Tri-University Annual History Conference Keynote

Title slide for talk

I am delighted to share that I was the keynote at the Tri-University Annual History Conference on March 9, 2019 in Guelph.  The theme for this year’s conference was “In Small and Large Things Remembered’: Material Culture and History.” Continue reading Tri-University Annual History Conference Keynote

Teaching: Dismantling White Supremacy in Archives

Row of lit matches

As part of my Introduction to Archival Studies course I introduced the fantastic Identifying & Dismantling White Supremacy in Archives poster created by Michelle Caswell’s Archives, Records, and Memory Class in 2016.  Full details about Caswell’s practices for teaching about white supremacy in archives can be seen in her 2017 Library Quarterly article.  Likewise, the step-by-step instructions for her group exercise for teaching about white privilege are tremendously helpful for anyone looking to engage in a similar activity in their classroom.

I used this poster as a way in reinforce some of the conversations we had been having in class about inherent bias in archival systems and the relationship between archives and colonialism.  We read through the each of the privileges and actions identified in the areas of archival description, appraisal, access/use, professional life, and education.  I then asked students to reflect on what we had been learning about Indigenous knowledge keeping, Indigenous content in community archives vs. Indigenous content in Western archives, and the Canadian archival profession’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.  After individual and small group reflection students were asked to come up with new actions specific to the Indigenous/settler context which exists in the land currently known as Canada.

The dialogue inspired the poster included reflections on the need for Indigenous community driven archival practices, support for Indigenous language archival description, and the need for flexible access to archives based on Indigenous needs.  Discussion also focused on ways to dismantle barriers to archival access and possibilities for building better professional relationships.  We also talked about the potential of community based archival education opportunities and how access to education directly impacts the archival profession.

For me, this exercise was a way to build on the readings and lecture material students were engaged in about archives and colonialism.  The student response was positive with many of the students wanting to know more about the origins of the poster and looking to further their own understanding of the topic.

For folks interested in learning more about the importance of teaching social justice in the archival classroom here are some additional resources:

Photo credit: Jamie Street on Unsplash

Reading That Inspired Me In 2018

child reading a book

Today I’m reflecting on a range of readings that have inspired me or changed by thinking in 2018.  These works are all ones that I have read in the past year – they may be newly published or just new to me. Some are book length and some are short blog posts but they all relate to my professional practice as an archivist and public historian in some way.

Marika Cifor, Michelle Caswell, Alda Allina Migoni, Noah Geraci “What We Do Crosses Over to Activism: The Politics and Practice of Community Archives,” The Public Historian 40, no. 2 (2018): 69-95.
This article does an excellent job of situating community archives in relation to public history practice. and activism.  It also comments on the rise of community archives and the implications of community archival growth on the archival and public history community.  As a public historian who works in a community archive this article resonated with my work so much. By addressing community archivists on their own terms this paper argues that ,”whether they understand their work as activism, advocacy, or community organizing, community-based archivists are conceptualizing these archives as a means to challenge injustice, discrimination, and oppression to enable the creation and sustainability of stronger communities and a more just environment for
all.” (p. 92).The article draws heavily on literature connecting community archives to activism and recognizes activists as archival stakeholders.  Beyond providing excellent background on the topic of community archives Cifor et al. also analyze data collected via interviews with seventeen individuals involved with community archives.  The findings from these interviews provide insight into community identity, mixed feelings about activism, the relationship between archives and advocacy, and power structures in archival practice.

Sources and Methods in Indigenous Studies edited by Chris Anderson and Jean M. O’Brien
This book compromises essays from Indigenous scholars from across academia with a focus on critical reflections on Indigenous methodology and approaches to research.  The section on Indigenous history is of particular relevance to historians in Canada who are looking to broaden their understanding of Indigenous concepts of research.  The book includes a robust section on kinship as well as a section on feminism, gender, and sexuality.  I found the “All in the family” section particularly thoughtful in its approach to defining (or not choosing not to define) concepts of kinship and community.

This is an Honour Song by Leanne Betasmosake Simpson
This beautifully written book is a collection of essays, poetry, and narratives connected to the 1990 Oka resistance. The book contains pieces written by Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars and activists.  I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to broaden their understanding of Indigenous resistance and colonial relatives within the land currently known as Canada.

Meghan Hillman, “NCPH’s Own Repair Work at #ncph2019 and beyond,” History@Work, 29 August 2018
I’m including this blog post not only because I love NCPH, but because I think it represents the type of reflection and transparency that more professional organizations need to be engaged in.  Written by NCPH staff member Meghan Hillman, this post looks at the ways NCPH is looking to implement recommendations on how it can make members and attendees feel welcomed and safe at NCPH events.  The post specifically addresses planning for the inclusion of pronouns on NCPH badges and the availability of all gender washrooms at conference events.  To me, this post represents a lot of thought and reflection on the past of NCPH and the beginning of steps toward making conference spaces more accessible to trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming folks.

Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga
I consider this a must read for Canadians and folks engaged in building relationships with Indigenous communities.  This book does an excellent ability of placing contemporary realities and racism in historical context.  It’s not an easy read but it is a tremendously important book that talks about the deaths of seven Indigenous high school students in Thunder Bay, Ontario between 2000 and 2011.  All seven of these students were forced to leave their home to ‘continue their education’ and were living hundreds of miles away from their families and communities at the times of their death.  Talaga connects present day dispossession to ongoing educational and social inequalities and the long legacy of residential schools and colonialism in Canada.

Alicia Kerfoot, “Reframing the Pregnancy Story: On Literature, Stitching, and Lost Narratives,” Nursing Clio, 25 October 2018
This is a really powerful blog post that addressing grief, loss, and the historical practice of embroidered morning pieces. Beautifully written this post interweaves personal history, histories of gender and health, and representations of loss in textile art and literature. The personalization of history is one of the reasons why I love the Nursing Clio blog, there is tremendous value in sharing stories, personal connections, and discussing history through the lens of individual experiences. As a note, this post has the potential to be triggering to anyone who has experienced pregnancy loss or infant death.

April Hathcock, “Racing to the Crossroads of Scholarly Communication and Democracy: Bu Who Are We Leaving Behind?,” In the Library With The Lead Pipe, 22 August 2018 
I’m a huge fan of April Hathcock’s writing, scholarship, and work.  This piece is no exception, Hathcock tackles scholarly communication and access through the lens of intersectionality.  It takes a hard look at open access, the democracy of access to information, and the ways in which just posting content online does not make it open or accessible to all. Hathcock calls for reflective interrogation of race and communication practices; challenging scholarly communication folks, librarians, and authors to take a critical look at diversity, representation, and professional practices.

Photo credit: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Healing and Education Through Digital Access

White arrows on dark wood, pointing up

Earlier this month I was thrilled to find out that the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre at Algoma University was successful in our Digitization Canadian Collection application to the National Heritage Digitization Strategy.  Details about all 21 projects which were funded through this program can be found here.

The Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre’s project is titled “Healing and Education Through Digital Access.” The project will support the digitization of Indigenous language materials and some of the early administrative records associated with the Shingwauk and Wawanosh Residential Schools.  Once digitized this material will be OCR’d and made accessible to the broader public as appropriate. We will be working closely with members of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association to ensure that any material placed online is done in a respectful way and reflects the desires of the Survivor community. Personally, I’m thrilled to see this important work being supported and look forward to engaging with this project in the coming year. Onward!

Photo credit: Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

Archives As Activism: Community Narrative Building at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre

As part of the “(re)Active Public History” Twitter mini-con hosted by the National Council on Public History I presented a presentation on the role of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre as a place of community building and activism.  The complete Twitter presentation is below.

Xtreme Endnotes With An Archival Twist

Brown boxes on white background

Earlier this term I adapted Rozanne Panchasi’s “Xtreme Endnotes” activity for my introduction to archival studies class.  I used this activity as part of a discussion about the intersection of historical work, archival research, and the ways in which archives influence historical production.  This activity was also paired with readings and a lecture about how archives inform concepts of memory and how the work of historians and archivists intersects and differs.

The basics of Panchasi’s activity look like this:

  • Students are divided into groups with endnotes from a ‘hidden’ historical monographs
  • Without knowing the title, author, or having access to anything other than the notes students are asked to build an outline of the text and figure out what they can discover about the text, author, and topic
  • Each group then presents a profile of its hidden book to the class and open their package (drum rolls optional) to reveal the hidden book they examined. 
  • This exercise can be used as one way to teach about citation and the politics of citation practice.

What I changed:

  • I really wanted students to examine what type of primary sources the author used.
  • What archives did they visit? How are they citing archival materials?
  • What did the range of archival sources reveal about research practices, scope of research, and historical method?

This activity allowed for students to see some of the practical implications of archival access and allowed for a closer examination of how archives can be used to support historical research.  My archival studies class contains a number of students from outside of history, so I particularly wanted to draw attention to historical analysis as a way to talk about archives can shape historical knowledge.

There was a surprising amount of excitement and friendly competition around this activity, with groups vying to present the most detailed and accurate representation of their hidden book.  I didn’t even have to prompt the drum rolls, they just happened naturally.  When doing this activity one of the participating groups got the time period of their book right but based on the endnotes didn’t realize that the book was focused solely on experiences of women.  This allowed us to talk about reading against the grain of archival sources and ways that archivists and historians can work to illuminate historical voices that have been marginalized in archival records.

Overall, I think this exercise was a helpful way to get students thinking about how archives and historical practice intersect.  It also contributed to an interesting discussion of citation and research practices, and how one might even begin to narrow down what archival material to look at.  Plus, who doesn’t love drum rolls?

Photo: Leone Venter on Unsplash

Doing the work: Editing Wikipedia as an act of reconciliation

My latest piece, “Doing the work: Editing Wikipedia as an act of reconciliation“, written in collaboration with Danielle Robichaud is now up on On Archivy.  This piece developed out of an Archives Association of Ontario talk Danielle and I presented back in 2017 on “Collaborative archival practice: Rethinking outreach, access, and reconciliation using Wikipedia.”  The post looks at the how editing Wikipedia can be part of reconciliation efforts and includes tangible actions folks can take right now.

OER and Exploring Pressbooks

Cover of the Healing and Reconciliation Through Education Pressbook.
Cover of the draft Healing and Reconciliation Through Education Pressbook.

I recently starting working with Pressbooks as a way to develop an Open Educational Resource (OER) about residential schools and the history of the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

For folks not familiar will Pressbooks, it is a publishing platform that you easily create ebook and print-ready files for printing physical books.  In Ontario, eCampus Ontario has a dedicated Pressbooks instance for folks at universities in the province who are looking to develop OER and open textbooks.   The platform is extremely user friendly, and if you’ve used WordPress you’ll find the navigation and content entry system very similar.  I love the idea of using digital tools to create accessible, open access material for students to use in the classroom.  I also think there is a ton of potential for archives to work with historians to provide primary source material for this type of project.

We’re still very much in the content development phase of this project; but it has been really interesting to think about ways to illustrate the unique history of the Shingwauk Indian Residential School site in connection to the larger residential school system.  This is a history that the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association and the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre have been collecting and discussing for decades. It’s also a history that has become past of my daily work for the past eight years, either through archival practice or educational outreach programming. The development of OER content has the potential to deliver this history in new ways and to expand the reach of this important work.

I’m also really seeing the benefit of using a platform which supports collaboration.  I’ve been able to bring in a number of conspirators  co-authors to this project and we have been able to jointly develop content and design. I also like the flexibility a digital platform provides – hyperlinks, embedded audio-visual, and photographs are some of the obvious advantages.  In the case of our project we’re also embedding primary source material held by the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.  It is allowing us to directly connect learns will archival records, archival photographs, and documents which are central to telling the history of the Shingwauk site.

I would love to hear what other public history and Canadian history folks are doing with Pressbooks, OER software, and open textbook development. What are you working on? What resources do you wish existed to support your students? 

Project Funding News

Five people doing fist bumps.

I’ve been fortunate to be part of a number of projects that have recently received funding news.  I am very excited about all of this work, much of which involves community, engagement, and cross-cultural learning methods.

  • The TRC-TF was recently awarded at SSHRC Insight Grant for “Establishing a framework for reconciliation action and awareness within the Canadian archival system”  this funding will allow the TRC-TF to expand our outreach to Indigenous communities, Indigenous archivists, and Indigenous knowledge holders across Canada.
  • Skylee-Storm Hogan and I were recently the recipients of of an Inspirit Foundation ChangeUp Grant.  These grants are focused on building opportunities for people aged 18-34 to develop programming designed to shift attitudes within their communities.  Our project is focused on building space for dialogue about reconciliation, issues of inter-generational trauma, and residential schools.  We’ll be sharing lots of this work on social media as the project progresses.
  • The “Documenting early residential schools” project led by Thomas Peace in partnership with the Woodland Cultural Centre, Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, and the Anglican Diocese of Huron recently received funding through the SSHRC partnership engage grant program.  I’m thrilled to be a co-applicant on this project which will allow for the digitization, transcription, and discovery of records related to the early history of the Mohawk Institute and the Shingwauk Indian Residential School.  This project also has a significant education component, involving a group of students from Huron University College working with materials from the Shingwauk and Mohawk Schools.
  • Activehistory.ca was one of the supporting partners of Carolyn Podruchny’s “Aandse: Anishinaabe Ways of Knowing and the Transformation of University-based Knowledge Creation and Transfer.”  partnership development grant, which received $200,000 from SSHRC.

None of the above projects would have been possible without the fantastic colleagues and collaborators I’ve met through Active History and the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.  I am constantly grateful for the numerous meaningful collaborations that I get to participate in.

Photo credit: rawpixel on Unsplash