Monday, October 31, 2011

Seasonal Exhibits: Holiday Heritage

It's that time of year, Christmas merchandise has already started to fill the malls, and the beginning of the commercial holiday season is looming ever closer.  In the heritage field a lot of organizations are beginning to plan and develop exhibits and activities that coincide with the upcoming holidays. 

As a child, one of my favourite holiday related exhibits was put on by the Dufferin County Museum and Archives.  It focused on old toys and games.  I remember thinking it was like seeing a window into the holidays off the past.  A lot of museums and archives use the holiday season to display items from their collection relating to the holidays, winter, and seasonal celebrations.

Many heritage organizations also use the holidays to their advantage by holding fundraisers and seasonal workshops.  Bake sales, wreath making tutorials, Christmas teas, food drives, and craft/art shows are some of the common fundraisers. Heritage house and light tours are also often undertaken during the holiday season.

What are some of your heritage holiday memories? What is your institution doing in preparation for the upcoming holiday season?

Photo Credit: sickofstatistics

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quilts Galore

In my previous job as a Digitization Facilitator, for an OurOntario project, I had the opportunity to work with a number of great local history collections.  A few of these collections contained quilts made and donated by community members.  I was instantly impressed by the work and community memory contained in so many of these handmade quilts. A number of the quilts were done as community fundraisers or as keepsakes and have local family names stitched onto them - a great source for any local historian.

Since my first introduction to quilts in a historic context I've continued to be amazed by the work that goes into quilt making.  Some of my favourite quilts from museum collections include: 

From the Huron Shores Museum, a Pink and White fundraiser quilt.  Community members paid a small fee to stitch their name into the quilt.  Additional details for this quilt can be seen here.
Circa 1940

Detail of a section of the names on the quilt. 

An intricate scrap style quilt held by the McCord Museum.

Crazy quilt, M965.76.1 1897, made in 1897

The Castle Kilbridge National Historic Site has placed a virtual exhibit on the Virtual Museum of Canada which focuses on quilts given as wedding presents.  The quilt below is an example of the items contained in that exhibit.  
"Rising Sun," made in 1885

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tangible History: Artifacts as Gateways to the Past

Powder Flask, McCord Museum, M975.61.76
My most recent post can be seen over on the site.  The post, "Tangible History: Artifacts as Gateways to the Past" focuses on the use of artifacts as primary sources in historical research and in educational settings.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rainy Day Linkspam

This week's interesting sites and activities relating (sometimes tangentially) to the heritage world:

  • The Occupy Wall Street archival project is collecting materials related to the protest, including materials include ephemera, signs, photos, videos, websites, and possibly oral history accounts.
  • The Supreme Court of Canada  ruled that hyperlinks are not considered libel. 
  • A great post, "From Pretoria to Winnipeg? The Potential for Transnational Histories of Reconciliation" by Laura Madokoro.  The post focuses on Reconciliation in South Africa and takes an interesting look at the development of Freedom Park in Pretoria.  
  •  Next week (October 24th - 30th) is Open Access Week.  Lots of libraries, higher education institutions, community groups, and scholarly associations have activities going on to raise awareness about open access initiatives. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

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?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Oral History and the Act of Listening

Photo Credit: ky_olsen
The October-November issue of Canada's History featured an interesting article titled "Guided by Voices" by Mark Abley.  This article focused on the oral history practices, using Concordia University's Life Stories of Montrealers Displaces by War, Genocide, and Other Human Rights Violations project.  (A great project that is well worth checking out if you're interested in oral history, the history of marginalized groups, or just hearing some breathtakingly emotional experiences).

Abley frames the Life Stories project within the large oral history practice and focuses on the benefits and challenges met by those undertaking any type of oral history.  The theme of the article is summed up in the words Abley uses to conclude his writing, "oral history can be a catalyst, not just for academic research, but for reflection, for dialogue, and for political action."  The nature of the Life Story's project exemplifies the importance of oral history.  Montreal Life Stories has successfully united university researchers, artists, community partner groups, volunteers, new media professionals, and other interested parties.

Additionally, the project has highlighted how valuable including the human and emotional element in history can be.  Without personal accounts, written or oral, history has the potential to become a bland list of dates and descriptions.  However, oral history is not without its difficulties, there are numerous ethical considerations that must be undertaken prior to beginning an oral history project, especially if that material is to be placed online.  Albey notes, "You're dealing with living people who trust you.  So our consent forms give layers of choices: They're not copyright agreements, they're right-of-use agreements."  The human aspect of oral history must never be forgotten - communities, traditions, and personal preferences need to respected when undertaking oral history interviews.

Abley's article helped spur a lot of positive thoughts about oral history practice, but also highlighted the need to carefully consider all facets before one undertakes such a project.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Canadian Public History: Where Art Thou?

Credit: Nikopol_TO
Public Historians work in a range of positions within and outside the heritage sector.  Public historians can be found in museums, archives, libraries, academic institutions, corporations, not-for-profits, the film industry, research firms, and other organizations.

In the United States the National Council on Public History is an active professional organization that represents, offers services to, and connects public historians.  Currently, Canada has no similar active national organization.  There is a public history working group under the Canadian Historical Association, but many public historians outside of academia are not involved with this group.

 Currently, the institution I work at is a member of:
Each group has a very specific focus and offers a variety of professional development tools, connections, and resources based on its focus.  A Public Historian working in an archive may find the occasional article in Archivaria or The American Archivist which approaches archival principal from a public history view point, but that's probably all the PH content one will get.  

I've taken to reading The Public Historian and Public History News to get my Public History fix - but since both are American based publications I'm often level longing for Canadian content. content helps fill in some of the void in Canadian Public History.  But I'd love to hear any suggestions on where else to turn for new Canadian Public History reading and collaboration.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pest Control and Your Family Photos

Mice, silverfish, cockroaches, and a whole pile of other creepy crawlies can do serious damage to your collection of photographs, letters, scrapbooks, and family memorabilia.  This damage can take the form of nesting, eating, and burrowing in your paper based materials.

Most libraries and archives maintain stringent Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems to protect their holdings from unwanted pests.  These IPM systems are often far too time consuming and expensive for the average person to undertake.  So what can you do to protect your family's history?

  • The majority of pests like dark damp places.  Whenever possible avoid storing items in basements, garages, crawlspaces, or attics.
  • If you know where pests may be entering your house, eg. poorly sealed windows or doors, block off the entry route. 
  • When practical store items in sealed containers NOT cardboard boxes that will deteriorate when wet and can easily be entered by most pests. 

Eliminating Pests
  • Preventative action is better than reactive action, but where necessary there are methods you can take to try and eliminate pests. The method you choose will also depend on what type of pest is in your collection and how comfortable you are with each pest control method.
    • React at the first signs of pests - droppings or signs of nesting.  Do not wait for the problem to get worse.
    • Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) has a great chart (page 1 and page 2) that outlines which type of control method is applicable to each pest type.
    • CCI's full pest management guidelines can be seen here.
What other methods have you used to protect your family's photographs and documents?

Full Disclosure: This post may have been inspired by encountering my cat playing with a mouse in my living room this morning.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Day of Digital Archives

Yesterday was the first annual Day of Digital Archives.  The Day was created to raise awareness about the nature of digital archives and digital archival material.  The tweets from the day were archived using Twapper Keeper and be read here.

There was also a number of great blog posts done for the event.  Some of my favourite posts included: Day in the Life: Digital Archives Educator, The Challenge of Choices, and Gilderoy Lockhart's Guide to Archiving the Sugar Quill (yes, that is a Harry Potter reference).   Overall the day spurred a lot of great reading focusing on the different methods used to begin handing born digital material, the importance of archiving digital formats, and the importance of saving born digital material.