Recently, while at a friend’s house I picked up a local history book that was sitting on their coffee table. The book focused on the history of Espanola Ontario that was written by a local history enthusiast. In the introduction of the book, the author stated that he had not made an effort to record any sources; however if readers were curious they could contact him and he might be able to point them to where his information came from. Instantly, the academic historian in me cringed and I began to lament the state of local history writing.
However, upon later reflection I began to think about the larger question of citations in popular publishing, local history works, and public history writing. Footnotes or endnotes are standard practice in academic writing. But, they are rarely used in more popular publishing. In my mind good public history writing should find a way to cite information without being intrusive.
Digitally published information can include hyperlinks as a means of providing supplemental and source information without the formality of a footnote. Print publishing is faced with a slightly more arduous task of integrating sources into the flow of writing. Despite the many intrusive methods of citing information, good writers can seamlessly note where material derived from within the context of their writing. I think it is crucial that academic historians who desire to be accessible to a popular audience consider how to maintain historical credibility while appealing to the reading sensibilities of the public at large.
Public history works which immediately come to mind as having successfully integrated source material and popular writing include: Beautiful Barrie: The and its people, No Place to Run: The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War (includes a well organized section of endnotes), and the majority of the articles printed in Canada’s History Magazine.
What works do you consider successful balances of academic and popular history writing?
Is there a heritage website you absolutely love? Or a history website you find unbearably frustrating? Active History is looking for website reviewers. The call for website reviewers posted on Active History can be seen below:
As a growing number of historical resources become available online, the internet is increasingly becoming a site of serious historical research, inquiry and education. Yet it is important to approach information on the internet with caution, assessing its value with a critical eye.
ActiveHistory.ca is expanding its review section to include scholarly analysis of websites. It is imperative in this “digital age” to develop the tools necessary to critically engage with this expanding resource base.
If you are interested in reviewing a website that features historical content, please send an expression of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s Northern Ontario historical photo focuses on Timmins and more specifically The Porcupine Express, circa 1915. In 1911, the Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway line was extended to South Porcupine. That rail line is currently known as Ontario Northland Railway. South Porcupine is now one of the many neighbourhoods which makes up Timmins.
Timmins is currently in the midst of celebrating four centennials. These celebrations have inspired a number of commemoration projects and local histories to be written. A concise history of mining in the area is one example of this commemoration.
Photo credit: The History of Timmins, The Early Years. This website has a number of photographs of Timmins and area from Library and Archives Canada and local collections.
My most recent post focusing on the open source software alternatives available to heritage organizations can be seen over at the Active History Group Blog. The post focuses primarily upon the benefits of using open source exhibit design and photo manipulation tools such as Google Sketchup, GIMP, and Inkscape.
I was recently interviewed by Kayla Jonas for the Heritage Careers Series she is undertaking at her blog, Adventures in Heritage. The interview can be seen here. Last week, Kayla introduced the series by interviewing heritage consultant Laura Waldie. Kayla’s interview with Laura can be seen here.
Parks Canada recently announced intentions to provide location specific content to park visitors using GPS technology and a program called Explora. Explora includes location specific ‘pop-ups’ with information pertaining to the area visitors are in, it also includes an interactive quiz type feature.
During the pilot phase of the project Parks Canada handed out devices loaded with the app to visitors to a select number of parks. Parks Canada is still working on making the Explora program available on a wider scale and is working on expanding the number of mobile apps offered by Parks Canada. There has been some indication that these new apps will contain historical content, which would be a great way of updating traditional methods interpretation.
It will be interesting to see how this project expands. Using digital apps has the potential to inform parks visitors of their surroundings in a way which is more accessible and engaging than a traditional text panel. However, I think there needs to be a balance between enjoying the natural beauty of Canada’s parks and learning more about one’s surroundings through technology.
There has been a lot of discussion in social media and by news outlets recently of Google’s newly launched Art Project. The Project uses street view technology to allow users to explore the collections of museum and art galleries. It includes the ability to create an ‘individual art collection’ of pieces you like. Art Project features 385 rooms in 17 well known cultural institutions, and over 1,000 works by 486 artists. Each participating organization has also selected a work to be classified as “gigapixel artwork.” These selected pieces have a dramatically increased zoom feature which allows users to look at minute details. Additionally, Google maps is linked to the Art Project, allowing users to ‘jump’ to exploring institutions using Google maps.
Despite the some of the benefits and potential of this initiative there has been a number of complaints regarding how information was gathered and how it is being displayed. A number of images are blurred out in galleries due to copyright issues. Similarly, only a handful of images are currently available in high resolution. The low resolution images leave out a vast amount of detail in intricate works. Only a select number of institutions are currently part of the Project and there has yet to be an indication of if or when the project will expand.
The Art Project is an interesting idea. However, in its current form it merely exposes some of the world’s most well known art work. It does little for smaller institutions, lesser known artists, and the preservation of a wide range of artistic material.
My latest post on Digital Accessibility of Canadian Heritage can be seen over at the Active History site. It focuses on the rise of online history resources designed for the general public, and the changing nature of the online presence of heritage institutions.
The final #reverb10 prompt: Core story. What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)
The central story of my practice of public history is varied. I am very happy for the variety of volunteer and work experiences I’ve had in the past year. My experiences, thoughts, and ideas have been shared through twitter and this blog in the past year. In the new year, I hope to continue to expand the ways I connect with those in the heritage field. Overall, the my #reverb10 reflections highlight the enthusiasm I have for heritage and my desire to continue growing in the field.
December 28th’s #reverb10 prompt was:
Achieve. What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.
Next year I would like to expand my involvement in local heritage and be part of a heritage preservation project. I plan on working on making connections in my relatively new community. I’m looking forward to expanding my knowledge base and commitment to public history. There are plenty of opportunities to gain new skills in the heritage field. In the new year, I am volunteering to help a local arts collective with grant proposals. Considering the importance of grants in heritage I feel that this will be a great opportunity to continue to expand my skills.