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.
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 Societyis 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.
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.
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.
This survey is open to all members of the Canadian archival community regardless of their role, employment status, the size of their archives, or whether they classify their archives as a ‘formal’ or ‘informal’ repository. Multiple responses from archivists within a single large institution are welcome.
The survey aims to gather and then review institutional policies, best practices, and related perceptions existent in archives across the country as they pertain to engagement with, and support for Indigenous community members and researchers. The results of this survey will be used to identify potential barriers to, or practices in support of, reconciliation efforts between the Canadian archival community and Indigenous communities across Canada.
The survey can be accessed until July 21, 2017 at: http://unbc.fluidsurveys.com/s/TRC-TF-Survey/
I’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)
I’ve worked in an open office setup for the bulk of my professional career. This has typically meant sharing an office space with multiple co-workers and students. It has also meant working in a space that is open to the public. In 2015 there was around six or eight months where I had an office to myself, though I tended to have an open door policy.
Recently, after some internal discussions the space that I work in is no longer open to the public every single hour that I’m there. The new public hours have only been in operation for a bit over a week – but is essentially means half my time is spent with an open door and the other half the office door is shut. This week has got me thinking a lot about the value of closed doors, dedicated processing time, and carving out time for specific projects. I had forgotten how much value there is in having a door that can be closed.
I like the flexibility of being able to help people when they drop in. But I’m also really valuing the time I have carved out each day to work on longer term projects, processing that can’t be done in a public space, and the ability to have phone calls without worrying if someone is going to walk in.
When you are front line facing it can often become challenging to dedicate time to non immediate needs – the needs of patrons, rightly, come first. Having staff you can rotate off with or a dedicated space away from patrons can be a huge boon in terms of finding time to do all the other tasks associated with archives aside from research requests and public programming.
I’d be interested in hearing how others balance front line facing roles with other aspects of archival practice. I think is particularly a challenge in small shops where one person does almost everything – from accessioning to reference – and that individual needs to set their own schedule and boundaries.
I’m on a podcast! Given my obsession with listening to podcasts it might not be surprising that I’m very excited to have been part of a podcast recording.
Recently Scott Neigh of Talking Radical Radio interviewed Skylee-Storm Hogan and I about the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, activism and archives, and more broadly about documenting social movements. Our conversation was partially inspired by my recent Active History post on “Archives As Activism” which discusses some of the current trends around archiving and documenting social movements in Canada.
My podcast listening has changed drastically over the past couple of months – mainly because I’m no longer spending two hours a day in the car. I’ve become a bit more selective in what I listen to and I’ve also changed up when I’m listening. I’m now spending more time listening to podcasts while at the gym, walking, or doing physical processing while at work. The fact that I’m occasionally listening while moving archival boxes around or labeling folders makes the Historical Yours podcast all the more perfect.
Historical Yours is a podcast created by the University of Iowa Libraries and Special Collections. It is hosted by Outreach Librarian Colleen Theisen and each episode features Theisen and a guest who “will read one historic letter, research the context, and discuss the role of letter writing past and present.” I love concept behind this podcast and it’s focus on a one off letter that has no associated context. Each podcast is like a mini-historical research research project or scavenger hunt looking to provide context to a lone piece of correspondence.
The podcast is based on a unique collection held by University of Iowa of which is comprised of thousands of single letters. The letters have zero context about who wrote them, who they were sent to, or who held on to them over the years. Historically Yours draws attention to this collection but also tries to fill in some of the context that isn’t currently found within the thousands of letters in the collection. It’s a bi-weekly podcast with only a few episodes released so far but I highly recommend having a listen and I look forward to hearing more episodes as they are released.
Reuss’ article incorporates comments from Jay Jones, the current president of the Children of Shingwauk ALumni Association and myself. Jay and I both discuss the unique history of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre and the important of Indigenous community perspectives in managing collections. Jay and his entire family are an inspiration and I am constantly grateful to be able to work with them through my involvement with the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.