AAO 2014: Context and Commemoration

Last week I attended the Archives Association of Ontario annual conference in Oshawa, Ontario.  The next few posts are recaps of the conference and some of the sessions I attended.

Keynote
The opening keynote speaker for AAO 2014 was Anthony Wilson-Smith of Historica Canada.  Wilson-Smith’s talk focused on his personal experience with history through journalism and working with Historica Canada.  The talk also centered on the importance of context and the role that archives have in preserving context in a increasingly digital age.  Historica Canada is the largest organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Canadian history and citizenship in Canada.  They are perhaps most well known for its Heritage Minutes.  Wilson-Smith’s talk touched on the Heritage Minutes and discussed how they are meant to be introductions to historical topics and not complete histories. Despite not having a direct archival focus the keynote was engaging and broached a number of digital preservation issues being faced by archivists.

War And The Public Memory
This session focused on war and civic memorials that have been used to facilitate commemoration.  The first presenter, Alexander Comber, focused on “War Trophies of Canada: Paper Trail to Artifact.”  Comber described his efforts to research the history and provenance of war trophies that were brought to Canada following WWI.    Using Library and Archives Canada records combined with photographs, oral histories, and other written accounts Comber aimed to identify the current location of surviving war trophies and document the history of war trophies across Canada.  Much of his research has been compiled in a Google doc and can be seen here.  Comber’s project highlighted the potential and short comings of using archival material to document public monuments. 

The second half of this session featured a presentation by Amanda Hill.  Her work “Beyond The Cenotaph” focused on her work with the Deseronto Archives and ongoing commemoration efforts around WWI. Hill’s presentation focused on her project to learn more about the 34 men listed on the 1923 cenotaph in memory of WWI soldiers.  This project was later expanded to research all men who served from Deseronto including those who were from a nearby Royal Flying Training camp.  Despite occasional research roadblocks and coming up against pay-walled resources Hill’s project has managed to illuminate the personal histories of many of the men from Deseronto.  Some of Hill’s research can be found online here.  Additionally, she has plans to share her research via live historical blogging during the WWI centenary and through other social media platforms.  Overall this was a great example of a community inspired commemoration project that has potential to engage a range of community members.