Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall

Reclaiming shingwauk Hall poster

A permanent exhibition project I have been working on since 2012 is finally coming into fruition.  The first part of the Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall exhibition will open on August 3, 2018 and is dedicated to the generations of Survivors who attended Indian Residential Schools across the country.

Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall was developed and led by the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.  It has been a Survivor-driven reclamation of the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School and is a Healing and Reconciliation through Education initiative.   It will be housed on the third floor of Shingwauk Hall, a former residential school building that is now houses Algoma University. 

This opening of August 3rd will include three distinct gallery spaces:

We are all Children of Shingwauk Gallery: This space witnesses the comings and goings of hundreds of Indigenous children from communities near and far.  It features photos and stories of some of the earliest students of the Shingwauk school in its industrial phases, contemporary portraits and testimonies of Survivors, and ‘selfies’ of current Algoma and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig students. Here, visitors will see how entire families were connected to the Shingwauk site and learn about the remarkable ongoing healing work that has taken place.

Life at the Shingwauk Home: an Indian Residential School Gallery: This gallery illustrates how a scattering of modest buildings on 90.5 acres of land acquired in 1874 for ‘Indian Education’ became an ever-expanding industrial school complex and home to hundreds of Indigenous children. It charts the Shingwauk and Wawanosh Schools’ transition from industrial to residential school through photographs, offering a glimpse of the day-to-day existence of children over the years of the schools’ operation.

From Teaching Wigwam to Residential School Gallery: This final gallery recounts the story of Chief Shingwauk and his vision to create ‘Teaching Wigwams’ as a means of sustaining Anishinaabe self-determination. This historical gallery, which begins in the late 1700s, traces the history of the first iterations of the teaching wigwam through the absorption of the Shingwauk Home into the Canada-wide Indian Residential School System.

I am tremendously happy to see this project come together and humbled to be a part of such inspiring and important work.

Métis Nation of Ontario Root Ancestors Project

On April 24, 2018 Stacey Devlin of Know History presented a talk at Algoma University focused on the Métis Nation of Ontario Root Ancestors Project.  This fantastic project aims to increase resources and accessibility of information about the unique history and development of Métis communities in Ontario.

The Root Ancestors Project was developed based on feedback collected by the MNO in 2010/11.  The results of this consultation process can be found in ‘What We Heard’ report which includes suggestions relating to Métis identification and registration. One of the suggestions in this report focused on the development of easily accessible materials relating to Métis genealogy research and communities. The Root Ancestors Project stems from that 2011 recommendation.  I highly recommend folks explore the publicly available historical research and community based positing of the project.

Stacey Devlin’s talk provided an excellent walk through of the Root Ancestors Project and clearly laid out the ways in which the project combined archival research and community needs.  If you’re interested in learning more I’ve created a Twitter moment of my tweets from the event:

Rivers Speak Community Play

Rivers Speak Logo reads "The Rivers Speak, Gigdoowag Ziibiik, Les Riveres Parlent"
Rivers Speak Logo

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Gigidoowag Ziibiik (Rivers Speak) Community Play.  This fantastic project was the culminating event of Thinking Rock Community Arts‘ efforts to engage community members in story telling and art making.  Since 2013 Thinking Rock has involved over 1500 individuals in hands-on making and storytelling with an emphasis on reflecting on local rivers and waterways.  This initiative also worked to create spaces for cross-cultural conversations and involve both Indigenous and settler communities. 

The Rivers Speak play included over 30 cast members of all ages and was held on the traditional pow wow grounds of Misswezhaging (Mississaugi First Nation).  This community art project was a joy to see come to fruition.  The play was based on the stories, oral histories, and memories collected by Thinking Rock since 2013.

The play intertwined settler and Indigenous perspectives on water, community, and family — it followed Marie (settler) and Ira (Indigenous) community members who lived locally but passed away within recent years. The play was guided by two local elders and the narration was a mixture of English and Ojibway.  It also included audience participation components – for example the audience walked through an outdoor living stage and were invited to participate in a round dance at the end of the play.

It was an extremely powerful experience to participate in as an audience member and it was beautiful to see such a nuanced story come together based on community narratives and memories.  The work undertaken by Thinking Rock is a great example of community engaged history, community arts and participatory story building. I’m looking forward to seeing what projects Thinking Rock tackles in the future.

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.

Indigenous people want museums to heed TRC’s calls to action

Sophia Reuss recently wrote an article on  how “Indigenous people want museums to heed TRC’s calls to action: Cultural institutions have an important role to play in Canada’s reconciliation process.”  Reuss’ piece looks at the role museums and archives play in caring for and presenting materials relating to Indigenous communities and the need to the heritage field to critically responsd to the TRC Calls to Action.

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.

Reading: Make Roanoke Queer Again

Person holding book.
Used under CC0 license.

The latest issue of The Public Historian featured a number of great articles including “Make Roanoke Queer Again: Community History and Urban Change in a Southern City” by Gregory Rosethal. This article explores the specifics of interpreting queer history in Roanoke, Virgina but also focuses more broadly on queer community history projects, resistance through grassroots history, and interpreting urban history through a queer lens.

Rosethal argues that “queer public history projects can utilize cities as living laboratories for the exploration of the queer past” (p. 43). When discussing the history of urban environments and marginalized communities looking at places of past activism, past conflict, past meeting/social connection venues can be hugely powerful.  Similarly community experiences of erasure of flourishing can frequently be tied to physical spaces.  Rosethal uses the examples of the Make Roanoke Queer Again bar crawl and the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project of examples of community history rooted in collecting, preserving, and sharing queer histories.

I loved this article’s emphasis on the idea of queer history being connected to physical spaces, geographic places, and as a lived history.  In many communities queer history has gone undocumented and at times is seen as non-existent or as irrelevant. Grassroots activism and community based history initiatives are one of the many ways to document queer pasts and realities – and I think that acknowledging the diversity of queer* experiences and histories is something that is hugely important when creating local history narratives.  Rosethal’s article is well worth the read if you’re at all interested in community based public history or queer history interpretation projects.

Women, Wikipedia, and Intentional Editing

ArtFem_EmilyCarr_Mar42016_9
Art+Feminism Buttons, Emily Carr University of Art and Design Library, March 2016. Photo by Hillarywebb. CC-BY-SA 4.0

I’ve written previously about my use of Wikipedia as an outreach tool for the GLAM sector and the possibilities of connecting archives to users through Wikipedia.  I’ve also been thinking a lot about using Wikipedia as a form of awareness raising about Indigenous history, marginalized communities, and women. Many people have written about the systemic under representation of women and minorities on Wikipedia. Given that today is International Women’s Day I wanted to talk a bit about women, Wikipedia, and my personal approach to editing.

There are a handful of really great initiatives that encourage focused editing to increase female representation on Wikipedia.  For example, the WikiProject Women in Red initiative aims to turn red links (names/topics without Wiki pages) into blue links. The Women In Red initiative focuses on women’s biographies and works by women and hosts theme months where they focus on specific subsets such as women in science, Indigenous women, women in academia etc.  The project has some resources for new editors and an ongoing work list if you’re interested in contributing.

My other favourite women’s oriented Wikipedia project is the Art+Feminism initiative. Art+Feminism aims to encourage more women to be engaged in editing and to increase and improve content relating to feminism and the arts.  Art+Feminism has a ton of great resources (including a really well done video series) that can be used to introduce new editors to the basics of Wikipedia.  The project page also has a lot of advice on hosting an edit-a-thon and for community based organizers.  I used a lot of these resources when thinking about organizing the first edit-a-thon on campus in 2016.

Personally, I’ve being trying to be more thoughtful about what pages I create and contribute to.  Wikipedia can be a huge rabbit whole and for someone who has a desire to ‘fix all the things’ I can sometimes unintentionally spend hours editing. But my time is finite and I want my edits to be meaningful.  I’ve actively being trying to contribute to and create pages that relate to Indigenous communities and more specifically to Indigenous women.

Specifically, I’ve been working on cleaning up the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women page which still needs a substantial amount of work (Read: please contribute!).  Similarly, I’ve also being contributing to the Walking With Our Sisters page, and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation page. In terms of biography pages I’ve recently tried to focused my edits on the Indigenous women who have inspired me and who’s academic work has been essential to me rethinking my approaches to scholarship and relationship building.  These women matter. They are doing hugely important work that deserves to be acknowledge. Some of the pages I’ve worked on so far have included Christi BelcourtShirley Fletcher Horn, Gail Guthrie Valaskakis, Madeline Dion Stout, Eve Tuck and others.  I’ve also started to think about how I can contribute to pages related to queer*, trans, non-binary, and 2spirt folks as these are communities which are also vastly underrepresented on Wikipedia.

Self-location and Concepts of Place

You_are_here_-_T-shirt
Wikimedia commons image used under cc-by-2.0

During a recent workshop on active archives and archives in the classroom my co-presenter brought up the idea of using self-location as a starting point for talking about residential schools and reconciliation. In subsequent days I’ve had a few conversations with colleagues about the value of using self-location as an instruction tool and how it can be used in teaching history.

The fact that the university I work at is located on the site of two former residential schools can deeply shape how conversations about place unfold. The history of the institution is directly tied to the legacy of residential schools.  How students, visitors, and faculty interact with spaces on campus today says a lot about how the site evolved from a residential school and the fact that the physical space has tangible connections to the past.  How people interact with campus history can be emotional, triggering, and challenging.  But we need to have those difficult conversations and  talk about how the legacy of residential schools interacts with the space we occupy as an institution.

Self-location can be a simple but nuanced a way to discuss how individuals came to be in a place, connections to a physical space and concepts of community.  Where did you come from? How and why did you come to this place?  What is your relationship to this place?  How do you define community in relationship to this place?

In terms of reconciliation discussions about self-location can be a starting point for conversations about land, marginalization, and colonization.  It can also help in the acknowledgement of what background experiences are being brought into a dialogue.  This is also a great way to start conversations about local history, community history, and Canadian history more broadly.  I could also see self-location discussions being shaped to fit students at a variety of education levels depending on how the conversation is framed.

Have you used the idea of self-location as discussion tool before?

Community Archives and Sharing Information

Bates Hall, reading room

Morning North recently featured a segment on the facebook page “Sudbury’s Fine Past & Future Let’s Reminisce.”  The page aims to share photographs and memories of Sudbury.  The page has over two thousand likes and over 50 photo albums focusing on all aspects of Sudbury history including theaters, hospitals, streetcars, and neighborhoods. The success of this historically focused initiative surprised me, I expected to see a page with lots of content added by a small handful of contributors and little discussion.  Fine Past & Future seems to have an active and dedicated community of users and contributors who actively contribute and comment on photographs. 

What intrigued me about the Morning North Interview of the page founder, was the comparison of the page to an archive.  When asked if she thought the page was like an archive Church-Beaudoin indicated that she thought it was something different and that archives were really only for research and not designed for sharing photographs for those with just a casual interest in the past.   [Full disclosure: I almost started telling my car radio the many virtues of archives at this point.] 

A facebook page is definitely not an archive in the traditional sense.  I suppose one could argue that this particular collection of photographs represents a snippet of a personal collection or a personal archive.  Regardless, the comparison of a collection of photos to an archive isn’t what bothered me.  The relegating of archives to serving only professional researchers is what didn’t sit well in my mind. 

Archives do a lot more than merely serve academic researchers. Archives help preserve the heritage of communities and aim to share that preserved heritage with the community.  Many archives have started using social media in a way similar to the Fine Past & Future page–to share photographs and gain user generated metadata about unknown images.  

 Archives also undertake the preservation of physical and digital content.  That user generated metadata is being preserved by archives and not merely left up to facebook to keep safe.  Those physical photographs of community landmarks, historical buildings and community gatherings are being preserved  in acid-free sleeves and environmental conditions that are designed to limit deterioration. 

Yes, archives have traditionally been the domain of academic researchers.  But genealogists, casual researchers and community historians are all welcome in many community archives.  Many archives have created finding aids specifically to help with genealogy research or have reading rooms focused on local history.  The users of archives are just as diverse as the content held by the archive.  Archives need to continue to promote themselves, their services and their collections to the general public. 

Photo Credit: Boston Public Library