Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Avoiding Chaos: Conference and Workshop Planning

My most recent post can be see over at the Active History group blog.  The post focuses on conference and workshop planning strategies for heritage organizations. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Natural Heritage: Kootenay National Park

 This is the third post in a series focusing on Canada's natural heritage, and more specifically the preservation of this natural heritage through the Canadian Parks System.   The first two posts can be seen here and here.

The Kootenay National Park, located in southwestern British Columbia, encompasses a portion of the rich natural heritage region of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Kootenay contains a variety of landscapes  and well known landmarks- thrust-faulted mountains, landscapes sculptured by glaciers and water, hot springs, Marble Canyon, Sinclair Canyon and the Paint Pots.

Kootenay is also home to a range of plants and animals.  The preservation of diverse nature of Kootenay's landscape is in part responsible for the success of so many different ecosystems within the park - plants from the alpine, subalpine and montane ecological zones can all be found within Kooteny.

In addition to the great natural landscape Kootenay is home to the only landmark in the parks system named after James Bernard Harkin.  Harkin was a Canadian civil servant who is seen as the main advocate for the establishment of the Canadian Parks system.  Mount Harkin in Kootenay National Park is named after Harkin and his contribution to Parks throughout Canada.  A great article focusing on Harking by E.J. Hart appeared in the June-July 2011 issue of Canada's History.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

PressForward and #Alt-Academy

Today marked the announcement of two great open access digital humanities projects.  The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media announced its newest initiative, PressForward.  PressForward aims to use open source technology as a means of highlighting work that goes beyond traditional publishing methods.  This initiative aims to promote open access, new methods of dissemination of online scholarship, and the availability to digital publishing platforms. The digital publications PressForward is launching with can be seen here.  An excellent summary of PressForward can be seen on Dan Cohen's Digital Humanities Blog. 

Today also marked the announcement of #Alt-Academy, an open access collection of writings on alternative academic careers within the humanities.  The term #alt-academy (often shortened #alt-ac) was coined by Bethany Nowviskie and generally refers to people with academic training who are seeking employment/are employed outside of the tenure track but still within the university realm.  This newly released collection of works can be found on MediaCommons, a site which emphasizes user participation and community development.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Anne Linday's "Archives and Justice"

One of the presentations I found particularly intriguing at the Association of Canadian Archivists conference was Anne Lindsay's presentation on Willard Ireland.  Lindsay's presentation was a condensed version of an article she wrote for Archivaria.  "Archives and Justice: Willard Ireland's Contribution to the Changing Legal Framework of Aboriginal Rights in Canada, 1963-1973" by Lindsay was recently published in the Spring 2011  issue of Archivaria.
Lindsay's work focuses on the role of British Columbia's Provincial Archivist Willard Ireland in the legal cases Regina v. White and Bob and Calder v. The Attorney General of British Columbia.  This article uses Ireland's experience as a case example of the role archivists have in providing context to records and the impact which this context can have on present day interpretation of history.  Lindsay's work also provides a semi-biographical account of Ireland's professional work and an introduction to the history of land claims in BC.  "Archives and Justice" provides a good introduction to Ireland and the impact of archivists on the records they maintain.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Natural Heritage: Point Pelee

This is the second post in a series focusing on Canada's natural heritage, and more specifically the preservation of this natural heritage through the Canadian Parks System. 
 The Point Pelee National Park is one of Canada's smallest national parks, however the park attracts approximately 300,000 visitors annually.  The park's southern location - the park share the same latitude as Rome and California - contributes to a unique climate, animal habitat, and natural landscape.

Point Pelee Park's founding was based largely upon the work of the members of the Great Lakes Ornithological Club.  The club saw Point Pelee as an ideal to spot to track the migration of numerous bird species.  This interest in birds eventually became combined with the desire to preserve the natural landscape which attracted such a wide range of birds to Pelee.  As a result of the efforts of the Club the park was established as a National Park in 1918.

Today, more than 370 species of birds have been spotted in the Point Pelee area and many of the visitors to the park are avid birdwatchers. In addition to an ideal location for migrating birds, Point Pelee is on the route of migrating monarch butterflies.  Each fall the park is swarmed with monarchs traveling south, simultaneously the number of the visitors to the park swells as people attempt to catch a glimpse of thousands of butterflies at once.

Overall, the Point Pelee National Park is an excellent example of a park designed to preserve something very specific.  In this case the preservation is focused on the natural habitat of a diverse range of birds and butterflies.  Through the preservation of the natural heritage of Point Pelee Canadians are able to experience a part of Canada that is a far cry from the snow and ice that is typically associated with Canada.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Listening to Our Past

My most recent post can be seen over at the Active History site.  The post is a review of the Listening to Our Past website, which presents the oral histories of Nunavut's Inuit peoples.  I thoroughly enjoyed discovering this site.  There is a lot of great material on it for anyone interested in learning more about Nunavut or the history of Inuit communities.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ontario Heritage Conference: Creating a Heitage Blog

Kayla Jonas of the Adventures in Heritage blog recently presented at the Ontario Heritage Conference. The topic of her session was “Using Websites to Communicate Your Message”.  Kayla's presentation focused on the use of blogs within the heritage field.  Her presentation used this blog and History to the People as examples of personal heritage blogs.  The complete presentation can be seen here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Wrapping Up #ACA2011: Day Three

The final day of the ACA conference opened with a plenary session focusing on the idea of Being Archived. The panel featured authors Erika Ritter and Rosemary Sullivan. This presentation provided an interesting look on what is like to be on the other side of the fence - to be the one donating your professional and personal records to an institution. The act of donation experience that many archivists don't ever get a chance to experience and this presentation provided a look at what goes through the minds of potential donors.

The morning session I attended was entitled Respect and Recognition Continuity and Change in Archives Practice and Aboriginal Documentary Heritage. The panel featured Terry Reilly of the University of Calgary, Sarah Hurford of LAC, Patricia Kennedy of LAC, and Marianne McLean of LAC. Kennedy, Hurford, and McLean all work in different departments of Library and Archives Canada that deal with the acquisition, reference, and development of Aboriginal heritage collections. All three speakers from LAC focused on the need to develop programming which suits the varying needs to Aboriginal communities, researchers, litigation companies, and scholars. In particular, McLean emphasized the growing need to collaboration at every stage of collection development.

Reilly's presentation focused primarily on her role as the archivist for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC archive is currently in the development phases and Reilly's work focused on the development of policies and collection mandate's within the TRC framework. Like the presenters from LAC, Reilly emphasized the need for the TRC to make its work relevant to First Nation, Metis, and Inuit communities - and the ongoing struggle the TRC has with engagement on the local level.

The final #ACA2011 presentation I attended focused on What is a Record in the Digital Environment? The Speakers included Adam Jansen of the University of BC, Jim Suderman from the City of Toronto, and Luciana Duranti of the University of BC. Jensen's presentation focused on the role of diplomatics (the gensis, forms, and transmission of archival documents) in the digital age. Jensen emphasized the need to archivists to be engaged in the creation of digital content and to understand object oriented programming. Jensen maintained the importance of archivists being digitally literate and being more than merely reactive to digital trends. Jim Suderman's presentation followed a similar vane to the work of Jansen. Suderman focused on the growing open data trend within Canada and the United States. Like Jense, Suderman suggested that archivists should be involved in the establishment and delivery of the digital platforms used by open data initiatives. This panel concluded with an interesting presentation by Duranti focusing on the Facebook Wall. Duranti used archival theory to deconstruct the digital form that is 'the wall' and to explain what the characteristics of a digital record are.

Friday, June 3, 2011

ACA2011 Conference: Day Two

The second day of #ACA2011 open with a plenary session by Dr. Laura Millar. Milliar's presentation was titled Challenging the Fundamentals: Considering the Future of the Canadian Archival System. The organizational theme of Milliar's talk was based in creating a new 'strategic plan' for the Canadian Archival System. This plan called for a coordinated national strategy for record keeping and preservation, a plan for preserving the digital record, public engagement, and a revised education system. Milliar maintained that archivists should be "auditor, protector, historian, advocate, and adviser." According to Millar, the archival field is currently faced with a time of opportunity - to shape the future of the profession and to shape the society's perception of the field. Similar to Terry Eastwood's presentation yesterday, Millar's talk emphasized the need to be proactive in shaping the archival profession and was hopeful in looking toward future archival developments.

The morning session I attended was entitled The Tangible and the Intangible. Speakers included Anne Lindsay of the University of Manitoba and Creighton Barrett of Dalhousie University. Unfortunately the third panelist, Teague Schneiter, was absent. Barrett's presentation explored English ballads as a type of intangible heritage. This talk highlighted the problem of documenting and arranging intangible heritage based on guidelines designed for written, Euro-centric documentary heritage. Additionally, Barrett called for the use of flexible arrangement during the archival processing of intangible heritage, which would allow cultural heritage to be linked to a provenance of place and an expanded definition of creation.

Lindsay's presentation provided an interesting contrast to the paper presented by Barrett. Lindsay's paper, entitled "Archives and Justice: Willard Ireland's Contribution to the Changing Legal Framework of Aboriginal Rights in Canada" focused on the contributions of archivist Willard Ireland which impacted political, social, and legal forms of knowledge. Lindsay provided an excellent summary of Ireland's involvement in two legal cases which examined the question of Aboriginal title and treaty rights. This presentation saw the role of archives as that of a witness and as playing an essential role in the creation of memory. One of the more profound examples in this discussion of archives of witness was Ireland's court testimony. This testimony placed a piece of paper with 159 'X' marks on it, into the context of a larger treaty framework. The work presented by both Barrett and Lindsay was intriguing and provided food for thought regarding how to best contextualize and preserve unique forms of heritage.

This first afternoon session I attended discussed Collecting in Canada from a historical perspective. This session included presentations by Paulette Dozois (LAC), Anna Shumilak (LAC), and Edward P. Soye (Royal Military College). All three papers in this session focused on the development of different aspects of the archival system within Canada. There was a particular emphasis on the development of LAC. Dozois' work focused on the legacy of Joseph Pope in the shaping of the Canadian archival system, and Soye's work highlighted Dominion Archivists Arthur Doughty's efforts to establish a war museum. This session provided a great overview of the development of government archives within Canada and a good starting point for discussion of how these early beginnings have shaped current government archive policy in Canada.

The final session I attended today was entitled Round Peg Square Hole. This session featured Geoffrey Yeo of the University College London, Joseph T. Tennis of the University of Washington, and Fiorella Foscarini from University of Toronto. All three speakers examined ways in which the movement to a digital environment have challenged traditional assumptions about archival practice. Yeo's work discussed the rise of participatory digital environments and the notion of multiple modes of arrangement. Termed 'arrangement on demand' Yeo suggested that is impossible to predict how all users would like to use archival material and which type of arrangement of material would best facilitate this use. Yeo suggested that technology has provided archivists with an opportunity to arrange records in multiple ways, without changing their physical context. This was a great technology conscious and forward thinking panel that combined traditional archival theory with potential tech innovations.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

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.