Archives Association of Ontario Conference

Next week I will be attending the 2014 Archives Association of Ontario conference.  This year’s conference theme is “Party With Your Archives” with many of the presentations focusing on the use of archival collections in community events, commemoration projects, and the creation of collective memory.

  On Friday May 30th I will be presenting “Marginalized Voices: Residential School Archives and Community Collaboration” as part of the Community Collaboration panel.  My presentation is focused on the use of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre and associated archives in commemoration events and the development of a community archive.

The complete conference program can be seen here.

NCPH2013 Thursday WordPress Thoughts

My time at NCPH 2013 actually started on Wednesday.  The majority of my Wednesday activities revolved around networking and talking with new and old colleagues from Western University. Interesting discussions but not really blog post fodder.  As such I’m skipping to Thursday in my run down of this year’s NCPH experience.

WordPress as a Public History Platform
The first session I attended at the conference was on using WordPress in a public history setting, with an emphasis on using WordPress in a classroom setting. A couple of the presenters were sick and unable to attend the session, but Clarissa Ceglio, Jeffrey McClurken, and Erin Bell did an excellent job of leading an interactive panel which invited audience participation.

All three presenters highlighted some of the public history projects they have worked on recently which used WordPress.  Some of my favourite examples included:
Connecticut History site,  using WordPress to re-envision the concept of a state encyclopedia.  I particularly liked Ceglio’s emphasis on this site having an ongoing publishing effort and the fining tuning of WordPress for usability.  Ceglio also spoke about using the WordPress plugin in EditFlow to integrate editorial functions into the WordPress Site. 
UMW Blogs, a great example of  a university buying into the WordPress platform and using it for ‘official’ outreach.  This is also a great example of the possibilities of using WordPress as a multi-user platform. The site also has significant customizations and  for anyone having the misgiving that a WordPress site can’t “look nice” check out the UMW blogs.
The James Farmer Lectures site, a well done student created site that places the recorded lectures of James Farmer online.  The cleanness and effectiveness of this student site is what really won me over.  It’s a great example of the possibilities of students using WordPress.

The Question Session
The presenters in the WordPress session left ample time for audience questions and discussions.  Granted, the session as a whole was cut short because of a fire alarm — but that was clearly beyond their control.

Some of the interesting questions that arose:
-How do you manage the lifespan of a student driven WordPress site? 
McClurken spoke about his experience working with a range of student driven projects.  He indicated that in some cases students freely go back and update content on the site following the conclusion of a class.  There was also the mention of creating a digital repository to archive student sites or the possibility of partnering with an organization to maintain the site.
How much training do your students get when working with WordPress?
The general consensus was fairly limited training.  Most professors indicated that they only provide about half an hour of instruction before letting the students loose.  In this instance McClurken emphasized the importance of students learning by discovering and helping each other — that they should be “uncomfortable but not paralyzed” when learning”
How do you handle site promotion and comments? 
The panelists acknowledged the potential of comment features being a hassle.  However, they also indicated that the experience can be valuable for students.  One compromise that was suggested involved turning on the comments feature for the duration of the class and turning it off afterwards.

Post NCPH2012 Conference Wrap-up

I think I’m still coming down from a conference high.  Despite the backlog of email and reference requests that awaited me upon my return, I’m extremely happy that I was able to attend #ncph2012.  My thoughts about specific sessions and networking opportunities I attended can be seen in previous posts.

What did you get out of the trip? A question that could also be phrased as “was it worth us spending the money to send you?”

The conference provided me with a sense of perspective on my own work and career path.  Despite being what NCPH classifies as a new professional (albeit I’m just on the tail end of that description), talking with professionals who have been in the field slightly longer than myself  made me appreciate the breadth of experience I’ve gained in recent years. This realization combined with being asked for advice by other public history professionals in recent months has helped me realize the mutual benefit of sharing experiences and continuing to seek a variety of development opportunities. 

I live in rural Northern Ontario, while my home has a breathtaking landscape I feel at times disconnected from larger professional community.  The conference helped reinforce the fact that a large public history community does indeed exist, and that I’m not floating alone on a iceberg somewhere.  The conference also allowed me to meet and build on digital relationships that I’ve made over the past couple of years. 

 Attending #ncph2012 allowed me to get a sense of what type of sessions and what type of presentation formats might work well for ncph2013.  I attended sessions that included formal reading of papers without any visuals, powepoint presentations, roundtable discussions, and sessions which actively attempted to get the session attendee’s to participate in discussion.  Each type of format has distinct advantages.  Personally I found the sessions which were less traditional and more focused on engaging discussion far more valuable.

Lastly, but perhaps most tangibly #ncph2012 introduced me to a variety of new ideas, examples of successful projects, techniques for evaluation of unsuccessful initiatives. I’ve returned to work with a number of projects and open source initiatives that I want to learn more about (and now know the names of people to contact if I want more information). The focus of these projects range from community building to crowdsourcing to basic exhibit development to building a successful oral history program.  Granted, ideas are great but putting them into practice is an entirely different matter – but learning about new things is bound to be the first step towards progress.

    OLA Conference: Extraordinary Canadians

    As part of the Ontario Library Association’s annual conference I attended the opening plenary on “Extraordinary Canadians.” This panel featured John Ralston Saul, Adrienne Clarkson, Jane Urquhart, Nino Ricci, and Mark Kingwell. All five of these individuals have contributed to the Extraordinary Canadians biography series. This series examines the lives of people who have helped shape Canada in the 20th Century. All the books in this series were written by great Canadian authors, and each biography is under 200 pages. The idea being that biography should be readable, accessible to the general public, and encourage an interest in Canada’s history. I couldn’t agree more with the need for history to be more accessible, and think that this series is an interesting approach to making history more tangible.

    It was interesting to see Canada’s history and the biography genre discussed from a literary standpoint. Despite the literature based nature of the discussion a number of interesting questions regarding the interpretation of history were raised. In particular, I found the question of silence’s role in literature and history intriguing. It was suggested that both history and literature need to be engaging to the reader. How the reader interprets the written word can be far more significant than the written word itself. I would tend to agree. Once a work is published an author’s intentions lose some importance, and the readers’ interpretation becomes an entirely new dimension to the work.

    I was also very surprised by panel’s discussion of Innis‘ interpretation of Canadian history. It was suggested that Innis’ theory regarding Canada as an experiment in communication technology is something which can be seen throughout the lives of almost all extraordinary Canadians. Additionally, it was argued hat the notion of “the word” is something which is prominent in the lives of all Canadian greats, and that the nature of Canada demands that people use words in a spacial and creative way. Some of the finner points of Innis’ work were glossed over in this discussion. However, it was still interesting to see the inclusion of historical theory in the panel.

    Overall, this was a great way to start the OLA conference in my mind. The discussion raised a lot of interesting questions about the importance of audience interaction and the role which history plays in society.

    Call for Proposals, AAO Conference

    I thought this might be of interest to anyone working with digital technology in the heritage sector, particularly those persons who work with archival photos.

    Archives Association of Ontario
    2010 Annual Conference, Barrie, Ontario
    June 16-18, 2010
    From Daguerreotypes to Flikr:Grappling with the Archival Image in an Era of Technological Change

    The 2010 AAO conference in Barrie aims to explore this theme in a broad and interdisciplinary manner. The Program Committee is seeking proposals from individuals from different disciplines and professions that tackle a wide array of topics dealing with the management and use of archival photographs, both physical and digital, including, but not limited to papers which examine:
    * Archival appraisal of photograph collections
    * Preservation of photographs
    * Arrangement and description of graphic material
    * Challenges and opportunities of copyright for photographs
    * Use of photographs in outreach initiatives and educational programming
    * The priorities and pitfalls of digitization
    * Graphic material and reference services
    * The impact of new technologies and software on archives today, including Adobe PhotoShop, Flickr and social networking tools like Facebook

    Submitting Proposals:
    The Program Committee will accept both individual submissions for a paper as well as session proposals consisting of two or three participants and a chairperson. The proposals should include the name of the speaker(s), job title(s), institution(s), title of the paper(s) as well as a description of the paper or session. Submissions should not exceed 300 words in length.

    Session proposals and any questions should be directed to the Program Chair:
    Ellen Scheinberg, Ph.D.
    Director, Ontario Jewish Archives
    416-635-2883 ext. 5187