We also spent some time viewing around the indoor conservatories, the British style outdoor garden area, and the kids garden.  We concluded our visiting the daylily show and competition that just happened to be occurring the day we visited.  Lilies are one of my favourite flowers and I adored seeing the range of colours and styles of flowers featured in the show.

Overall this was a really great way to spend a morning, I left feeling like I learned something and also feeling really relaxed after spending so much time outside among beautiful garden spaces.  I would definitely recommend this site to anyone traveling through Grand Rapids.