Historical Reminiscents EP 37: Practicing Open Access

Open sign hanging in a window. Right side reads' Episode 37: Practicing Open Access."

I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of where I publish my work, the accessibility of my work to community members, and open access. In today’s episode I talk about peer reviewed journals, popular publishing, and finding open access outlets.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the intersection of history, publishing, and open access initiatives. Leave a comment or send me a message on Twitter.

Mentioned in this episode:
-“Doing the working: Editing Wikipedia as act of reconciliation.
Outrage over University’s $999 online textbook
-Thomas Peace, “Open Pedagogy: The Time is Now

Download or listen now.

‘Tis the Season for Writing

A number of members from my writers group are participating in this years National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). If you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo before, participants aim to write 50 thousand words in the month of November, the idea being that a time frame forces you be consistent in your writing practice and can help you get the novel onto paper.

The local literary group where I live, Stories in the North, is hosting a number of writing events in November as part of NaNoWriMo.  This includes a kick-off party, ‘write-ins’ around town and a wrap up event.  Many of the write-ins take place while I’m at work, but I love the idea of bringing the local writing community together and creating positive communal work spaces.

In the academic world Charlotte Frost recently announced AcWriMo (academic writing month) and is encouraging academics to tackle their own writing goals.  Check out her announcement to see the full ‘rules’ and details.  Participants are encouraged to post their goals, efforts and results using the #AcWriMo hashtag.  
I’ve been struggling with the concept of NaNoWriMo — mainly because I’m realistic about how much time I can feasibly devote to writing each day.  I also have a lot of non-novel related writing that I would like to spend more time on.  AcWriMo seems like a good fit for my current goals and schedule.

What do I want to accomplish as part of AcWriMo?

  • Spend at least an hour a day on writing. 
    • I’m going to say that blog writing can count toward this time.
  • Have finished drafts of two articles I’ve been pushing to the back-burner for ages.   
    • One article is a short 3,000 word case study, so seeing that article in polished form and ready for critique would be nice. 
    • The other article needs a bit more research love.  Having a workable draft by the end of the month or a near to finished draft of this article, would be ideal. 

Are you participating in any form of NaNoWriMo? How do you stay on top of your writing goals?

Narrowing Down Your Reading List

A cup of tea, a comfortable chair, and a good book makes for a great afternoon in my mind.  Given my self proclaimed bookworm status, I seem to have a never ending “To Read” list.  I’m no longer in school and other my own desire to keep up with professional literature there is no one telling me what to read.  How do you prioritize all the books, journal articles, and other material you want to read?

Some of the things I do to manage my reading backlog:

  • I switch back and forth between fiction and non-fiction reading.  This help me to balance academic reading and pleasure reading. 
  • I’ve started to alternate print media and e-books.  My thoroughly enjoying my Kobo, but still like to use the local library for print media. 
  • I’ve picked a couple of journals which I read each issue of (or at minimum browse).  My personal picks are The American Archivist, The Public Historian, and Archivaria.   I also read Canada’s History Magazine on a routine basis.  
  • When I see an interesting article or become interested in a specific topic, I try to read that material relatively soon.  I know my personal habits – if I don’t read it within a day or two is bound to end up permanently sitting unread and bookmarked. 
  • Reading lit reviews, recommendations of colleagues and friends helps weed out thing that might not be such a great read. 
  • I use Good Reads to keep track of what I’ve read and what I want to read in the future. 
How do you prioritize your reading material?
Photo credit: Wonderlane

Coffee Table History Books

Bookstores are rife with picturesque coffee table books these days.  When browsing I tend to do a cursory scan of the coffee table books related to history.  Some of the most common topics are built heritage, pictorial biographies of public figures, local history, and the history of everyday topics like beer.

I particularly enjoy the books that focus on built heritage.  Some of my favourites are a book on the construction of outhouses and another book on the architecture styles of barns in Ontario.  Both of these works are comprised mostly of pictures, with explanatory text as supplementary information. 

I recently discovered an old (1964) copy of The Ancestral Roof: Domestic Architecture in Upper Canada by Clarke Irwin on my bookshelf.  Unlike a lot of modern day coffee table books, Irwin’s work is more text based with pictures as supplemental to his discussion of architectural styles. 

The text heavy style of Irwin’s book made me consider the evolution of visual histories and popular publishing.  I’m willing to bet that the majority of the public are far more willing to buy a pictorial history of the CPR then they are a giant tome detailing the rise of rail transportation in Canada.  But perhaps, pictures can be used to inspire a more detailed discussion of a topic and can be integrated into traditional historical approaches to reach a greater audience.

Writers’ Group and Popular Publishing

Photo Credit: jjpacres

I live in a rural area outside of a small town of just over 1,300 people.  The thought of joining a writers group had never occurred to me and I was surprised to find that my local community was actually home to an active writers’ group. Amazement of existence aside, earlier this year I gathered up some courage and joined the group.

The group meets monthly and is made up of people with a wide range of backgrounds and writing goals, including: a full-time technical writer, published and aspiring fiction writers, a reporter for a local paper, and people more interested in personal writing than publication.

The group has facilitated a reexamination of my writing style, has helped me gain confidence in my writing, and has inspired me to chase some of those seemingly far off writing goals.   Since joining the group I’ve started to blog more often, wrote a short paper and presented it at a local conference, and I’ve had an article accepted by a museum association publication. 

This community of writers that I didn’t even know I wanted or needed has been great positive support network and has helped inspire ideas for both fiction and non-fiction writing.   

Do you find talking with others about your writing (academic or otherwise) helpful to the writing or revision process?

Citing in Popular Publishing

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?