AASLH Technical Leaflet – Get to Work: Crafting Cover Letters and Résumés for Emerging Professionals

In 2017, I had the opportunity to work with Michael Dove, of Western’s Public History Program, to author a technical leaflet for the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).  Titled, “Get to Work: Crafting Cover Letters and Résumés for Emerging Professionals,” our leaflet is part of the AASLH’s Winter 2018 History News publication which is an Emerging Professionals Takeover Issue of the magazine.

The issue is currently at the printers and will be landing in AASLH member mailboxes soon. Our technical leaflet will also be available for download as part of the AASLH leaflet series. The aim behind the series is to provide clear, short guides on topics specific to practicing history at the local and state levels.

In writing this leaflet we hoped to demystify the world of public history jobs and provide concrete advice for emerging professionals who are embarking on a job search.  We discuss skills sought by public history employees, how to project your value in a cover letter, and have included a sample résumé as a guideline.

A huge thank you to Hannah Hethmon and Hope Shannon who served as guest editors for this issue of History News and who invited the contribution from Mike and I.

Photo credit: G. Crescoli on Unsplash

Beyond the Lecture: Innovations in Teaching Canadian History

Today Active History announced “Beyond the Lecture” a new monthly series dedicated to renewed dialogue about best practices for teaching Canadian history at the post-secondary level.  This series is edited by Andrea Eidinger and I and is open to submissions.

How do you approach Canadian history in the classroom? Do you use digital history, public history, collaborative teaching practices? We want to hear about the innovative, experimental, and unique ways you are teaching Canadian history. Check out the full call for submissions for more details or get in touch with Andrea or I if you have questions.

Photo Credit:  Students in a classroom making notes and studying reference books in class. Carleton University, Ottawa, Ont, 1961. Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN Number

Interpretation, Interaction, and Critique at House Museums

Two storey stone house with walkway and lawn in front.

My latest post can be read over at Activehistory.ca.  The post, “Interpretation, Interaction, and Critique at House Museums,” discusses using Anarchist Tags in the public history classroom as a way to teach critical thinking skills about heritage spaces and allow students to interact with heritage sites in a new way.  Using the tags was a new experience for me and in the post I explain how they work and reflect on their effectiveness in the classroom.

A huge thank you to Will Hollingshead of the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site for his willingness to collaborate on this project and all of his creative ideas that he brought to our class site visit.

AcWriMo 2017

Wooden desk with a blank sheet of white paper and a laptop. Behind the paper is a pencil holder with pens and writing tools.

AcWriMo, the academic take on #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), has been around for a number of years . I’ve even participated a couple of times in the past and if you’re curious about what I’ve done in previous years see my #AcWriMo reflections from 2012 and 2015.

One of the things I love about #AcWriMo is that it encourages participants to pick their own writing goals.  It could be to finish a paper, write X number of words a day, work on a book project, or any thing else associated with academic writing.

The #AcWriMo initiative was originally started in 2011 by Charlotte Frost as a month dedicated to hitting those lofting academic writing goals, encouraging academics to talk about their writing in public,  and to build a virtual academic writing community.  This year Charlotte has stepped back from formal #AcWriMo organizing but many academics are still engaging with the hashtag and goals of the challenge. Additionally a lot of resources that were created for #AcWriMo are still available for download and use for those who are just getting started.

My 2017 #AcWriMo goals include:

  • Writing something every day.  It doesn’t have to be long but it does have to be related to my academic work and tweets don’t count.  I’m setting myself this goal as part of my ongoing efforts to build better writing habits.
  • Get back on track with regular scheduling blog posts.
  • Revamp my ongoing writing topics list to weed out ideas that no longer interest me.
  • Continue to plug away at an ongoing article draft.  My goal for this task is to have a draft ready for more detailed editing by the end of December.

My goals this year aren’t about quantity. They are about fostering good writing habits, prioritizing my work, and hopefully getting a few smaller things off my plate.  I would love to know who else is participating this year and what everyone’s goals are.

Photo credit: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

Crafting Bio Statements

White light neon sign saying "You Are Here" in capital letters on black background.

“Can you send us your bio?”  Yes, I can….after I’ve antagonized over it multiple times and spent hours crafting a single sentence. We’ve all been at the conference where the speakers are all introduced using lengthy bios that cover everything from education, current academic positions, and every book the individual has wrote.  How much do you normally remember from those bios? How much do you tune out? Writing about yourself is hard.  Writing about yourself in a concise but engaging way can be even more challenging.

Tailor Your Bio

Think about who you are writing the bio for and keep your audience at the forefront when crafting your bio.  Is the bio going to appear in a publication or is it going to be read aloud at an event? The medium that the bio is going to be used in should impact what you include.  As you might have guessed by now it’s pretty common to need more than one version of your bio.  Bios are rarely one size fits all.

You should have a one sentence long bio, a relatively short bio (100-200 words), and a longer more in-depth bio.  I find the one-sentence bios the hardest.  How do you fit everything about yourself into one sentence? You can’t.  You need to prioritize and decide what is most important to present about yourself.  Once sentence bios are typically used on social media platforms or for some writing gigs.

It is also important to revisit your bio.  As your career evolves and as the type of places you’re speaking and publishing change you’ll need to revise and retool your bio with updated information.  However once you have the bones and the structure of your bio established this type of simple updating shouldn’t be too painful.

Academic Bios

Your field might have specific tendencies or standard ways of writing a biographical statement.  A good starting point is often looking a how other scholars in your field write their bios.  What length are they typically? What type of educational, career, and personal information do they include? If you’re writing a bio for a conference check to see if they have bios available online from previous years.  And if the forum you’re writing the bio for gives you a word count respect that space and stay within it.

Narrating Your Professional Life: Writing the Academic Bio” by Grad Hacker provides a great breakdown of the different lengths of bios and the different types of bios you will likely need throughout an academic career.  This post also provides suggestions on how to organize your bio – chronologically, thematic, or broad/narrow focused.


My favourite bios are ones that have a personal touch.  They aren’t simply a list of accomplishments that tell me nothing about the person.  Yes, even in professional settings you can make your bio more interesting.  Talking about your passions or your approaches to your work can be more inspiring that simply saying “I teach X at X university.”  It’s not always be appropriate to share what you do in your spare time or be super witty.  But sometimes it is appropriate and I think we need to take advantage of opportunities which let us be open and honest about who we are when the time is right.


As an effort to create safer more inclusive spaces I encourage everyone to include their pronouns in any of their written bio statements.  This is a really simple way to be more inclusive and make spaces more welcoming to trans* and non-binary identifying folks.  Similarly, I also recommend folks indicate their pronouns if they are introducing themselves at an event and if you’re facilitating a group activity ask everyone to include pronouns in their introduction.

What are you favourite bio writing strategies? 

Photo Credit: Photo by John Baker on Unsplash.

Best New Articles from September 2017

Andrea Eidinger over at Unwritten Histories has released her list of “Best New Articles from September 2017.” I’ve overjoyed by the fact that my “Archival Photographs in Perspective: Indian Residential School Images of Health” article is included on the best new articles list.

Go check out the rest of Andrea’s article recommendations for the past month, there are a number of really interesting and must read Canadian history articles on the list.

Open Access and Community Engaged Research

Open access logo - orange lock that is open on left side.
Open access logo.

If you follow me on Twitter you know I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of paywalls on community engaged research.  My recent article, “Archival photographs in perspective: Indian residential school images of health” that is now out in the British Journal of Canadian Studies (volume 30, issue 2) is currently behind a paywall.  So is every other article in this journal issue.  At least one other author has spoken out about the problematic nature of pay-walling this content

During the publication process I did manage to negotiate a shorter OA embargo period for this article – I’m extremely happy about this and very glad I took the time (and built up the internal courage) to ask about the possibilities.  However, the more I think about my work and the community focused nature of it the more I’m questioning the need for it to be available to community based folks.

It was completely my decision to publish in this special issue and not having asking about the OA conditions prior to writing the article is totally on my shoulders.  I agreed to write this article 3-4 years ago, which speaks volumes to the lengthy nature of the academic publishing cycle but also on how my opinions around community research have developed in that time.  This experience has been a good reminder to me about the importance of knowing all the details of a journal before submitting. It has also made me take a serious look at my publishing goals and reconsider where I’m looking to publish in the future.

If I am engaged in community based work – especially work that is with a marginalized community – that work should be immediately accessible to the community I’m writing about.  In a time where archives, public history professionals, and post-secondary institutions are talking more and more about decolonization we need to take a serious look at making our work accessible to the Indigenous communities we are working with.  People working outside of the academy should not be placed on a second tier and should have the same access to information as everyone else.

In terms of learning more I would point folks toward to the First Nation principals of OCAP when thinking about information relating to Indigenous communities. OCAP speaks to the Ownership, Control, Access and Possession of information and data relating to Indigenous communities.  I would also encourage people to reread the TRC Calls to Action around research and heritage and familiarize themselves with UNDRIP principles which relate to their work.

There are also a ton of fantastic folks doing work on OA publishing and promoting OA within the library, archives, and public history fields.  If you’re looking for additional reading or information I’d suggest:

  • Follow Ali Versluis on Twitter.  Seriously. Go follow her now. She is awesome and frequently writes about OA, publishing, and access.
  • Need a primer on the basics of open access? Check out the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) page on open access.
  • Tri-Agency Open Access Policy.  As of May 2015 any work funded under SSHRC, NSERC, or CIHR grants must be made open access.  For example, any grant recipients that write a peer-reviewed journal article based on their grant work are required to ensure that the research is freely available within 12 months of publication.
  • Check with your university library – there is a good chance they have resources on open access publishing.
  • Check to see if your institution has an open access institutional repository.
  • Open access week is October 23 – 29, 2017.  Check out the website for resources, local events and more information.

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.

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? 

Active History Archives Theme Week

Archives Venn DiagramI’m overjoyed by how the Active History Archives Theme Week has come together.  This week emerged after the ‘secret archives’ new story and the subsequent response from the archival community.  The goal of the theme week is to foster discussion between archivists and historians.  Posts in the week tackle issues of archival labour, how private records end up in archives, the legacy of colonial collecting practices, collaboration within archives, and archival outreach.

The theme week includes the following posts: (I’ll update with hyperlinks to the posts once they are live on Active History)

Many thanks to all of the fantastic archivists who contributed to this series.