Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sudbury's water towers

Sudbury is currently home to two iconic water towers, one on Pine street and the other on Pearl street. Both towers are in a state of disrepair and a debate over their restoration or demolition has been ongoing since 2008.

The Pine street tower was built in 1946 and was used for 50 years. The city's heritage committee recently determined the tower has moderate to low cultural heritage value. Despite this declaration of "low cultural heritage value", some locals are still displeased with the Sudbury's city council recent decision to tear down the water tower located on Pine street. Following this decision, there was some discussion of the water tower's site being turned into a park which would feature 'portions of the dismantled tower.'

The second water tower, located on Pearl street has a completely different fate. Media Mobile Advertising bought the property surrounding the Pearl tower last fall. Media Mobile Advertising has submitted a proposal to convert the water tower into a commercial facility. This conversion would be similar to the one undertaken in Lethbridge, Alberta. It will be interesting to see if this project comes into fruition.

Photo credit: Wiki commons

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Digital Accessibility of Canadian Heritage

My latest post on Digital Accessibility of Canadian Heritage can be seen over at the Active History site. It focuses on the rise of online history resources designed for the general public, and the changing nature of the online presence of heritage institutions.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Interactive Learning at the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum

The most recent episode of This American Life on NPR focused on "Kid Politics." A portion of this show focused on children learning about various monumental moments in United States politics. Included in this discussion of historical politics was a look at students interacting with the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum.

The Reagan Library has an interesting facility called the "Discovery Center." This Center focuses on providing visiting children with a hands on history and political lesson. While visiting the Center children reenact the process Reagan and the United States underwent prior to becoming involved in military action in Grenada in 1983.

The appealing portion of this reenactment is that children are given a basic script to follow, however ultimately they decide what course of action should be taken. If a group of students select a course of action which Regan did not take a video appears which explains what actually happened. The video clips reinforce historical fact, but the choice factor is key to engaging children in reenactment.

It's great to see an interactive, nontraditional approach to teaching children political history. This unique approach to history education not only about the history of Grenada and operation Urgent Fury, but it also introduces children to political processes and controversy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Historical Fiction Not Fact

The CBC recently began broadcasting a miniseries based on the novel The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. The novel is one of my favourite historical fiction works and focuses on lives of peasants, monks, and British royalty during the 12th century.

Despite my love for this book, I am slightly weary of how this and other historical fiction tv productions are being presented. There is an increasing number of tv shows loosely based on historical fact. The Tudors, Rome, John Adams, and Band of Brothers are just a few examples of the prevalence of history themed television.

Novels by their definition are fiction. However, the distinction between fiction and fact can easily be blurred in television productions. Claiming something is "based upon a true story" can provide a production with a sense of legitimacy, even if considerable liberties are taken with the plot. It is not always clear which portions of history themed productions are based on historical record and which parts are fiction or heavily dramatized.

For example, a large portion of The Pillars of the Earth takes place in a fictional town called Kingsbridge. Despite this town being fictional the miniseries presents Kingsbridge on a map alongside actual locations in Britain. I thoroughly enjoy historical fiction as leisure reading and find history themed tv entertaining. However, I think it is important that the general population be aware that historically themed or historically based productions are not actual history.

I have had more than one individual tell me that all they know about British history they've learned from the Tudors. At which point I usually cringe and point out that just because something is based on historical fact doesn't mean it is historical fact. Historical fiction has the ability to inspire an interest in history. However, it is important that the line between fact and fiction is made very clear.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Spanish Residential School

During my trip down to Southern Ontario during the holidays I stopped at the former site of the Indian Residential School in Spanish, Ontario. This site was once home to St. Peter Claver's Residential School for Boys, St. Joseph's Girls Residential School. Eventually St. Peter Claver's was turned into the Garnier Residential School.

The site is now private property and is located on an aptly named "Garnier Road." The boys' school was torn down in 2004. The girls school was ravaged by fire in 1958 however the shell of the building is still standing. Above are the pictures of what is left of the residential school.

Photo credit for historic photo of the Spanish Residential School site: Residential School Archive and Research Centre.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Younge Street Built Heritage Loss

Yesterday, the heritage building once known as William Reynold's Block at Younge and Gould Streets in Toronto burnt to the ground. The building was built in 1888 and last year suffered major damage to its facade. A great concise history of the building was posted on BlogTO in May 2010.

Following the collapse of a portion of the building last year, the building's current owner filed a request for demolition. This request was delayed by the building being designated a heritage property and Heritage Toronto maintaining that efforts would go towards the renovation and restoration of the building.

Considering the ongoing request for demolition various heritage advocates have been crying arson since news of the blaze of the fire. Currently, the cause of the fire is not yet clear, but arson has yet to be ruled out. Regardless, this fire marks a substantial loss to the historic Young street facade.

Photo credit: Postmedia News photo

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Year end

The final #reverb10 prompt: Core story. What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)

The central story of my practice of public history is varied. I am very happy for the variety of volunteer and work experiences I've had in the past year. My experiences, thoughts, and ideas have been shared through twitter and this blog in the past year. In the new year, I hope to continue to expand the ways I connect with those in the heritage field. Overall, the my #reverb10 reflections highlight the enthusiasm I have for heritage and my desire to continue growing in the field.