I had a great time at the 2017 Archives Association of Ontario conference last week. If you’re interested in the talk Danielle Robichaud and I gave relating to Wikipedia, archives, and reconciliation work our slides are now online.
It was great to meet Danielle in person (and yay for twitter connecting us virtually long before this conference). Many thanks to all who came to our talk. If you have questions relating to our presentation, using Wikipedia in archives, or Wikipedia editing as reconciliation work feel free to reach out to either Danielle or I.
Headed to the Archives Association of Ontario conference this week? Come join Danielle Robichaud and I on Friday April 28th from 2:30-3:15pm in session 6b. We’ll be talking Wikipedia and reconciliation and sharing some of our experiences editing Wikipedia within the context of reconciliation.
I’m really looking forward to this talk and hope to see many Ontario archives folks at AAO this year. If you’re planning to be at AAO but you can’t come to our talk please feel free to say hello during the conference.
[Edited for typo fails]
NCPH 2017 Program Cover
Next week I’ll be heading to Indianapolis for this year’s National Council on Public History conference. The agenda is filled with great sounding panels, roundtables, and workshops. I’m really looking forward to connecting with other public history professionals and digging into some public history.
I haven’t selected which panels I’ll be attending during the conference but there are a number of events that I’m helping facilitate as part of my role on the membership committee. There are also a number of broader conference events that I definitely plan on participating in. If you’re interested in connecting during the conference I will be at the following events:
- Membership Committee Twitter Chat (Wednesday April 19, 11:30am-12:30pm) *Virtual – join the conversation using the #ncph2017 hashtag.
- First Time Attendee and Mentoring Connection Meetup (Wednesday April 19, 5:30-6:00pm)
- Opening Reception (Wednesday April 19, 6:00-8:00pm)
- New Member Welcome (Thursday April 20, 7:30-8:30am)
- NCPH Business Meeting (Thursday April 20, 1:00-1:30pm)
- Indy Behind the Scenes: Eiteljog Museum of American Indians and Western Art Walking Tour (Friday April 21, 8:45-10:00am)
- Public Plenary: Making LGBTQ History American History (Friday April 21, 6:00-7:30pm)
- 2nd Annual Great NCPH Canuck Gathering (Friday April 21st)
- Awards Breakfast (Saturday April 22, 8:00-10:00am)
You will also likely find me at individual sessions focused on archives, Wikipedia, podcasting, and Indigenous history.
The 2017 Archives Association of Ontario conference is slated for April 26-28, 2017 at the University of Toronto Faculty of Information (iSchool). This year’s conference theme is “Come Together: Meaningful Collaboration in a Connected World.” The draft program at a glance is available online and it looks like a great couple of days of programming. Early bird registration just opened and runs to March 12, 2017. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had the opportunity to attend AAO – I blame the fact that Sault Ste. Marie is so far from basically everywhere. But this is typically a great smaller conference with lots of friendly folks and good conversation.
As part of the 2017 conference Danielle Robichaud and I will be talking archives and Wikipedia as part of the Digital Storytelling session on Friday April 28, 2017. April is going to be a busy month for me with both NCPH and AAO within a couple of weeks. But I’m really looking forward to connecting with Ontario archives folks at AAO and presenting with Danielle.
One of my service gigs currently involves sitting on the membership committee of the National Council of Public History (NCPH). If you’ve followed my blog for awhile you probably know that this is one of my favourite professional organizations and that their annual meeting is something I really look forward to. I’ve served on the membership committee for a couple of years now and recently started acting as the co-chair of the committee.
As a committee we’ve been working on a handful of projects this year many of which revolve around making sure new members feel welcome to NCPH as an organization and to the annual meetings. Professional conferences where you don’t know anyone can be intimidating – but they can also be amazingly rewarding experiences. The first NCPH conference I attended was in 2012 in Milwaukee. I went solo but knew other Western Public History alumni and students would be there. Despite only knowing a few people at the conference it was a hugely welcoming experience where I felt like I belonged. Granted, part of this had to do with my love of the NCPH meeting format and the flexibility of the sessions. But it also had a lot to do with people just being helpful.
Conferencing, networking, and putting yourself out there can be exhausting – regardless of how many times you’ve done it. As a new NCPH annual meeting attendee I found the mentorship program helpful in orienting myself with the conference. It also took me a little bit to find my group – archivists and museum professionals who define themselves as public historians. But they existed and were welcoming. I think that’s another reason I love NCPH there is a such a range of professionals who attend from community historians to academics that you’re bound to find your niche. NCPH also encourages technology usage during sessions – so if you’re on twitter that can be a great way to connect with other attendees. I personally love the “Hey, I know you from twitter” moments.
What were your experiences as a new conference attendee or new member of a professional organization? Did specific events make you feel welcome at a conference? I would love to hear other people’s perspectives on first time conference attendance and building relationships within a professional organization.
Months ago as part of a National Council on Public History annual conference workshop I received a copy of Susan Ferentinos book Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites. I started reading the book months ago but somehow it managed to get lost in my to-read pile until fairly recently. This book examines queer history in the United States, provides an overview of sexuality and gender studies in the US, includes three case studies on interpreting LGBT history at historic sites, and a lengthy additional reading list for more information.
I learned more than I anticipated in the sections which covered queer history in the US – perhaps partially because queer history touchstone events in Canada follow a different time line and the history of the LGBT movement in Canada has been documented in different ways than the US. This background section is worth a read if you’re not familiar with queer history in the US. I also really enjoyed the case studies which included in the book – all of which looked at approaches and challenges related to interpreting LGBT history as a public historian. The case studies looked at queer history in museum spaces, historic houses, and archival settings. They also touched on the value of integrating queer history in permanent exhibition or interpretation guides vs the inclusion of LGBT materials in special or temporary programming. For me these case studies where the real value add and the best part of the publication.
This book contains a lot of advice around consultation, community based interpretation, and the need to have institutional and local buy-in to projects relating to LGBT history. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about queer history in the US or about successful initiatives relating to the display and discussion of LGBT history in the US.
This past weekend the Shingwauk Gathering and Conference was held at Algoma University. This event grew out of the 1981 Shingwauk Reunion and invites survivors, inter-generational survivors, those engaged in reconciliation and healing work, and community members to gather, share, and learn. This year the theme of the Gathering was “Fulfilling the Vision” and focused on present day responses to carrying out Chief Shingwauk’s Vision of teaching wigwams.
Since beginning to work at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC) in 2010 I’ve been fortunate to be part of five Gatherings. My role in the organization of the Gatherings has varied greatly from year to year. Sometimes I acted solely as an archives staff person supporting the work through helping with research requests, other years I helped planned special exhibits for the weekend or helped coordinate the schedule, and other year’s I’ve been responsible for most of the logistical planning of the event.
Most of this work falls under ‘other duties as assigned’ type work and is something I do outside my normal archival related duties. There were a number of comments during this year’s Gathering that resonated with me about the nature of this work:
- “I had no idea that working in an archive could be so physical.” -Setup volunteer.
- “What do you do the rest of the year when you aren’t organizing this event?” -Participant who was treated to an explanation of archival work.
- “You need a fit-bit.” -Participant, after seeing me walk back and forth the length of the school multiple times.
Holding this type of conference is a huge amount of work. But every year I’m left with a feeling that I’ve contributed to something meaningful. The healing work that takes place during the conference is important. The event also continuously highlights the importance of the archival collections at the SRSC in documenting the residential school experience and the healing movement. Every year there are survivors or intergenerational survivors who are returning to the Shingwauk IRS site for the first time. Being able to share with them the history of the site, photographs of the school and possibly photographs of themselves at Shingwauk is an amazingly powerful experience.
For the past couple of years the Gathering has also included youth programming. In this case youth is very broadly defined and tends to include anyone ~35 and younger. This programming is some of my favourite to sit in on, hear about, and help plan. It’s inspiring to see young people engaged in community work, reconciliation, and learning about the history of residential schools. It’s all important work and the involvement of the youth gives me hope that the legacy of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association and other survivor based groups will continue for generations.
Regardless of how I’ve been involved at every Gathering I’ve learned something new about residential schools, the survivor experience, and the realities of Indigenous life in Canada. I’m grateful to be welcomed in this space and the lessons I’m continuously learning are important for anyone engaged in archival work that documents residential schools or Indigenous communities. We need to work together as engaged scholars and engaged archivists and learning is the first step toward that.
I’ve been thinking a lot about service expectations, professional development opportunities and privilege. A lot has been written on the connection of conference attendance and privilege, conferences are expensive to attend and in the academic world that you often essentially pay to present your research. If you’re lucky enough to have a job that includes a professional development fund your travel and attendance might be covered but for many individuals these expenses come out of pocket. I’m very lucky (and privileged) to work in a place that has consistently supported my participation in conferences. I also have the time and financial stability to be able to attend professional development events and serve on professional committees without putting myself at financial risk.
I still think conferences can be valuable and have the potential to offer opportunities for connections with colleagues and skill building. I really look forward to the NCPH annual conference for this very reason and I have been on the organizing committee of a handful of conferences. However there definitely needs to be a more open dialogue about the financial challenges associated with attendance that is faced by students, early career professionals, and those in positions of precarious employment. In the academic world there is a huge sense of urgency that you need to build your CV by presenting at conferences but the very people who most need to build their CV through conference presentations are the ones who can least afford it. This sense of urgency is perhaps not a potent in the Canadian archives and library field but it is definitely still there – especially if you want to open career possibilities.
It’s important for conference organizers to think about what financial barriers their registration fees, hotel choices, and funding options place on attendance. Room sharing, attending smaller regional conferences, and other creative cost saving approaches can help on an individual level. As someone who lives in a region that rarely holds conferences related to my profession I understand the very real expenses associated with traveling for professional development. But this is a discussion we need to be having on a larger scale and is something we need to consider when running events. Creating opportunities for digital professional development, informal networking meetups, or running shorter less expensive single day events is one way to help with this. Similarly, joining planning committees and organizational committees where you can bring concerns and alternative suggestions can help.
Conferences are expensive to run, I get that. But there also needs to be a way that we can acknowledge the implicit privilege of conference attendance and work to create more inclusive spaces. This is particularly important for public historians and heritage professionals who work with communities and want to cultivate more community involvement. If we want to build meaningful collaboration and diversify our profession we need to create spaces for that to happen.
During my last day in Baltimore I took the Charm City Circulator to the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). The effort of looking up a free bus service and dragging myself outside on a raining day was definitely worth it. The BMA is free and is well known for its contemporary art collection. It was pleasantly surprised by the range of artwork in the museum, the innovative displays, and the effort made to make the space friendly to families.
There were a number of great exhibitions on during my visit but a couple have stuck with me in the weeks following my trip. I was really excited when I saw that there was an Art Quilts exhibition currently at the BMA. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you might know that I am fascinated by textile art (eg. I loved the Ethel Stein Master Weaver exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago). So I was intrigued by the idea of an exhibition dedicated to art quilts. Though the exhibition was very small – probably under ten times on display I still really enjoyed the pieces and contextual information included in the exhibition. The quilts on display were all from the 1980s onward and showed the conscious choice of artists to use quilting as an artistic medium, often merging previous artistic practices with this quilt medium. I really enjoyed this small look at quilts as art.
The other memorable exhibit was the Imaging Home exhibition, which is the inaugural exhibition in the Patricia and Mark Joseph Education Centre. Imaging Home was really accessible to all ages and I loved the interactive components and activity spaces that were integrated throughout. The ‘Home Stories‘ video stations were particularly powerful. These videos focused on families and their experiences living with a reproduction of one of four art objects that are currently on display in Imaging Home. The households featured this project ranged greatly in age, race, neighborhood, and family makeup and the works of art included a shower curtain from The Thing Quarterly, Issue 16, featuring text by human branding opportunity Dave Eggers; a set of four annotated photographs from Jim Goldberg‘s “Rich and Poor” series; Alfred Stieglitz’s photograph “The Steerage”; and Walter Henry Williams’ painting “A Quick Nap”.
Home Stories tablet station.
The Home Stories stations include tablets where visitors can listen to interviews to the participants responses to the artwork. I found these responses insightful, moving, and a very powerful addition to the overall exhibit. The idea of how artwork and conceptions of home can impact your life if really communicated through these videos. I love the idea of using creative ways to connect people to art. And a number of these videos included children responding to the artwork, which I think is important in engaging other kids in discussions around art.
I also found the “Three Sheds for Three Sites, Shed I: Home Shed” companion piece by Marian April Glebes‘ a great example of using sculpture to inspire conversation. This installation piece is a set of connected cabinets on wheels filled with household/domestic items. Visitors to the space are invited to actively engage with the installation by opening drawers, rearranging items, and talking about conceptions of home. I loved watching families engage with this work and was inspired by the conversations started in Imaging Home.
I really enjoyed by visit to the BMA and was pleasantly surprised by the variety of artwork on display, the creative installation methods, and the friendly staff.
The Walters Art Museum in Balitmore was a short walk from the NCPH conference hotel and was free, so I made an effort to take a walk over there one evening. The building itself is architecturally beautiful and the museum is well know for it’s collection of European artwork. The material on display during my visit included a lot of religious artwork, European and Asian, artwork, as well as design artwork.
There were two exhibits that I found particularly interesting at the Walters. The first was the From Rye to Raphael: The Walters Story exhibition which highlights the role of the Walters family in amassing the core art collection of the Museum. The exhibition was an interesting mixture of family photographs, artwork of numerous mediums, and explanations of the how the Walters family obtained certain items. I particularly liked the emphasis on how the collection developed – we often don’t think about the donors behind museum items but their history is crucial to understanding the provenance of items and creating a complete narrative. The artwork in this exhibition was largely European with some interesting textile works, but for me it took second place to the historical family narrative of the exhibition.
The second exhibition that I really enjoyed at the Walters was the Madame de Pompadour, Patron and Printmaker exhibition. Okay, I admit the first thought I had when I saw Madame de Pompadour’s name was about the “Girl in the Fireplace” episode of Doctor Who. Once I got over that particular train of thought, I really enjoyed the selections from Madame de Pompadour Suite of Prints which were featured in this exhibition. The Suite of Prints first edition held by the Walters includes a set of etchings created by the royal mistress in the 1750s. Fewer than 20 of these suites were made overall and the Walters has the only full remaining copy, which was also Madame de Pompadour’s personal copy.
The exhibition included etchings created by Pompadour of gems that were carved by Jacques Guay. These gems included carved images of French culture and portraits of royalty. I found the explanation of how etchings were created from the gems, the print making process, and the preservation of carvings in gems particularly interesting. The etchings were complimented by additional items that reflected Pompadour’s wider interest in arts including paintings, tapestries, and porcelains.
I really enjoyed my evening at the Walters and would recommend it to anyone visiting Baltimore who is interested in art, history, and culture more broadly.