Active, Digital, Public History

Friday morning at NCPH I presented as part of the “Reaching the Public through the Web: The Practice of Digital Active History” panel with Ian Milligan, Devon Elliott, Tom Peace, and Nathan Smith as the facilitator.  I won’t rehash our panel as a lot has already been written to summarize our presentations.  Prior to the conference Ian wrote a great high level summary of our panel.  Following the session Clarissa Ceglio posted her rapid fire notes of the session in google docs and Jim Clifford provided a summary of the Active History panels at NCPH.

 Following our panel I sat in on the “Working Group: Teaching Digital History and New Media” session.  Despite this being a working group session the audience and the working group participants were both involved in the discussion of digital history.  The session participants were broken into three smaller groups for discussion and then reunited for discussion as a larger group.

I felt the session format was interesting but I would have been just as happy hearing some of the working group participants speak about their experiences.  The working group format is ideal for discussions being developed over longer periods of time with sessions being fruits of that discussion–by involving the audience some of that background conversation might have been missed.  That being said, the twitter back channel during this session was full of useful comments about digital history as public history and the teaching of digital history.

My Friday session attendance concluded with the “After the Cuts: The Future of History in Canada” roundtable.  The roundtable featured representatives from prominent Canadian heritage organizations including: Lyle Dick (CHA), Ellen Judd (Canadian Anthropological Society), William Ross (Canadian Archaeological Association), and Loryl MacDonald (Association of Canadian Archivists).  The session was packed and was standing room only.

The participants focused on the impact of recent cuts to government funding and problems communicating with national heritage organizations.  This panel highlighted the widespread concerns professional organizations have with Canadian heritage cuts, the loss of programing, and impending sense of doom surrounding many recent government decisions.  The session was recorded by Sean Graham of History Slam Podcast fame and should be available in some format in the near future.

Association of Canadian Archivists Conference: Day One

Today was the first official day of proceedings at the 2011 (ACA) Conference. The day opened with a keynote presentation by Terry Eastwood, entitled Thinking About the Base of Archival Practice: Is there a Firm Foundation or Not? Eastwood presented an intriguing look archives through a lens of interpretive social practice, with an emphasis on dissecting the constructivist theories as they relate to archives. Eastwood’s talk also challenged accepted archival paradigms – with a particular emphasis on the current accepted modes of description. Overall, Terry’s talk seemed like a call to arms for archivists to engage in both theory and practice and to look at the history of archival practice as a means of making progress within the field.

The morning session I attended was a roundtable discussion on Reaching Out to Canadian Society. The panel featured Rob Fisher (LAC), Jonathan Lainey (LAC), Leah Sander (LAC), and Christine Bourolias (Archives of Ontario). The panel framed this discussion of outreach by examining acquisition policies. The speakers emphasized the necessity of using outreach to cultivate the type of acquisitions your institution desires. The discussion portion of the session focused on specific case studies -mainly outreach to ethnic and minority groups. The majority of these examples highlighted the need to build trust relationships within communities and the need for innovate ways of connecting and supporting communities. The session provided a lot of food for thought about ways to engage the general public and the importance of maintaining a strong outreach and acquisition policy.

The afternoon session I attended was entitled Preservation and the Total Archives in the
Age of E-records. The presenters -all trained conservationists -included: Ala Rekrut (Archives of Manitoba), Greg Hill (Canadian Conservation Institute), and Rosaleen Hill (Canadian Council of Archives). Greg Hill’s presentation focused on the evolution of the role of conservators within the archival field. Hill placed conservation and preservation within a wider historical context and provided a good overview of the field in general. Ala Rekrut’s talk was narrower in scope and emphasized the need for collaboration between conservators and archivists. Rekrut discussed the nature of both traditional and digital records and the importance of context and structure in defining the intrinsic value of a record. This session concluded with Rosaleen’s remarks on the changing roles and responsibilities of conservators in the age of digital archives. Rosaleen highlighted how modes of technology have fundamentally altered how material needs to be preserved. She also emphasized the need for increased education among conservators and archivists regarding the proper care of electronic records.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions, including a panel on tangible and intangible heritage.