Friday, May 23, 2014

Archives Association of Ontario Conference

Next week I will be attending the 2014 Archives Association of Ontario conference.  This year's conference theme is "Party With Your Archives" with many of the presentations focusing on the use of archival collections in community events, commemoration projects, and the creation of collective memory.

  On Friday May 30th I will be presenting "Marginalized Voices: Residential School Archives and Community Collaboration" as part of the Community Collaboration panel.  My presentation is focused on the use of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre and associated archives in commemoration events and the development of a community archive.

The complete conference program can be seen here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ask A Slave Web Series

The winter issue of The Public Historian included an interview with Azie Mira Dungey the creator of the "Ask A Salve" web series.  Dungey was a living history first person interpreter at George Washington's Mount Veron, where she portrayed Caroline Branham an enslaved housemaid.  The web series draws on her experience working at Mount Vernon and some of the questions visitors asked when she was in character as Caroline Branham. 

"Ask A Slave" and the corresponding interview with Dungey highlights some of the things public historians need to consider when designing historic site programming.  Living history sites are in a unique position to facilitate difficult conversations around race relations and the history of slavery.  "Ask A Slave" approaches these difficult conversations as satire while commenting on important issues in a humorous way.

Here's the first episode of the web series.  The rest the first season of the series can be found here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

First Nations and Inuit Collaboration In Museums

As my recent post on "Community Engagement in Commemoration" mentioned I've been thinking a lot about community involvement in the practices of museums and heritage sites.  The recent issue of Muse contains a short piece, "Redefining First Nations and Inuit Involvement in Exhibit Planning," by Jameson C. Brant that focuses on similar questions of engagement.

Brant's writing focuses on This Is Our Story: First Nations and Inuit in the 21st Century a new permanent exhibition at Les Musées De La Civilization in Quebec City.  Brant maintains that the success of This is Our Story comes from the Museum's practice of consultation and inclusion of First Nation and Inuit people in the exhibit process. She notes, "the messages in this exhibition are fresh and inspiring because they are raw.  The content breaks through the stereotypical barriers that have in the past separated museums from First Peoples."

The exhibition content was developed over a two year period and saw the museum working with the 11 Aboriginal nations of Quebec.  Consultation meetings were held with representatives from each First Nation and Inuit community as well as various Indigenous organizations. The result was an exhibit that shares the world view of contemporary Aboriginal people.  It showcases every day objects, artwork by Aboriginal artists, and integrates the sounds and stories of communities through audio visual components.

This Is Our Story highlights the importance of approaching exhibits and community collaboration with respect, cultural sensitivity, and patience.  As Brant notes the exhibition planners "have overcome many of the challenges faced by museums today...creating an educational experience that satisfies the demands of varying audiences.  These not only include families, school grounds, tourists as well as the museum's frequent visitors, but also the First Nations and Inuit people themselves."

Creating an exhibit that reflects the desire of the community and provides serves the broader community is a huge task and a tremendous feat when done successfully.  It's great to see museums becoming more aware of the importance of building relations and involving community in all stages of exhibit development.

Community Engagement in Commemoration

My latest post, Community Engagement in Commemoration, can be seen over on the Active History site.  The post discusses my recent involvement in Walking With Our Sisters project and the role communities can play in commemoration and memorial.