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? 

Reflection: 2016 Accomplishments

1469923511-mc-hp-1For the past few years I’ve reflected on my professional practice and accomplishments at the end of the year.  I’m going to continue that tradition with this blog post albeit in a slightly more list based format than the reflective posts I’ve done in the past.

In 2016 I did a lot of things including:

Talks and Presentations

  • In March I spoke as part of aFinding the Embedded Archivist” panel at the National Council for Public History annual meeting in Baltimore, MD.
  • This year I provided instructional programming to over 1,250 people.  The bulk of these instruction sessions related to residential schools, the history of the Shingwauk Indian Residential School, and reconciliation.  However a handful were also related to teaching about archives and archival literacy.
    • As part of this work I’ve taken a serious look at how I present residential school history and revamped my instruction practices to make sure I’m giving priority to Indigenous voices.

Committee Work

  • I was appointed as the co-chair of the membership committee for the National Council on Public History
  • In August I was appointed to the Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives (SCCA) – Response to the Report on the Truth and Reconciliation Task Force.   I am really honoured to be part of this committee and engaged in this important work relating to Indigenous communities and archives.

Outreach

  • I started seriously editing Wikipedia.  This was a bit of a rabbit hole for me – it initially started as a way to expand some of the archival outreach I do and evolved into a hobbie and something I really enjoy. I also organized a small edit-a-thon at Algoma University geared toward increasing content relating to Indigenous women on Wikipedia.
  • I spearheaded the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre’s contributions to the Archives of Ontario Family Ties: Ontario Turns 150 exhibition.
  • I curated and co-curated a number of smaller scale exhibitions on campus including one about local author Brian Vallée, and one focusing on Indigenous Women Activists and the Water Walk movement.
  • I setup and have been maintaining social media accounts for the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre. I also learned a bit more about different tools to help schedule and manage this outreach work.

Self-Care and Other Priorities

  • I kept with my commitment to make my physical health a priority.  I’ve been consistent in going to the gym on a regular basis and have been trying to eat better.
  • After much years of debate my partner and I made a decision to move.  We’ve bought and house and will be moving in 2017.  This move will mean I’m much closer to my work, it will cut down my commute significantly, and result in me getting to spend more time with my daughter.
  • I’ve been meeting regularly as part of two writing groups – an academic one (online) and a non-fiction group.  Both of these have been key in keeping me motivated on some ongoing projects.
  • In November I was honured to stand beside my sister as during her wedding.
  • I’m raising a funny, energy filled 2 year old who can identify Doctor Who on my t-shirts and who loves playing tea time.

At the end of 2016 I am very grateful for great colleagues, a community of public historians who energize and inspire, and challenging conversations.   Onward.

Eight Years of Blogging

Startup Stock PhotosI started blogging back in September 2008 as part of a course requirement for a digital history class I took as part of my MA in Public History.  Looking back I have a hard time believing I’ve kept up with the practice for eight years.  There have been the occasional lulls in my writing but I seem to always return to the keyboard.

Eight years of blogging and over 530 posts later, writing in the public sphere is still an essential part of my professional practice.  This informal writing practice has benefited me by connecting me with other professionals, helped me work through ideas in a space that can allow for collaboration, and opened doors to other opportunities. It is also flexible enough that I can adapt my writing style and topics based on interest, time commitment, and professional interests.

Is it worth the effort?  I can point to definite projects that have developed out of my online presence (on twitter and through blogging) and there are people I have connected with virtually who have become valued colleagues and friends. So, yes. I think it’s a practice worth maintaining and one I plan on continuing with for the foreseeable future.

Re-writing Wikipedia

ReWriteWikipediaPosterAs I mentioned earlier the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC) is currently hosting ““A Lifetime – Day by Day, Five Women and Their Diaries”the travelling exhibit from the Archives of Ontario and a locally curated companion exhibit “Indigenous Women Rebuilding A Nation.”

As part of the the Indigenous Women Rebuilding A Nation exhibit the SRSC will be hosting an event titled “Rewriting Wikipedia.”  On June 20, 2016 this event aims increase the prevalence of content relating to Indigenous women online. The event aims to re-write Wikipedia to include Indigenous women in historical narratives not only as wives, daughters, aunts, and sisters, but also as leaders with their own identities and stories. The event is free of charge, open to all and no experience with Wikipedia is required. Drop-ins welcome.  More details are available on the Facebook Event Page and in the Press Release.

As you might have noticed I’ve been writing a fair bit about Wikipedia recently.  Since January I’ve been slowly becoming more engaged with the Wikipedia community and have been inspired by the range of possibilities that are available for the GLAM sector on the platform. The idea to hold a Wikipedia edit-a-thon and get the local university community engaged with Wikipedia came from watching the great work of Danielle Robichaud and the Archives Association of Ontario had at their last Wikipedia event.

The idea was also partially motivated by the profound realization that Indigenous Women are greatly underrepresented on Wikipedia.  Indigenous Women fall in the intersection of two underrepresented groups on Wikipedia and the SRSC holds numerous archival holdings that relate to Indigenous women and their work.  I also owe a lot of thanks to the wonderful SRSC Student Assistant Skylee-Storm Hogan who’s enthusiasm and connections to the student population have been key in getting this idea going.  I’m fortunate to work so many inspiring and talented Indigenous women on a daily basis.

Digital Outreach and Wikipedia in the GLAM Sector

My most recent post “Digital Outreach and Wikipedia in the GLAM Sector” can be seen over on Activehistory.ca.  This post looks at why Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAM) might engage in Wikipedia editing and different possibilities for GLAM organizations interested in editing Wikipedia as a form of outreach.

Back Writing

As some of you might of noticed my posts have been somewhat infrequently recently.  This was mostly due to hosting problems and very poor customer service from the hosting provider that this website used to be on.  After a lot of frustration my partner moved all of our websites to a new provider and set up all of our sites again.

This experience highlighted two things: 1) the importance of backing up your websites.  There was a horrible couple of days where we weren’t sure we were going to be back to get our databases out of the old provider. 2) How integrated blogging is to my writing and thinking process.  I really missed being able to write off-the-cuff posts and to work through ideas I was considering when my site was down.

Thankfully things are up and running again.  Expect lots of posts in the coming days as I work through a list of ideas and cleanup half written posts that wrote during the hiatus.

Supporting An Active Writing Practice

As you may have already guessed I like writing.  I’ve been blogging about public history for years, I maintain a personal/off-topic blog with my partner, I’ve written for other history outlets, and I also write occasionally as part of my job. I also write some fiction occasionally.  Like many people who maintain creative or academic writing practices I struggle with finding time and coming up with ideas for the creation of new content.

In the past I’ve found writing in public as a helpful tactic to keeping on track.  Talking publicly about my writing goals and sharing works in progress helps keep my accountable to readers and to myself.  I’ve also participated in “A Meeting With Your Writing” as a way to carve out dedicated time for academic writing and that has worked wonders for seeing projects move off my writing plate.

As an attempt to try something new with my writing practice and revive personal goals that have been languishing I’ve decided to create a writing schedule.  This isn’t meant to be something that is set in stone but rather a map that I can use to sort out what projects I can or should be working on.  Broken down by week I’ve used the schedule as a place to create a list of future blog topics, keep track of paid writing gigs, and note due dates for academic writing projects.  I’m hoping that this schedule will be a useful tool for managing my writing time.  I can use it both as an idea bank and an organizing tool.  It’s currently just a Google Sheet, so nothing fancy, but I think it has potential and I’m looking forward to seeing if it helps with some of the organization and creative roadblocks I’ve been bumping up against.

What tools do you use to support your writing practice?

Remember the Children and Canada’s History

I recently wrote a piece for the Canada’s History website about the Remember the Children: Photograph Identification Project that was started by the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association and the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.  This is a project that is near and dear to my heart.  It is one of the initiatives that made me realize the importance of community involvement in residential school archives, the power of images, and the many harsh realities of the intergenerational trauma.

Through this project the SRSC and CSAA have worked to connect communities and survivors with residential schools photographs and to identify people in residential school photographs.  Having the opportunity to work with survivors and communities on this project has been a humbling and eye opening experience that I am very fortunate to have worked on.

Look Back and Look Forward

Unlike in some previous years this December I didn’t participate in reverb or any similar end of year reflective writing practice.  But I do want to look back at some of things that made 2015 a memorable year and my plans for 2016.

Looking Back:

The Future:

  • Continue to develop my academic writing practice.  I did an okay job of sticking to a weekly writing regime in 2015 and want to keep building on that foundation.
  • Create meaningful learning opportunities for students who are working in the archive.  I’ve been consistently trying to do this but I want to continue to focus on nurturing scholarship in ways that build skill sets.
  • Be active.  This falls under my growing understanding of self-care.
  • I’m looking forward to being at NCPH 2016 this year.  I’m presenting and helping with some of the membership committee events.  This is by far my favourite conference and I’m sure Baltimore will be a fantastic experience.

Onward to 2016.

Writing and Researching in Public

writer-605764_640In the past couple of years there have been a handful of writing in public projects which aim to illuminate the academic writing process, allow writers to connect with others, and demystify the labour that goes into writing.

For example Michelle Moravec’s Writing in Public project makes visual the process that goes into writing history.  She publicly shares drafts and opens her writing to critiques and comments at all stages. And the #Acwri twitter hashtag allows academic writers to connect virtually and share progress in a public space.  Similarly many academic use personal blogs or websites as forums for sharing ongoing research.

I’ve recently been sharing what I’m researching, reading, and writing on twitter.  So far this has been a very positive experience.  Often when I’ve tweeted about an article or something I’m writing people have responded by suggesting other authors or articles to look at.  This has been valuable in connecting me with a larger community of academics and has been useful in generating reading lists. It has also been encouraging to engage in conversations around my research and to have a sense of being connected to other scholars.

Writing and research can be isolating.  It is almost always a solo undertaking and it’s easy to become discouraged when you hit a roadblock or you’re working on a multi-month or multi-year project.  Writing in public can help make this process more open and community based.  Similarly talking about and stating your writing goals publicly or participating in a writers group where you need to report your progress can help if you have problems around commitments, timelines, and motivation.  When it’s public knowledge that you plan on completing something by x date you’re more likely to honour that commitment than if it’s just a deadline in your head.  So, on with the writing.