Celebrating Women and Non-Binary Historians

Celebrating Women and Non-Binary Historians on yellow background

Check out my latest post over on Unwritten Histories.  This post, written in collaboration with Andrea Eidinger, looks at Celebrating Women and Non-Binary Historians. We share the submissions from our December 2018 call to celebrate folks and talk about why promoting and acknowledging the accomplishments of women and non-binary folks matters.

Celebrating the Accomplishments of Women and Non-Binary Historians in 2018

Celebrating Women and Non-Binary Historians on yellow background

In 2017, archaeologist Steph Halmhofer issued a call for submission for the first “Celebration of Women and Non-Binary Archaeologists.” The call was a response to the lack of women and non-binary representation in year-end archaeology roundups, as well as problems with representation in the media and public discourse. We have noticed many of the same problems in the field of History.

Inspired by Halmhofer, we invite all women and non-binary folk who consider themselves to be historians to celebrate their personal and professional accomplishments from 2018. To so do, please fill out the Google questionnaire by December 31st.  We welcome submissions from all forms of historians and your accomplishment can be anything you want to celebrate in your personal or professional life from 2018.  Blog posts, articles, podcasts, interviews, self-care, etc. all count as accomplishments!

Accomplishments will be shared on Unwritten Histories in a special blog post in early January. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on Twitter at @andreaeidinger or @kristamccracken, or by emailing us at unwrittenhistories [at] gmail [dot] com.

You folks are awesome, and congratulations!

– Andrea Eidinger and Krista McCracken

* Special thanks to Steph Halmhofer for her support for this project. To find out about her celebration of women and non-binary archaeologists, go here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc9mZqzJEcmbyvK_Ryg5kt_5cQrsyWYksD6lqj93JTp7MW09g/viewform

Year In Review: 2018

"2018" written with a sparkler

It’s December! That means it is annual year end reflection time. As in previous years I’m going to use this post remind myself of all the things I did over the past year.  A year is a long time and accomplishments tend to be immediately celebrated and then forgotten in the hustle of the day-to-day chaos.  I encourage other folks to take the time to reflect on all the small and big things they have been a part of in 2018.

Writing Things

  • In August Danielle Robichaud and I published “Doing the work: Editing Wikipedia as an act of reconciliation.”  I am still thrilled about having something published via On Archivy and I’m super happy that we able to develop our AAO presentation from April 2017 into a longer form piece.  Plus, Danielle is an awesome colleague and working with her was a joy, as always.
  • Skylee-Storm Hogan and I have submitted two book chapters – one related to the Residential Schools Land Memory Mapping Project and one about archives as contested space.
  • I had an article accepted to the Canadian Historical Review, it will be appearing in the 2019 summer issue of CHR.
  • Andrea Eidinger and I wrote an academic article together!  Publication details are still forthcoming, but working with Andrea on this was a fantastic experience and it highlighted the value of cross-discipline collaboration.
  • I’ve continued to work as part of the Active History editorial collective. In 2018 Andrea Eidinger and I launched the Beyond the Lecture series.  This series is focused on exploring best practices in teaching Canadian history and seeks to expand perspectives related to history education.  The series is still open to submissions, so hit us up with your ideas!

Talks and Presentations

  • In April 2018 I was part of a fantastic National Council on Public History roundtable, titled “Sharing the Power: The Role of Public History in Reconciling Indigenous-Settler Narratives.” It was an honour to be part of this panel that featured Indigenous, settler, Canadian, and US perspectives on public history work.
  • I also had the privilege of being part of the “Diversifying Narratives: Intersections of Public and Digital History in the 21st Century” roundtable at the Canadian Historical Association Annual meeting in May 2019.  This session brought together Andrea Eidinger, Jessica Knapp, Jessica DeWitt, and I to talk about digital history and public history.  I love collaborating with these folks and this roundtable was no exception.
  • In 2018 I also provided a number of nuts and bolts style workshops on archival practice, digital publishing, and local history.
  • I’ve also continued to do a lot of outreach and presentation work as part of my job – I’ve spoken with over 5,000 students and professional groups about Residential Schools and the history of the Shingwauk site.  As part of this work I’ve had the chance to work closely with some great folks including Skylee-Storm Hogan, Mike Cachagee, Madison Bifano, and Elizabeth Edgar-Webkamigad.  These folks are constant sources of inspiration and I’m lucky to work with them.


  • Jessica Knapp and I ran year two of the Canada-wide Wikipedia edit-a-thon event.  I am very happy to see this Wikpedia work continuing.
  • I was part of the group that helped organize the National Council on Public History (NCPH) “(Re)Active Public History” Twitter mini-con.  I am thrilled with how this event turned out and especially pleased with the number of great presentations that were part of the event.  If you missed it, you can check out all of the presentations as Twitter moments.
  • I was nominated to the NCPH Board of Directors and as part of that role I’ve been able to collaborate with some great NCPH folks and continue to learn more about all of the moving parts that make NCPH such a great organization.
  • The Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall exhibition space opened in August 2018.  This space is representative of so much community collaboration and I can’t adequately express how happy I am to see this space being used for education and the ongoing work to honour Survivors of the Shingwauk Residential School.


  • This year was full of grant writing and grant based projects.  Some highlights include:
    • Successful application to the National Heritage Digitization Strategy call for funding for the “Healing and Reconciliation Through Digital Access” project.
    • Being part of the SSHRC funded “Documenting Early Residential Schools” project with Tom Peace and the Woodland Cultural Centre.  This funding allowed a group of Huron students to spend a few days up at Algoma/Shingwauk site – which was a fantastic experience.
    • Skylee-Storm Hogan and I were awarded a $10,000 ChangeUp grant through the Inspirit Foundation.  This project has focused on youth education around Residential Schools and has allowed us to pay some awesome Indigenous youth for their work.
    • 2018 also saw the continued funding of the “Realizing Healing and Reconciliation through Education” by the Heritage Canada Museum Assistance Program.  This current funding will allow the SRSC to expand the Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall exhibition to include an artifact driven exhibition space.
    • I’ve also continued to be part of the SSHRC funded “Residential Schools Land Memory Mapping Project

Odds and Sods

  • I’ve continued to produce and record episodes of the Historical Reminiscents Podcast on a regular basis. With November marking the one year anniversary of this podcast!
  • This year I taught an “Introduction to Archival Studies” course at AlgomaU in the fall term.  This is the first time an archives studies course has been offered at AU, so I’m super happy about that development.
  • I have an energetic and empathetic four year old who inspires me to do better.
  • I started embroidering things! Photos can be seen on my Instagram account (@kris_tlon).

Despite the horrid news cycle that has characterized 2018, I had many good experiences over this past year.  I am fortunate to work with kind and generous collaborators who are an inspiration.  I’m looking forward to 2019 being filled with more of the same.

Photo credit: NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Speaking Up: The Clothing Edition

Hanging rack of grey clothes.

I’ve started and deleted this post multiple times, not because the topic isn’t important but because talking about it makes me feel tremendously vulnerable. I’ve thought a lot about professional expectations and social niceties.  I’ve also thought a lot about fear and the ways in which fear can stifle meaningful discussion. I’ve also had a hard look at my privilege – I’m white, mid-career, I have stable employment, and I’m protected by a union. I have a lot more space and security to discuss my views then some folks.

Over the past year, I’ve been in multiple professional settings where individuals have discussed female bodies. These conversations have often focused on what classifies as professional attire and what is suitable clothing for women to wear in work settings. Comments have ranged from “That outfit isn’t meant for someone her size” to “No one will take her seriously in that dress.” While embodying these spaces I have never once heard anyone comment on the attire of male presenting folks. What female presenting folk wear seems like a topic that is open for debate and scrutiny. Hearing these discussions have filled me both with despair and rage the desire to discuss the endless stream of microaggressions that are connected to female bodies.

Dress codes and concepts of professional attire often play out in ways that are sizeist, classist, misogynistic, colonial, racist, ablest, and transmisic. When we talk about professional clothing we are often referencing white able-bodied cis-masculine centred standards.  Carmen Rios has argued that, “queer people, women, people of color, working-class people – aren’t supposed to be comfortable when we’re being professional… All of the standards of appearance being pushed on employees in office environments are, essentially, strongholds of white, male standards of power.”  Women are often socialized to present in ways which are feminine, but not too overtly feminine/revealing. The politics behind that are directly connected to gendered explications and reliance on male concepts of professionalism.

I also wholeheartedly agree with Rios’ statement that “Every single person in every single office should be taken seriously and treated with respect no matter what they’re wearing.” When professional attire or concepts of ‘fit’ are used to evaluate workplace contributions we are marginalizing huge segments of society.  Discussions of institutional or cultural fit are often used in hiring and promotion practices. It is frequently used in the negative or as justification for not hiring someone (eg. “they just aren’t a good fit).  Fit is entirely subjective and more often than not it reinforces homogeneity of workplaces and can be used as an excuse to avoid hiring diverse candidates.

In the academic realm female presenting and trans* folks are often told they need to dress a certain way in order to be “taken seriously.” That they need to confirm to the white male imposed standards of professionalism.  Respectability politics expect marginalized people to conform to white standards of what is acceptable and penalize folks when they present using identities that are outside ‘accepted’ norms.  We should treat others with respect.  Period. Toeing an invisible line of acceptability is exhausting and “[d]ressing in order to be taken seriously indicates that the spectre of older, more explicit forms of sexism still hovers over us.” (Stavrakopoulou, 2014).  It’s also a near impossible game to win – dress in a way that is overly feminine and you won’t be viewed as frivolous, dress in a more masculine manner and comments of ‘power-dressing’ avail. Professional worth should not be tied to appearance.

Even just unpacking the language of sexism and acceptability can be a headache inducing wormhole. Holly Case has asserted, “Words like “sexism,” “gender bias,” and “structural inequality” describe conditions that are hopelessly banal, like a mob town or byzantine bureaucracy: grinding, petty, retrograde. Occasionally one catches oneself longing for a language that imagines a way out, rather than explaining why we are still subject to the ways of the mob.”  Raising your voice against this treatment or structural problems can have tangible consequences. Speaking out against sexism, colonialism, and classism takes a whole lot of spoons. And if you are a precariously employed or emerging career individual there can be very real financial and career repercussions.  Those with privilege, power, and authority need to speak up and challenge systemic problems.  There is so much on this topic to be unpacked, discussed, and challenged.  We need to do a better job of bringing this conversation into the forefront. We need spaces where this conversations can happen and where folks with power actually engaging with the structural problems that are unpinning concepts of fit and professional attire.

Photo credit: Fancycrave on Unsplash

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

CHA and Regina Extras

First Nations University Exterior

When I attend conferences I typically try to engage in a couple of activities outside of the conference programming.  This usually means scoping out local museums, heritage sites, and art galleries. While in Regina I was able to squeeze in a few local sights and engage in some more general Congress programming in addition to the sessions offered by the CHA.

On Sunday May 27th I had the chance to attend a Secret Feminist Agenda Podcast meetup at Malty International Brewing.  For folks who haven’t heard of the Secret Feminist Agenda, I highly recommend you download a few episodes and listen.  Hosted by academic Hannah McGregor, this podcast is a great example of digital scholarship.  McGregor has partnered with Wilfred Laurier University Press to develop a platform for the peer-review and critical discussion of the podcast. The meetup was a fantastic opportunity to be in a space with other feminist folks who are pushing boundaries and engaged in exciting scholarship. It was also a chance to connect with some folks from the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities.

I also had the opportunity to check out the Stonecuts and sealskins: Inuit work on paper exhibition at the Fifth Parallel Gallery which featured works from the President’s Art Collection, Shumiatcher donation. Though a relatively small gallery space and a relatively small exhibition Stonecuts and Sealskins included a number of impressive examples of early and contemporary Inuit print making styles.  The show included a couple of Kenojuak Ashevak prints, which I had seen before – but are breathtaking every time I see them.  I am glad I carved out some time during a break to check out this gallery space.

I also stopped by the beaded blanket collage by Katelyn Ironstar.  I loved the participatory art project aspect of this work and the idea of taking up space at an academic conference to reclaim traditional beading styles.  Essentially Ironstar was inviting folks to sit with her, learn about traditional beading, and contribute to a collaborative art piece. The space Ironstar carved out was both mindful and reflective. I think we need more of this within academic spaces.

There were definitely local spaces that I wish I had more time to visit during CHA.  But I am very glad I had the opportunity to step a bit outside the main conference stream and explore.  If nothing else, I now have a few things I want to see in Regina if I ever make my way back through that area.

Photo: Exterior of First Nations University in Regina.

Building Bridges and Reading Across Disciplines

black and white Drone view of San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge.

During one of my recent writing projects I started thinking about the implications of disciplinary silos and the value to reading across disciplines. A lot of my work is grounded in archival theory and public history practice, however it often intersects with the Canadian academic history profession.  From an outsider differentiating these three disciplines may seem like splitting hairs, but they really are proudly different in their approaches and literature.

A lot of my recent work has been thinking about archival silences and the power relationships entrenched in colonial archival spaces. This power dynamic and the challenge of doing research about historically marginalized communities is something that intersects across archival practice, public history, and academic history.  I started diving into this topic by examining archival theory and literature written by archivists. I then expanded to look at community based perspectives and a more public history take on archival voices.  Lastly, after consulting with a couple of colleagues I added a stack of Canadian history books and articles to my to read pile.

This exercise in reading across disciplines was enriching and helped broaden my understanding of the topic it hand.  It also highlighted how fields can approach the same topic from very different angles.  Many of the archival based works I was reading focused on the role of the archivist in creating or mitigating silence within the historical process.  The more public history leaning works focused on communities challenging silence, the right to internal community memory, and ways to build bridges across shared pasts.  Conversely, the more academic history reads were really focused on subverting archival silences – reading against the grain, using non-traditional archival sources to expand historical narratives, and how to overcome lack of records.  All of these areas of interest had overlapping points and areas of commonality.

These areas of similarity struck me as so important. Archivists and historians need to talk more.  Understanding how archives work and the intellectual/emotional/physical labour that goes into making archival records accessible is so important. Historians and media indicating that something was ‘discovered in the archives’ erases the archival labour that went into arranging and describing that material.  The archivist knew it was there and did a lot of work so a historian could access that material as part of their research.  Historians and archivists have definite overlapping interests and we would be better served by increasing the amount of work we did collaboratively.

What are your strategies for reading across disciplines? 

Photo credit: Jared Erondu on Unsplash

Intensive Learning Opportunities

Group of Kings students standing in front of Shingwauk Hall, Algoma University.

Photo: Kings students standing in front of Shingwauk Hall, Algoma University.

Earlier this month I had the privilege of hosting over 40 students from King’s University College (Western University) during their visit to Algoma University.  The students spent a really long time on a bus traveled to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to spend a couple of days immersed in learning about residential schools and Indigenous communities.

This visit was somewhat unique in that it was completely organized by students. The trip was framed as a unique educational opportunity and as enrichment but not tied to one specific course.  The students were from a mixture of undergraduate disciplines and were at varying points in their respective programs. The organizing group approached me in October of 2017 with the idea for their trip and after months of correspondence and planning it was fantastic to see this experience come together.

The students had two full days of intensive programming on campus. The agenda included a historic our of the Shingwauk/AlgomaU site, discussion with a residential school survivor, an Indigenous youth panel, workshops facilitated by local Indigenous community partners, attending the Gathering at the Rapids Pow Wow, and lots of time for discussion and reflection.  It was a heavy couple of days with a lot of deep learning and with an emphasis on experiencing things first hand.  For many students it was their first time being on the site of a former residential school and it was the first time they had interacted with a residential school survivor in person.

Opportunities For Success
One of the byproducts of intensive learning is the sense of team building and community feeling that grows out of engagement in a transformative educational opportunity.  For me, the creation of a safe space and the generating of a community feeling were an essential part of developing the King’s programming.  Our opening activities, breakout sessions, and discussions were designed with inclusive and safe space practices in mind.  We also attempted to take a decolonized approach to debriefs by using sharing circles instead of Western classroom style engagement tools.

One of the benefits of intensive learning is the ability to incorporate experiential elements. This could looks like visiting local heritage sites, speaking with community members, or engaging in local events. I think the best intensive learning models look beyond the walls of the classroom and engage students in activities that they would not be able to experience as part of their regular coursework.

Space For Growth
One of the obvious challenges of intensive learning opportunities is the limited amount of time.  Facilitators are often trying to make the most out of a short time period by combining a range of learning opportunities and reflection techniques.  Inevitably, something isn’t going to make it into the final agenda.  This can be mitigated in part by providing resources for students to engage with prior to and following the intensive period.  This might take the form of required reading or viewing before the event, a list of take home resources, or a discussion forum organized to occur after the intensive.

In the case of the King’s visit one of the challenges was building in enough processing and reflection time. Dealing with historical trauma and first hands accounts of violence, systemic racism, and abuse can be challenging. We wanted to make sure that students left each day with tools to process the new information they were presented with and to ensure that they left knowing what support resources were available to them. Considering we only had two days together we spent a lot of that time in discussion and we engaged in a number of debrief and summary discussions.

As a facilitator I find intensive learning really rewarding, it is wonderful to be part of a group that is on an educational journey and to see them progressing in their understanding of a complex historical topic. Acting as a facilitator to this type of event is also really draining. Being on point for over eight hours each day is exhausting.  I would recommend building in co-facilitators or guest workshop leaders to any intensive learning program.  A collaborative approach to delivery means that the burden of instruction isn’t falling on one or two people – who will definitely be exhausted by the end of the experience.

Come up with experiential learning opportunities and developing schedules for intensive learning events can be challenging.  Come up with engaging programming that covers a range of topics and fitting it in a two or three days is tricky.  For folks engaged in this type of work I would suggest building in evaluation time, that way staff and participants can provide feedback on what worked and didn’t work.  One of the things I would consider going forward is making sure there is more ‘active’ time build into each day — even just doing activities which require participants to move around the room can help breakup long periods of sitting, which can be hard on attention spans and physical bodies.

Have you participated in any intensive learning programs? Do you like this style of education opportunities? 

Talking About Failure in Academia

Red door against a painted wall that has paint peeling.

Taking about failure is hard. The ways in which we talk about and process failure can be deeply personal. We often see failure of a representation of ourselves and take it personally. Folks in academia talk about success, however we are less apt to discuss those times we’ve failed to hit the mark.

Failure is an experience. It has the potential to provide room for growth, professional lessons, and examples for others. Talking openly about failure also has the potential to contribute to conversations about systemic problems and allows us to acknowledge when systems are stacked against communities.

The Shadow CV

Since 2010, there has been a movement to create public ‘shadow CVs‘ which instead of documenting accomplishments document failures. These documents often include rejected papers, grants submitted but not received, job rejections, etc. The idea behind these cvs is to talk about failure and let emerging scholars know that the road to success if often filled with missteps, disappointments, and hidden failures.

This practice of publicly documenting failure has been criticized as a form of privilege that is only available to those who are in a position of success.  New scholars, adjunct faculty, and precariously employed folks often can’t afford to publicly advertise their failures.  Additionally the narrative often hidden behind these shadow cvs is that look – even with all of these failures I’m still successful. You just need to work harder. Sometimes working harder isn’t an option and it definitely isn’t going to improve flawed employment systems.

Speaking to Failure

Despite some of the problems with the shadow CV movement, I do think that it is important to talk about failure.  It’s important to talk about how receiving a “revise and resubmit” on a journal article is common and part of the publishing process. It is important to acknowledge the emotional labour that is tied up in every professional successes and professional failures.

Even the lines on our cvs that represent success – a grant or a publication – can have layers of failure behind them. That published article might have been rejected from your first choice of journal. That successful grant might be the only grant you received out of the three you submitted. Success and failure isn’t always as straight cut as it seems.  The “How I Fail” series by Veronika Cheplygina is a good example of numerous academics talking openly about the complicated nature of failure.

It is important to have these conversations in places that be inclusive of students and new professionals. They need to know that academic life is filled with failure. And that even though failure can be soul crushing, sometimes it isn’t as personal as it seems at first glance.

Rethinking Failure

Measuring academic success and academic failure has long been related to landing tenure track positions. A shift away from measuring tenure as success has started to happen with the emergence of a vocal alt-ac community and the acknowledgement of problems within the tenure system.  Personally I think we need to evaluate success and failure on individual levels.

Having work and life balance is a success. Being happy with where you live and getting satisfaction out of your job is success. And how you measure success is going to change based on your health, career stage, and personal life.  Some days just getting out of bed and putting pants on counts as a huge success.

We need to talk about how we evaluate failure, talk openly about the unique challenges of failure within academia, and work to build supportive communities that exist throughout all the ups and downs.

Photo credit: Ronald Cuyan on Unsplash