Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas in the Archives

Archival institutions across Canada (and the world) often contain some ephemeral material.  Some of my  favourite types of ephemera are postcards and greeting cards.  Given the approaching holiday, here's a glimpse at holiday themed ephemera.

This item is from the  Kenneth Rowe fonds held by Library and Archives Canada.  This fonds contains a number of scrapbooks and folios with printed material - including the Christmas cards seen to the left. These Canadian Christmas cards are dated
circa 1877-1878.

A Christmas postcard sent to Reg Sherwood by Ada Broderick in 1908.  This postcard is part of the collection held by the Burlington Public Library.  The library's collection is searchable on OurOntario.

A Christmas card from Superior Paul C. O'Connor of the  Society of Jesus of St. Mary's Mission at Akulurak, Alaska to Assistant Director Charles G. Burdick of the Civilian Conservation Corps' Alaska Region, circa December 20, 1938.

Held by the National Archives and Records Administration, and part of the Records of the Forest Service, 1870-2008 group.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Collection Glimpse: The Gardiner Museum

Gardiner Museum
This is the second entry in a series of posts entitled, "Collection Glimpses."  Each post in the series  focuses on a unique collection, innovative repository, or a not well known cultural heritage institution. The first post highlighted the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archive.  

History of the Museum
The Gardiner Museum is Canada's only museum dedicated solely to ceramics and is one of the few museums in the world that focuses exclusively on ceramics.  The Gardiner Museum opened in Toronto in 1884 and was initially dedicated to holding the collection of artifacts held by George and Helen Gardiner.  From 1987 to 1996 the Gardiner Museum was governed by the ROM.  From 1996 to 2004 to Museum underwent considerable growth and the collection grew to include ceramics from around the world.  The Gardiner then closed from 2004 to 2006 to undergo renovation and expansion.  Since reopening the Gardiner has gained exhibition and display space, and a hands-on clay studio space.

 The Collection
 The collection held by the Gardiner Museum contains more than 3000 pieces of ceramics from around the world.  The items in the collection range from ancient pottery to contemporary works of art. A large percentage of this collection has been digitized and made available online.  The browse collections feature is a bit clunky, but the ceramics are sorted by collection type and are well photographed.

The Gardiner Museum also houses the Gail Brooker Ceramic Research Library.  This library contains over 2500 items including auction catalogues, rare books, scrapbooks, periodicals, and special collections.  The collection is searchable online.  However, the collection is non-circulating and must be consulted onsite. 

Educational Programming
The Gardiner offers a variety of clay classes for all ages and skills levels.  All of these classes are run by professional ceramists and are held in a studio setting.  The museum also offers school programs, workshops, and group tours.  The Museum also holds "Id Clinics" where patrons can bring in objects and have them identified by curators.  Additionally, every day at 2pm the museum offers guided tours with the price of admission.

The museum has fairly decent hours and is reasonably priced ($12 for adults and half price admission on Friday evenings).   For anyone interested in the clay medium this is the Canadian institution to turn to - both in terms of research materials and exhibited collections. 

Photo Credit: wvs and  StudioGabe

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teaching with Historic Places

The December 2011 issue of Public History News contained an article entitled "Teaching Teachers the Power of Place", which focused on the Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) program established by the United States National Park Service.

The TwHP program aims to provide resources for teachers based on the properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Flexible lesson plans, powerpoints, case study examples, and other media tools have been developed by historians and teachers to provide support for any school looking to examine history, geography, or social studies from a place based perspective.

What benefits does place based instruction have? Rooting history or social studies firmly in a place helps make the topic more relevant.  If possible focusing a lesson on a local site helps students create a stronger connection with their community's past.  The use of historic photographs, artifacts, and documents can make even a far away place seem real and assist in making the past relevant to students.

Overall, the TwHP sounds like a great resource for educators both in and outside of formal education institutions.  Has anyone used a similar resource or been exposed to a Canadian equivalent?

Photo Credit: edebell

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December #builtheritage chat

This month's #builtheritage twitter chat focused on preservation and the holidays.  There was an abundance of good festive promotion ideas,  examples of seasonal events, and

First portion of the chat focused on the question, How can you use the holidays to promote your historic site? Some of the proposed activities included:
  • Displaying old holiday photos on site or on social media
  • Holding seasonally themed events -teas, crafts, tours, etc
  • Holiday snacks! 
  • Holiday theater stage at the heritage site, eg. the Christmas Carol
  • Combine with other local events your activities with other local holiday events
  • For example, the distillery district in Toronto christmas market, draws thousands 
  • Watson's Mill in Ottawa hosted a Christmas Fair and Art Show this past wknd.
  • As a backdrop to other heritage events, or as a venue for private holiday functions
  • Family ornament decorating activities

Second question of the chat, what is the most successful holiday program you have been to/organized at an historic site? Favourites included:

Third segment of the chat dealt with, How can we encourage people to shop locally in historic main streets?
  • Combine moonlight madness with other activities such as skating, caroling, etc.
  • Hold a Christmas festival downtown, and encourage all shops to decorate windows 
  • The main streets are just perfect for decorating - light it up!
  • Provide more parking
  • Ask the community what they want

The chat concluded with a discussion of How do you make sure your holiday activities are as inclusive (and/or multicultural) as possible?
  •  Heritage groups, municipalities should encourage all constituencies to celebrate their holiday traditions.
  • Having personalized items that can be customizable for any holiday
  • The new inclusive is to do lots of niche activities
  • Let the historic places speak for themselves. The best places evolve and change with the times if we let them
There was also some discussion about what topics participants would like to see in the 2012 #builtheritage chats.  Some suggestions included focusing on main street design issues, preservation 2.0, or the integration of youth in heritage groups.

Collection Glimpse: The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Arcvhies

This is the first post in a new series of posts entitled "Collection Glimpses."  Each post in the series will focus on a unique collection, innovative repository, or a not well known cultural heritage institution.

We are family button- Karen Andrews. CLGA
The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA) is located in Toronto, Ontario and was founded in 1979.  CLGA aims to "acquire, preserve, organize, and give public access to information and materials in any medium, by and about LGBT people, primarily produced in or concerning Canada."  Currently CLGA is the second largest LGBT archive in the world.

The CLGA's archival holdings are unique not only in their subject matter but in the inclusion of nontraditional archival material types.  For example, the CLGA has an extensive collection of t-shirts, buttons, matchbooks, erotica, and other material related the the Canadian LGBT community.  The CLGA also has a variety of more traditional archival material including personal and organizational records, photographs, artwork, cartographic material, and audio-visual items.

 In addition to the extensive holdings of the CLGA, the Archives has an rich publication history. Since 1979, the CLGA has published or helped publish 15 works  on Gay and Lesbian heritage and culture.

The current downside of the CLGA is the limited hours the Archive is open to the public.  Recently, this lack of on site availability has been partially compensated by the digitized holdings which can be browsed and searched online.  However, currently only a small percentage of items have been made available online and most researchers are still reliant on the physical holdings of the CLGA.

Despite the limited hours, the CLGA is the best resource for primary source material on the Canadian LGBT heritage.  The grassroots and community based nature of the CLGA is evident in its holdings, collection policies, and outreach.

Photo credit: Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives

Monday, December 5, 2011

Heritage Gift Giving

Tree of books
It's that time of year where many of us are scrambling to find the perfect gift for a loved one.  Recently, a number of blogs and organizations have been posting gift suggestions for the heritage lovers in your life. Some of my favourite posted so far, include:
  Additionally, any of the heritage aficionados I know would love:
  • A subscription to Canada's History Magazine.  It's a great read for people inside and outside academia interested in Canadian History.
  • An annual membership to a local museum, art gallery, or heritage site. 
  • For the archival minded: a copy of Closed Stacks, Open Shutters. 
 Photo credit: flickr (shawncalhoun)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sharing Archival Photographs in a Digital World

Check out my latest post at the ActiveHistory.ca site.  The post talks about options for cultural heritage organizations looking to share photograph collections online through free or low coast image hosting and image sharing sites. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Living History: Holy Walk

Last week I attended the Bruce Mines "Holy Walk."  The idea behind the event is to tell a non-denominational version of the Christian Christmas story in an interactive way.   Participants are taken on a walk from Nazareth to Jerusalem and experience the sights and sounds of the era during the walk.

The Holy Walk has been going on for almost 20 years and is put together by local volunteers.  Over 150 volunteers take part in the three day performance of the event and work to make the Walk a unique experience. This year's event drew over 2,000 people and raised over $10,000. 

The Walk experience was like being in the middle of a living interactive history.  There were live animals, character actors, and period structures.  Following the Walk I began to consider the potential of using a Walk to depict other historical journeys and events.  Perhaps using a Walk to explore the settlement of early pioneers, the journey of Lewis and Clark, or wartime events.

Have you ever participated in a similar Walk?  

Photo Credit: Tom Keenan, Sault Star

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

December Reading

As the month of December approaches so does long hours spent driving to visit family.  Luckily, more often than not I am passenger on these trips and I tend to use the time to get some reading done. Books on my current reading list include:

Unsettling the Settler Within by Paulette Regan.  This book has been on my reading list since April when Laura Moadokoro discussed the work in "History in Turbulent" times in an ActiveHistory.ca post. 

Collections and Objections: Aboriginal Material Culture in Southern Ontario by Michelle Hamilton.

Manufacturing National Park Nature by J. Keri Cronin.  This works looks at the contrived nature of Canada's national parks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Making Oral History Relevant: The Legacy Project

The Legacy Project began in 2004 with Karl Pillemer Professor at Cornell University.  Pillemer began by collecting 'practical' advice from elderly people in America by having them answer "What are the most important lessons you have learned over the course of your life?"  This initiative resulted in over 1500 people over 70 years old describing their personal life lessons and experiences.

The main portion of Legacy Project site is a 'browse by life lesson type' section.  This portion of the site includes textual transcripts of elders descriptions of important lessons.  The Legacy Project also has a YouTube channel where video versions of the talks with some the elders interviewed can be watched.  I wish the site included more video or audio content, reading the transcripts is interesting but doesn't provide the same dimension as video.

What initially drew me to this project was no where in it does Karl Pillemer discuss the fact that he is essentially undertaking an oral history project.  Pillmer focused more on the present day applications of the knowledge provided by the interviewed persons.  The appeal from a historical stand point of these  modern day applications of oral history is that they have the potential to almost 'trick' the general public into take a glimpse into the past.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What Middletown Read

The What Middle Town Read Project is a searchable database based on the records of the Muncie (Indiana) Public Library from November 5, 1891 to December 3, 1902.  The database includes records of all the books that were checked out during this time period.

The data used for this project was compiled based on ledgers found by Professor Frank Felsenstein of Ball State University.  These ledgers are essentially circulation records and contain lists all of its patrons, books, and circulation transactions from 1891to 1902.

Users can search the circulation records by patron name, book title, book, author, subjects, and transaction date.  Under the patron field is is also possible to search by patron birthplace, sex, race, material status, and occupation.  Results also include supplemental patron data from the city directory and census information.

This is a great resource and work has already been done to use this data set to look at larger social trends. 
The article "This Book is 199 Years Overdue: The wondrous database that reveals what Americans checked out of the library a century ago" by John Poltz examines some of the historical implications of the Middle Town Read data.

I'm curious if any other libraries have made their old circulation records available and searchable online.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Looking Back: 201 Posts Later

Credit: kusito
I started the Historical Reminiscents blog in September 2008.  The blog was initially started as part of a Digital History course I was taking during my MA in Public History at UWO.  Since then I've graduated, and held a number of positions including: historical researcher, collections assistant, a digitization facilitator, and archives technician.  Yesterday also marked my 200th post on this blog.

In the spirit of reminiscing, here are some of the most read and some of my favourite posts from the past:

-A post on Web Activism and the multiplicity of options (and consequences) in a digital world.

-A readings inspired post on, How to Forge Public History from the Land
-The Intersection of Art and Technology which looks at the work of Dr Maurizio Seracin

-Looking at the independent digital composure of music in Emily Howell: A Digital Composer 
-The importance of Historical Societies and Community Heritage

-Heritage Preservation and Adaptive Reuse: Evergreen Brick Works
- As part of the Natural Heritage blog post series, a post on Point Pelee
-Oral History and the Act of Listening

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research

The Society of American Archivists (SAA) recently released, Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research by Laura Schmidt.  The guide focuses on how researchers utilize archives and outlines the best way to approach archival research.

In addition to provide useful information for researchers the guide includes a number of guidelines and policies that most archival institutions have to develop at one time or another.  For example, the chapter on Typical Usage Guidelines in Archival Repositories outlines a list of common reading room rules and restrictions.  This chapter is a great place to start if your institution is looking to develop a policy on what patrons are allows to bring into a reading room. 

The Guide's chapter outline is as follows:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Massey Lectures

This year marks the 50th anniversary of CBC's Massey Lectures.  The lecture series is named after Vincent Massey, Canada's first Canadian born Governor General.  Each year the CBC Radio (now in collaboration with the House of Anansi Press, and Massey College in the University of Toronto) invites a well known scholar to present his original research in a lecture series that is later broadcast nation wide.

This year's lecturer was Adam Gopnik, who's talk was entitled "Winter: Five Windows on the Season."   In addition to Gopnik's contribution, the entire past 50 years of the Massey Lectures are now available online.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Closed Stacks, Open Shutters

The Closed Stacks, Open Shutters: An Archivist Photobook became available today. The book initially started off as an idea for a sexy archivist calendar and is the result of a call for “sexy archivist” pictures and on Twitter.

All proceeds raised by the sales of the Photobook go towards next years Spontaneous Scholarships fund which helps pay the registration fee for some students and recent grads at the annual Society of American Archivists (SAA) conference.

Still not convinced? Kate over at ArchivesNext has a great list of the top five reasons to buy a copy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Beachwood National Cemetery of Canada

The Arlington National Cemetery in the United States is well known amongst Americans (and Canadians) as the national site historic Cemetery.  The Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, Canada receives a faction of the visitors and publicity that the Arlington site does.  Perhaps this difference relates to larger patriotic differences in Canada and United states.  However, given the rise in dark tourism across the heritage field Beechwood may eventually become more well known to the Canadian people.

Established in 1873, the Beechwood Cemetery is the final resting place for over 75,000 Canadians, including our Canadian Forces Veterans, War Dead, RCMP members, Governors-General and Prime Minister.  The Beechwood Cemetery was designated as the national Cemetery of Canada in 2009.  

Some of the historical figures buried in Beechwood include: Sir Stanford Flemming, Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, and Tommy Douglas. Cemeteries of all shapes and sizes contain a wealth of genealogical and historical information, and tend to be well worth a visit if you can get over the potentially 'creepy' factory.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Memory Project

The Memory Project was started by the Historica--Dominion Institute with funding from Canadian Heritage.  The project aims to capture the memories and experiences of all Second World War and Korean War veterans living in Canada.  The project is bilingual and includes oral histories, artefacts, and digitized photographs.   The stories that have been collected so far are available through a digital archive.  This resource is an excellent place for students, teachers, researchers, all of those remembering our past .

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jill Lapore and the Politicization of Birth Control

Margaret Sanger
The latest issue of the New Yorker contained an interesting article by Harvard history Professor Jill Lepore on the history of politicization of birth control and abortion.  Unfortunately the original article, Birthright, is behind the New Yorker's pay wall, however an NPR interview and the New Yorker Out Loud provide a decent summary's over Lepore's work.

Lepore's work highlights the development of the birth control movement under Margaret Sanger and the later attachment of politics and religion to the issue.  It is interesting to note that initially many clergy, church organizations, and politicians were pro birth control and held starkly different positions than they do today.  Lepore's article also expands on the fundamental shift the birth control movement took as it evolved from American Birth Control League to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.  Lepore also aim to tie in present day politics and view points into her examination of the past. 

The article plays into the large context and values of the period and overall provides an interesting political history approach to a topic which has traditionally been explored under the guise of women's history or the history of sexuality. 

What are examples of other political approaches to the history of birth control? 

Photo credit: buttonknee

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Edmund Fitzgerald lifeboat 
Tomorrow marks the 36th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an American Great Lakes freighter that sunk with the loss of the entire crew in Lake Superior during a storm on November 10, 1975.  The wreck was made famous and engrained in the minds of Canadians by the Gordon Lightfoot song which describes the wreck.

From the Archives:
  • The CBC Digital Archives has the broadcast footage from the night of the wreck.
  • The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum holds the bell from the Fitzgerald, as well as search tape footage.
  • The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum also holds and annual remembrance ceremony for the wreck - this year's service happens at 7pm tomorrow evening. 
Photo Credit: shipwrecklog.com

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

American Heritage Vegetables

Last week's #builtheritage twitter chat on food and preservation provided an abundance of interesting resource material. This week I stumbled across another great food history resource.  American Heritage Vegetables is a great database of historical vegetables created by the Center for Digital Humanities of the University of South Carolina. The site focuses on cultivation practices, popular varieties, and recipes for vegetables found in American kitchens and gardens prior to the twentieth century.

The site is searchable and is a great resource for anyone looking to integrate food heritage into their programming.  My only complaint is the way in which the recipes are laid out on the site - they are written in paragraph formatting which seems a bit daunting to someone looking to try cooking something in 19th century style.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hidden No Longer: Keeping Indigenous Heritage Alive

If you're a member of the Canadian Museums Association you should soon be receiving the November/December issue of Muse.  This month's cover article, "Hidden No Longer: Keeping Indigenous Heritage Alive" is written by yours truly.

The article focuses on the role heritage museums have played in presenting indigenous culture and history to the general public.  It highlights the 'Ksan Historical Village and Museum, the Woodland Cultural Centre, and the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre as examples of institutions which have strove to accurately and inclusively present and display Indigenous culture.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

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.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Canadian Public History

My earlier lament about the state of the Canadian public history community needs an update.  Some great news for public history in Canada was announced yesterday.   The National Council on Public History is coming to Canada in 2013.  The annual NCPH conference will be held in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, April 17-20, 2013. The call for proposals has been included below:

“Knowing your Public(s)—The Significance of Audiences in Public History”
2013 Annual Meeting, National Council on Public History
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, April 17-20, 2013
In 2013 the National Council on Public History will meet at the Delta Ottawa City Centre, in the heart of downtown Ottawa, Canada, with Canada’s Parliament buildings, historic ByWard market, national museums and historic sites, river trails, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Rideau Canal, and numerous cafes and restaurants within easy walking distance. The program committee invites panel, roundtable, workshop, working group, and individual paper proposals for the conference. The Call for Poster sessions will be issued in fall 2012.
As Canada’s capital, Ottawa is the national centre of the museum, archival and heritage community, and its historical and cultural attractions draw 5 million national and international tourists annually. Ottawa’s two universities have strong connections to public and applied history. The federal government employs many history practitioners and creates a market for private consultants. With so many diverse fields of Public History theory and practice represented, Ottawa is an ideal place to consider issues and ideas associated with the theme of “Knowing your Public(s)—The Significance of Audiences in Public History.”
These could include:
  • the changing nature of the public and the evolution of the discipline over the last forty years;
  • how the public and Public Historians influence each other in the production of history;
  • the effects of changing approaches to public participation, reciprocity, and authority on Public History theory and practice;
  • the impact of digital media on expanding or excluding public engagement;
  • generational differences including Public History for the millennial generation;
  • intersections between Public History practised at universities and in the broader community;
  • issues related to working with ‘closed’ audiences in fields such as litigation, or government-directed, research;
  • access to and use of grey literature
  • the increasing need for audience relevance in times of economic recession;
  • and diverse cultural and multi-national approaches to commemorating events such as the bi-centennial of the War of 1812 or the 60th anniversary of the armistice of the Korean War.
We welcome submissions from all areas of the field, including teaching, museums, archives, heritage management, tourism, consulting, litigation-based research, and public service. Proposals may address any area of Public History, but we especially welcome submissions which relate to our theme. Case studies should evoke broader questions about practice in the field. The program committee prefers complete session proposals but will endeavor to construct sessions from proposals for individual presentations. Sessions are 1.5 hours (working groups may be longer); significant time for audience discussion should be included in every session. The committee encourages a wide variety of forms of conversation, such as working groups, roundtables, panel sessions, and professional development workshops, and urges participants to dispense with the reading of papers. Participants may be members of only one panel, but may also engage in working groups, introducing sessions and leading discussions. See the NCPH website at www.ncph.org for details about submitting your proposal and be sure to peruse past NCPH programs for ideas about new session/event formats.

Proposals are due by July 15, 2012.
All presenters and other participants are expected to register for the annual meeting. If you have questions, please contact the program committee co-chairs or the NCPH program director.
2013 Program Committee Co-Chairs
Michelle A. Hamilton
Director of Public History
The University of Western Ontario
Jean-Pierre Morin
Treaty Historian
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
NCPH Program Director
Carrie Dowdy

Friday, November 4, 2011

When Forever is Only Temporary: The Maple Leaf For Ever

The original The Maple Leaf For Ever song was composed by Alexander Muir in October 1867.  The song became somewhat of an unofficial anthem of English Canadians until the mid 20th Century, children were taught the song in schools and it was almost as popular as O'Canada.  The original lyrics to the song included many references to Canada's origins and its ties to Britain, but included little reference to France or Canada's francophone population.

In 1997, the CBC radio show Metro Morning ran a contest to find more commentary/politically correct lyrics to the song.  The contest was won Vladimir Radian, his version of the song removes the majority of the references to colonialism and acknowledges the existence of French Canadians. Since Radian's version of the song debuted other Canadian singers such as Anne Murray and Michael Bublé have sang the revised lyrics at public events (eg. the Olympics).

It's interesting to see how the original lyrics have changed so drastically in the revised version of the song. I'm undecided if the new lyrics remove the original context of the song or merely revise it for a new generation.  I would be interested to hear other opinions on the matter. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November Built Heritage Chat Summary

This month's #builtheritage chat topic was the integration of food and heritage.  Prior to the chat actually starting @lloydalter posted a great link to food posters from the past.  The slide show is well worth a look if you're interested in the evolution of commercialism, food history, or just need a laugh.

The first portion of the chat focused on the question In what ways do you see food/foodways intersecting with preservation? There were a lot of interesting connections made between food and preservation during this portion of the chat, including:
  • The idea that everyone needs to eat and drink, and that looking at food trends and changes throughout the past is an interesting way to approach heritage.
  •   suggested that historically market squares and gardens were the focus of towns
  • noted that farms are cultural heritage landscapes, barns, silos, cheese factories often have heritage value. 
  • It was also suggested that food is an element of cultural heritage that's often strongly place-based but also has lots of border-crossing potential
    • Additionally food and food smells have the power to conjure up personal and family memories

The second question of the chat was How have/could you use food in your programs? Responses included:
  •   : mentioned that has food app that includes recipes from across Canada, some date from as far back as the 18th century
  • Designing menus based on period foods or demonstrating period cooking methods was suggested
  • @delaneyhf suggested checking out the  Brooklyn Historical Society fall programs as examples of involving food in programming 

The third segment of the chat highlighted the question How do we protect our agricultural heritage when it is in working landscapes? Some of the highlights were:
  • There was a general theme that continuing to work the land and keeping it farmed traditionally helps preserve this part of our heritage.
  • Reusing agricultural buildings such as barns and silos for other purposes instead of demolishing them.
  • Need to recognize agricultural heritage in our urban landscapes - old wells, old houses, old roads.

The chat concluded with a discussion of How does and #preservation intersect, if at all, with sustainability?  Some of the intersections thought of were;
  • @delaneyhf noted that "Sustainability is most often achieved through the use / promotion of local resources, be that buildings or food"
  • The idea that cultural heritage is about ideas and concepts and goes beyond physical heritage. 
  • Overall there was a general feeling that history, preservation, heritage, and food are integral parts of how we should live our lives.
The next #builtheritage chat is on December 7th at 4pm and will deal with holiday promotion in the heritage field.

Photo Credit: United Way of the Lower Mainland 

Update: Today the National Museum of American Heritage Blog featured an interesting  post on "American History told Through Squash."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Canada Reads Non-Fiction 2012

Yesterday, the shortlist for CBC's Canada Reads 2012 was announced. This year the contest is focusing exclusively on works of non-fiction and the shortlist includes a couple of history based works. The list includes:
Paris 1919 deals with the peace talks that took place after WWI and takes a look a both the social and political upheaval that existed following the war.  I'm also intrigued by Louis Riel by Chester Brown.  The work focuses on the life of Riel, but does so in as a graphic novel.  The graphic novel medium has the potential to reach audiences that may not normally be interested in a traditional work of history.  I'm interested in how accurately Brown's work depicts Riel and the era.

Do you know of any other non-fiction graphic novels based on historical events? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Post-Halloween Chocolate Thoughts

If you're like most people you are currently in a post-Halloween candy and chocolate coma. Karlee Sapoznik wrote a great blog post, "When People Eat Chocolate, They are Eating My Flesh: Slavery and the Dark  Side of Chocolate," for Activehistory.ca in 2010, that deals with the dark side of chocolate production.

Some chocolate producers, such as Cadbury have made recent efforts to gain fair trade certification for some of their products, however at this point none of the major chocolate producers are using elusively fair trade coco sources. Additionally, as Karlee's article points out there is some question as to if fair trade chocolate is actually any better than non fair trade items.  Regardless, Karlee's article is definitely worth a read given the abundance of Halloween chocolate around at the moment.

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 ActiveHistory.ca 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 ActiveHistory.ca 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.  ActiveHistory.ca 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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Link Friday

Some of the interesting stuff I came across this week, all of which could potentially spur individual blog posts - but in most cases someone else has already done a great job of summarizing it.  
  • Culture Days is this weekend.  A lot of local museums, historic sites, and art institutions have free programming.   Check out what's going on in your area or follow the hashtag #CultureDays
  • Nuit Blanche is on in Toronto this upcoming Saturday. 
  • Library and Archives Canada announced this week that it has digitized the Canadian Gazette from 1841-1997. 
  • The Canadian Air & Space Museum is being faced with eviction from its historical building, and is slated to be replaced with a hockey rink.  Some of this year's MA Public History class at UWO blogged about this recently (The cost of history in the 21st century and Hockey vs. History).
  • Next Wednesday at 4pm is October's #builtheritage twitter chat.  This month's topic is community revitalization.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Books Week

The American Library Association's national banned books week started on Saturday September 24th and runs until October 1st.  The week is meant to celebrate the freedom to read and brings attention to the issue of intellectual freedom and book banning.

During this week bookstores and libraries throughout the United States prominently display books which have made it onto banned books lists or which are in danger of being banned.

A map of the book bans and challenges from 2077-2011 in the US can be seen here.  The ALA has also set up a YouTube channel which features videos of people reading excepts from banned books.   You can also follow and comment on the week's events using the twitter hashtag #bannedbooksweek

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Archives and Google Analytics

The Spring/Summer issue of the American Archivist has been sitting half read on my coffee table for weeks taunting me.  I finally got around to finishing it and found the article, "Using Web Analytics to Improve Online Access to Archival Resources" by Christopher J. Prom particularly relevant.

Prom's work provides a step by step look at the implementation of web analytics in archival digital development. The article focuses on the case study example of the University of Illinois Archives' use of Google Analytics to track user trends.

This case study highlights how analytics can help garner information about which portions of the site are most used, common searches, user interaction with the site, and other specifics about site usage.  Prom also presents examples of Analytics shaping site development and facilitating the reconstruction of digital initiatives to suit the needs of users.

I know many heritage organizations use analytics to compile site statistics, as these stats often serve as useful tools to show boards that the site is working because it received X number of hits.  However, I would be intrigued to know if other institutions have taken a similar approach to the University of Illinois Archives and used analytics to gain more knowledge about the effectiveness and useability of their site and digital content.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Indigenous Knowledge and Mapping

Washow Sectional Map, Manitoba Historical Maps
One of the project's currently being undertaken byOne of the project's currently being undertaken by Carleton University’s Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre (GCRC) focuses on the display of Indigenous knowledge and culture through the use of cybercartography.  

This initiative has resulted in the creation of cybercatrographic atlases which incorporate interactive perspectives  on themes such as homelessness, place names, traditional language, traditional knowledge, and others. These atlases and the project as a whole are completely open source and do an excellent job of blending geomatics, historical landscapes, and technology. Each atlas contains interactive features such as media clips, photographs, video, traditional languages, and historic maps.

Currently the GCRC is working on nine different atlases focusing on different aspects of Indigenous knowledge and culture.  The atlases include: 
The "Living Cybercartographic Atlas of Indigenous Perspectives and Knowledge" is a good place to start if you're interested in exploring the variety of resources complied in each atlas.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Sylvan Circle

    Sadly the area I live in doesn't have any Doors Open events going on this year.  Despite this shortfall, the area does have a number of self directed art tours going on this fall.  This weekend I took in the Sylvan Circle Tour which features 12 stops and over 50 artists and artisans.

    • Getting a chance to go into the old community halls and churches that served as venues for this tour.
    • The three studio stops on the tour, which let you visit the artist's workshop. 
    • Seeing the variety of pottery, paintings, and crafts which are made by locals. Some high points for me were:
      • Weaving done by Russ Mason
      • Seeing Susan Levesque's unique style of using gourds as canvas for painting
      • Stone jewelry by Jeanne Dumas
     Sadly, most of the artists that participated on the Sylvan tour do not have an online presence.  But in most cases a short bio and contact info can be found here.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Our Roots Our Future

    CC licensed, Steven Burke.
    This week the Sudbury CBC radio programs Morning North and Points North are running a series called Our Roots: Our Future.  This series is focusing on the history of immigration in Sudbury.  Despite having lived in Sudbury for awhile, I had no conception of the diverse cultural past of the city's residents.

    So far the series has included segments on: 
    Well worth a listen if you're interested in local history or immigration patterns.

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Engaging Our Community Conference

    On the weekend I spoke at the Engaging Our Community Conference held at Algoma University.  The panel I took part in, Beyond Paper: Participatory Past in the Community Archives,  focused on the concept of archives as places of engagement.  My presentation looked at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre as an example of an archival institution that strives to involve community partners through outreach programming and participatory practices.

    My portion of the presentation can be seen here.

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Musarians: Libraries, Museums, and Archives

    The Centre for the Future of Museums blog featured an interesting guest post by  AAM staffer Lauren Silberman, entitled  "Musarians: The bastard children of museums and libraries."

    Silberman paints an interesting portrait of a combined Librarian/Museum professional and highlights some of the overlapping interests of both professions.  Silberman's post also sparked my thoughts about the overlap between libraries, archives, and museums.

    One of the first cultural heritage organizations I worked in contained a museum, archive, and a local history library.  However, despite containing all three types of institutions the organization was dominated by museum practices -- the archive was more of a paper museum than an archival institution.  Librarians, archivists, and museum professionals all have different skill sets and strengths, there are overlaps but I can see value in each distinct profession.  The idea of a Musarian is interesting but I think would be more of a compromise between professions than an ideal sharing of resources.