Tuesday, December 28, 2010
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.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Thia prompt reminded me of a number of the great photographs I've come across during my work in the past year. Here are a couple of examples:
The Brutis Office falling through the ice on Lake Huron. Photo is part of the collection held by the Thessalon Union Public Library.
This newspaper clipping is also held by the Thessalon Public Library and shows a local OPP officer baby sitting a cougar.
This final photograph shows Thessalon in its hay day. There are many photographs which highlight the vibrancy of this town during the era which was dominated by lumbering. It's a stark contrast to the quiet small town it has become.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and or where would you like to travel next year?
In 2011 I would like to visit Mackinac Island in Michigan. The island is rich in built heritage and is relatively close to my home. Mackinac Island has prohibited the use of motorized vehicles for over a century and the use of horse drawn transportation increases the old time feel of the Island. The Island is home to Fort Mackinac which is Michigan's only Revolutionary War era fort. Additionally, much of the downtown core of the Island contains well preserved heritage buildings.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
The advice I would give myself for the year ahead is to be open to opportunities and to have faith that things will work out. There is no shortage of ways to expand knowledge and skills if you are open to trying new things and actively searching for new resources.
Advice I would give myself ten years ago: Listen to the interesting stories and personal histories of the elderly people you meet. Very few people write down their personal histories. Oral history is well worth listening to and preserving.
Monday, December 20, 2010
In 2010 I have avoided dedicating more time to reading academic writing relevant to my field. The majority of the material I have read outside of work in 2010 was fiction. Granted, a large percentage of the fiction has been historical fiction but that really doesn't measure up to academic reading. One deterrent to academic reading has been my lack of direction in what to read. Picking specific topics I would like to know more about would help give my reading purpose and structure.
Topics I would like to explore through reading in 2011 include:
-The interaction of First Nation heritage and public history
Sunday, December 19, 2010
This prompt brought to mind heritage restoration and the 'healing' of heritage buildings. Ideally, heritage preservation comes prior to extreme restoration efforts. Depending on the state of the building, heritage restoration allows for the integrity of historical features to be maintained and in some cases assists in the preservation of the built heritage.
Ideally the healing component of restoration would include repairing a building in a way that is true to the architecture of the era. Replacing original windows with new energy efficient windows that are made in the style of the original windows or repairing and reinforcing the original windows are a couple of examples of heritage restoration and preservation.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Next year I want to try to write more. I would like to continue to blog on a frequent basis and write about heritage issues that inspire me. I need to remind myself the benefits of writing and work on making a commitment to writing. Additionally, I would like to explore other avenues for my writing.
In 2010 I wanted to try to gain more experience in the heritage field. This year, I managed to gain a lot through volunteering and reaching out to others working heritage. I'm happy I took the initiative and time to volunteer with a variety of organizations as it opened many doors and allowed me to gain new skills.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Lesson learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?
The best thing I've learned about myself this year is that I have the ability to tackle management and administrative problems logically and with tact. I gained a lot of experience dealing with human resource challenges, administering projects, and being on the front line during project management. Granted, I also learned that I have no desire to be in a position which is solely HR based. This year reinforced my desire to be in a position which allows for a combination of hands on work and program development.
The Society is located on a site with a diverse history. From 1712-1808 the location was home to the Redoubt Royal, which was a military barracks and eventually a holding place for prisoners of war. The current building was built between 1808 and 1813 and served as the Quebec city jail until 1867. The jail was the site of the last public hanging in Quebec. Following the closure of the jail the building was re-purposed by Morrin College. In 1868 the Literary and Historical Society moved into this building.
Currently, the Society's library collection is open to the public. However, borrowing privileges are restricted to society members. The library collection is unique as despite being located in a predominately French area the library specializes in preserving the city's English language heritage and history.
The podcast of this Ideas episode is well worth a listen as it highlights some of the unique history surrounding the society.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
This occurred gradually throughout the year and helped me broaden my perspective and interests in the heritage world. I have also learned new skills and honed existing skills based on feedback and conversations with colleagues. I have found friendship, support, and enthusiasm amongst colleagues in the past year. I look forward to continuing to exchange ideas and experiences with others in the upcoming year.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I have so many worthwhile heritage memories from this year, but these are the ones that I thought of in the five minute limit:
-The connections I've made in the heritage field.
-The kindness of those involved with the CDP and OurOntario
-The image of my parents dressed up in historical costumes during our visit to Fort St. Joseph.
-The skills I've learned this year -- project documentation, administration, and employee management techniques
-How the Sault canal looked when completely drained of water.
-The feeling of joy I had when I found out about my new job.
-My appreciation of natural heritage, particularly seeing the Agawa Canyon, the view from the Terry Fox memorial, and everything involving Basswood Lake.
-The support from friends and family when venturing into new territory, be it physically moving or taking on a new project.
-The small town moments: a community day parade that was mostly ATVs, a sign that boasts the fact that the KFC can seat forty people, hand delivered mail, a northern Ontario fish fry, and people saying hi to everyone they see on the street.
-Presenting at a conference isn't as scary as it seems.
-The most frustrating problems often contribute the most rewarding successes.
-My foray into community history and heritage.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I have come to appreciate the value of collaboration and interdisciplinary work. Collaboration can take far more effort, coordination, and time than a non-collaborative project. This year proved to me the benefits of collaboration outweigh the occasional headache.
I also learned to appreciate the importance of structure in a collaborative partnership. Even if all partners involved have an equal stake in the project it is essential that someone take on a leadership role and have the power to make decisions when needed. I have also learned to appreciate the importance of communication during collaboration, without open and reliable communication even the most promising collabrative project can stall or go awry.
Monday, December 13, 2010
When thinking about what career and heritage based actions I would like to take next year the first thing that comes to mind is planning. But, does planning count as action? It's an activity and at times a very important first step. However, planning is often a predecessor to actual physical action. Despite its apparent lack of physicality, I think the importance of planning gives it merit to be included as an action, even if it is more of a mental action.
My next step is to begin prioritizing and planning what long term activities are going to help me grow professionally in 2011. I need to prioritize based on gain, enjoyment, and effort inputted into the activity. Currently, I'm debating about trying to focus on one or two volunteer activities or one volunteer activity and one major project to take on in the new year.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Today's #reverb10 prompt was: Body integration. This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn't mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?
The moments this year where I have felt the most integrated have occurred since I started my new job. I have recently had the opportunity to participate in three Aboriginal smudging ceremonies. Each time I have participated in a smudge the feeling in the room has been one of thoughtfulness, remembrance, gratitude, balance, and unity. I feel fortunate to have been able to participate in these activities. Smudging also brings to mind the importance of preserving traditions, especially in an oral, marginalized, or aging society. Actively practicing traditions have the potential to allow people to become in touch their history, learn more about their culture, and to become integrated with their roots.
Things I don't need in my life next year include:
-Unnecessary worry. I need to remember that sometimes things are simply out of your control and that there is no point in worrying about them, as it doesn't actually fix them.
-Constant contentedness. Despite my love for my job, there is no need for me to be constantly connected to it or to the internet. I need to take more time to unplug.
-An overflowing Google reader. I subscribe to far too many RSS feeds. In the new year I plan to weed out feeds I no longer have an interest in or which aren't updated regularly.
-Physical clutter. I spend two hours a day in my car, so despite my neat freak tendencies clutter does tend to build up. Being more proactive on keeping clutter at bay in my car and on my desk has the potential to help alleviate stress and annoyance.
-Shyness. I need to be more assertive when it comes to promoting myself, voicing my concerns, and putting my point of view out there.
-Procrastination. I know we all have moments of it and that's not necessarily a bad thing. I just need to avoid procrastination caused by doubt or dislike of an activity. When that happens procrastination is more a form of avoidance than anything.
-Negativity. Eliminating non-supportive people and activities can help turn negative thoughts into positive ideas.
I think all of these items can at be minimized through cultivating a sense of balance in my life. Balance needs to be created between work and home, clutter and neatness, and procrastination and pro-activeness.
Friday, December 10, 2010
The wisest decision I made in 2010 was to apply for a job I had a gut feeling was a good fit for me. At the time I applied I wasn't even really sure I was looking for a new job or what my chances were in the application process. I applied on a bit of a whim and didn't really put to much thought into what could happen if I actually got an interview or the job. I ended up getting the job and couldn't be happier. I'm proud, grateful, and happy working where I do.
An additional perk of this decision is that I now feel like I am beginning to put down roots. In the past five years I have lived in seven different cities or towns. This is the first place where I've begun to feel a sense of permanence and a sense of attachment to. I am extremely glad things have unfolded like they have.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
OLA Super Conference 2010 was the best work related gathering in 2010. This conference was the first library focused conference I attended. The level of enthusiasm, the roar of the vendor floor, the sessions I attended, and copious amounts of good food and good company made this the work related gathering of 2010.
Highlights of the conference included:
-Presenting with OurOntario on collaboration and community building withing the Community Digitization Project.
-Reuniting with OurOntario staff for the first time in six months.
-Seeing the Knowledge Ontario staff in action on the vendors' floor
-The Extraordinary Canadians authors session.
-Learning more about the different branches of the library field.
I also had the opportunity to see the Rain Tribute to the Beatles while in Toronto for the OLA conference. That combined with the OLA conference made for a great week.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Prompt: Beautifully different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different - you'll find they're what make you beautiful.
The heritage field is filled with differences all of which have the potential to compliment and learn from each other. Academic historians, archivists, curators and those involved with museums, archeologists, digital historians, built heritage professionals, genealogists, and public historians are some of the many people involves with history and heritage.
Each heritage or history field is unique, and each group of professionals has a unique set of skills and strengths. Within each heritage field there are specializations and further compartmentalization which adds to the different qualities of each field. The variety which exists in the heritage world is ideal for collaboration.
There is also a number of people involved with the heritage field who have embodied a number of different roles throughout their careers. In the past five years I have worked and volunteered with a number of museums, a historical litigation company, a research department of a not for profit group, with a number of public libraries, and at an archive. One of my favorite things about heritage and public history is that there is always multiple options for a project, opportunities for collaboration and chances to learn from other professionals.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
In 2010 I discovered and further explored a number of communities:
-This year through twitter I became more connected with heritage professionals. This sense of connectedness was a huge help when I moved to a part of Northern Ontario without knowing anyone in the heritage field. My daily interactions online helped remind me that there are lots of people passionate about history and heritage out there.
-In 2010 I also was exposed to the public library community when working with OurOntario on their Community Digitization Project. I worked with a number of small public library, participated in the OLA Super Conference, and the OLS-North conference. The enthusiasm, kindness, and collaboration in the library community made my experience a memorable one.
-I have started to explore my new found local community. Despite the fact that the town and surrounding area is home to only slightly more than one thousand people I'm constantly surprised by the number of activities and choices in the area. I hope to connect with more people in this community in 2011.
-I also hope to further connect and learn from the Aboriginal community in the area. These connections occur naturally at my work but I hope to learn from the community on a level above the level required by my job.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Today’s Prompt for #reverb10:
December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)
I've been struggling with today's prompt since this morning. The most recent thing I've made is chocolate chip pie. However, I wanted to focus on something related to my foray into the heritage world. I'm in the process of compiling a list of things I would like to read of re-read in the upcoming year. The part of the list I've completed so far is below:
History/Heritage Related Reading:
- Shingwauk's Vision by JR Miller (re-read)
- Death So Noble: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War by Johnathan Vance
- The Madman and the Butcher by Tim Cook
- Compact, Contract, Covenant: Aboriginal Treaty-Making in Canada by JR Miller
- I'm also still debating about reading a number of books from the Extraordinary Canadians series
Fiction and Leisure reading:
- The Origin of Species by Nico Rici
- Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
- The Forrest Laird by Jack Whyte
- Sanctuary Line by Jane Urquhart
- Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod
Considering my passion for books this version of the list is a shortened one of the list that seems to constantly be multiplying.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
A number of Ontario communities let go of valuable built heritage this year. Old buildings have been damaged by neglect, torn down by cities, or 'renovated' in the name of modernization. Earlier this year the Heritage Canada Foundation put out a 'worst losses' list which named the most significant buildings lost in 2010. The list includes:
1) Century Theatre, Hamilton, Ontario
2) 35 - 151 Colborne Street, Brantford, Ontario.
3) Downsview Hangars (Buildings 55 and 58) - Former CFB Downsview, Toronto, Ontario
4) Fleming Grain Elevator, Fleming, Alberta
5) River Street, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
6) Watson Lake Hotel, Watson Lake, Yukon
All of these buildings were valuable based on their age, architecture, or provenance. It's disconcerting that three of the six major losses on this list are from Ontario. Built heritage preservation simply isn't a priority or fiscally feasible for a lot of communities. As a result, it seems as though at least once a month another irreplaceable historical landmark is let go of.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
The hours spent on a train to get to the Agawa Canyon were more than worth the trip. The canyon park includes numerous striking waterfalls, a river, and the canyon itself is a great display of natural heritage. The canyon was created by faulting in the Canadian shield and the remote nature of the canyon has resulted in the majority of the natural beauty of the site being maintained.
My visit to Aubrey Falls inspired further appreciation of natural beauty in Canada. However, that site is directly impacted by a hydro plant next to it. The amount of water which flows over the falls is actually controlled based on how much power is being generated. The stark contrast of nature and development at Aubrey Falls reminded me of the importance of preserving our natural heritage for future generations.
The drive up to Thunder Bay allowed me to take in the vastness of Lake Superior. The changing temperament of the water, the quietness of the North, and the sea like waves were some of my favourite parts of that drive.
Friday, December 3, 2010
One of the most inspiring moments this year was during a digitization day held by the Huron Shores Museum. This museum is run purely by a dedicated group of volunteers. I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the volunteers. The event allowed me to see the value of local history in small communities and the pride of this community's history was tangible in the air that day. The Museum's photos digitized that day and as part of the Community Digitzation Program can be seen here.
Another moment which sticks out from 2010 occurred a little over a month ago. I was invited to participate in the laying of wreathes and a smudge ceremony held in the Shingwauk cemetery. The laying of wreathes and smudging were done in memory of Shingwauk residential school students. It was a moving experience that provided me with a sense of commemoration and connection to the past.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I do an innumerable amount of things that don't contribute to my writing about public history. Procrastination, perfectionism, and over analyzing things to name a few. On a more concrete level I think that my use of twitter has actually caused my blog writing to decline a bit. I often post things or link to articles on twitter that are definitely worthy of a blog post.
Tweeting about public history is a quick easy way to get a idea out there with minimal effort. A blog post takes more thought, time, and dedication. However, twitter allows me to interact with parts of the heritage and cultural community which I may never interact with otherwise. It's a different type of promotion, communication, and environment. I think it compliments blogging, I just need to remind myself that it's nice to form ideas longer than 140 characters.
Since reverb officially began yesterday, I'm writing two posts today to catch up. The December 1st writing prompt was: Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
I debated back and forth about my 2010 word, but ultimately decided on discovery. I’ve discovered a lot about myself, my passions, the world around me, community heritage, and the world of public history in this past year. My top three heritage based discoveries include :
* Volunteering as a research associate for the Red Cross’ Health Equipment Loan Program (HELP) allowed me to rediscover my joy of archival research.
* My time working with OurOntario and the Community Digitization Program (CDP) helped me rediscovered my love for Northern Ontario heritage, people, and lifestyle.
* This year I also discovered that it is possible to combine my public history interest with other aspects of my life. This discovery eventually resulted in the combing of my traditional historical interest in First Nation-Settler relations with my interest in preservation. This combination took the shape of my new job and I couldn’t be happier about that.
I would like my word for 2011 to be growth. At this time next year I would like to be able to say that I’ve learned something substantial, continued to expand my activities in the public history realm and that professionally I have made a step forward (no matter how small).
Friday, November 26, 2010
The Moulin à Fleur neighbourhood Sudbury located immediately north of the downtown core was one of the first neighbourhoods to develop outside of the original settlement. The most well known landmark in the area is the flour mill which gave the community its name. The mill silos will be 100 this year.
This mill has long closed and the mill's silos were designated a city heritage site in 1973 and recognized under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1989. Additionally, the mill's foreman house was converted into a community museum in 1974.
Despite these positive preservation efforts the flour mill landmark in Sudbury is in a state of disrepair. The silos that the city has previously deemed a heritage property have received no maintenance work in many years, and the entire structure is nearing a state of demolition by neglect.
The neglect of the silos has left the city with a choice to either repair or demolish the silos, as they are becoming a safety hazard. Demolition costs have been estimated at $520,000 to $850,000, and refurbishment at $1.7 million. However, based on the age of the silos there are a number of heritage grants which local organizations are applying to in hopes of helping finance the repair. Many Moulin à Fleur community members see the mill as been a valuable part of their local heritage and are against the demolition of the silos. Hopefully the city can be convinced of the value of this local landmark.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Despite this logic and being a slight technology geek and addict, I found the recent CBC Doc Zone episode Are We Digital Dummies? oddly appealing. The show provided an interesting look at the impact of technology on business, personal interaction, and how we manage technology. The documentary itself wasn't anything earth shattering. It built upon the studies which show that we are poor multitaskers and the work of Nicolas Carr author of "Is Google Making us Stupid?" Despite the lack of ground breaking conclusions it was nice to see technology placed in a Canadian context and to be exposed to some Canadian technology usage stats. Am I going to change my technology habits as a result of watching it? Most likely not, I am writing about the show in a blog after all.....
Saturday, November 6, 2010
RAD and similar codes provide standard outlines of how descriptive data and general metadata is recorded and organized. This allows collected information to maintain uniformity between organization, provides structure to data, and establishes professional standards. Granted, there is room to develop internal policies which work with RAD to meet organizational needs. Even with these adaptations of RAD most archival descriptions are created in a very standardized manner.
I recently accepted a position in an archive, this move from the museum world to the archive has highlighted the overwhelming lack of descriptive standardization in the heritage field. Most heritage organizations have internal policies which dictate how metadata should be organized and outline descriptive practices. However, in Canada there currently is not a professional standard which unifies descriptions (or anything else) between organizations.
Creating a professional standard and an agency to maintain that standard isn't an easy task. But, considering the success of standardization in the archival field and the library world it is surprising that more attempts haven't been made to regulate the museum field. Formal guidelines for description have the potential to help museums which currently lack quality metadata procedures and to create assist in ensuring the quality of information being collected by museums.
Friday, October 29, 2010
There are reportedly only three 12-sided round barns in Canada. Two of which happen to be located not far from where I'm currently living. One is found just outside of Thessalon, Ontario is currently being used as a gift shop. This building was built in 1928 by local resident Alex Campbell, Jr.. The barn's roof has been re-shingled in recent years (2003) however the rest of the barn maintains its original integrity.
The second barn is located also located in the Municipality of Huron Shores and was recently relocated and re-purposed to be a community building. This barn was previously known locally as the Cordukes' barn, and was constructed by local resident Thomas Cordukes in 1918. Local history suggests that Alex Campbell assisted Thomas Cordukes in the construction of this barn in 1918 and perhaps was inspired by that experience when constructing his own round barn ten years later.
In the early 2000s the local heritage association identified the historical significance of the Cordukes' barn and through local fundraising in 2009 work on relocating and restoring the Corduckes' barn began. Many of the original beams and posts were rotted beyond repair however where possible the original materials of the barn were reused. The municipality currently envisions this re-purposed barn to serve as a museum, community dance hall, farmers market, and general gathering place. This barn has just opened up for public functions and is well on it's way to becoming integrated into the community. It's great to see a heritage building being preserved and reused.
Monday, October 18, 2010
I was thoroughly impressed by the support network these museums have created to assist them in the use of the software. The group meets at least twice a year and are very supportive of museums who are new to the software. During their most recent meeting they shared experiences, discussed the release of version 5.0 of Past Perfect, outlined training methods, and explored new ways to utilize the tool. It was great to see these museums working together to gain the most out of a software package and to see their enthusiasm over using technology to assist in collections management. Support networks not only provide much needed assistance, but also help forge collaboration and sharing, both of which are ideal in the heritage field.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
A recent Spark episode included a short discussion of the possible impact of e-readers on the length of books. It was suggested that e-readers may be responsible for an increase in book length. The argument being that e-readers make huge tomes easier to transport and more accessible.
In some ways this argument does make sense. Book lengths have often impacted by external factors, the invention of the printing press, how authors were paid, the price of paper, and the increase of leisure time all impacted the general length of books being published. However, given the wave of resistance against e-readers that still exists, I'm not entirely sure that e-readers can be deemed solely responsible for the changes in the literary world.
A recent Active History post also deals with the history of books and The e-Book Revolution.
Friday, August 13, 2010
This weekend marks the 125th anniversary of the Siege of North Battleford. This event as traditionally has been commemorated as a siege by the Métis and Cree on the white settlers in what would eventually become Saskatchewan. A recent article in the Globe and Mail, suggests that there may be some problems with the way in which Parks Canada has been reenacting this event.
Tyrone Tootoosis, an aboriginal historian, insists that no siege occurred. Rather the First Nation peoples approached North Battleford due to starvation and that the word siege suggests a much more violent action than what actually occurred. Parks Canada representatives have agreed that the event was not really a siege in the traditional sense and that visitors to the re-enactment will be give the full story. Additionally Parks representatives insist that they always attempt to portray multiple perspectives of historical events.
Attempting to portray multiple perspectives through a reenactment is a fairly daunting task. It is typically the winners who deem a battle worthy of commemorating and it is often the winners who preform reenactments. Granted, the reenactments always include the other side. But, at times this seems as though the opposition are only included so the winners have someone to dramatically defeat.
Is it possible to portray a completely unbiased historical account? Maybe. But this is an extremely complex task and often results in a whitewashed, passionless account of events. Should an attempt be made to portray history as accurately as possible? Yes. At times this may even mean changing the way in which things have traditionally been commemorated or named.
However, historical interpretations are limited by the sources available to historians, and this often limits how events are understood. This is particularly the case in North Battleford and many other events involve First Nation peoples. The oral nature of First Nation society means that written documentation is primarily only available from the settler perspective. Until further exploration of First Nation past through oral history and non written history is explored, it is likely that many historical interpretations will continue to be focused on the settler experience.
Monday, July 19, 2010
The staff at the site recommend that visitors start off by watching an educational video about the fort. This video provides a lot of context on the site, explains why the site is historically significant and examines a lot of the artifacts found on the site by archaeologists. The major downside of the video is that is 15minutes long. Children and even some adults may find the video too long, and a bit too dry. Case in point, my Dad who tends to enjoy military history, fell asleep about 10minutes into the video.
The exhibit portion of the heritage site focuses on what life was like in the fort. It highlights the life of the typical solider, how the officers lives, and includes some information on neighbouring First Nation communities. The majority of the artifacts mentioned in the educational film are on display in the portion of the facility. Somewhat lengthy text panels feature predominately in the exhibit hall. However, there is a small interactive section where children (or big kids...like my parents and I) can dress up in period clothing. This provided a bit of a break to the more traditional forms of historical interpretation which are prominent in the exhibit hall. If nothing else, the dress up corner resulted in much laughter and some amusing photos.
Visitors to Fort St. Joseph are also able to look at the 'ruins' of the old fort. A good portion of the fort has been excavated, and pieces of almost all of the original stone buildings can be seen. The ruins provide a nice physical example of the information learned about the fort through the educational video and the exhibit hall at the site. Overall, the visit was well worth the drive down a horribly weathered road.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Spark recently featured a great interview with Nicolas Carr, which discuses his new book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Carr is well known for his 2008 article "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", which examined the impact of Google, hyperlinks, and the internet in general, on how we process information.
Carr's new book continues to discuss the changes to how we process information. He argues that the changes in our methods of processing information, is in part due to neurophysiology. Our brains automatically strengthen the habits which we frequently use, while less commonly used processes are forgotten or weakened. Thus, given the onslaught continuous of information, it is hardly surprising that our ability to concentrate on a single item at a time has decreased.
Additionally, Carr also highlights the rise of the 'real-time web' and our growing craving for immediacy and new information. We crave new information, regardless of how trivial it is. How many times have you glanced at a twitter API or your RSS feed while doing other work? The information your receiving via twitter usually isn't life altering, but it is new and that's something which humans tend to be drawn to.
The real-time web environment has also contributed to the mentality that unless we see and use information immediately, it is no longer relevant or useful. There is so much information out there, that older information is often discarded as useless. Information has become like a child's toy. The toy is great when it's brand new and shinny, but it's quickly forgotten when another new toy is discovered. The historian in me cringes at this thought, the newness of information is should not determine its validity. Validity should be based upon the quality and the source of the information.
Despite this, I admit to being a bit of an information addict. I feel out of sync with the world if I haven't checked my RSS feed or TweetDeck. Sometimes the appeal of the new is just too hard to resist. Is this information addiction a bad thing? I'm not entirely sure. I'm still able to sit down and give my undivided attention to a book. However, if I want to accomplish anything using a computer disconnecting from the internet does marvels for my productivity. Perhaps this multitasking mode of thinking isn't better or worse than how our minds use to think, just different or evolved.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
What significance do public apologies for historic wrongs have? Government apologies have the potential to remind the general public of events long past. It is unlikely that people directly impacted by Bloody Sunday or the residential school system are going to forget the horror of these events. However, people not alive during these events or who have not felt the repercussion of them can easily forget the past. Public apologies, inquires, and general discussion about past wrongs bring events back into public view and help raise awareness regarding atrocities and past mistakes. For years, the issue of residential schools was glossed over in public schools. In recent years a movement towards acknowledgment of past wrongs has contributed to an increase in educating Canadians at large about this moment in our past.
However, apologies are often about controlling the collective memory of a particular event. Apologies for historic wrongs are often politically motivated and can be seen as a step towards reconciliation. Apologies add another dimension to the history of a particular events. It allows the government to be seen as taking proactive action against the past.
Is an apology sufficient when an entire community was wronged? Of course not. Is it a step in the right direction to addressing the problem? Perhaps. They can be a starting point for reconciliation but apologies need to be accompanied by actual action.
For another look at government sponsored apologies see Laura Madokoro's post "Giving Voice To History" on activehistory.ca
Friday, June 4, 2010
Early this week Industry Canada Minister Tony Clement announced a 64-page bill to the House of Commons. Bill C-32 is a proposal to admen current current Canadian copyright legislation. The shortened title of the bill is "the Copyright Modernization Act." The bill attempts to address to copyright in an increasingly digital world and the full bill can be seen online here.
The tabling of this bill coincided with the release of a government website entitled "Balanced Copyright." This site breaks down the bill into more manageable sections and provides a good overview for anyone without a legal background looking to understand what this bill potentially means.
Canadian Copyright legislation does need to be updated to reflect the rise of born digital content and the sharing of information virtually. However, any new legislation needs to encourage fair use and consumer rights need to be taken into consideration. The new bill has taken some measures towards improving consumer rights, eg. it would no longer be illegal to copy music from most purchased CDs to an ipod. Despite some improvements to a similar bill proposed in 2008, there is still a tremendous amount of gray area in the bill and content needs to be included which reflects new and evolving born digital mediums.
Views on the proposed bill can be seen here, here, and here.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
One of the great things about historical societies is that membership is often open to anyone. By volunteering with a historical society people looking to gain more experience in the heritage field can participate in fundraising, research, and interpretation projects. Historical societies are also a great place for people who are just generally passionate about history or who would like be more involved in their community. Additionally, anyone one with a professional background in heritage, who is willing to share their expertise, is usually enthusiastically welcomed by historical societies.
The volunteer nature of historical societies is great for the variety of people the societies attract. However, there is a downside to being a volunteer based organization. Without active and committed volunteers local historical societies can easily become inactive and in some cases disband entirely. The problem of the disappearance of historical societies is particularly troublesome when a historical society has acted as a collector of community history. What happens to a photo collection or archival collection held by a historical society when there is no longer a group of dedicated volunteers to maintain the collection? Good historical societies have plans in place to deal with this possibility. These plans may include donating the material to a local heritage institution or appointing a knowledge community member to act as curator of the collection. Regardless of how vibrant a historical society is currently, the volunteer nature of most historical societies makes it essential that plans are created to ensure to the longevity of any holdings the historical society maintains.
Historical societies play an important role in increasing public awareness of local heritage. Many historical societies run genealogy workshops, walking tours, lecture series, and in some cases play an active role in heritage preservation initiatives. In addition to their role as promoters and educators of local history, some historical societies have taken on a role of collecting community histories. In some cases this is done in terms of collecting oral histories, preserving photo collections, or working in tandem with local heritage institutions. Examples of historical societies acting as collectors of community history include: the Guelph Historical Society which maintains its own archival collection, and the Milton Historical Society which has partnered with various libraries and other historical societies to digitize their photo collection. Both of these historical societies are active in their respective communities and have made an effort to increase accessibility to their collections.
Monday, April 26, 2010
The idea of technology changing the mourning experience, got me thinking about the way in which technology has impacted commemoration and historical memorials. It is now easier than ever to view historical monuments and memorials on-line. For example, you can take a virtual tour of the Juno Beach Center. This tour is fairly similar to most on-line virtual tours of museums and cultural centers, with the added layer of emphasis on remembering the contributions of Canadian soldiers during WWII. Is the on-line tour as striking as the physical memorial/center? Of course not. But, it does provide a glimpse into the ongoing commemoration of Juno Beach and allows people who will not have opportunity to visit Normandy a glimpse into the center.
How does an on-line presence fit into commemoration? Given the ability to enhance accessibility and to raise awareness through the use of digital mediums, historical commemoration projects can be greatly enhanced through the use of technology. The War of 1812 digitization and commemoration project is a great example of how commemoration can be enhanced through technology. Using the hosting, resource, and interface services provided by OurOntario a number of organizations from the Niagara region banded together to digitize their collection of artifacts relating to the War of 1812. The result of this endeavor can be searched here. This project increases access to a number of great museum collections and also increases awareness about the upcoming 100th anniversary of the War of 1812.
I don't think online commemoration or virtual mourning can replace some aspects of the grieving and commemorative process. However, I do think that on-line memorials, collections, and virtual tourism can play a very important role in enhancing the commemorative experience.
Friday, April 23, 2010
A recent Spark program on CBC radio focused on David Cope and his exploration of the role of artificial intelligence in the creation of music. Cope began working on a similar program Experiments in Music Intelligence(EMI) in the 1980s. This program took existing styles of music and created music based on those styles. For example, the EMI software could 'listen' to a number of works by Beethoven and then creates a unique piece of music based on the musical styles of Beethoven. The use of artificial intelligence to create music based on the style of famous composers in my mind seems like taking historical reproduction to the next level. Instead of merely reproducing existing work EMI rearranges and builds upon existing works. It is not merely repoducing but re-framing and reinterpreting past works. Not exactly a look into the past, but maybe a look into a kind of alternate version of the past.
More recently Cope created an AI program called Emily Howell, which has the ability to 'independently' compose new music. This machine created music has been met with mixed results (here, here, here). Some have criticized Cope with destroying the last human element of music composition, while others have praised his ingenuity. The music created by Emily Howell has its own unique style. Additionally, Emily can take instructions and modify 'her' music based on the preference of the user. The software breaks music down into mathematical and scientific formulas and creates music based on assigned algorithms. The moral merit of the music created by Emily Howell aside, the use of AI based software to create classical music is pretty both creative and an interesting step towards a new branch of music.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
In addition to these visually appealing items I have had the opportunity to be exposed to dozens of local history texts. Many of these local histories were written in celebration of a centennial, or other significant anniversary and are often written by a local community group or a group of volunteers. The quality of writing and research varies greatly from book to book, and very few provide footnotes or bibliographies. Is this a bad thing? From a research perspective it is a shame that more local histories do not include at least a basic bibliography, be it a list of local persons consulted or a more traditional bibliography. The inclusion of sources has the potential to aid later scholarship and is valuable to know in itself.
The academic historian in me does occasionally get the urge to scoff at histories written by enthusiastic community members. However, despite some research shortcomings local history texts are an important resource and are essential for preserving local heritage. Many are well written, compiled by people who are very passionate about their organization or community, and provide a unique look into a community from an 'insiders' persepctive.
Much local history is passed down orally. The nature of oral history leaves local history open to the pitfalls of human memory. Writing local history down helps counteract this pitfall. Additionally, many local history collections are filled with unidentifiable photographs, written history has the potential to provide context to images and assist in creating a fuller history.
Why should anyone care about the history of a small rural community? Small communities often have rich and vibrant pasts. Looking at the history of a small community can often illuminate the way in which society, industry, and social interests have evolved over time. Local history can act as a microcosm for examining larger issues such as the impact of industrialization or the link between community growth and the introduction of railroads.
Working with local history collections on a daily basis has reminded me of the importance of 'amateur' history in preserving the history of small communities. It has also made me very appreciative of local residents who help heritage institutions identify photographs and share their stories about the community. Community engagement is essential for local history and it makes me happy to see how many people are genuinely interested in local history initiatives.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
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.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
One of the more shocking bits of institutional history released is a document which examines a murder-suicide occurred in the the Gallery's east wing in 1909. The Gallery's records also include a report which highlights the rat problem the Gallery faced during WWII. The majority of the previously unreleased institutional history focuses on exciting, bizarre, and exceptional events.
The inclusion of interesting anecdotes in an institutional history allows for the history of the Gallery to appeal to a wider audience. By placing emphasis on unique occurrences at the Gallery, the Gallery's past becomes interesting, making people want to know more about the institution itself. I think the release of this material to the media was a great public relations move by the Gallery. This release has allowed the Gallery to gain a more youthful and interesting personality in the face of a public which isn't always interested in history, art, or museums.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The Museum of Afghan Civilization is scheduled to make it's debut in 2010. This museum is going to be completely virtual. Online exhibits are nothing new, but the idea of creating an online building to house these online exhibits is fairly novel.
The Museum of Afghan Civilization employed an architect, museum professionals, and artists, to design and assist in the creation of the virtual museum. Users will be presented with the museum against it's virtual background the Bamiyan caves. Users will be able to view the 'outside' of the museum from all angles, in an attempt to make it more realistic.
The proposed interface of the museum is designed to emulate an actual museum visit. Various multimedia 'pavilions' will exist for users to explore. The pavilion's interfaces will change based on which exhibits are being featured, similar to physical temporary exhibition spaces.
The virtual museum will feature images from various existing institutions, including MOMA and the Louvre. The museum also plans on featuring images of works which have been destroyed or disappeared in recent years. There is also thoughts of eventually asking Afghan citizens for contributions of photos of their own culture.
There is hope that eventually a physical version museum of Afghan culture will exist. In face of the current instability of the area, this virtual museum allows for Afghanistan's culture to be displayed without placing physical objects in danger.
I am looking forward to seeing the finished product of this venture, and feel that it is yet another step toward the further integration of technology and heritage. The notion of an entirely virtual museum also leaves me with the question: Are physical exhibit spaces necessary to call something a museum? The name of this virtual institution the "Museum of Afghan Civilization" suggests otherwise.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
One of my personal favorite examples of names in a machine readable world is the band Live. Googling 'live' or 'live+band' in an attempt to find more than a Wikipedia entry on the band is an exercise in futility. On the other hand, such a common name makes it difficult to download the bands music. Depending which side you're on, the inability to easily download their music could be considered a great thing or a horrible thing.
Both of these examples highlight the importance of naming schemes being machine readable. Names can no longer merely be catchy, they need to also be searchable. I'm just waiting until children's names are picked with machines in mind....
Monday, January 4, 2010
-OLA Super Conference, Toronto, February 2010. "Community Digitization Program: Collaboration and Capacity Building." This presentation will be highlighting the ongoing Community Digitization Program. It will be a panel discussion of the various experiences of the staff and organizations involved, focusing on resources, knowledge gained, and overall experience.
-OLSN North Conference, Sudbury, May 2010. This presentation is still in the early stages of development, but will most likely be similar in format to the OLA presentation.
-Recipe collection project. As a Christmas present I received a "Recipe Keeper", which is essentially a template for creating a scrapbook of recipes. Working with the recipe keeper I plan on collecting various family recipes as well as some of my own. In addition to the traditional scrapbook I plan on creating a digital counterpart. The digital counterpart is based on my desire to preserve things for longer than their physical lifespan, and on the fact that so many of my recipes are already saved/annotated using zotero.
-Completion of the Digitization Handbook I've been working on. This is intended to be a guide for the organizations I am currently working with. It includes how to establish policies, workflows, administrative guidelines, and various templates for creating a sustainable digitization program.
-Renewing/relearning CSS/html skills. I recently used some of my CSS knowledge while working on a digital photo exhibit project. However my skills are pretty rusty at this point, so in the upcoming months I plan to use them more frequently on similar digital photo projects, this blog, and my personal site.
-In a similar vain to the previous project, I haven't done any programming in processing or java in sometime. In the upcoming months I would like to work on a project which allows me to keep using these skills. Specifics have yet to be decided on.
-Researching and assisting in the writing of a history of Knox Presbyterian Church, Alliston Ontario. This will be a community commemoration project and is in the very early stages of conception.