Monday, February 28, 2011

Main Street Sudbury, circa 1910

This week's Northern Ontario historical image is of the Main Street of Sudbury, circa 1910. The image is from the Archives of Ontario and is part of the Photographs of the Audio-Visual Education Branch series.

The Archives of Ontario also holds a number of historical maps of the communities within the Sudbury district. Many of these communities were eventually amalgamated to form the City of Greater Sudbury in 2001. The majority of these maps can be found in the Parent plans series, which contains maps showing the status of crown land from circa 1785 to 1970.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hidden Legacy Conference Highlights

This past week I attended the Hidden Legacy Conference in Winnipeg. The conference featured an interesting combination of speakers and highlighted a variety of view points relating to trauma and inter-generational impacts.

The first day of the conference included eight main speakers and a panel discussion. The first keynote speaker of the day was Dr. Gabor Maté. I found Maté to be one of the most interesting speakers of the entire conference. His talk on the "biology of loss" focused on the physiological and psychological impacts of trauma, the biology of addiction, and the impact of parental health on children. Maté argued that First Nation people are not more genetically predisposed to alcoholism, drug use, depression, and addiction in general. Rather, addiction is a symptom of a much larger societal problem and a result of continuous trauma. Maté also emphasized the importance of early childhood experiences in shaping healthy or unhealthy lifestyles and the need to look at the interconnected nature of mental and physical health.

Juxtaposed with Maté's presentation was Eduardo Duran's discussion of the soul wound. Duran's work includes a much more spiritual component than the work of Maté. Duran emphasized the idea that trauma is a spiritual entity. He asserted that trauma has an energy, and it is that negative energy which plagues the victims of abuse and violence. Despite having different definitions of trauma both Duran and Maté argued for the need to treat inter-generational trauma in a holistic way.

In addition to the more psychological discussions of trauma there was a number of interesting speakers who discussed their first hand experiences with coping with trauma. Vern White, Chief of Police Ottawa, provided an interesting perspective on Northern Native communities. White focused on the general population's lack of awareness of the welfare of First Nation people. White emphasized the need for engagement of both parties during reconciliation and the interconnected nature of our society. A hurdle as large as racism and trauma can't be overcome unless everyone works together.

Similar to White, a workshop run by Ruth and Greg Murdock focused on the personal experience and societal impacts of trauma. This workshop emphasized the impacts of lateral violence, vicarious trauma, and techniques for overcoming hurt.

Overall, the conference featured a great number of informed presenters and highlighted a number of important issues that have arose from the legacy of the residential schools. Many of the presentations did not focus directly on the residential schools. Rather, they spoke to the societal problems which have developed out of seven generations of Native people being impacted by the residential school system.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fort William Grain Elevator

This week's Northern Ontario historical photograph highlights a part of Thunder Bay's history. The photograph is of the CPR grain elevators in Fort William, circa 1920. Fort William, Port Arthur and outlying townships amalgamated in January 1970 to form Thunder Bay. Fort William was established as a trading community and was essential in the movement of grain and other goods across the North.

This photograph is from Library and Archives Canada and is part of the Topley Studio fonds, which includes a number of interesting photographs of Ontario (predominantly the Ottawa region) from 1868-1926.

Additional photographs of the Fort William grain elevator and a great collection of historical photographs of the Thunder Bay region and Northwestern Ontario can be found on The Gateway to Northwestern Ontario site.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Hidden Legacy Conference

Next week I will be attending The Hidden Legacy Conference put on by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. The conference focuses on the generational impact of residential schools and legacy of residential school trauma in Aboriginal communities.

The full conference agenda can be seen here. I am looking forward to a number of a sessions including:
-Elijah Harper, Breaking Barriers/Breaking Silence
-Cindy Blackstock, Aboriginal Children: The Parallels of Residential Schools and Child Welfare
-The screening of A Windigo Tale by Armand Garnet Ruffo.
-A workshop on community trauma and healing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Northern Ontario Historical Photo of the Week: Algoma Steel

The idea to do a weekly photo series was inspired by Andrew Smith's recent Historical Photograph of the Day feature over and on his blog and Kayla Jonas' blog series on photography of Hamilton buildings. In the upcoming weeks I plan to focus on historical Northern Ontario images and to highlight the variety of sources available for local history research in the North.

This week's Northern Ontario historical photograph of the week is of the Pickle Line at Algoma Steel (now known as Esar Steel) in Sault Ste Marie. This photo is from the local history collection held by the Public Library in Sault Ste Marie. A number of photographs from the library's local history collection have been digitized and posted online using OurOntario.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Impact of UNESCO Designation in Djenné, Mali

A recent episode of The Current on CBC radio examined the impact of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on communities that are designated World Heritage Sites. The Current looked specifically at the designation of Dejenne. The episode looks at the contrast between preservation concerns and the needs of the people who live in the mud huts of Djenné.

The city of Djenné has existed since around 200-250 B.C., two thousand of the original mud based houses still exist today. The 'old town' is an example of the development from pre-Islamic civilization to a trading center, Sudanese-style architecture, and the well known Great Mosque. The Great Mosque and the other designated heritage buildings are all built from sun baked mud bricks. The visual appearance is stunning. However mud based bricks have inherent problems, especially in a region which frequently suffers from flooding.

The most prominent theme of the Current segment was the disconnect between UNESCO and some of the government bodies which agree to UNESCO designation. UNESCO designates heritage sites but it is not directly involved with the general upkeep and preservation of heritage sites. However, UNESCO does provide governing and preservation guidelines and governments agree to these guidelines when they agree to designation.

I haven't previously put a lot of thought into how UNESCO sites are maintained and the potential problems which can arise from designation. There seems to be a clash between the desire of UNESCO to preserve heritage and the rise of tourism which comes from UNESCO designation. A number of countries see UNESCO designation as an instant way to increase tourism and revenue. Since the Great Mosque in Djenné was designated, millions of dollars have went into it's upkeep and the city has also greatly benefited from an influx of tourism dollars. However, an influx of people visiting a heritage site has the potential to cause damage to the site itself. Emissions from motor vehicles, human contact, and careless but well intentioned visitors increase the risk of deteriorating heritage value.

There needs to be a balance between preservation, tourism, and accommodating the people who live in a UNESCO site. There are so many factors and parties involved that pleasing everyone without compromise is somewhat unrealistic. Places being considered for UNESCO or other heritage designation need to look at the concerns of all of the people that will be impacted by designation and how heritage can be preserved while still maintaining an acceptable standard of living.

Heritage Careers Series

I was recently interviewed by Kayla Jonas for the Heritage Careers Series she is undertaking at her blog, Adventures in Heritage. The interview can be seen here. Last week, Kayla introduced the series by interviewing heritage consultant Laura Waldie. Kayla's interview with Laura can be seen here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Parks Canada's Digital Move

Parks Canada recently announced intentions to provide location specific content to park visitors using GPS technology and a program called Explora. Explora includes location specific 'pop-ups' with information pertaining to the area visitors are in, it also includes an interactive quiz type feature.

During the pilot phase of the project Parks Canada handed out devices loaded with the app to visitors to a select number of parks. Parks Canada is still working on making the Explora program available on a wider scale and is working on expanding the number of mobile apps offered by Parks Canada. There has been some indication that these new apps will contain historical content, which would be a great way of updating traditional methods interpretation.

It will be interesting to see how this project expands. Using digital apps has the potential to inform parks visitors of their surroundings in a way which is more accessible and engaging than a traditional text panel. However, I think there needs to be a balance between enjoying the natural beauty of Canada's parks and learning more about one's surroundings through technology.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Google's Art Project

There has been a lot of discussion in social media and by news outlets recently of Google's newly launched Art Project. The Project uses street view technology to allow users to explore the collections of museum and art galleries. It includes the ability to create an 'individual art collection' of pieces you like. Art Project features 385 rooms in 17 well known cultural institutions, and over 1,000 works by 486 artists. Each participating organization has also selected a work to be classified as "gigapixel artwork." These selected pieces have a dramatically increased zoom feature which allows users to look at minute details. Additionally, Google maps is linked to the Art Project, allowing users to 'jump' to exploring institutions using Google maps.

Despite the some of the benefits and potential of this initiative there has been a number of complaints regarding how information was gathered and how it is being displayed. A number of images are blurred out in galleries due to copyright issues. Similarly, only a handful of images are currently available in high resolution. The low resolution images leave out a vast amount of detail in intricate works. Only a select number of institutions are currently part of the Project and there has yet to be an indication of if or when the project will expand.

The Art Project is an interesting idea. However, in its current form it merely exposes some of the world's most well known art work. It does little for smaller institutions, lesser known artists, and the preservation of a wide range of artistic material.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Toronto's Flatiron Building

This past Sunday, CTV Toronto's evening newscast featured a segment on Toronto's Gooderham Building. The building is more commonly known as the Flatiron Building and is one of Toronto's prominent landmarks. The segment focused on the heritage aspect of the Flatiron, including details of the building being built in the 1890s, the historic manual elevator which still functions today, and the building's architectural highlights.

The Flatiron building in Toronto was the first Flatiron building to be built in North America. New York City's Flatiron often gets credit for being the first of it's kind, however the one in Toronto was build ten years prior. The building was originally commissioned by the Gooderham family for office space. In 1998, the building was bought by the Tippins and is currently used as office and commercial space.

In upcoming weeks, CTV Toronto plans to focus on more heritage buildings in Toronto during their Sunday broadcast. I look forward to tuning in to see which buildings they deem worthy of mentioning. Despite searching I haven't been able to find the segment from Sunday online.

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons