As another year passes and a new one begins, I’ve been reflecting on the ways this site has changed and grown over the past year. This project is somewhat different from what we first envisioned when I was invited by Jim Clifford and Tom Peace to join the team in 2009. Originally imagined as a space to publish short, accessible academic papers, the website has grown to include regular blog posts, podcasts, and book reviews, while we’ve formed some exciting partnerships with organizations and people that share a similar philosophy: history matters, the past affects both present and future, and history ought to be as widely accessible as possible.
Our group blog has been one of our most successful initiatives of the year. It began as 2009 drew to a close as a response to welcome criticism that we weren’t being as active as our name might suggest. In the beginning we struggled to post once a week, but throughout 2010, our group of contributors has expanded to include a large group of fantastic bloggers whose dedication and hard work has been a welcome and appreciated addition to the site. We now post between 2 and 5 submissions a week, and our readership has grown from a few hundred unique monthly hits to more than 4000 hits each month. We are constantly seeking new bloggers on a regular or one-time basis, so if you are interested in joining the team, please contact us.
We had been throwing around the idea of podcasts for some time, but Lisa Rumiel’s History Matters lecture series in Toronto was pivotal in propelling us to put this idea into action. These public lectures were highly successful, drawing full houses; those unable to attend these talks can listen to them here. Given the dramatic success of these events, talks of this nature will hopefully be held in many cities and towns.
We have continued to be rather Toronto-centric, certainly not because Toronto is the centre of the universe – at least according to this exiled Maritimer – but rather due to the challenges of reaching out across the vast space that makes up Canada. While much work remains to be done in this area, we’ve made a few leaps and bounds, thanks entirely to the willingness of people from across the country and beyond to participate in this project.
In this regard, we were very happy to welcome George Buri and David Webster from the University of Regina as our book review editors. Book reviews are another project we took on this past year, following Jim Clifford’s suggestion that we begin publishing reviews of academic works by non-academics. To date this has been a successful addition to the site, one which will hopefully continue to grow over the next year.
We’ve also forged some exciting partnerships over the past year, while maintaining pre-existing ones. Our French partner site, HistoireEngagée, has grown dramatically over the past year. THEN/HIER has been a great source of support for us, and Jen Bonnell and Tom Peace have co-operated in organizing a number of events through their Approaching the Past series, with more to look forward to in the future, including an upcoming workshop, Experiencing History, on January 27, 2011. Ian Milligan has been hard at work over the past year coordinating a theme issue on Active History with the journal Left History. Jim Clifford and Jay Young have also been working closely with Matt Price from the University of Toronto; his digital History and Its Publics project, while still in its very early stages, offers something to look forward to learning more about in 2011. Finally, thanks to the work of Karen Dearlove who joined our team this year, we have recently filed an application seeking non-profit status, which will hopefully enable us to develop even more partnerships throughout the upcoming year.
Of course, while things change, so too do they stay the same. Questions that we have grappled with since this project began remain. What can we do to encourage fuller and more equitable participation? Is there anything we can do to encourage more people to submit short, accessible papers? How stringent should our editorial standards be? Should our editorial standards be tougher for papers than blog posts? Should we moderate comments, or should anyone be free to post anything? Are there ways we can foster a forum for greater discussion and commentary on the site?
Overall, it’s been a great year at ActiveHistory.ca. I’ve been very lucky to work with a dedicated, imaginative, intelligent and ever-growing group of people, and I look forward to seeing the ways in which we continue to respond, change and grow in the coming year. The present and future direction of this site is very much indebted to the criticism, suggestions and commentary that we have received in the past, and I hope we have much more of this to look forward to this year. We love hearing from you, so please don’t hesitate to share comments and ideas on what we’ve done, haven’t done, or what we could be doing.