Preserving and Listening to Soundscapes

Closeup of a sound board

The BBC recently ran a podcast series called Forest 404. The podcast is set in a futuristic 24th Century, in a time after a massive data crash and in a era in which forests and much of the natural world no longer exist.

I initially started listening to Forest 404 because the protagonist is voiced by Pearl Mackie, who I loved in Doctor Who. The entire podcast is framed around archived soundscapes from the 21st century (know affectionately as the ‘Old World’ in the podcast).

The main character Pan is essentially a digital archivist who makes decisions about what sounds are worth keeping and which sounds get destroyed from the archive and the world’s memory.

The fact that this entire podcast intersects with climate, archiving, and science fiction make it worth listening to. For me, this podcast also made me think about broader archival efforts to document sounds and soundscapes.

Continue reading Preserving and Listening to Soundscapes

All The Project Updates

person carrying backpack inside library

It has been a busy Spring and as summer slowly drifts into view, I thought it would be appropriate to share a bit of the work I’ve been up to over the past few months. I am just going to be sharing high level updates but please feel free to reach out if you want more details about any of the projects mentioned.

Continue reading All The Project Updates

Archives Association of Ontario – Access & Digital Indigenous Archives

I had the opportunity to be part of the “Access & Digital Indigenous Archives” session at the Archives Association of Ontario Conference on May 9, 2019. I had the pleasure of presenting alongside Karyne Homes (Anishinaabe/Metis) of Library and Archives Canada.

My talk focused on the digital access work of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre. It centered on showcasing the building of online spaces for community and using the principles of OCAP to guide archival practice. My slides and speaking notes from the talk can be found here.

Archival Practicum Projects

adventure begins mug sitting outside on rock with leaves nearby

I recently wrapped up teaching an Archival Practicum course. Students spent the term immersed in working with two sets of community heritage organization archives. This course built on archival theory the students learned previously and was designed to provide hands on skills. We did a lot of physical processing, had quality discussions about arrangement decisions, and tackled some basic preservation concerns.

One of the most rewarding parts of this class was seeing students execute their practicum projects. Each student designed an access or outreach initiative to ‘take archival records out of the archives.’

Continue reading Archival Practicum Projects

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