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.

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.

Eight Years of Blogging

Startup Stock PhotosI started blogging back in September 2008 as part of a course requirement for a digital history class I took as part of my MA in Public History.  Looking back I have a hard time believing I’ve kept up with the practice for eight years.  There have been the occasional lulls in my writing but I seem to always return to the keyboard.

Eight years of blogging and over 530 posts later, writing in the public sphere is still an essential part of my professional practice.  This informal writing practice has benefited me by connecting me with other professionals, helped me work through ideas in a space that can allow for collaboration, and opened doors to other opportunities. It is also flexible enough that I can adapt my writing style and topics based on interest, time commitment, and professional interests.

Is it worth the effort?  I can point to definite projects that have developed out of my online presence (on twitter and through blogging) and there are people I have connected with virtually who have become valued colleagues and friends. So, yes. I think it’s a practice worth maintaining and one I plan on continuing with for the foreseeable future.

NCPH recap: Day Two, March 17

I’m recapping my NCPH 2016 experience.  I wrote yesterday about my experience on the first day of the conference and the LGBT history workshop.  Day two was filled with sessions, connecting with colleagues, and quality discussions.

New Member Welcome

Day two started off bright and early at 7:30am with the new members breakfast.  As part of the membership committee I attended the event to help welcome new NCPH members and new conference attendees.  The group at the breakfast was a great mix of students, new professionals, and seasoned practitioners who were new to NCPH.  I was lucky enough to meet a handful of archival students at this breakfast – it was great to see people excited about the possibilities of public history programming within archives.

Uncomfortable Truth

Slide from Uncomfortable Truth panel.

Slide from Uncomfortable Truth panel.

Following the new members breakfast I headed to the “Uncomfortable Truth” panel that focused on the ways in which archivists and historians challenge truths and the need to bridge the gap between seeking to tell a more complete story while respecting community memory/stories of diverse audiences. This panel included Jennifer Wellock, National Park Service; Dorothy Dougherty, National Archives and Record Administration; and Jenifer Eggleston, Preserve Marshall County, National Park Service.

This session was well received by a packed room.  The panelists focused on the different ways in which archives are used to challenge different types of truth — they can challenge personal/family truth, community truth, and national narratives.  For example, people going genealogy research can find out unexpected realities about their families — arrests, mental health diagnoses, voluntary name changes etc that might be contrary to family myth.  Similarly, a place with supposed historical value can be de-bunked using archival records or a community history can be challenged by bringing in new interpretations that include marginalized voices.  This session really highlight the power of archives in truth telling and the value of incorporating archives in historical interpretation during all types of history.

The Uncomfortable Truth session ended with an activity that invited audience/participant members to engage with archival documents.  This fairly standard archival instruction activity allowed participants to discuss how specific archival records could be used as teaching tools and what historians can learn from archival documents.  The activity portion of the session was a bit rushed – but I think there was definite value in having participants engage in this learning exercise as it’s a great example of how archives can be brought into the classroom.

Methods of Digital Archiving and Biography

This panel focused on two very specific biography projects: the People of the Founding Era and the Foreign Relations Series of the U.S. Department of State.  The Social Networks and Archival Context project was also briefly mentioned.

The People of the Founding Era project is “is a scholarly reference work that provides biographical information on over 25,000 people born between 1713 and 1815, drawn from the digitized papers of the Founding Fathers and other documentary editions of the Founding Era.”  The project creates searchable biographical statements, and provides structured data for prosopographical study.

I liked the ideas behind this project – using a database to connect individuals and creating unique profiles of people mentioned in historical text.  The project also aggregates information from a number of sources which has the potential to be extremely useful to researchers. However I had some ethical challenges around the copyrighted and pay-walled nature of this project.  The project is tied to a publishing company and the material isn’t accessible unless you subscribe to the service.  I was particularly interested in the initiative to document slaves and other marginalized people and the fact that this work would then be inaccessible to present-day marginalized community.  The irony and ethical challenges of this was particularly striking.

Conversely the Foreign Relations Series project was created using completely open source technology.  This project captured names of people mentioned in FRUS publications and created biographical data sets.  It used Open Refine extensively to cluster and edit data, though the presenter did highlight the need for human intervention and checking the clusters created by Open Refine. This project was a great contrast to the Founding Era initiative and really emphasized the range of possibilities that can be done with open source software.

Change Starts Within Challenging Cultural and Structural Barriers to Inclusive Public History

This structured conversation was facilitated by Julie Davis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Abigail Gautreau, Middle Tennessee State University; Lara Kelland, University of Louisville; and Craig Stutman, Delaware Valley University.  This was the only structured conversation I attended at NCPH.  It was an interesting format that had participants organize their chairs in tiered circles and invited everyone in the room to talk about doing public history with marginalized communities.

A Google Doc was created to document the conversation and as place that participants could contribute to during and after the conversation.  The document is worth a read to get a sense of the passion of the presenters around inclusive public history and the challenges of creating safe spaces and historical narratives that are reflective of multiple perspectives.  I found this an interesting session that got participants really riled up about important issues.  That being said, the physical space for the discussion wasn’t ideal.  There was a large pole in the middle of the room so you couldn’t see everyone participating and the tired circles meant some people’s backs were to others.  Also as commonly happens in any type of open discussion there were a couple of voices that dominated the conversation.  Their contributions were worthwhile but I wish more people had the opportunity to contribute as well.

Extra Activities

Other things that day two included – the NCPH business meeting where Stephanie Rowe was announced as the new executive director of NCPH.  I also had a wonderful lunch with some archives folks.  It was great to see so many people who work in archives at NCPH this year – I think it’s definitely a growing group of members.  My evening of day two was spent at the Walters Art Museum, which I’ll recap in a separate post.

Auction for Action

Walking With Our Sisters (WWOS) is currently holding an Auction For Action.  The Auction started on February 15th and runs until March 6th.  This year WWOS is partnering with Awasis: A Sacred Journey, Butterflies in Spirit, and Got Bannock.  All the proceeds from the auction will be shared between these four community based initiatives.

The Auction is facilitated through a facebook page set up by WWOS. The 21 day auction is open to anyone on facebook, both to bid and to provide donations.  To donate an item to the auction donors simply upload a good quality photograph of the donated item, a short description, and shipping details.  Bidders can big directly on the item using the facebook comment function.  The community based nature of the fundraiser reflects the grassroots nature of all the projects involved.  A large number of the items already donated are handmade, indigenous made, and beautiful works of art.  Well worth a look for anyone interested in supporting these great causes.

More information about each of the organizations this fundraising supports can be found below:

Walking With Our Sisters (WWOS) is a memorial that honours the lives of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. WWOS is touring until 2019 at 32 locations across North America.The exhibit incorporates the act of ceremony and honouring with the work of approx.1400 artists who created 1808 pairs of moccasin tops. Operated entirely by volunteers, with none of the organizers getting paid, this project has not applied for nor received a government grant for the materials, shipping costs or any other costs associated with it.

Awasis: A Sacred Journey. Donna Gamble is walking across Canada for “my sisters who’ve left and those who continue to struggle. I also pray for our babies and the brothers. As a mother grandmother & Chapan (great grandmother), I walk in prayer for missing and murdered sisters and for the health of our communities and children. ‘Awasis’ is a child. Donna began her journey when Tina Fontaine (15) was murdered in Winnipeg. She completed the first half of her walk in the fall of 2014 from BC to Sask. She continues her walk this spring from Sask to Ottawa. Proceeds from this auction will go to support her completing her journey.

Butterflies in Spirit is a Vancouver dance troupe raising awareness of violence against Aboriginal women and girls, including those who have gone missing or have been murdered. To commemorate them, their images are worn on t-shirts in performance, as the dancers pay respect to their lives. They have performed at more than 10 events across Canada.Got Bannock is a grassroots initiative by Althea Guiboche to feed the hungry, the homeless and less fortunate on the cold streets of Winnipeg Her motto is “in honour of the village we once had”. Althea is a stay-at-home single parent who encourages a more selfless life that caters to Mother Earth and her children. She states “The traditional village my people once had was based on respect, honour and love. We were self-governed and every member of the tribe was a contributor towards survival of the village…our wealth was measured less in what we had than in what we shared with one another.” Proceeds from this auction will go to Got Bannock to be able to continue the good work it does.

Onwards and Upwards

In 2008 I started blogging at Historical Reminiscents.  The original impetus for beginning that blog was an assignment as part of a digital history class.  The blog was much longer lasting than the class and has featured over 400 posts since 2008.

This past weekend I imported all those old posts, had a domain registered (hurray for both kristamccracken.ca and kristamccracken.com being available), and installed WordPress on this new site.  It feels a bit like the end of an era.  But I’m going to continue to blog. All that’s really changed is the web address.

Reverb: Photo worth 1,000 words

During the month of December I am participating in #reverb14 as a means of getting my writing habits back on track. I will be altering the prompts as needed to fit within the scope of this blog. Prompt: 1000 Words:  There’s the old saying that a photo is worth 1,000 words.  Give us a photo with that impact that sums up some significant event of your 2014, or give us 1,000 words about a pivotal moment in 2014.

November 14, 2014 birth of Emma.

 

Writing Matters

During the month of December I am participating in #reverb14 as a means of getting my writing habits back on track. I will be altering the prompts as needed to fit within the scope of this blog. Today’s prompt: On writing: Chances are, if you’re participating in #reverb it’s because you like writing.  Or at least want to like writing.  Writing is like a muscle.  Use it or lose it.  What do you do every day to hone your craft?  Or, what would you like to do each day to contribute to your writing?

This prompt speaks to why I am participating in #reveb14 this year. I wanted to encourage myself to get back to writing on a regular basis.  When I’m practicing good writing habits I try to write a little bit every day — even if it’s just a couple hundred words in a blog post that never sees the light of day. Quality matters, but so does getting words down on the page.  Really bad first drafts are okay.  They can foster insight and you need to start somewhere. 

I’ve also found that I tend to be most productive when I’m able to write in the morning.  My creative and analytical juices tend to work much better in the earlier part of the day.  When working on longer pieces I like to be able to take time away from the writing and come back to it a day or two later. 

In the past few months I’ve also taken to writing more using pen and paper.  This old school writing has been mostly personal or creative projects.  The ease of being able to open a simple notebook and start writing has been great.  I find I often fall victim to being distracted by the internet or email when I sit down at my computer to write.  Removing distractions and setting time goals for writing has been helpful.

Volunteering and Service Projects

During the month of December I am participating in #reverb14 as a means of getting my writing habits back on track. I will be altering the prompts as needed to fit within the scope of this blog. Today’s prompt: The Plank: It has been said that you must learn to take care of yourself before you can be effective at taking care of others.  How did you take care of yourself in 2014?  How will you take care of yourself in 2015?

One of the most rewarding personal things I’ve done this year is to continue being engaged in projects that matter to me.  Taking on extra projects outside of work might seem counter intuitive to self care.  But working on history projects that are intellectually challenging and interesting is something I greatly enjoy. I find engagement in this type of project rewarding and something that helps lift my mood.

Projects I’ve continued to be a part of this year:

  • Volunteering with the Multicultural History Society of Ontario‘s digital archive project.  This project has focused on making oral history interviews conducted by the MHSO accessible online.  It’s been great to be able to volunteer with this meaningful project from a distance and be able to help out with interview transcription, research/writing of biographies, and indexing of interviews.
  • Serving on the membership committee of the National Council of Public History.  NCPH is a great organization that I’ve enjoyed contributing to.  Serving on the membership committee has allowed me to become more engaged in the organization and connect with a number of public historians from both Canada and the United States.  
  • Active History Website.  I’ve continued to be a co-editor at Active History.  I’ve been involved with this project for a number of years now and it is something I have continued to enjoy participating in.  The site promotes the dissemination of historical knowledge and often focuses on the intersection of history and everyday events.

Community and Student Supervision

During the month of December I am participating in #reverb14 as a means of getting my writing habits back on track. I will be altering the prompts as needed to fit within the scope of this blog. Today’s prompt: Victory Laps: What was your biggest accomplishment this year? 

I was fortunate to be part of many great projects this year.  Being part of the effort to bring Walking With Our Sisters (WWOS) to Sault Ste Marie was a humbling and amazing experience.  WWOS is a commemorative art installation honoring missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and the United States.  The project is community and ceremony driven.  It was inspiring to see so many people in Sault Ste Marie work together on the project and so many people visit the installation.  I learned a lot during this project and had the privilege of working with a great group of community volunteers.

This past year I also had the opportunity to supervise a fourth year undergraduate history thesis.  The student’s thesis focused on the early years of the Shingwauk Residential School.  Acting as a supervisor was an extremely rewarding experience.  The sense of community amongst the supervisors and thesis students was inspiring and allowed for many a good historical debate. 

Being able to see a student work their way through an idea, background research, archival research, and the writing of a thesis was a unique experience that I am glad I had the opportunity to be part of. Having the chance to talk about writing strategies, research methods, and archival research with people who are just as enthusiastic about history is always a great thing.